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Bar Raisers at Coinbase: If you’re not a hell yes, you’re a no

Coinbase has come as far as it has because of the talented, passionate people we attract. I’ve written before about the importance of hiring the right people. In this post, I want to share how we’ve introduced a bar raiser program at Coinbase, to help us raise the bar with every hire.

By Author


, July 10, 2018

, 3 min read time


Hiring the wrong people is a risk factor for companies of all sizes, but it’s especially significant for companies going through hyper-growth. A common failure mode of companies at our stage is to have the quality of hires slip as the pace of hiring increases. This may sound like an obvious mistake, but it’s the default state without a conscious effort to prevent it.

Here’s why:

  1. There is so much work to do as a company goes through hyper-growth that teams feel overwhelmed — the pressure to hire is enormous (we’re swamped!)

  2. You have people interviewing candidates who themselves are brand new to the company and haven’t had time to absorb the culture and hiring bar.

Most companies hire by focusing solely on skills, and hiring decisions are made unilaterally by a hiring manager. At Coinbase we’ve taken a different approach.

Candidates are screened for both skills and meeting our values (having a match on just one is not enough to be hired) and a qualified “bar raiser” with veto power is included on every hiring panel — the hiring manager does not have unilateral power to hire.

You can think of the bar raiser as an additional check and balance on the process. Our hiring process is designed to (occasionally) miss out on a good candidate rather than make a bad hire — we’d prefer a false negative to a false positive.

And though we give bar raisers, who have been trained around our values, a special veto power, we ask every person who works at Coinbase to take responsibility for raising the bar.

How do you know you’re a hell yes?

When making a decision on a candidate, we coach hiring panel members to ask themselves questions like:

  • Did I leave the interview with more energy than when I went in? Did I leave inspired?

  • Did I learn something from this candidate?

  • Is this person much better than me in at least one area?

  • Could this person start adding value right away? Would they take work off my plate or create more work for me?

  • Does this person raise the average at Coinbase? Does them starting Monday make me want to work here more or less?

If the answer to any one of those questions is “no,” or even “maybe,” then we ask people on the hiring panel to round down to a no. In other words: for us, if you’re not a hell yes, you’re a no. And when you know that every person who made through your doors was hired with a “hell yes,” your company becomes a very exciting place to be.

This isn’t the only way to grow a company, but it’s how we’re growing at Coinbase. To learn more about a career at Coinbase apply for a position here.

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