From Laid-Off To Startup Employee To Startup Founder – A Conversation With Home Run Dugout CEO Nick Hermandorfer

It is April 2020 and, in just 4 weeks time, 22 Million Americans suddenly find themselves unemployed. And there is a TON of uncertainty swirling about, and no doubt it is definitely warranted. And for many of us, this is not the first time in our professional lives where we’ve seen such a dramatic downturn in the economy, resulting in massive layoffs and entire businesses going under.

So while we’ve never experienced this type of pandemic before, it’s precisely because many people have experienced large scale recession that I wanted to connect those of you who are feeling uncertain with stories of growth, hope, and fulfillment.

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Shift To Managing 100% Remotely Like A CHAMP — Use These Questions To Guide You

If you’re a Manager, Team Lead, or Executive who is suddenly faced with leading a completely distributed & remote team, then you might be feeling a bit out of your element.
By answering the questions posed in this post honestly & truthfully, you too can become a CHAMPION at leading people in a remote environment.

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My Most Valuable Leadership Lesson Came From My Greatest Hiring Failure

One of the most confusing and confounding bad hires I ever made taught me my most important hiring AND leadership lesson.

I was a few months into my first executive role at a Startup here in Austin, and ensuring that we hired quality, talented Software Engineers was ultimately my responsibility. 

We’d just hired a mid-level software engineer who’d come over from a much larger tech company, and while they were clearly bright and technically capable, after a few weeks it seemed like this hire might not have been a good decision. 

This person was rushing through their work, sacrificing quality in their code, not testing it, not having anyone else review it … all red flags in our organization and the standards by which we did things.

I talked with the Engineer’s manager, who met with her to discuss our concerns, and he came back to me pretty perplexed. He had the conversation, and this Engineer of his was insistent they were doing really well because they’d “done a lot of tickets”, and they were actually offended we’d claim otherwise. I chatted with the Manager, and we came up with a plan to try and better communicate that we weren’t all about silo-ing yourself off, putting your head down and cranking out a ton of tasks with no concern for quality and no collaboration with or input from teammates.

Despite our best efforts, we couldn’t get on the same page, they continued to protest our performance concerns and maintained they were doing great work because of the number of tickets they had gone through. Eventually we decided to part ways with this Engineer, and it really left me scratching my head.

To this day, any firing decision takes a lot out of me, even when I know it’s the right call and it pretty much always ends up being the best decision for both the company and the employee. 

And, in the case of a bad hire, we had developed the really useful habit of doing a “post-mortem” or retrospective on where we went wrong, and could this bad hire have been avoided? Most of the time, we learned at least one or two good lessons which allowed us to avoid making the same mistake twice.

With this one, though, I was really confused. I kept trying to figure out what went wrong? 

We’d gone through our normal screening & interview process, which was rigorous but pretty reliable AND fair to candidates. This person had even attended a department happy hour event and met a number of people on our teams, all of whom agreed they were smart, humble, eager to learn and grow, and basically every other trait we valued in team members.

So how were we so misaligned with this person on expectations? In a lot of ways, I felt like I’d failed them. Were we not clear about our style of working, collaboratively, with a commitment to quality over raw, breakneck speed? Why were they so insistent they were performing really well, even as we repeatedly explained that cranking out a bunch of tickets wasn’t our definition of success?

Then a thought struck me. We always talk about what people do on a day-to-day basis. The knowledge & expertise we need, the programming languages they needed to know, the tools we use. 

And we talk about that stuff all over the place. Job Ads, Internal Job Descriptions, Social Media posts, in conversations during Screens & Interviews. We talk until we’re blue in the face about what they would be doing, but we never talk about what would make them successful.

I thought maybe I was onto something, but I wanted to be sure. So I started casually asking around, in conversation with the other people in my department. And the more people I asked, the more I started to realize that it was hard-to-impossible for a LOT of people in my department team to clearly articulate what success looked like in their given position. 

I suddenly realized that, even as an Executive, as Director, I couldn’t really describe let alone define success for my position, either. 

So, out of curiosity, I asked my boss (our CTO), and here to find out he couldn’t really do it for his position either.

Mind you, I’m not talking about precise metrics or quantifiable goals here, just the basic parameters for success.

And that’s when I realized it doesn’t matter whether somebody has all of the qualifications, years of experience, and skills you’re looking for. It doesn’t matter if they’re a “technical” fit AND a “culture” fit. As an executive, as a hiring manager, as a company leader, it’s up to me to get as clear as I can about how someone will be successful in a given role, and to be able to communicate that clearly and concisely in all my recruiting efforts as well as with current employees.

Without clearly understanding and communicating how someone can be successful, I am setting us all up for failure.

Unfortunately this realization came all too late for that particular Engineer and for that organization, and yet it now serves as the starting point for how I build & grow teams, and in what I teach to other decision-makers tasked with hiring responsibilities: How someone is successful in a given position is all in how they deliver value to customers, the company, their colleagues, and themselves.

When you think about any position starting from the place of how they add value, everything else becomes easier.

So maybe set aside some time — even as little as just 5 minutes — grab a sheet of paper, and ask yourself “How would I know if I’m successful in my current position?” If you’re a Hiring Manager, see if you can clearly articulate success for the positions you manage as well as the positions you’re trying to fill, now and in the future.

