Finding great talent is hard. Hiring great engineering talent in today’s competitive market is even harder, leading technology leaders to wonder how to effectively find top-notch candidates. While there’s no silver bullet, here’s what I’ve found to work well from interviewing hundreds and hiring dozens of great engineers throughout my career.
Define The Journey
Before spreading your job post across the internet, define the full candidate journey. This starts with articulating your company’s and team’s unmet needs. Before crafting the job post, make sure to answer:
• Are you looking to fill a skills gap or add resources to an existing subject area?
• Are you looking for a local candidate, or will the position support fully remote work?
• What is your budget for the role?
• What are your must-haves versus nice-to-haves?
• What are behavioral examples of how someone in this role exhibits your company values?
• What went well and didn’t go well during your last recruiting cycle?
With these questions answered, you’ll have a much clearer picture of how to define success in your hiring efforts. Additionally, your responses will help influence the later stages of process; specifically, sourcing, the interview plan, closing the offer and successful on-boarding and retention.
Get In Front Of The Right Candidates
Utilizing a multifaceted approach to filling your recruiting pipeline will ensure you reach your desired volume and diversity of candidates. Having a healthy pipeline makes the process more efficient, especially when it comes to making final decisions.
Digital channels are a great place to start as you can get your post off the ground quickly. An applicant tracking system (ATS) such as Google Hire or Greenhouse can easily spin up a job board or integrate with your company’s website. The big-name boards will definitely deliver volume, but you’ll want to further target your efforts to streamline the process with local Slack channels and forums such as Hacker News, Stack Overflow or Reddit in addition to your local tech hubs. Understanding where your ideal candidates congregate in the digital world will help ensure your job postings are being marketed effectively.
Digital distribution is an easy way to start, but sourcing via in-person activities helps streamline the interview process as you’re able to gauge communication and attitude in your early interactions. Networking locally through meetup groups, conferences/seminars, panels and happy hours is a great way to find passionate candidates who are willing to seek out events.
If you have a specific hiring goal in mind, like we Visibly do for hiring more female engineers, explore local and national organizations that are aligned with your effort. Similarly, you can target candidates directly using tools from big names and startups alike such as LinkedIn, Hired and HumanPredictions.
Finally, leveraging your current employees as a referral network can yield positive results. If your current employees are willing to vouch for someone, there’s an increased likelihood they’ll be a fit for your company too. But remember, a referral shouldn’t mean a fast path through the interview process, as you still want to ensure a fair process and equal opportunity for all candidates.
The Interview Plan
It’s essential to have a fair and consistent interview process that focuses on the key skills, attributes and qualities necessary for the position. While scripts and preset questions may seem mechanical, they have shown to be the best way to fairly assess candidates and avoid interviewer bias. It’s also a good idea to have a diverse group of internal employees interviewing the candidate, not just managers or people in the immediate department. The interview process needs to reflect the environment they’ll work in, which usually involves cross-functional collaboration.
For tech hires, doing a technical assessment with the candidate helps vet their problem-solving skills. Even better? Don’t let them prepare for it. This allows you to see how they will tackle problems in the new role in real time. Focus more on their problem-solving techniques than simply whether they got the correct answer. Did they take notes while you explained the problem? Did they ask questions while trying to solve the problem? All of their actions during the exercise will give you insight into their thought process for problem-solving and how they will tackle it on the job.
Successful Technical Traits
It’s always good to remember that technical employees, especially software engineers, should not be expected to just write code. The most successful engineers I’ve encountered throughout my career have a deep understanding of the business and are passionate about influencing company goals beyond their primary day-to-day responsibilities. Candidates whose interest goes beyond technologies and frameworks will have the ability to effectively architect and build with the future in mind. They’ll be the champions of cross-functional communication and constant drivers of innovation throughout the organization.
I also encourage looking for candidates who have a deep curiosity for something, even if it’s not technical. One of my favorite interview questions to ask is, “What do you geek out on?” The answer helps me determine if they’re naturally curious and if they will be that way on the job. A recent hire’s deep interest in topics ranging from setting up fish tanks to motocross definitely caught my attention. Curious new hires will seek out new opportunities to help their team and the business become more effective. This attribute, combined with grit and tenacity, is especially important in today’s market, where you need employees who are mentally present to solve your company’s toughest challenges and not simply clock in and clock out.
It’s estimated it can cost you a third of an employee’s salary to replace them. In addition to the costs of replacing a hire, working with a lackluster hire will involve performance improvement plans, difficulty in project assignments and other team members feeling less motivated. By raising the bar for new hires, the standards of performance for your entire team will increase.
With these tools, I hope you’re soon picking up the phone and giving someone the great news about the opportunity to have them join your team.