Share This Post

Alok's Posts / Startup

How I – Hire People!

“How I” intro…

I was thinking of creating ideas of long lasting content that would REALLY REALLY HELP rodinhooders in their work, business, life, understanding of Startups, etc and came up with this META IDEA :

It’s called “How I …. xxx”

So, it’s simple:

I seed an insight – The first one is called “How I Hire People” and share my views (one para max)

The readers share their views on that subject as comments, and Asha (the editor) goes through them, picks up the responses she likes best and makes them part of the body copy too! Of course, the non-chosen comments still remain!

This way, we create a BANK of GREAT “How I ….”, populated with amazing insights gathered from an entire spectrum of contributors and each post then becomes a valuable resource in itself!

Now, read my post, and then comment on How you Hire People? Ps – It could also be a process you are aware of in a great company or by a great entrepreneur!

How I hire people

(Featured – Gaurav Sharma who worked at 2win for over 9 years, at one of our Annual Parties)

Alok Kejriwal – CEO and Co-Founder Games2win : “I hire people by looking into their eyes and hoping to find any of these – passion, deep belief, hunger, thirst, restlessness, frustration and or conviction. I’ve never worked in my life so I haven’t understood the formal interviewing processes. I like to talk, humor, provoke, anger and sometimes even mildly insult the candidate (rarely) just to capture the CENTRAL EMOTION running in his or her mind… I like to hire people I can fight, sing, dance & cry with… not emotional pussycats…”

Your comment?




Awesome Read – The Startup Hiring Moneyball




Share This Post


  1. Hello Alok sir, Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

    I usually pick a topic from their CV usually their hobbies/interests and start a usual conversation on that topic. Gradually heating it up into an argument where my opinions are totally opposite to theirs to check how actually they react to it. Do they respect others opinions (decisions if they become a part of the team)? Do they easily give up on their ground (How will that person actually make a difference when he just gives up in something he/she believes)? Do they actually try to convince me even though till now he/she believes that I am a complete retard (This is the kind of people who will challenge your decisions and might get better ideas with them; or might not).

    Well that’s how I do it.

  2. Thanks for sharing Alok. I really like the points about restlessness and deep belief in particular.

    Whenever I have hired, I first try and get a sense of what success in the role will look like, what personality is required and then go about looking candidates with those traits. In my limited experience, have realised that traits remain more or less constant irrespective of the opportunity. Lastly, I always ask what the candidate does or prioritizes in their free time to get a sense of what is important for them.

  3. How I Hire ?

    Being in the creative field, I have to look for people who can think and think differently. Second criteria is that the person should be game for challenges. So i take 2 tests, first a abstract thinking test in which candidates have to look at an design and come up with things they can associate with it (eg could be barcode, zebra crossing, alien hair stands…)

    Second i ask them to write a mail to me selling any ad creative, to check their written communication skills. To this mail i write back a stinker and see the way they handle it.

    Overall i look for Happy souls who have the zest to live it up.. 

  4. After the usual questions, a lot depends on what the candidates answer to my question “What will you do in life if you won a lottery of $100 million tomorrow ?”

    Basically, i try and figure out if people are passionate about something in the first place, and what they have done to feed that passion.

  5. How I Hire ?

    I divide the interview in 2 parts

    1. Personality Test – I make the person uncomfortable by throwing a volley of questions, without allowing her to recover from it. Then i dominate the person and see whether she maintains her cool. I also encourage the person to share experiences of her previous company, whether she bad mouths or is sensible enough to give examples without details. This allows a glimpse of her personality. 

    2. Skill Test – I start with checking the skills and look for signs of bluff. The very second she bluffs, i decide NOT to select. If she says ‘I do not know’, she earns the brownie point.

  6. Hi Alok,

    If I am trying to hire new resource I try to look for following:

    I am looking for people who have good knowledge about the subject he/she is being interviewed. Along with this try to find out whether he have researched about the company he/she is appearing for interview, if yes how deep is his research, what kind of information does he have. Why would he/she like to join us? What value addition he would bring in? Do he/she know his job responsibilities, have been through the JD sent along with the interview schedule. Also try to find out what he/she had been doing in their previous company, what kind of projects had been handled by them, what are future plans etc. Before concluding I brief them about 72interactive, try of project and client we have been handling and what kind of opportunity will he/she get.

    This is primarily done since we usually hire candidate between 0 to 3yrs exp.

  7. When I have to hire people, I usually tell them to call me on x day at 9 AM. 8 out of 10 dont call up. And those who do shows how committed they are in taking up a responsibility. So, I have fewer candidates to interview than.

    I also check their handwriting and shoes which tells a lot about the person , how organised they are.

