The Hiring Manager Interviews: Jonathan Heiliger, VP, Technology Operations, Facebook, on Artful Grilling

The Hiring Manager Interviews: Jonathan Heiliger, VP, Technology Operations, Facebook, on Artful Grilling

Heiliger really grills people with technical, maths and problem-solving questions, so his potential hires had better be prepared to think on their feet. Here's why he favours that approach, and what he's learned so far from Facebook's rapid hiring spree.

Jonathan Heiliger, VP Technology operations for social networking giant Facebook, has come a long way from his first hire, in his teens: "In my late teens I was working at Stanford University. I hired a student to replace me in my job as a network 'gopher' after I had worked there a few months. This was back before the Internet was commercialized. The job was pretty simple. We built routers and burned e-proms and woke up in the middle of the night to do troubleshooting for places like Apple and University of California-Berkeley and other large schools. We were their Internet connection. "

Today, Heiliger's challenge is to find people who understand the scale and complexity of the Facebook product, he says.

Facebook's user community has been growing rapidly, not just in terms of raw number of users but also usage on the site., Heiliger says. So the company has been hiring a 50/50 mixture of technical people who write software and build infrastructure and people for departments including business development, sales, marketing, finance, platform, and public relations, he says.

"I inherited an excellent team of about 40 people when I joined Facebook. In the last year, my team has more than doubled in size," he says. 'I have a little over 100 people in my organization and in the total company we are about 700 people."

Heiliger's responsibilities include running the infrastructure that is, including the server and network infrastructure that keeps the business running, plus the software and intelligence that sits on top of that, keeping the service performing well for users.

You are on a crash hiring spree. How do you avoid making mistakes when you have to move so quickly?

Everyone makes mistakes. No matter how hard you try, there will be some percentage of hiring mistakes you make. Where the management test hits metal is not just in hiring employees, but in retaining and motivating them, and in fostering some collaboration and innovation inside the company. When that does not go well, we deal with it by either helping the employee improve or helping them find a better organization to be a part of.

We try to avoid making mistakes by spending a lot of time screening candidates. We have a pretty large staff of in-house recruiters, coordinators and facilitators. We pass off all the candidates to recruiters so that employees can get back to their day jobs. We let the professionals run the process. The candidates go through the screening process and the recruiters coordinate bringing in people for interviews, figuring out if someone is a fit, selling the candidate on the company and lining them up with jobs, setting expectations, etc.] The ratios between the résumés we receive, the number of people we screen, and the number of candidates we interview is around 15 to 1 at the first step, and 10 to 1 between being screened and being interviewed, so there is a pretty big drop off.

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Tags careersIT managementsocial networking

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