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How Lyft Hired for Hypergrowth: 19 Key Insights

 


Last week I had the opportunity to interview Ron Storn, VP of People at Lyft (You can listen to the
full recording here). He offered fascinating insights into how he oversaw Recruiting and HR as Lyft grew from 85 to 350 people in a mere 15 months. Here were some of my favorite takeaways from the conversation about how Lyft hired for hypergrowth:

  1. Lyft was born as Zimride (as one of the co-founders was inspired by shared transit in Zimbabwe). Their signature color is pink because originally they intended to have only female drivers and passengers – clearly the business model evolved from there.

  2. When Lyft was 85 people there were just two individuals on the in-house People team: one who was a hybrid HR-recruiter and another who was a recruiting coordinator, with an external contract recruiter supporting most of the business recruiting. At the time, the engineering group did all of their own recruiting, leaning heavily on outside agencies to get the job done.

    As Ron grew the team, they first specialized as full lifecycle recruiters on high-level business areas: technical, operations, and business, plus an additional coordinator. When they found they needed to go deeper on the tech side and build more robust talent pipelines, they segregated technical recruiters into different pods focused on different areas of technology like Mobile iOS and Android.

    How Lyft Hiring for Hypergrowth

  3. About 40 percent of Lyft’s hires are referrals. They encourage employees to think not just about people they know well, but also those who were the rockstars at prior places they worked, even if they knew them less well. They sometimes have executives do the outreach, which can be much more powerful than hearing from a recruiter.
  4. Today, about 30 percent of Lyft’s hires are passive candidates. They are often looking for people with deep expertise, which means they need to proactively go and find them through targeted outreach.
  5. Ron said the hardest people to hire were execs – you need both in-depth experience and a strong cultural match. Their VP of Engineering took 10 months to hire as a result. Their resulting hire was technically focused, had great presence and became a rainmaker for them on the recruiting front.
  6. When executives were first hired into Lyft, they were often spending 60 to 80 percent of their time on recruiting as they built out their organizations.
  7. Initially Lyft focused on finding people who were power users of their product and passionate about Lyft’s mission, technology and product. As they scaled, they broadened their focus to look for talent that was inspired by disruption and excited about accelerating it.
  8. Lyft has four cultural pillars that apply to passengers, drivers, employees and candidates alike: 

    – Be yourself (who you are at home is who we want you to be at work). 

    – Create fearlessly (as a ‘launch and iterate’ company, we want to empower people to fix problems or contribute to solving). 

    – Uplift others (Passengers and drivers uplift one another. Similarly, we can have the best engineering org, but we need the supply and demand to make it worthwhile, so it’s all about collaboration). 

    – Make it happen (or as one co-founder puts it, ‘Effing participate!” As you scale, be prone to thoughtful action – at some point it’s no longer a badge of honor to take down the site).

  9. To keep culture intact and fuel collaboration, Lyft gives new employees a coffee card to take colleagues from other teams out for coffee and conversation. That helps them meet people outside of their immediate domain and understand the entire organization.
  10. On the technology side, Ron switched from a traditional ATS to Lever which he found much more candidate-centric. In Lever he found he could move people through the process easily, and it was very intuitive for hiring managers who could put feedback in very quickly and see the output. They paired Lever with Teamable, a product that helps Lyft go deeper into team members’ networks for referrals; and are now using Oracle’s cloud HRIS product.
  11. Ron’s advice on what to look for in your HR technology providers: innovation, thought partnership, the ability to pilot and test things out, and the opportunity for real-time dialogue with the support team.
  12. Lyft didn’t focus on metrics initially – they were “hiring so fast”. Nowadays, they focus on acceptance rates, turnover, regrettable vs. non-regrettable; and are beginning to pay closer attention to engagement metrics. 
  13. From a ‘what’s next’ perspective, Ron and team are also trying to get to the Holy Grail of quality of hire measurement by predicting performance based on candidate interviews. They’re engaging data scientists to dig into the data. 
  14. Lyft recently chose Nashville as the location for their new call center because the city aligns with their brand and is one of the more up-and-coming metros, with 87 people moving there every day.
  15. Ron’s number one lesson learned during hypergrowth: in addition to hire, hire, hire, you have to learn how to cut. As time goes by, the talent you hire in the early days may or may not be suited to the role they were hired to do.
  16. When it comes to recruiting top passive technical talent, tailor your outreach via LinkedIn or another source. Having the message coming from the CTO or founder is critical. Also, top technical talent typically wants to focus on hard problems. Lyft focuses on real-time dispatch at scale, for instance – paint the picture of the problem you’re solving.
  17. A lot of hiring managers don’t know how to hire. Especially on the engineering side, Lyft helps guide them by developing an interviewing approach that focuses different interviewers on different aspects of the candidate’s capability. 
  18. Also, keep an eye out for cultural fit. Lyft has interview questions that align with each of their values. For instance, when they hear “I did…I did…”, it typically doesn’t bode well give their culture is so focused on collaboration and teamwork.
  19. On compensation across the team: you need to pay the market rate to get people in the door. You need to be sensitive to people already on the team – you can always refresh the compensation of the existing team. But you shouldn’t miss out on top talent just because the market rate has gone up.

To hear Ron expand on these topics and more, listen to the recording of the conversation. And to learn more about how Lever supported Lyft’s growth, read our Lyft case study.