  8. I do a lot of hiring for my company (I run a retail chain which is manpower intensive) and I find a lot of candidates get filtered in the following ways:

    1. A surprisingly large number do not show up on time, or call back, or contact us when requested. 
    2. A large number of the remaining candidates have not read the job requirements, or bothered to visit any of our 
        outlets (which we insist they do to gauge their level of interest in the role). Many of those that do visit, do it very
    3. I do not look at `mercenaries’ who are leaving their current company only for higher pay and look at my company
        as a source of higher pay. We are a small start-up and cannot afford a wage war. Instead, I try to see if the candidate
        would be motivated by having more responsibility & learning than she/he hitherto had.
    4. I also mostly reject people who have left, or want to leave their current jobs for fairly superficial reasons. As a small
       company with a start up feel, I would not be able to meet every element of the work environment that larger companies    might offer.

    For the handful that make it past these filters (80%+ of shortlisted CVs’ don’t) what I look for is:

    1. Genuine interest in the role. A credible reason for applying to us. 
    2. Interest in learning and handling new tasks.
    3. Willingness to multitask & think outside the box. 




  9. This is a awesome discussion and have lots to learn in these tips.

    Just try and identify for few traits or employee types:

    1. Greedy Ones: These are people who would jump on the throw of a dollar and typically are talented but don’t stay long (not even a year) and are not excited about your startup. Money comes first and everything comes after, these people are better suited for the MNC and Flipkart’s of the world who would throw blank cheques to poach these people.

    2. Insecure Ones: They are so concerned about stable jobs that they will go mad with a little bit of pressure or bad times. You need people who will stand by in the bad times and not these would pull you even down.

    3. Fekus: They will talk like there is no one intelligent that them. Spot it right away and test it with assignments that they do in-front of you or ask questions on the assignments or you might fall for their big words and experience the reality later. These are the ones who will also generally bitch a lot about their current company like they are devils n draculas 🙂

    But there are plenty of really amazing people in India who are passionate about doing good work and making a difference. Its just that it takes time to find these people and convince them to join your startup 🙂 

  10. To ALL the people who have answered. Some great ideas. Thanks.

  11. Just by seeing the way a person has made their resume, you Can know a lot. I look for passion, creativity & a genuine interest in the role on offer. From the way a resume is made, to the way the person talks / behaves about the role, conveys a lot if he or she is willing to do things differently.

    That is the core thing I look for; passion for the job. Qualifications, experience are all secondary. Recently met a freelance graphic designer who is self trained, no certificates & does some real amazing work! Found him through OLX!

  12. My previous experiences as an employee have shaped up the way I hire now.

    Hire for values (and they should be same as yours)

    And how do I find my values: I look at how I try to win business. When dealing with a prospect what motivates me – profit on the deal, chance to showcase our work, build a citation, social good; how do you deal with a non-prospect etc. And these change as per your business lifecycle. If one is in the social good phase of one’s business, there is no point in hiring ambitious people seeking fortunes. The reverse is also true, I have seen people in profit-on-the-deal phase hire guys for good social values. It becomes a wrong hire when the candidate finds out that the social mask was only to negotiate on his/her salary.

    Think how do I retain

    I have been into sales and have been offered roles for my client rolodex. The employer’s idea being that with that rolodex it would be easier for me to sell. I extend the same idea to hiring. I have just started hiring of late. Hiring is tough now. But a decade later it should be easier – one would have so many ex-employees, employees to vouch for you. I think being transparent about my values would help. If you are known to delegate responsibility and reward in equal measure, it should not be that difficult.

    What kind do I want to hire

    There are people who can be used and there are people who can be leveraged. Whom do you want to hire – and how secure do you feel around them. As of now I am not able to afford people who can be leveraged. But some day I would love to hire people who can lead teams larger than my present team and generate independent revenues. People who can replace me.

    Dont ask

    In the initial phase of my career, it used to amuse me when people used to ask me – why do you want to join our company. It still does.
    My take was that I have done the same amount of research on your company as you have done on my profile. So how about I ask you – why me ? Did you talk to my professors, my client’s, my ex-colleagues etc ? I now hire for junior positions and there are huge no of responses and I know that the candidates send many applications to many companies. If I expect a 25 year old to be so clear about his goals, why did I start my entreprenurial journey at 36.

    What is the candidate looking for

    Instead of why our company, I prefer asking what is it that they are looking for. Some have a prepared answer like opportunity to demo their skill and commitment. But I probe deeper about what and how. It has helped me in hiring.


  13. I mostly go by the gut feeling. But to be precise, I see if the person has been on time for the interview or not. This grabs my instant attention. Mostly in my field, candidates give interviews just for the sake of it and so this observation clears the air for me. I spend my interview mostly listening to the candidate than asking typical questions. I also explain a lot of hard facts about my company and the industry to them and try to analyze the person by his reaction. My two most significant questions are: “What do you know about the company” and “Why you think we are the ones you should work with?” Being passionate about a specific field affects my decision for sure.

