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The SafeGraph Standard: Core Attributes of SafeGraph Employees

August 1, 2020
Auren Hoffman

Hiring is really hard. It’s one of the toughest jobs that leadership has at any company. 

At SafeGraph, we try to codify and communicate what we look for in a candidate. That keeps us focused on what matters and attracts (in theory) only those candidates who will thrive in our unique culture

If you want to know what we look for in future SafeGraphers, and if you might be a good fit for our team, read on! 

SafeGraphers in pre-COVID days
SafeGraphers in pre-COVID days

Identifying & Hiring A-Players

Our goal is to look for and hire A-Players. These are people who bring ten times the value to their company as compared to their peers. These are also people who, if you asked everyone they’ve ever worked with, would be placed in the 10% percent of great employees.

A-Players are endlessly resourceful, creative, responsive (get back to people quickly), have likely built something of their own, use leverage to work smarter, and push their boss to get more done (not the other way around).

Like all high-performing companies, we avoid perennial low-performers: people who will never be amazing in any environment. They are generally easy to spot and don’t get very far in the interview process.  

Everyone is looking for A-Players.

We are not the only company looking for A-Players. Other companies are too, and because it’s easy to spot an A-Player who is amazing under all circumstances (these people are known entities), there’s intense competition for their services. This makes it generally difficult to recruit them - everyone wants them, and few companies get them.

A small percentage of people are perennial high-performers -- they will be A-Players in any environment.  A small percentage of people are perennial low-performers -- they will be C-Players in any environment.  

Most people aren't clearly A-Players or C-Players. A-Players in some environments might be B- or even C-Players in other circumstances. Most people can be exceptional in specific cultures, even if they have not excelled in a prior work environment.  The skills and personalities are different to thrive in different organizations.

Join the SafeGraph Team

Therefore, we look for people who will be A-Players in the SafeGraph environment. 

When hiring at SafeGraph, our task is to find the people that will be exceptional within SafeGraph (but not necessarily in other places). For instance, someone that excels in McKinsey might not necessarily be someone that does great within a fast-paced start-up. The skills and personalities are different to thrive in different organizations.

We filter for people who are already aligned (or ready to align) with our values.

We talk a lot about the SafeGraph values. Because the SafeGraph values are aspirational, candidates do not need to embody all our values on their first day . In fact, I often stray from the SafeGraph values myself (I constantly find myself doing too many things and doing things in parallel rather than in series).     

The super important thing is that the candidate believes in our values and wants to help the company achieve them.  

While some values are aspirational, other values are non-negotiable. One of the reasons that hiring is so hard is that there are so many important criteria in a coworker. We could screen for 100 great attributes, but of course, no one particular candidate would fit into all 100. The important thing is to have a few core things you measure everyone on. Here are the three core attributes of every SafeGrapher: 

-      Judgment

-      Growth

-      Pace

Judgment is a non-negotiable value. 

We must hire people with great judgment from day one. This can be summed up as always acting in the best long-term interest of the company. There is no specific set of rules that will tell you what’s in the company’s best long-term interest at any given juncture, so you must use judgment to make decisions quickly.

It’s my job, as CEO, to make sure every employee clearly understands our strategy so they can make judgments about what’s best for the business. To move fast we require each employee to make hundreds of decisions a week without direct input from me or their manager. That’s why when it comes to becoming an A-Player at SafeGraph, we say Judgment is the X-Factor.

Growth mindset is a non-negotiable value.

Everyone at SafeGraph is focused on growth, and every new person should be focused on growth. That means everyone we hire needs to have the potential to take on much more responsibility and grow substantially. We cannot hire people who have maxed out their potential because their growth curve is limited.  

Here are some simple questions we ask to evaluate growth potential:

  • Is this person significantly better today than they were three years ago? If the answer is no, we should not hire this person because it might mean they are not growth-oriented.
  • Is this person a voracious learner?  Are they a self-learner? Red flags are people who do not have a command of their last company. For instance, a finance person who does not know how revenue was recognized at their company or a software engineer who only understands one piece of the pipeline are red flags.  We look to hire people who take it upon themselves to learn. These people regularly seek out answers and proactively ask the right people the right questions.
  • Would this person immediately be the best person at SafeGraph at something important? In the next six months, will this person be substantially better than their manager at most of what they do?

Pace, Tempo, Speed, and OODA loops are non-negotiable values.

The only way for start-ups to win is pace. The number of actions per person per week at a start-up needs to be WAY higher than at a larger company. Some of the smartest people in the world prefer to move slowly and deliberately -- those people are brilliant but will likely not be A-Players at SafeGraph.  

Here are some simple questions we can ask to filter for pace:

  • Will this person ever be a bottleneck? The answer cannot be “yes”.
  • Will this person push their manager to move faster? SafeGraphers should be self-managing and pushing their manager to move faster. Their managers should not need to push them for deadlines.
  • Is this an optimistic “yes, and” person? It is much easier to move fast when a company is filled to the brim with glass-half-full people. It is often easier to identify all the problems with an idea and reasons not to do something. We want to be surrounded by people who find and act on solutions. 
  • Does this person have high expectations of themselves AND their teammates? For a start-up to succeed, everyone needs to have high expectations of themselves. But that alone is not enough -- because if they do not have high expectations for others in the organization, they will take too much on their shoulders. Also, high expectations for yourself is not the same thing as high ego. High expectations is holding yourself to a high standard and pushing for greatness. High ego is feeling entitled for personal respect. We want the former. 

Judgment, growth, and pace – these are the non-negotiables we look for at SafeGraph. A candidate who embodies these values has a high chance of thriving in our culture and becoming an A-Player on the SafeGraph team. 

If this sounds like you, we are hiring and would love to meet you. You can see open positions here.

Special thanks to Ryan Fox Squire, Nicole Berger, and Thomas Waschenfelder for their help and edits.

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