How Automattic attracts and hires the best tech talent

A unique approach to recruitment and workforce management has been key to the people and business success of tech company Automattic

A unique approach to recruitment, in which all candidates take part in a trial project and have a final text chat interview with the CEO, has been key to the people and business success of Automattic, according to the company’s head of HR.

Automattic, a fast-growing tech company behind a number of platforms such as WordPress (which powers more than a quarter of all sites on the web) was founded in late 2005 now has more than 450 employees across 46 countries.

“We are only as strong as the people who work for us, so we take recruiting and hiring very seriously,” said Ingrid Miller, Automattic’s “HR wrangler”.

The three most important qualities candidates are assessed for include great communication skills, a self-driven work ethic, as well as curiosity and a desire to learn.

Other qualities and attributes (which align with the company’s culture) that are important in potential employees include compassion, tenacity, friendliness, independence and collaboration.

Once candidates make it past the interview stage, Automattic will work together with them on a contract, typically lasting between two to six weeks (depending on how much time the candidate can spend) to help assess suitability.

Providing this goes well, candidates will also have a final interview, via text chat, with the company’s CEO, Matt Mullenweg.

And when potential employees do join full-time, they are involved in customer support for WordPress.com for their first three weeks, and spend a week in support each and every year thereafter, regardless of their position, in order to help understand and connect with customers.

“We are only as strong as the people who work for us, so we take recruiting and hiring very seriously”

Automattic’s HR wranglers and happiness (customer support) team also work closely with new employees to get them acquainted with the company’s “distributed work model”, which Miller said is also foundational to the company’s success.

Every employee in the company works from the location they choose, and 70 per cent of Automattic’s projects are tracked on a WordPress.com blog, 25 per cent in private chat rooms, and the rest on team communication platform Slack.

“Our employees love [the distributed work model] because it fosters freedom and independence to work in ways that are most efficient for each person,” said Miller.

“All our policies and practices are focused on prioritising autonomy, transparency and trust.

“For example, email is rarely used inside the company. Instead, we have internal WordPress blogs where teams share and communicate.

“This gives everyone an unprecedented amount of visibility into what different teams are working on, and it’s helpful for understanding broader company goals and activities,” she said.

Catherine Stewart, VP of business development for Automattic, also said being a “distributed” company model has helped it hire the best talent around the world, and this continues to drive global growth.

“Thanks to our distributed model, Automattic has employees in 46 countries, and we want our products to reflect that same international approach,” she said.

“We’re working on creating more localised versions of WordPress.com that will enable people in more regions and countries to create their presence online.”

Another key to the company’s success has been a continued focus on learning, according to Stewart.

“Automattic has a creed that includes the phrase ‘never stop learning’,” she said.

“That applies to all of us and to the business itself, challenging us to move beyond our comfort zones.”