Hiring for Impact

A conversation with Flowcode’s Marley Kamford

We hung out with Flowcode Head of People Marley Hyman, who shared with us some of the reasons Flowcode is exceptional and what she looks for in candidates. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Marley Kamford

Marley Kamford
Head of Talent & People Operations at Flowcode


Hi Marley, thanks for chatting today. Let’s start with an easy one. What makes Flowcode a great place to work?

We are very honest about who and what we are and who we aspire to be. We embrace and are transparent about all of the ups and downs of being a challenging, exciting, dynamic, and rewarding place to work. That gives our team a level of trust and autonomy that isn't as common at other companies. The people we hire aren't just talented—every company focuses on hiring great talent—we focus on hiring people who really want to contribute to our product and are excited about what Flowcode can do for them. So I think there's symbiosis. We're supportive of our team, and our team is maniacally excited about Flowcode. That energy and raw excitement are what make it so great.

You have to hire people who are willing to roll with the chaos.

Yeah, we hire for impact. When you ask 'how do I know when to hire,' it's when we know that someone will bring a lot of impact to the company.

How do you know when they can or can’t make an impact?

Two ways: We're an early startup, so from a philosophical point of view, we don't want to hire armies where we don't need them. So I think a lot of thought goes into what we really need to have right now versus what is considered a “nice to have.” We don't do someone the disservice of bringing someone into the company when they can't make an impact just because we're like, "Oh, it would be awesome to have a full-time fill-in-the-blank." Instead, we ask can we try before we buy?  Can we get a contractor or freelancer? Can we see if somebody else on the team wants to step up and take on that role? So I think there are other avenues that you can take.

Also, you don't want to fatigue people. If you need to hire, you should. Quickly. But we also don't want to act rashly. We go through the exercise of asking hiring managers and teammates to ask themselves, "what am I  exceptionally good at, and what do I lack?" Tim [Armstrong], our CEO, talks about figuring out the piece of the puzzle you're missing and how bringing somebody in can make you more successful because you find that counterbalance. 

So we think a lot about need-to-have versus nice-to-have, and also, what would hiring do to supplement the skills that we have? As opposed to just putting someone in a chair and thinking, ok yeah, they have the right experience, they can do the job. Sure, why not?

Tell us about your hiring process. What makes you unique?

Interestingly, you're catching us at a good time because we're resetting it a little bit. I think that in its own right makes us unique. We're very self-aware and self-reflective, so we optimize for all the usual things: speed, quality, a good candidate experience. But we know that when one of those things dominates, you lose out on others. If you're looking for something super-specific, you're not going to be moving very fast, and if you're only going for speed, you might miss out on some great talent. So our process is unique because we constantly tailor it to be effective for quality, speed, candidate experience, and objectivity. So I think one is just continually being reflective about that. 

Two, I think people don't talk enough about what candidates are getting from the experience, whether they decide to take a job at the company or not. Right now, everybody knows that it is a job seeker’s market. So as much as we are trying to assess candidates, we also need to be very aware that they are equally, if not more, assessing us and seeing if we're the right fit. So part of our process is maintaining a very consistent process for all of our candidates. Again to make sure we're being objective and fair, and consistent. But I always check in with the candidate after every round to get their feedback on the process. Asking how the interview went, what we could improve, and what they thought of Flowcode at that stage. I often have questions that arise that maybe hadn't come up in the interview, and I can get a sense of what that candidate values and what they're thinking about. It's almost like a second set of interviews in its own right seeing how candidates internalize the process. I see what they're focused on—you know, maybe they seem to be fixated on one particular part of the role, and that could be a flag, or maybe they've got their heart set on management, and this is an IC role. We make sure candidates have more opportunities than just at the point of accepting or declining the offer to weigh in and give feedback. It's essential, and it has been pretty unique about how we operate at Flowcode. 

Have you ever significantly changed your process based on a conversation with a candidate?

Yes, actually. Recently, with front-end engineering interviews. Because internally, we had been debating the efficacy of having algorithm questions in our interview process. We had people who were big proponents of them because they had done them in interviews. Unsurprisingly, those people tend to be pretty good at algorithm questions. So they feel strongly about them. And then we had people who were like, "Look, that is just not my jam, but you know me, and I'm successful here.” So that started the conversation, and I started explicitly asking candidates how they felt about algorithm-based interviews. We found that a lot of people were actually turned off by the algorithm question. We also found that when we changed the order of the interviews with a control group, we were advancing people through our process without the algorithm test—people we felt really positive about. So we learned that we were passing on great people because they couldn't get through this one step of the interview process. So that was a pretty holistic exploration of the data of our own internal processes and feedback and the feedback of candidates. Still, getting the feedback of the candidates directly was a huge factor. 

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The Flowcode Office in New York City

So you moved the algorithm question later?

