Hippo Insurance: Efficient and effective developer hiring is the new growth hacking


How CTO Ran Harpaz transformed their developer hiring and interview process to fuel growth

A little more than three hundred years ago, Benjamin Franklin established the Philadelphia Contributionship, effectively inventing property insurance. A crucial part of the business was the inspection, which considered construction standards, living practices, and building materials. This allowed the company to set rates based on their risk assessment. That may seem like a far cry from software developer hiring, but until the recent wave of “insurtech” innovations sprang to life, precious little about insurance had changed.

Five years ago, Hippo burst onto the scene with a new approach to the centuries-old insurance industry. Unlike traditional insurance companies, Hippo allows homeowners to get a quote, purchase home insurance online in 60 seconds or less, save up to 25 percent compared with traditional insurers, and obtain smarter coverage for modern households. This new approach includes protection for possessions like appliances, consumer electronics, and home offices. It also requires something Benjamin Franklin likely never envisioned — a software engineering team.

While Benjamin Franklin could directly tell his customers not to store kerosene in their wooden barns to earn a lower rate, Hippo’s technology can remotely monitor appliances to identify potential leaks or fire hazards, recommend maintenance, and make homes safer. This preventative approach has helped Hippo grow rapidly by opening up new markets with these compelling new technologies. Backed with a fresh round of funding and eyeing their next wave of growth, Hippo needed to accelerate developer hiring and scale their software engineering team.

When Ran Harpaz joined Hippo Insurance as their CTO in 2019, he immediately accepted the challenge to double the size of their software engineering team. “In Silicon Valley, hiring top talent at the rate we needed is almost impossible for a startup. I needed as much support as I could get. We didn’t have a systematic way to interview and hire top-notch developers.”

Developer hiring as the ultimate growth hacking

“I wondered, ‘how do I get two types of assistance at once? I needed capacity and expertise in interviewing at the same time.”

Hippo’s investors recognized the need to accelerate growth as new products and technologies unlocked more significant market opportunities for the company. Breaking down the barriers to hiring was vital. Interviewing capacity was a major blocker for Harpaz and his team, both in terms of delivering new products and expanding the team with a sense of quality and care.

The challenge of hiring new team members while developing products was beginning to take a toll on morale. Harpaz recalled, “I wondered, ‘how do I get two types of assistance at once? I needed capacity and expertise in interviewing at the same time.”

Harpaz isn’t alone. According to the 2020 Interview Gap survey, nearly two-thirds of engineering leaders agree that interviews are both a financial drain and hurt team morale. It’s hard to balance the time it takes to develop great software with the time it takes to interview enough candidates to find the strongest hires. Karat addresses this pain by conducting technical interviews on behalf of companies. By offering candidates the ability to interview 24/7 with a dedicated team of Interview Engineers whose job is to conduct interviews, Karat is able to significantly increase the interviewing capacity of engineering teams such as Hippo’s.

“Karat’s Intuit story got stuck in my head”, said Harpaz. “The idea of Google-like engineers consistently interviewing thousands of candidates was a breakthrough. The combination of very experienced interviewers with a very sophisticated platform that actually calibrates constantly and takes away all the bias and the nonsense that comes in with humans was key. It was evident that there was one path going forward. It took me seven seconds to recognize the importance of being able to interview hundreds of people consistently and professionally, so I said, ‘let’s skip the market research, let’s go with Karat.’”

A growing partnership

“The professionalism was visible from the very early stages. I invited people to interview through Karat to get them excited, and they came back and said, ‘this is awesome.’”

Prior to conducting interviews on behalf of Hippo, Karat worked with Harpaz and his engineering team to understand the competencies and skill levels required for each of the seven roles, as well as the specific technical hiring bar that Hippo set for each of the roles. This process, called Alignment Engineering, helps ensure the best possible onsite-to-offer ratios by calibrating Karat’s recommendations to Hippo’s specific criteria.

“The professionalism was visible from the very early stages. I invited people to interview through Karat to get them excited, and they came back and said, ‘this is awesome,’” noted Harpaz.

Hippo’s engagement with Karat goes beyond just technical interviewing. Karat provides detailed hiring funnel analytics, insights about the market that drive strategic talent acquisition decisions, and interviewer training to continue the consistency and predictiveness throughout the entire hiring process. Harpaz observed, “Anytime I can pull in my Karat counterparts – they help us, they give us new solutions and talk about new ideas.”

Results that are enabling national scale

Today, Hippo Insurance is available in 32 states, and Harpaz has grown his team significantly.

Karat conducted almost 700 technical interviews on behalf of Hippo during 2020, helping their engineering team reclaim over 2,000 software engineering hours. But Harpaz is quick to point out that Karat isn’t just about time savings: “It’s enablement; I couldn’t do the job without it. I rely heavily on Karat because it is the one thing in our hiring process that is consistent and systematic. The inconsistent output I’d get if Karat did not conduct the interviews would throw me off completely.”

To learn more about Hippo’s software engineering team, check out their careers page.

 

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