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Atlassian is growing, and we haven’t stopped hiring for the past 6 years. This year alone we want to expand our Sydney engineering team by hiring an additional 32 engineers!
Interestingly, we are in a tough market when it comes to hiring good people. The economy is spiraling down and people are afraid to move jobs. So what do we do as an organisation that has continued to expand its sales and has no intention of slowing down? Good developers are still extremely hard to find. Below are my top 5 tips on how Atlassian goes about attracting and selecting the right people.

Tip 1. Understand what type of person you need

We have lively discussions about new openings on our wiki, before they are even advertised. Someone puts up ideas or a job description and people comment on whether it is in line with our needs and the role. This gives us great ideas for translation into the job ad. We also try to capture what kick-ass performance in that role would look like, so that we know what to expect from our new employees. Then we devise our interview questions to test these outcomes.
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Why is it that some organisations take weeks, sometimes months, to discuss the requirements for a new $100k software licence whilst ignoring the job description that has just been posted for a $100k candidate? Understanding what is important in a role, so that we can write the job ad, is not something that is solely done by HR. We don’t use standard job descriptions that never change. For every vacancy or role we reconsider the question, “what do we need right now?” to get the best out of our people.

Tip 2. Know that high performers want to work with other high performers

Having great people already on board makes it easier to hire more smart people. Why? Because A players hire other A players. Interviewing is not a HR task, although we may be involved to ensure things run smoothly. To hire strong candidates, you need to involve your great performers. For those people, taking time away from their daily tasks can put a lot of extra pressure them and on their whole team.However, it is absolutely crucial!
After the interview, we ask simple questions:

  • Would you like to pair program with this person?
  • Would you want them on your team?

Top employees will never allow weaker performers on their team. That’s how Atlassian has created such a high performing workforce.
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It works both ways. We’ve had new hires mention that one of the reasons they decided to come work for Atlassian was because they felt they wanted to work with the people across the table in their interview. We want people to go back to their existing job after an interview, look around at their co-workers and think “You know what? The devs at Atlassian are much more fun / smart / interesting than these people. I could learn from them. I should go work there.”
In our developer interviewing process, candidates talk to at least 4 different engineers or other Atlassians (phone interviews, technical interviews, coding tests). That way, Atlassians get to have a say in who they work with, and at the same time act as the face of Atlassian in the interview.

Tip 3. Not hiring is better than bad hiring

HR practitioners can provide you with fancy theories on the cost of wrong hires. The truth is… they’re right! Before we hire someone, we want to be absolutely sure that the person is the right fit. If we’re not sure, we won’t proceed. Simple.
Atlassian candidates need to be technically awesome, but we also ask ourselves some other questions when deciding if the answer is a Yes:

  • Have they been outstanding performers throughout their life? Not just in their most recent jobs, but in all their jobs, university, volunteering work. It’s a cliché but these people are more likely to succeed.
  • People who breathe their passion for what they do are easy to spot and will have a huge positive impact on their team mates. Are they fired up, passionate and enthusiastic? Will we learn something from them and are they interesting people in and outside work?
  • As mentioned above, the interviewers should be raving about the person. If they say the candidate is great, they are probably right because they would never hire someone in their team who is not. If they can’t wait for this person to join their team, then you’ve probably found the right one.

Tip 4. It’s not just us investing our time

Interviewing candidates is a time consuming job. When adding all the interviewers’ time together, we spend at least 9 hours interviewing a developer. That becomes a big deal when you’re interviewing 4 candidates per week! At the same time, we understand that candidates also invest a significant amount of time going through our process. They have taken the time to prepare their resumé, research and get some idea of what Atlassian is about, and then come in to our offices to meet us. We want to make sure we recognise these efforts.
That’s why we’ll be giving all unsuccessful candidates who make it to the final round something to thank them for their time. It could be as simple as a set of Gold Class movie vouchers. Just to say that we really do appreciate their time.

Tip 5. Get out a huge megaphone!

The biggest hurdle is making sure people find us. Atlassian has built a good reputation within our community, but we’re still up against the big guns like IBM and eBay. That’s why we need to shout loud and strong.
a. Explain the benefits of working here
On our website we don’t only point out what we look for in every employee, but we also tell people what it is like to work at Atlassian through our Life at Atlassian page. The aim is to show people what the office looks like, what their co-workers do, what blogs we write, what events they can expect throughout the year, and so on. We also make good use of the videos created by our own employees. John, our Internal Systems manager, recently created a short video about our values. This has been our most watched video for the last couple of months!
b. Encourage word of mouth
Atlassian has never used a traditional sales method. Instead, we rely on selling our products by word of mouth. When hiring people, it’s not much different. We try to spread plenty of tantalising messages about Atlassian, about our perks, and about some interesting initiatives. Anything that makes people want to tell their friends, blog about us or tweet the sweetness. We’ve just launched a new campaign to hire 32 engineers. We’ve made it interesting by doing things just a little differently. Take a look and tell us what you think!
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To show off our beautiful historic building, promote our awesome staff area where we play poker, eat lunch or play Wii games, and even boast about our well-equipped facilities for cyclists, we have organised an open house. If you’re interested in Atlassian, you’re welcome to come along.
We have also initiated a “start fresh” holiday for all new employees, encouraging them to take a few days off before they start. We give them a Wotif-voucher (up to $1000) to have some much needed R&R in a cool hotel! We also pay a hefty $2k bonus to anyone who refers a new employee to Atlassian. If you’re reading this blog, I guess you’ll probably know some great people in our space. We are happy to make you happy if you make us happy!

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