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March 20, 2024

Stripe's recruiting philosophy: seeking impatient, curious optimists

John Kim
Co-founder @ Paraform

Stripe. The Collisons. A magnitude 8 earthquake in the payments industry.

With its simple, provocative mission “to increase the GDP of the internet”, Stripe has emerged as a beacon of innovation in the industries of tech and finance.

Naturally, their approach to recruiting and hiring is worth paying attention to. What insights can be gleaned from this fast-growing giant?

Philosophy-driven recruiting

Advertising a company philosophy is a great tool to improve calibration with candidates. It’s nice to get a bunch of applications, but if only 1/100 is a good fit, you’re doing too much paperwork. Stripe’s hiring team understands that quality > quantity.

Stripe's target talent pool
Stripe's target talent pool

Plenty of jobseekers will see these tenets and opt themselves out of the process. An attractive, clear-cut culture statement is both a filter and a magnet. Stripe has even provided a self-guided compatibility test, with questions like:

  • Do I see free markets and entrepreneurship as powerful forces for advancing progress?
  • Is helping to unleash the internet economy’s full potential the highest use of my time and talents?
  • Am I comfortable causing short-term friction in pursuit of better outcomes?
  • Am I eager to take on ambiguous, complex problems outside my domain or experience?

Not everyone will resonate with the writing on Stripe’s website. But that’s intentional. What they’ve written is exciting and compelling for their target talent pool – which is defined by mindset, not skillset.

Adding self-screening questions to your website can improve the average quality of candidates. It might reduce volume and deprive your HR team of "quick wins", but in the long run, it's worth it. Less-than-great hires can do a lot of damage to bottom lines, not to mention morale.

HR as a marketing tool

Most companies want to move fast. Speed is a competitive edge. Stripe takes things a step further, advertising “speed as a quality of life”. To many, this is a mundane aspect of business. Something taken for granted.

Stripe’s hiring strategy bridges a common disconnect between two things: i) company goals and ii) employee fun. In this case, you will have fun at Stripe if you like to move quickly, work hard, and be entrepreneurial.

Today, most companies are afraid (or wouldn't even think) to showcase their business acumen. Stripe shows that HR teams can elevate their recruiting by elevating the basics. If your auditing company thrives when it's employing highly detail-oriented, somewhat obsessive people, don't be afraid to say so.

By marketing core elements of business strategy as cultural perks, new hires at Stripe are strongly aligned from the get go. It also provides a positive signal to customers that the company’s business objectives are extremely important to them.

Stripe's mission is world-changing, but the company's HR practices aren't novel. They're just ambitious, clear, and specific.

Casting a wide net allows filters to shine

Stripe invests a lot into having their reach. The company’s catalog of guides, including Atlas guides touch on a broad horizon of topics ranging from bookkeeping and retirement plans to AMAs with superstar venture capitalists like Marc Andreessen and Andrew Chen.

Increment, which is Stripe’s magazine, is published in both digital and print. This project is a testament to how much Stripe invests into their recruiting efforts.

In an increasingly noisy world, it pays to position your company as a source of ground truth about topics important to both your customers and candidate employees.

Highly selective filters, like Stripe’s emphasis on the value of optimism and impatience, are a necessity with such a large audience. But it’s an important lesson for any startup, even one at a Seed stage. As your company grows to Series A, B and beyond, broadcasting and filtering go hand in hand.

Showing off the good stuff

Another prize tactic worth noting is how Stripe puts their benefits front and center. This shows they have skin in the game with their new employees. Benefits they showcase include training, specialized peer groups, equity, diversity and inclusion, rigorous onboarding, and financial advisory services.

Stripe's community groups
Stripe's community groups

Even though it’s already a big company, Stripe’s recruiting value proposition includes pitching “unbounded opportunity". They talk like a startup – which is incredibly interesting, because it means that, as a startup, it’s probably a good recruiting tactic to speak naturally about your company.

This point about "showing off the good stuff" comes last, because it's not unique to Stripe's talent strategy. But it illustrates an important point. If your filters are too strong, no one will want to apply.

Your goal should be to make your filters as strong as possible, in alignment with your company's long-term success. This means hiring people who are like miniature replicas of the larger business model that they are a part of. As your company accrues more attractors (benefits, support groups, equity plans, etc.) this allows you to be *more* assertive about your values - not less.

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