Dyson makes great products. That's been well-established, but what is not as obvious is that the company has some fairly unusual hiring practices. They tend to hire people right out of college, and even have their own college called Dyson Institute.
Here, I asked Max Conze, the CEO, about their hiring process and what they've learned.
1. What's your hiring process like for technical folks?
Our process for hiring is a bit unconventional, like a lot of things at Dyson. Rather than looking for specific experience, we tend to hire young, fresh graduates. They come in with big ideas, unsullied by the weight of experience, which can often temper these grand thoughts. We're actually launching a brand new program to recruit the youngest, brightest minds-the Dyson Institute, which takes students fresh out of high school and gives them a job in our R&D facilities, paired with lectures from local university professors. They'll get thrown directly into the real world, and they'll graduate with a Bachelor's Degree in engineering, but with a host of work experience to boot. It's not for everyone, but we want those willing to take a risk and jump in.
2. When you evaluate engineers, what do you look for?
When looking for engineers, passion and curiosity can trump experience. We look for people who are frustrated by the status quo, and who have a fire in their belly for making things work better. It's what drives us at Dyson. Often our best engineers are the ones who were taking apart toys as children and understanding what made them work--they often bring that same natural curiosity to their day-to-day work, leading to game-changing technology.
3. How do you make sure they know their stuff?
We do quite a bit of scouting early on--not relying on interviews to make our selection of engineers, but actually sending our engineers to the end-of-year design shows at top universities with design and engineering programs to see for ourselves who's up to snuff. Often these shows feature problem-solving projects that mirror our own work at Dyson-- our engineers will walk the shows and see what catches their eye, talking to students about their ideas and how they came about. This does a much better job of uncovering who truly has the passion and skill-set for a job at Dyson than a traditional interview might.
4. If a company needs to ramp up technical expertise quickly, what's the best way to do that?
University relationships are crucial to ramping up expertise quickly. We invest in and work with more than 40 universities around the world, with each one focusing on different technical expertise--from robotics, to fluid dynamics, to battery development, and more. Frequently these relationships bring in our finest young minds who have specialty in specific areas we need to grow within the business. Our experience with our robotic vacuum is a prime example of this--we worked with Imperial College in London, where a team of experts have been developing vision systems for a long time. We were able to leverage their expertise to make the best mapping technology for our robot, and many of their grads and post-grads came on to work directly for Dyson.
5. What are a few things you've learned lately about hiring for technical skills?
Again, I cannot understate the importance of university partnerships here, as well as general technology scouting. For many things, we can and will continue to home grow expertise, but the more advanced we get, the more we have learned to bring the outside in and help us complement our knowledge with new research and new insights from around the world.
6. How do you make sure someone fits on your team and will help design the best company products not just the products that person want to create?
At Dyson, our products are born from core technologies--motors, batteries, air movement. We develop technology, and then we think about the various problems this technology can solve based on the benefits it brings. A finely tuned digital motor can mean a powerful cord-free vacuum that changes the way you clean, but it can also be adapted to create a hair dryer with fast, focused airflow that makes it easier and faster to dry and style hair. We want engineers to follow tangents, exploring new uses for core technologies, and often these tangents may be born from their own personal frustration. Our engineers just want to make things better, and that's what they tend to do.
7. How do you know for sure when someone isn't a fit?
You know someone isn't a fit when they begin to accept or settle for the norm. Engineers must be forever frustrated to continue to design things that work better. Even when a product has gone to market, we continue to tinker with it, because we know there are always ways to make it better. If someone doesn't have that drive to challenge convention, they aren't a fit.