Culture

The unconventional way we built an award-winning team

Our approach to finding great talent isn’t for everyone, but we’re incredibly proud of the team we’ve built and look forward to this next chapter of growth.

At Persona, one of our values is people first. This principle guides all of our interactions, from how we partner with customers to how we treat each other and potential additions to our team. This has helped us build a culture we’re proud of — one where we care deeply about each other and want to help one another grow.

We are honored to be recognized as one of the best small and medium workplaces by Great Place to Work and Fortune, particularly during this time at our company. It's been an emotional year for many of our employees. Many joined Persona and onboarded fully remotely due to Covid, so it means a lot that 97% said Persona is a great place to work.

As Persona's first recruiter and talent lead, I've had the privilege of getting to know many individuals throughout their interview process and often be the first (of many) friends a new hire makes when joining Persona. When I check in with new hires during their first week, I often ask, “what was the reason you ultimately decided to join Persona?” And the answer is almost always the same: the people.

Below are the five less traditional ways we’ve been able to attract an award-winning team. We understand our approach to finding great talent isn’t for everyone, but we’re incredibly proud of the team we’ve built and look forward to this next chapter of growth.

We hyperfocus on hosting a personalized candidate experience

Just this week, a candidate told me a company tried to pressure them to accept an offer on the spot, without even disclosing compensation numbers to them. Between ambitious hiring goals and pressure from investors, some companies forget that candidates are people, too.

At Persona, we index heavily on a great and personalized candidate experience, starting with sending candidates interview packets and walking them through what to expect for their interviews over the phone.

We also try to make sure candidates are as comfortable as possible during the actual interview. “What I remember most distinctly from the interview process was how considerate everyone was,” Ross Freiman-Mendel, one of our product managers, shares. “My final day of interviews was around six consecutive hours, which is pretty standard. Persona was the only company where literally everyone asked me if I needed to take a break or step away to get some water before beginning the interview. And this was on top of scheduled breaks, which not all companies offer! It was so considerate, thoughtful, genuine — really representative of the kindness of folks here.”

Kindness isn’t just something our team “turns on” during interviews, either. If someone’s going through a difficult time during the interview process, we send flowers. If an engineer makes it to the onsite but doesn’t pass our technical bar, our CTO, Charles, offers to mentor them. Our general rule of thumb for candidate experience is: if it feels like the right thing to do, do it.

We pay equitably

At Persona, everyone knows they are making the same amount as their teammates with the same years of experience. Some people may not agree with this approach, but we believe this is the right thing to do.

Our compensation approach has resonated with a lot of individuals who want to be treated equitably over anything. Currently at 27 engineers (with 10 new engineers set to join in the next two months), our offer/close rate remains above 80% without negotiating on compensation. The times where we have honored a compensation change, we've made the adjustment across all engineers with the same years of experience. As we grow, we've given the entire team boosts in compensation so we can celebrate and uplevel together.

We optimize for fun in interviews

At least once a week we get the same comment: interviewing at Persona "feels like solving problems with a friend." We want candidates to get a real taste of what it’s like to work at Persona — which doesn’t involve hours and hours of back-to-back questions.

As Lauren Ko, one of our software engineers, puts it, “Sometimes I think people forget that as candidates, we're also there to interview the company, and it's difficult to get a signal as a candidate when you're being bombarded with difficult technical questions for six hours straight in an impersonal manner. Persona was one of the companies where I felt like everyone was kind and helpful, and I didn't feel stressed at all during the process. Ultimately the interview made me feel like I would enjoy working with these people as coworkers, and that's why I chose Persona.”

Here, our engineering questions have real-world applications to them, which we find is more engaging than a typical algorithm-heavy question. We optimize to mentor and guide candidates through problems, versus “knock” someone for needing help on an interview question. We also try to make take-home assignments that we would actually enjoy completing, versus creating work for work's sake.

We learn from our candidates (versus the other way around)

Why should interviewing have to make people uncomfortable when it can be both challenging and fun? Why should a company have to come across as “better than” candidates who are interviewing with them? We are lucky that a candidate is making time to speak to us, and we take every opportunity we can to learn from our conversations with them.

This approach is really set and exemplified by our humble cofounders, Rick and Charles. “One of the most memorable parts of my interview was my conversation with Rick (our CEO),” Jenna Lee, our content marketing lead, shares. “He asked me a ton of questions, but I could tell it wasn’t because he was trying to test me, but because he was genuinely interested in learning more about why content marketing is important and my approach to content. He even excitedly showed me the pages of notes he took at the end! It was so different from other interviews I’ve had and made me really appreciate Persona’s humility and drive to continue learning.”

Leadership thinks long-term about talent

Rick, Charles, and Christie (our COO) are highly involved in all aspects of recruiting, even as we pass 65 people — and their accessibility is a huge part of why many Personerds (yes, this is what we call ourselves) decide to join the company. Geet Bhullar, a sales engineer here, shares, “one of the things that made me comfortable choosing Persona was how available the leadership team was. Rick’s honesty was huge — he never called Persona a rocketship or anything like that. Instead, he emphasized that we are going to build relationships that we are going to cherish. It’s all about the people here at Persona.”

Leadership spends over 25% of their time on recruiting efforts — much of it in building and maintaining genuine relationships with individuals in their extended networks who aren’t actively looking for new opportunities. We’ve been able to hire some incredible individuals this way. In fact, Charles was responsible for sourcing six of the ten engineering hires we’ve made over the last two months.

I'm proud to be a Personerd. There’s a lot of work ahead of us, but I’m confident in our foundation and trust that our leadership cares deeply about the team and will do what’s right at the end of the day.

We are humbled by the recognition as one of the best small and medium workplaces in the US. I'm looking forward to what's to come for this incredible team, and cannot wait for the journey ahead.

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