One leader's mathematical formula for the perfect hiring process

'You can't manage what you don't measure,' says one executive

Is there a perfect formula that can guide your hiring process?

Eric Feng, a former senior executive at Hulu and current CTO at Flipboard, says yes. In a post for Fast Company, Camille Ricketts breaks down Feng's process for finding—and hiring—the perfect candidates.

Measuring success

Most important, Feng argues, is to build a data-driven hiring process. "You can't manage what you don't measure," he says. He encourages managers to collect data on four key areas of the process: sourcing, screening, interviewing, and hiring.

Related: 9 strategies for hiring top talent in a competitive market

The first piece of data to consider is how many candidates should land at each state of the hiring pipeline. Feng says a good rule of thumb is to start with how many people you want to hire and then work backwards, multiplying by four for each previous stage of the hiring process.

For example, if you intend to hire one person, you should interview four, screen 16, and source 64 candidates. Feng says even if you only use the formula as a rough guide, it can be a useful tool to determine what areas of your process can be improved.

"When you understand how the buckets flow and roughly how many people you should have at each stage, you can fine-tune places that are really imbalanced," he says.

When sourcing candidates, Feng says it is important to fill your hiring pipeline from a range of sources. Companies should strive to have a roughly equal distribution of candidates from active recruitment, inbound inquiries, and referrals. Doing so will ensure you have a healthy pool of applicants even when one source slows down.


Feng encourages companies to think critically about how to build an effective referral program. He recommends supplementing cash incentives with proactively notifying team members of new openings and soliciting referrals. For example, Flipboard holds regular referral meetings, in which managers list their open positions and then build a referral and recruitment list from contacts on LinkedIn and other social media.

Capturing job seekers

"It doesn't matter if you're a tiny company or Google, you should have a good flow of people applying for your jobs proactively," Feng says. But capturing the interest of job seekers can be tricky—it requires a combination of good storytelling and proper placement of job postings.

"You've got to get the word out," Feng explains, pointing out that "about 40% of job applicants use social networks that aren't Facebook and LinkedIn." He also suggests regularly updating job postings to keep them fresh and quickly following up with inbound applicants—no matter who they are.

Screening and interviewing

Interviewing is the most challenging and time consuming part of the hiring process, as Feng acknowledges. To stay focused, Feng says organizations should keep these goals in mind:

  • Evaluating a candidate's skills;
  • Ensuring they are a good cultural fit;
  • Gaining confidence internally that a candidate is a good hire; and
  • Strengthening the company's brand.

These goals can be important even for candidates you do not end up hiring. "Candidates are going to tell people about your company. They can say good things or they can say bad things," Feng points out.

"The whole process with them is an opportunity for you to actually create an evangelist, to create somebody that's going to be spreading your message for the rest the world," he says (Ricketts, Fast Company, 4/29).

The takeaway: One executive says building a high-performance hiring process requires tracking the right metrics and engaging existing employees in recruitment.

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