No, we removed it for now. And we'll see! We want to be objective and consistent. We do A/B testing with our products, and there's no reason we wouldn't do it with our hiring. (As long as we don't have people going through different processes at the same time.) So as long as we can keep all things equal for one period of time or one contingent of candidates, let's A/B test it.

I like that. Experimentation is at the core of your business, so you’re putting that in your hiring as well.

Yeah, it's the same with products. You think about buy/build/partner, like what can we do on our own? What can we take from other companies? What can we partner on? Many great companies have great processes. What can we learn from them? Both the good and their mistakes. There is no need to reinvent the wheel but take the stuff that's been consistent and has resulted in really successful hires and successful engineering culture and company cultures. And then, we add our flavor and what makes us uniquely Flowcode. It was like a pill to swallow because you think your process needs to be solely your process. But, after doing a ton of research, I know there's a lot to learn from other companies, the same as when you're building a product.

That’s such a good segue into my next question: How WhoCo helps you in your hiring process.

I think just organizing all of this. And WhoCo provides flexibility so that as we evolve as a company, we can develop the process within WhoCo. And we can document it and be aware of what changed at what step in the process and the resulting feedback. One of the pillars that we think about as our goals for interviewing and recruiting at Flowcode is objectivity. If I can have a clear record of what we did and what worked, and how people were feeling along the way, then that's great.

Also, WhoCo gives me a starting point on a lot of things. It can feel very daunting; you have to create this extensive, new, fancy recruiting process knowing that so much is broken with hiring. I trust that WhoCo has done the research, and it provides a starting point for excellence. That might be creating the job descriptions, guiding me through a process in the proper order, or articulating the steps to a candidate. It's nice to have a product on my side to help me do it.‍

It can be overwhelming. 

There's a lot to think about! And you're thinking about a lot of different stakeholders, and it's your responsibility, ultimately, as a recruiter or as someone in HR. And everybody is your client. So you need to keep candidates happy, keep stakeholders happy, keep hiring managers happy, and keep interviewers happy. It's your responsibility to do all that, and that's a lot of moving parts. So having a product that can help organize that is incredibly important.

Absolutely. What would you say you look for in candidates?

I'll tell you where we are now because we're evolving as a company, but there are a few things. Positivity is one. I've belabored this point, but you really need to want to be at Flowcode. Not just at a startup, not just at a tech company, not just at a company founded by the former CEO of AOL. You need to want to be at Flowcode and feel incredibly optimistic about the company's future and, more importantly, your future with the company. So positivity is huge. That should not be conflated with extroversion or bubbliness. I think positivity is like, "Ok, this is clicking for me. I'm getting this. This mission is resonating with me.

Another is curiosity, and it kind of goes hand-in-hand with positivity. Like if you want this to be a success and you know it will be, you've got to go the extra mile and not just stop at the answer that's immediately in front of you. Also, drive because you can't just be curious. You've got to do it.

And a very high degree of self and situational awareness. We're a team-oriented company with an enormous sense of camaraderie, so you need to want your teammates to succeed. You can have personal ambitions, we hope you do, but you need to understand the value of the person sitting next to you.

Have you had any great hires lately, and what contributed to that?

(Laughs) Yeah, all of our hires are great! What contributed to that, I think, was speed. You might not hear that all the time, but you can’t be afraid to run an efficient process and get excited about a hire when they seem to be the right fit, even if it happened quickly. We move with speed elsewhere in the business, and I think trusting our process and running with that has been really powerful for us in recruiting too. It can be easy to let yourself overthink things. But I think that the reason that some of those really fast, quick hires have worked effectively is that they were a result of a process that we had well-oiled. 

When I travel, I like to over plan, but I'm willing to go off-script. But I put a process in place so that if everything does go sideways, I've got it. 

Yeah, I think it's a classic case of losing the forest for the trees. You need a process to keep things on the rails, but when you can't see beyond the process alone, you miss out.

Right. It's not about the process; it's about the hire.

Yes. And I think invoking your value principles in your hiring process is really important because what better way to showcase to a candidate who you are than to demonstrate it with your process. Our values include prioritizing impact and focusing on the areas that t matter most. They also include being scientific, so if we have the data to back up why we're making a decision, why wouldn't we? Like, go straight to the hoop. 

I love it.


About Flowcode:

Flowcode is the offline to online company, building direct connections for brands and consumers. By unifying data-driven design with the latest in QR technology, Flowcode enables contactless connection with speed, security, and ease. Privacy compliant, ultra-fast scanning, and designed with intention, Flowcode is the number one trusted QR provider. Our companion product, Flowpage, organizes your digital footprint in one mobile-first landing page, creating a seamless experience to more deeply connect with audiences while tracking real-time analytics. Paired together, our tech allows consumers and creators to instantly connect the real world to the digital world instantly and magically. Flowcode was featured in the 2021 LinkedIn Top Startups list, which highlights 50 young, emerging companies where Americans want to work now.