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Paul English's rules of hiring: How Kayak chases superstar talent

Posted by Scott Kirsner  April 11, 2011 09:32 AM

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Sunday's Boston Globe column focused on the unusually aggressive recruiting strategy that Paul English has pursued at Kayak.com, the travel site that is now planning an initial public offering. I had heard English speak twice on the topic, and was impressed by how he chases top talent anywhere in the world (regardless of whether those people realize they are in the job market), and tries to sell them on working at Kayak.

English is like a baseball scout with an incredible network of tipsters, willing to fly anywhere at a moment’s notice to see a hot prospect. “The difference between an A player and an A-plus player,’’ he has said, “is the difference between a million in revenue and a billion in revenue.’’ And yet his approach to hiring is unorthodox in the extreme.

With more than 100 employees in Concord and Norwalk, Conn., Kayak does not have a human resources department. The “jobs’’ page on its website not only doesn’t list open positions, but it doesn’t include an e-mail address, fax number, or mailing address where one might send a resume.

Some supplemental info:

- English's excellent blog post on "Hiring Religion." He writes, "If you are looking to build a company, your most important skill is hiring. If you do not get excited about this, and do not always think about networking and hiring, it means you need an equal partner who does, and who is world class at it."

- MP3 audio: Venture capitalist Larry Bohn interviews English at the 2010 Nantucket Conference; a good chunk of the conversation focuses on hiring and team. (Note: I'm on the advisory board of this event.)

- English on Kayak's philosophy of hiring (and customer service): "The Way I Work," from Inc. Magazine.

- Video interview with English on hiring, by Gabriel Weinberg.

- MP3 Audio: Venture capitalist Jeffrey Bussgang interviews English in March 2011, talking a bit about hiring —and firing, too.

- English answers a question on Quora: "What should you do if you receive a job offer that expires within a week (exploding offer), but you need more time to decide?"

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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