What We Learned from Hiring at Homebrew

About a month ago we announced the addition of Kate to our team. We regularly tell founders that hiring will and should consume the majority of your time, especially when hiring for key roles on the team, and it was no different for us once we published that we were looking for someone to join Homebrew. We recently conducted a retrospective to review what we learned from the process and we thought we’d share the results. And we’re hopeful that our experience will help inform others in our industry who are making additions to their teams.

When we started the process, we wanted to make sure to cast as wide a net as possible. So we did a few things to try and get a large and varied group of applicants. First, we were public about the opening, something that isn’t true of many (if not most) roles in venture capital. Second, we worked to have the role publicized within communities where our existing networks aren’t as deep as we’d like. All Raise and Code2040 are examples of organizations that were kind enough to share our opening. Third, we only loosely defined the requirements of the role, not even giving it a title, as a means of encouraging individuals to not prematurely disqualify themselves. Finally, we created an application process that had a goal of being less reliant upon the traditional resume and the biases they can introduce.

We received hundreds of applications for the opening. And here are some of the facts.

    • Nearly one-third female candidates
    • 55% minority* candidates (16% underrepresented minority candidates)
    • Almost 40% of candidates from outside the Bay Area (including 10 different countries on 5 continents)
    • Prior work experience varied dramatically but the most common employer was Google (perhaps influenced by our own networks). The most unique background was alpine skiing instructor.
    • Most admired entrepreneurs named by candidates were Elon Musk and Jack Ma, followed closely by applicants’ parents. The most unique answer was definitely Alan Alda!
    • Answers to questions that required video responses were incredibly useful for us. They were what we reviewed first and we spent countless hours doing so giving our application had two questions, each of which asked for up to a 3 minute video response. We saw people respond while holding their pets, walking around town, sitting in traffic and doing voiceovers for slide presentations. There were even applicants who didn’t submit videos and instead wrote “I’d rather not,” “I don’t have time right now,” and “:)”.
    • Surprisingly small number of applicants who mentioned supporting founders as their motivation for considering venture capital; too many who focused on what they wanted out of venture (it’s a service industry folks!)

For the people with whom we conducted interviews (post review of all applications), the metrics were:

    • Majority female candidates
    • 57% minority candidates (24% underrepresented minority candidates)
    • Nearly half of candidates from outside the Bay Area

So what worked well in the process to get to these metrics? We solicited guidance from outside experts on how to ask for and receive diverse candidates and how to remove implicit bias from our evaluation. Broad outreach about the role was key. While we required a resume, it was absolutely that last thing we looked at when reviewing applications (I’m 99% sure Hunter can’t tell you where Kate went to college). We didn’t require candidates to come to Homebrew HQ to interview. We involved our entire team, including Beth, our Head of Talent, and Charo, our Operations Manager, in the process. We didn’t make an offer until we completed reviewing every application and interviewing every last candidate. We gave every applicant a personal response.

What could we have done better? Even broader outreach to many more organizations and communities that aren’t part of our existing networks. More opportunity within the application, for those who came from untraditional backgrounds, to express what they can bring to the table. More feedback to candidates on what they could do to be even better equipped for the next VC role they seek.

We’re truly grateful for the interest that was expressed by so many in joining our team. We’ve added an incredible person to our team and we’ve learned a ton from the experience. If sharing both the things we did well, and our ideas for improvement, helps increase access to VC jobs for all candidates, we’ll be even more pleased with the process.


*Defined to include U.S. Census Bureau categories of Hispanic or Latino, Black or African American, Asian, American Indian or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander.

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