Since we were such a small company and it was so important to hire the right people, we had a very strict hiring procedure. Instead of having HR doing all the recruiting and hiring, the engineering group did it themselves. In fact, in the beginning we really didn’t have anyone to do the HR job anyways.
The first step was screening. The managers (the two of them) would scan through hundreds of resumes. Existing employees would also recommend potential candidates. For example, I was suggested by Mark Blackledge. After initial selections, the interviewer would go through a phone interview with a manager. Once the candidate made it through this stage, he or she (usually he) would be invited for an on-site interview in Coral Springs. The interviewee would then go through a barrage of interviews with just about everyone in engineering. The interviews would easily go for at least 5 hours. The most difficult part was the Technical Interview Team (my memory is a bit hazy on the name). This team of three Citrix engineers would then ask the candidate lots of technical questions in a row to see how much they really knew. The idea of doing this came from Brad Petersen and Terry Treder who originally did this at Harris when they worked there. Being on the receiving end of the team was difficult. It was almost impossible to satisfy all the questions asked but it really wasn’t focusing on just technical accuracy. It was also based on how well the candidate did under pressure and how much the candidate was willing to admit that they did not know.
These interviews were famous within Citrix. They were tough, but if you made it through you were meant to be part of the team. Some people still talk about this interview process years later. It made a big difference to our teamwork and it made sure that we were compatible before the person started.
Another interesting fact about the interview process is that any one person had the ability to veto the candidate. We would sometimes have 20 people involved in the decision with one person against hiring. It did not mean automatic “no” because the person would have to convince people why it was a bad idea to hire the person but ultimately if the lone person still believed it was a “no” then the veto would stand. This aspect made it very important to make sure that the team fully approved the interviewee.
As a result of this interview process, we really worked well together. Teamwork was a given and it didn’t have to be worked at like most big companies would need to. In fact, it happened so naturally that it was only clear that we had it years afterwards when we experienced different environments.
As the years progressed, we actually recruited from universities. This was even more challenging at the time since hardly any university students had heard of us. However, the tide turned as we grew after the IPO in 1995. Eventually students not only recognized us but also wanted to work for us.
I share with you one of the things I asked about for interview questions. I would often ask if the candidate used to take things apart as a child/teenager. You could always spot the engineer when their eyes would light up and they would start talking about how they not only managed to take apart a transistor radio but they also managed to getting it working again. It was a natural passion that is well suited to being a programmer.
I think this interview process is what made the engineering group so successful. Some of this tradition continues to this day.