  14. All of these are amazing insights, and some of them should get included in the Article Body.
    I have started giving homework to people who want to work for Nirogam, and it is only when they complete the homework within a stipulated time to my satisfaction, that I call them for an interview.

    @Alok Sir, how do you “mildly insult”. What are some of the questions that you ask as a starting point to invoke anger or provoke ? Would love to use that. What are your conversation starters ?

  15. I have had my share of few successes and many failures in hiring. I have to like the person I hire and that does not mean the person needs to satisfy my ego or should be like me. The person should come across as genuine and believes in him or herself, spontaneous, speaks his or her mind and does not beat around the bush.

  16. I look for passion. Also exaggerate the challenges and see if the person is willing to give his/her best for the work. 

  17. Sorry to be like a spamming marketer. But Alok, you’ve touched a deep, critical element. A company is all about people. There’s nothing called B2B/ B2C. Its all H2H (human to human). And if you deeply ‘get it’, you will hire the most talented, the most incredible people.

    I just finished a call with a fellow RH, Sushrut (most of us know him well). We discussed exactly this.

    BTW, this is precisely what this team of 4 young folks is building. The #unCV : check out: . Such important is the problem that the team began unCV HumanKind as an in-house project of hiring on the basis of culture > skills > experience (in that priority).

    The product is yet to go LIVE, there are initial revenues. Thanks to “HumanKind Town-Halls” gaining momentum.

  18. hey paritosh,

    you should ask them to feature uncv in our showcase section. that would give them a lot of traction.

  19. @Asha sure will. This is a very critical problem, not just for startups. What Alok has said is so very important for large companies too.

    Sadly, this does not happen. Most consultants are eager to make the cut, HR managers are eager to ‘fill positions’ and ’employees are eager to get a salary’.

    And that’s why it all goes down. Its sad.

  20. Great Discussion and an extremely sensitive topic specially since most of the so called hiring managers are very poor at interviewing…

    How do i hire? I don’t… 🙂 They have to hire themselves by answering one question… Why will you not HIRE yourself for this job? Sometimes…actually most of the times people dont understand this question, so i am required to rephrase it… What factors about you are not suited for this role. 

    The rationale behind this question is quite simple… It gives you an insight if a person has spent enough time thinking about this opportunity and if he knows his weaknesses. My experience has shown that the only real difference between a serious candidate and a ‘fishing’ candidate is the amount of time the former spends on thinking about an opportunity compared to a “Fisher” who is there everywhere… any job is kool for him that gives better salary and perks.

    I am not really worried about his strengths, since they are strong traits anyways but about his weaknesses since those are the ones that are more likely to be performance dampeners in the long run…

    Well there you have it… my secret ingredient. Have i been successful with it? Hmm. let me see.. I guess so…:-) Highly Successful, actually!

  21. While I agree about hiring for attitude & cultural fit etc., I’m not really going to talk about them here. Most of the others have already shared some very good suggestions in this area. I’m going to speak about more tactical hiring methods that have worked for us. 

    In my startup, we have hired two kinds of people so I can speak for them. I’m going to speak for a scenario where you know you don’t have the budget to hire the best talent that’s out there: 

    • Freshie developers: Very critical to separate the wheat from the chaff here. If you’re a budget-constrained startup paying your developers anywhere in the teens (monthly), then a significant percentage of those you interview will not have basic algorithm or flowchart generation skills. We use a simple programming & computer aptitude test to help filter such students out. In my interview, I’ve one pet question in particular that has had high correlation with hiring good programmers. I simply ask the interviewee to write down on a paper numbers from 1 to 20 in decimal, binary, octal & hexadecimal systems. Perhaps weird, but I’ve found a high correlation between performance in this simple question and general programming aptitude. If a candidate does well at this question & is able to generate an explain a simple program flowchart, then I know I can work with that person technically. 
    • Experienced hires: We hired a person who’s a great cultural fit. He believes tremendously in our startup and probably checked every ‘attitude’ and ‘culture’ checkbox there was, during our interview stage. However, we were so focused on this element alone, that we didn’t conduct a strong evaluation of his technical skill set. 3 months after hiring him, we’ve found that he is really not extremely strong technically. Given time, he may learn, but that’s a commodity that we don’t have, especially at his price point. Luckily, we hired him on a short-term contract, giving me that leverage to demand quick measurable performance out of him. But I’ve come to the realization that I may have to let him go even if he tries extremely hard but is unable to show results. In the future, when I hire my next senior team member, I would look for both technical skill set as well as personality fit. 

    Therefore, my simple counter-takes: Attitude is super-important, but do not focus on that so much that you lose sight of what skill sets you need technically. There is a large enough market out there to give you a balance of both, therefore, don’t compromise on either. 

  22. Well expressed thought. I agree with this strategy.Hiring is an important key to success of a startup and need quality time investment.

Leave a Reply

Lost Password