Learn from my mistake and you’ll save everyone a ton of time, money, and frustration.

The “Culture Fit” Fix

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YOU are the KEY to helping more people discover a “Profession With Purpose”. The more people we can reach with the podcast, the larger and more meaningful a impact we can make, and reviews are the lifeblood of podcast exposure.)

Read the blog below, stream the podcast version, or watch the video here!

Is your unspoken definition of “culture fit” actually hurting your organization?

Is it possible that your current approach in assessing a candidate’s ability to fit in your organization is actually hindering your growth and preventing your success? Can you clearly speak to what it exactly means to be a ‘culture fit’ in your environment? 

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3 Simple Techniques for Writing a Winning Job Description

(The following techniques are cited in my book Hack Your Hiring: The Tactical Playbook To Find, Evaluate, and Hire A+ Talent, which gives you 75 PROVEN Strategies, Techniques, and Best Practices to solve any Hiring problem you might have… anything from defining an open position, to attracting & screening Applicants, to beating out other competing offers and closing the Candidate of your dreams.)


When it comes time to hire a new position, one of the first challenges you face as a leader is also one of the toughest: How do you describe what you need in this role? The responsibilities, skills, expertise you’re looking for in your perfect candidate?

A lot of bigger corporations will literally purchase Job Descriptions from other companies. While this may be ok for them, for small-to-medium sized businesses, your needs probably are more unique & specific, so a generic off-the-shelf JD is probably not going to cut it.

Use these three simple & straightforward techniques to produce a clear Job Description guaranteed to attract the right people.



Reach out to current teammates who you’d consider an A-Player with experience in a position similar to your open role.

Ask each teammate plainly about

  • What Outputs and Outcomes he’s most proud of contributing to or creating
  • What Obstacles he’s faced in his career
  • What they believe contributed to his success in Overcoming those obstacles, from when he first started to his ability to grow and flourish in the role.

Every Job and every Candidate is going to be unique in some fashion. However, no Job is so unique that it’s without ample comparative examples. By compiling a list of obstacles, strengths, and skills from the experience of others you trust, you start building a sort of composite avatar of your ideal Candidate.



For each technical skill and intangible strength, grade the level of expertise using a method that clearly describes the ideal candidate’s level of competency & expertise.

Useful Frameworks to reference include:

The conventional method of conveying desired levels of expertise was born from the requirement of formal education (2-year / 4-year degree), and in most cases it has outlived its usefulness.

As an increasing percentage of the workforce becomes knowledge workers, the search for expertise hinges on the ability to find candidates who have actually grown and developed a level of expertise or mastery in various skills.

Unfortunately, spending years exercising a particular skill in no way guarantees that a worker increased her expertise in that skill.

Isn’t it true that someone who’s been driving a car for 10 years could still be a poor driver? Or that someone with a good teacher + some natural talent could be an excellent driver in her first few years behind the wheel?

Here’s a personal example: At the time I’m writing this, I am 37 years old. I have been using MS Excel and other spreadsheet software since the age of 10. The claim could be made, then, that I have 27 years of Excel experience, yet I will be the first person to admit that I am far from a Excel/Spreadsheet Expert.

Using a commonly-understand and explicit grading scale to describe levels of expertise is the best way to communicate — both internally and externally — what levels of proficiency are required to succeed in a particular role.



In addition to more clearly defining desired levels of Expertise for a role, classify the importance of a candidate exhibiting each skill to the desired level of Expertise. This can be as simple as classifying a skill as “Must-Have” / “Should-Have” / “Nice-to-Have”, or you could use a more complex ordering mechanism.

There is no position on earth where every desired competency is equally critical to achieving success in the role. Yet, Job Descriptions nearly always provide a list of skills that appear to be of equal importance (and are usually all required).

This can deter many otherwise-qualified job-seekers, while also inviting applications from unqualified candidates who don’t have a clear sense of which areas truly require a level of expertise vs those where familiarity or basic competence are acceptable.

It’s also important to recognize that an Applicant’s expertise in a particular area is constantly changing and would continue to change if they came to work for you. The Résumé they submit is a mere snapshot of a moment in time. If there are skills where “Expert” would be nice but “Intermediate” is Critical, it’s important to call this out.

A Hiring Manager who struggles to fill urgent roles almost always struggles precisely because he’s not explicitly clear — with himself and with others — which skills and skill-levels are critical, important, desirable, or simply a nice bonus.

Where To Find Your Next Great Hire (Or Your Next Great Job) Part I

Whenever we identify a Hiring need in our organization, a bunch of questions naturally come to mind:
– What’s our budget for this role
– Will it be Full-Time or Part-Time?
– Contract or FT Employee?
– What are the responsibilities of the position?
– What are skills we need in this job?
– What type of person is ideal for the role?
… Then there is the Question we almost never ask…

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Stop Waiting For PERMISSION To Grow or Change Your Career

Outside of my business, where I work primarily with folks on the Employer side of things, I spend a lot of my outside time mentoring and guiding folks who are trying to either progress in their current career OR make a career shift.

Sometimes that shift is a minor one, and sometimes it’s a complete career change. Inevitably, by the time I’m talking with them they’ve reached a sticking point, or they’re in a rut, or they’re completely stuck and disenfranchised.

And while everyone’s situation is unique, I almost always here some version of the same few things.

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