This is the second article in a three-part series about technical recruiting.
This article outlines steps you can take to maximize the return on the time spent preparing and conducting interviews.
860 words, reading time approximately 4 minutes.
You’ve developed your tech marketing pitch (see the first article in this series), and are starting to see some candidate flow. How can you get people through the interviewing process efficiently, while still holding to high standards?
Strive to design an interview process that is both efficient and satisfying to all participants. You want every candidate to leave your office thinking, “wow, that was interesting!”. Even if they don’t get an offer, they’ll tell their friends about their positive experience. And to make the best use of everyone’s time, try to complete the interview process and make a decision in a single day.
Pre-Screen Before the Interview
The goal of a telephone pre-screen is to determine whether it is worthwhile to bring a candidate on-site. If you can screen out unsuitable candidates, you are respecting their time as well as that of your team. Typically, these involve asking the candidate to solve a non-complex coding problem — to weed out the people who just don’t have the baseline skill set necessary for the job. Try to put the candidate at ease — think of this as an exercise in finding a way to qualify the candidate, rather than the reverse.
For development positions, consider using a coding tool (such as CoderPad) for your technical phone screens. These tools provide an environment to edit and run code, and record keystrokes and code solutions for later review.
Respect the Candidate
Don’t make people wait. Never leave candidates alone. Make sure your interviewers treat interviewing with a high degree of responsibility. Communicate frequently and openly. Don’t leave candidates hanging. This all seems like common sense and decency, but is too often ignored by many companies.
Standardize the Interview
Smaller teams typically conduct interviews in an ad-hoc way — each interviewer has their favorite questions and problems to pose. But as the team grows, you’ll need a consistent baseline for making hiring decisions. Rather than mandating a set of interview problems (these have a habit of escaping into the wild on sites like glassdoor), instead split the interview into thematic areas, each taken by a different interviewer. Examples of themes include algorithms, design, testing, and architecture. Have each of your interviewers specialize in one of these themes, and you can maintain a list of interviewers and themes to simplify interview scheduling. If you settle on four themes, for example, you’ll know that you’ll need four interviewers, that each candidate will require four interview slots, and that there will be little overlap between themes.
Streamline the Decision
If your interviewers are less experienced, you’ll find that their feedback is often equivocal, making the hiring decision difficult. Nobody wants to be the bad guy, and people will avoid the harshness of rejecting someone.
To avoid that, after the interview is complete, ask each interviewer to immediately send an email to the hiring manager with the candidate’s name and the decision “Hire” or “No Hire”. The remainder of the email is supporting color for that decision. This binary response requires crisp decision making: Are you not 100% sure? “No hire”. Do you think that maybe the candidate is not for our team, but might work on a different team? “No hire”.
After the hiring manager has the feedback emails in hand (ideally, minutes after the conclusion of the last interview), the decision can be made. Define your decision-making criteria beforehand. You might require unanimity, or you might decide that, say, 3 out of 4 “Hires” is good enough to make an offer.
Clarify how the interviewing team will reconcile edge cases. Let’s say you have a 2-2 split. Gather the interviewers for a debrief session. This has two benefits: it gives the hiring manager better background on the candidate, and it allows the participants insight in how others do interviews and what criteria they use for decision making.
Clearly specify the maximum amount of time these sessions are allowed to run., Otherwise they tend to run on.
Authorize Quick Offers
You have a candidate that has passed the interview process, and the hiring manager wants to make the hire. Speed is important here: a delay could mean losing a candidate to the competition. If you have well-defined job levels with associated salary and equity ranges, then it should be possible to authorize the issuance of offers without a cumbersome approval process. This requires close teamwork between the hiring manager and the recruiter, since salary history will be a factor in the offer. But if you know that you are hiring at the Developer II level, at the middle of the range, then does this offer really need approval from various parts of the organization before it can be presented?
Instead, structure the interviewing process so you can present an offer the same day as the interview. Or at least the day after. That shows you’re keenly interested in the candidate. And everyone loves to be wanted.
For More Information
See the other articles in the three-part Hiring series:
About the Author
In a career spanning 20+ years of technology leadership, Richard has served in diverse roles ranging from VP of engineering of a startup to CTO of a publicly-traded company. Most recently, in six years at LendingClub he grew an agile software development organization from 10 to over 400 contributors while delivering a platform that transformed the credit marketplace.
Richard has also delivered fintech, B2B, and B2C solutions that included legacy re-architecting, moving to services, and migration to the cloud. Technologies experience range from a cloud-based call center, one of the first CRM products, and other on-prem, SaaS and web service solutions.