Answer by Scott Lacy, Engineering Manager at TransLoc, on Quora,

We've learned a lot bulking up from ~10 to ~30 people at TransLoc. A few things I've learned to watch for during the hiring process.

1. Passion for the space: It's not enough for someone to say, "Oh yeah, that's an interesting problem to solve." Any reasonably bright person will identify something about your company that is interesting. But only a select few will have thought about your problems in advance or be so enraptured by your initial discussion that they go home and start working on the problem before they get the job.

2. Curiosity, curiosity, curiosity: At some point in any interview, whether during a phone screen or a first interview, I always ask, "What questions do you have about us?" I expect to hear a TON of questions in response and will bring the evaluation to a rapid conclusion if someone answers, "Nope, I'm good."

3. Homework: The best candidates have already asked and answered a great many questions before arriving for the interview. They know your competitors, they've downloaded your mobile apps, and they know a lot about your company's history and arc. They arrive at the first interview armed with the next wave of questions ... sometimes they ask really tough questions that even I don't have answers to. A good prospect will stump me a few times or at least make me rub my chin.

4. Bi-directional scrutiny: A really good interview should include some circling by both parties. I'm trying to excavate the prospect's work DNA, and the prospect is deftly trying to understand everything about my company: the business model, the competitive landscape, the tools and processes we employ. A good prospect's face should betray a mixture of smiles, furrowed brows, and even winces. I'm not looking for acolytes; I'm looking for trajectory-changers. And those folks are wired to challenge the status quo.

5. Equanimity: At no point should a prospect's confidence and passion cross the line into dismissiveness or pugnacity. We want to be challenged, and we want people who can point out what we're doing wrong. But we're careful to avoid grenade tossers motivated by the need to be right and who are cavalier about how they communicate dissent. The "no assholes" rule is a good one for a reason. No amount of cowboy brilliance is worth the dysfunction it will breed within a small, well-oiled team. Make sure all your team members are part of the evaluation process, and be sure they know that anyone can raise the red flag.

Keep in mind: this is what I look for when hiring in the earliest stages of a company's growth spurt. At some point you need to augment your "go guys" and "idea people" with good soldiers, team-builders, specialists, and seasoned hands who can formulate and execute complicated strategies. But for the first 5-25 people, the five "tells" above are good ones to look for.

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Published on: Nov 4, 2014