Hiring from Big Tech

March 2024

I've heard this story from multiple founders of small to medium size startups:

  • The company hired some people from Google
  • They hired some more people from Googķe
  • After one year or two, things went poorly
  • The CEO fired (or I am in the process of firing) most of them and doing "a reset"

They make a few common observations:

  • Recruits from Big Tech don't work hard or don't deliver
  • They bring unnecessary process (e.g. planning to plan, heavy performance review)
  • They bring lots of corporate politics (e.g. game performance reviews)

Beyond the truth value of these claims, what is striking to me is how quickly the evidence against hiring from Big Tech has built up in private conversations. In the last group conversation I was part of, more than half the group chimed in with more stories.

This not a happy post to write. But it feels warranted to put some negativity out there so that engineers going to Big Tech understand they are inadvertently sending a negative signal to future startup employers. This may be totally fine and even desirable!

My own direct experience doesn't quite match those observations. The couple of times I hired from Big Tech, I liked the results. Those colleagues were hard-working, competent, and didn't bring politics into the team. But also, of course I liked the people I hired.

The one pattern I did observe: those coming from Big Tech spent a lot more time negotiating and delineating what their job description would be. "Do I own this part of the product? What about this? If this were to happen... who would make the decision?". I got the feeling that they didn't trust they'd have any authority or agency unless covered by their tightly defined job description.

Edit: I found this @patio11 Twitter thread after writing this which goes deeper into this topic and tries to explain why it happens the way it does.