Think Thrice

Hobbies are a hidden heuristic for the ability to get things done

The single quality you should hire for at a startup is the ability to Get Things Done (GTD).

Other typical hiring criteria like drive, technical skills, or communication skills only matter because they allow someone to GTD. If a person can GTD, they probably have a balanced portfolio of hard and soft skills, and the specific breakdown of items doesn't matter.1

So, just focus on the ability to Get Things Done.

If you're on board, you'll now have two big problems when trying to hire people who can GTD:

  1. You can't ask someone if they GTD and expect a useful signal.
  2. Someone who can obviously GTD will be found and hired by another company with more resources than yours.

A solution to these two problems is to hire people that are good at their hobbies. The ability to GTD is a result of character, and character bleeds into everything you do. So if someone can GTD and they have a hobby, they should be pretty good at that hobby. That means skill in hobbies is a heuristic for the ability to GTD, which solves problem 1.

Most companies look for obvious heuristics for the ability to GTD, like work history or interviewing skill. Startups can't compete like larger companies do by doing the same thing with more resources. This means you need a differentiated set of heuristics to find the false negatives other companies missed. Looking for skill in hobbies is a way to do that, solving problem 2.

Startups seem to be using this heuristic already. For example, when I was looking for work, I ended up discussing my hobby of running and article on the biology of endurance with most interviewers. So if you're having trouble hiring, or your hires turn out subpar, try using hobbies as a heuristic (and let me know how it turns out!).

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  1. The main worry here is the "genius asshole" who can GTD but destroys the team because they're an asshole. I feel like this may be a myth because it seems unlikely that someone who's mean can GTD.