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Blog - Didier Elzinga, author profile

Didier Elzinga

Founder & CEO, Culture Amp


Hiring is a favorite topic of mine, and my bible on the topic is Topgrading by Bradford D. Smart and his son, Geoffrey. It may well be one of the worst typeset books I've ever read, but makes up for it with exceptional content. This book (and the sequel) taught me a lot of the thinking that goes into finding the best candidate in any situation.

What I really like about their framing is the idea that our goal is to hire someone in the top 10% of people available for the money we are paying. The challenge is to go from the middle of the pack to the top 10% of people you can possibly hire for the role.

Culture Amp’s hiring process

As a fast growing organization, we're still iterating and improving our hiring process, ironing out inconsistencies and finding what works for us. But one big difference between Culture Amp and most other organizations, is that we’re typically looking for people before roles.

Rather than looking at the roles we want to fill, we look for people who fit a particular profile we want to work with, then we work out how to hire them. It's people-focused, not role-focused.

We start with a reason to say “Yes” and then a reason to say “No”

We want to hire people for their strength, not lack of weakness.

At the initial stage we chat and probe, looking for why and how we could say “Yes” to that particular person.

If we can see this person in our organization, they progress to the next stage, which is where we look for reasons to say “No” to that particular person. This one’s harder, because we’ve already worked out they are a great person we can see ourselves working with, making it a more in-depth stage.

Meeting the team

If a person makes it past that process, then we do a team interview involving multiple people inside the company. This is a two-way street for the benefit of both the candidate and our people.

Finally, we do a founder interview. Anybody who joins Culture Amp has to have spoken with at least one of the founders before they start. By that point, it's not about whether we should hire that person (there has only ever been one person that got to a founder interview that we decided not to hire). Instead, we’re much more focused on connecting that person to the mission of the company and helping them understand why we want them.

Who we are looking for at Culture Amp:

So, you might ask, who is this person, that we’re looking to hire. The answer is a complex one, but there are several things we look for:

1. You must be a People Geek

A People Geek cares about people and culture, thinks that it needs to be the highest priority in a business, and wants to approach that in an agile manner.

If the term “People Geek” doesn’t resonate with you and you’re not rolling up your sleeves ready to make the world Culture First, we’re not off to the best start.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re joining us in accounts payable, engineering, sales or management - if you're not a People Geek at heart, you're unlikely to fit into our culture.

2. Positive patterns of career growth

Asking someone how they got to where they are from where they were can be enlightening. Often it will reveal things not on their LinkedIn profile. What I’m looking for is positive patterns.

One positive pattern that jumps out is where a person has been poached on the recommendation of former colleagues multiple times. It's a pretty good sign that somebody else has thought so highly of someone that they are willing to invest in them and stake their own reputation on recommending them to a new employer.

3. Culture fit

I look for a culture fit, but I’m also hyper aware that “culture fit” can sometimes be code for “people who look like us.” I always push myself to think about how somebody who doesn’t come in a familiar package might be successful in a role.

In a start-up you need people who can tolerate a huge amount of ambiguity. So in the interview process we probe for situations where candidates have not only had to tolerate, but actually enjoyed that ambiguity.

4. You’re excited about the challenge

You have to be excited to be here. Culture Amp has to be the place you see yourself succeeding.  It’s not always going to be easy. You're going to be working long and hard, you’re going to be put in situations where you have to make difficult calls, and you're going to have to do the best work of your life.

If you're not passionate about being here and don’t see this as a big part of your career, then it's possibly not the right place for you.

You have to be committed to growth, learning and your own development. We are going to give you that opportunity for better or for worse. You need to be the type of person who grabs and embraces those opportunities.

I often say to candidates that if you can’t earn twice what you're earning here, then you're not as good as I think you are. Both sides have to be passionate about working with each other.

Our ambition is world class

We don’t benchmark ourselves on being a good Australian company - we want to be one of the best technology product companies in the world.

This means every person who joins the company needs to contribute to that goal. You must be world class at what you do.

It's not just about finding people to fill roles. It's about finding amazing People Geeks who can grow and build our company and global impact.

If you like the sound of working at Culture Amp, we’re hiring across the world. Check out our open positions in Melbourne, San Francisco, New York and London.

What’s next

Build a world-class employee experience today

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