Crisp DNA

The inner workings of a rather different consulting company

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Recruitment - how we grow

We are in no hurry to grow

We don’t actively recruit consultants. There’s no economic incentive to do so, and each new addition makes Crisp a bit more anonymous, a bit less personal, and a bit harder to coordinate.

So… how did we get to be more than 30 consultants then?

Like vampires, fresh blood makes us stronger. New people who are smart and passionate will challenge the status quo and inject new ideas! That compensates for the pain of growing.

The right balance seems to be about 1-3 new consultants per year, so that’s what we aim for. Enough to keep us on our toes without excessive growth pain. Very few people have ever left Crisp (we’re not just like vampires, we’re mafia vampires), so our rate of growth has been pretty linear.

OK, maybe vampire isn’t the best metaphor. But you get the idea :o)

Hire awesome people, or don’t hire at all

Worth repeating: hire awesome people, or don’t hire at all! That’s what makes our model work.

Who gets to join

We don’t have an HR department or recruiters, so there’s not much bandwidth or interest to headhunt people. However, we’re fortunate to have a steady stream of interesting people knocking on the door, so we’re lazy and go for the safe bets.

Our minimum bar is:

  1. Someone at Crisp is willing to be a “puller” for the candidate. That’s our internal term for the person “pulling” an initiative and making sure things move forward, and that the candidate is well-treated. Similar to the bun holder in our bun protocol.
  2. At least one us has worked with the candidate before. We want someone to say “Hey, I’ve worked with her before, she’s awesome! We’d be IDIOTS not to let her join!”
  3. No one has vetoed the candidate.

This considerably limits the number of applicants.

Other things that we value and use to help us determine who to accept and reject (but don’t always require):

  • The candidate complements us somehow, for example with new skills or perspectives that we lack. He/she will make us feel like newbies in some area!
  • The candidate has lots of energy and ideas, and won’t be shy to challenge the status quo.
  • The candidate is well known and has a strong reputation in the industry.
  • Shares our values. (well this one is more of a requirement.. but since it’s more of a springboard for discussion, and not an easy black and white answer it ended up on this list)

Tips to candidates: Inspire us! Show us your skills, technical and social! Present something new and exciting at one of our events, or join us for a hack summit. Prepare for lots of intense discussions, critique and laughter – we’re a merry bunch, but we need to be convinced you are good at what you do. Why? Because we want to learn from you, and we want the clients to rave over how awesome you are. We’ve spent more than a decade building up a great reputation, and we want you to make it even better!

Don’t steal people from clients!

One golden rule as a consultant is to never ever hire a co-worker from a client. Managers obviously don’t want consultants to steal their employees, so we won’t recruit a candidate until after both the candidate and the consultant have left the place where they worked together. Sometimes years after.

Again, we are in no hurry to grow. An awesome person is worth waiting for.

What kind of people don’t fit at Crisp?

People who want stability don’t fit at Crisp. You won’t have stable working hours and a fixed desk. You won’t even get a fixed salary - in fact, it’s the other way around - you pay a fee (but keep most of what you earn). See the economic model. So when you don’t have a client, you bleed money every month! On the other hand, when you do have a client, you earn more than what any company would pay you in salary. So it’s up to you to buffer cash and manage risk.

This kind of model obviously doesn’t fit everyone.

What kind of people do fit at Crisp?

Most people who end up at Crisp were previously independent consultants (or were heading in that direction). Typical personality traits:

  • Self-confident - they know that they are highly skilled and in high demand.
  • Adventurous - a few months without an assignment isn’t the end of the world, it’s an opportunity to play around and learn new stuff!
  • Social - they like to maintain a strong network and collaborate with people. Some of us are introverts, but still kind of social :o)
  • Curious - want to learn new things, every day. Love geeking out on new technologies, processes, etc.
  • Generous - like to share what they learn, not primarily for profit but because it’s fun and rewarding in itself.
  • Responsible - they’re used to taking responsibility for their own goals and actions, and don’t wait for others to tell them what to do or solve their problems.

Of course, not everyone at Crisp has all these traits. But this is typically the type of person who is attracted to Crisp.

What’s the recruitment process?

This is a work in progress. We’ve decided to clarify the process a little bit and experiment! The default process is as follows (we handle exceptions the same we make any other decisions at Crisp):

  1. Mr X (a candidate) approaches us and asks to join Crisp.
  2. Ms Y says she’d be happy to be X’s “puller”. All candidates must have a “puller” to proceed with the recruitment process. First requirement is met!
  3. Y makes sure that the other minimum requirements are met:
    1. She finds out which Crispers have worked with Mr X before and what they think of him. That takes care of the requirement that someone has worked with X before.
    2. If those who know X give a thumbs up, he’s now an official candidate. At this point she sends an email to the Crispers, for example: “I think X should be a Crisper, because [reasons]. Anyone against?”. She also adds Mr X to the recruitment document.
    3. Then she does what she deems necessary to make sure that people at Crisp know about X and have a chance to get to know him. She might organize interviews or tests or she might invite X to join the next hack summit. She makes sure that no one is against X becoming a Crisper. As long as no one is against hiring X we keep going forward with the process. Now all the minimum requirements have been met.
  4. It’s now time for Y and all the “pullers” for other potential candidates (plus anyone else interested) to get together and compare the candidates based on our “nice to have” criteria. This is one of the new steps added so we can be sure that we’re not saying no to a really good candidate just because we’ve filled our “hiring quota”. The “pullers” put together a list of candidates we should consider, all other candidates are rejected.

What happens if Y wants to recruit X? In that case Y starts at Step 3i, and once it’s clear that there are no objections from the other Crispers, she contacts X and if he’s on board and would like to join, she then proceeds to step 3ii. The rest of the process is the same. This gives X a chance to get to know the rest of us, and we get a chance to get to know him.

At the next unconference (we currently have 3/year):

  1. Y and the other pullers present the candidates they feel are best suited, and all the Crispers decide which candidates to accept or reject.
  2. By default we accept one candidate per conference, but this is the perfect opportunity for handling exceptions. If we have more than one candidate who we would really like to invite to join us, we might decide that we can manage the growing pains and take on more than one candidate. If no candidate is selected, that’s also ok, we don’t need to grow at each conference, and we prefer to make sure we have a great match than to fill a quota.

Bottom line: As long as even one single Crisper is against hiring a candidate, we won’t do it. We’re not really fond of vetoes, but for recruiting it feels motivated. We prefer the risk of rejecting a good candidate, over the risk of accepting a bad candidate.

How does on-boarding work?

Welcome! You’ll need to sign our team contract, and create your own personal company (if you don’t already have one). Formally you’ll be employed by your company, not Crisp. We’ll help you get started.

Congrats, you are now your own manager! Be nice.

We will also go for dinner at a nice restaurant, setup your email account and all that jazz, like most other companies. And we’ll proudly display you on our site of course!