Technical ability, no doubt, is important if you want to work with Menlo Innovations. But to do well during a job interview with the Michigan-based software company, you’ll also need to delve deep into your skillset and reconnect with those things you should have learned when you were about 5 or so.
“We are looking for good kindergarten skills,” says Rich Sheridan, Menlo’s president and CEO. “Do you play well with others? Do you share your knowledge? Do you share the work?”
Interviewing with Menlo:
First Interview: This is a mass interview with up to 50 candidates, but more often 20 to 30. Candidates are paired with one another and work on a task for 20 minutes while a Menlo team member observes. Candidates go through a total of three pairings during the first interview.
“It looks kind of like speed dating,” Sheridan says of the interview process, which was developed in 2000.
“The original need was to do a massive amount of hiring during the dot-com boom when I was VP of another company. It provided so many intangible benefits, we kept it when we started Menlo.”
Second interview: A candidate comes in for a day – working the first half of the day with one Menlo employee and the second half with another. The candidate is paid for this day.
“My team is asking a very basic question,” Sheridan says, “and that is: ‘Do I feel like I would be comfortable pairing with this person for a week.’ ”
Third Interview: With technical and kindergarten skills thoroughly vetted, the candidate is asked to take on a three-week contract at Menlo. Some 75 percent of candidates who make it to the third interview end up working with Menlo for the long term – most of them signing on for a project-based contract position to start, Sheridan says.
Working at Menlo
Sheridan says Menlo – the way employees work, and the focus of their work -- is somewhat of an anomaly in the software industry.
“We’ve chosen the business value of joy as our intentional cultural focus,” he says. “The work we do we want to get out in the world and end up being widely adopted and enjoyably used by the people for whom it’s intended.”
Menlo employees do everything in pairs (that explains the importance of pairing during the job interviews) -- two people with one computer working on the same task. Each week the pairs change. The workspace is a large, easily reconfigured room. There are no personal desks, tables, computers or chairs.
Employees communicate by way of “high-speed voice technology – we just talk to one another,” Sheridan says. The protocol for calling a meeting is to stand up and say “Hey Menlo.”
Sheridan cites several benefits Menlo’s paired working style and other eccentricities.
It creates a “humanly sustainable pace,” he says, and employees turn out a higher-quality product.
“We do 40 hours of work a week,” he says; “we never work weekends; and we’ve never had to deny a vacation request.”