In Part 1 of our How to Build a Hiring Process for Engineering series, we introduced you to a 4-step framework for building a successful hiring process.
By now, you’ve identified which candidates meet your minimum standards, so it’s time to take it to the next level: figuring out if they’re the best fit for the role. After reading Part 1, you’re already halfway there.
Now you need to conduct a deeper assessment of a candidate’s technical skills and evaluate the chemistry you have with the candidate. Think about it:
You wouldn’t invite a stranger into your home without knowing a little bit about them.
You wouldn’t buy a car without test-driving it.
You wouldn’t take a road trip without your phone or GPS system.
And you wouldn’t spend six figures on an engineer without knowing what you’re getting.
Why should your hiring process be any different?
Whether you’re considering someone fresh out of college, self-trained, or with significant experience, you need to create an assessment process that evaluates these candidates in a consistent and unbiased manner. Every hire needs to be able to play a specific role on your team and have the ability to help you ship software quickly, reliably, and scalably. The question you have to answer is what type of players are you looking to help you build a 10x team?
Every hire should have the ability or potential to do what you need to accomplish in your engineering organization. Hiring is not a game where you throw darts and hope for the best.
In the first two phases of the Evaluate Your Hiring Bar, we covered the first phone screen and the technical challenge. Here’s a quick recap.
The three main goals of the first phone screen are:
The goals for the technical challenge are:
These two activities can be largely automated with support from your recruiting team for phone screens and technical challenges.
Here’s the thing, hiring is still a people-oriented activity. It’s not a task that you can execute with a formula and get the exact same results every time. However, it is something that can be structured to increase your probability of getting it right. With the right framework and mindset, you can make sure you’re always evaluating the best potential people for your team.
At the same time, we’re facing an unprecedented amount of competition for the best candidates so you’ll have to go above and beyond to get that 95 percent NPS score in your candidate experience in order to attract the best people to your company once you’ve identified them. The Wall Street Journal reports:
So how does that affect your hiring process? I recommend that hiring managers perform a second phone screen before committing to an onsite interview.
Two phone screens may seem unnecessary at first glance but the Hiring Manager phone screen is one of the most important parts of the hiring process. It’s your first opportunity to build a connection with a potential new hire on your team. With this phone screen, hiring managers get a chance to to see firsthand if a candidate’s working styles will mesh well with them and the rest of the team. You’ll also be able to get a better grasp for the candidates career aspirations and whether the opportunity on your team is a match.
Essentially, you’re looking for “work chemistry.” It’s what happens when you get a group of people who effectively collaborate and work well together.
A 2017 report on job satisfaction found that 50 percent of employees found relationships with supervisors were “very important.” But, only 46 percent of employees were satisfied with their current relationship with their supervisors. That’s concerning.
Luckily, that’s solvable by asking questions that give you a sense of what it would be like to manage this person, which is exactly what we’re doing in this phone screen.
Here are a few open-ended questions that you could ask to evaluate three distinct areas for a Senior Backend Engineer: technical expertise, work chemistry, and career/role fit. Start off with a broad question like, “What’s the most impactful system or project that you built at your current company?”. Then, follow up with a series of open-ended questions from the list below.
Career / Role Fit:
Like the “Blind Men and an Elephant” parable, you are shining a light on how the candidate works with others, the role he played on the project, and why they made specific technical decisions. You’re also unearthing the vision they have for their career and developing a priority list of the their motivations to join a new company. A leader on the team will have thoughtfully articulated responses and reflections on how they would improve their approach if they were to undertake a similar project. A bystander on the other hand will have difficulty providing strong reasoning and framing in the discussion.
Another reason we do a phone screen with the hiring manager is to connect on a deeper technical level. You can describe the technical challenges and projects on the product roadmap along with cutting edge technical solutions.
The Hiring Manager phone screen is also a great opportunity to further convince the best candidates that your company and the role you’re hiring for is a great fit for them. You can sell the vision of what her career can look like in such a way that no other company can compete. It’s critical that you discuss your track record of success developing both technical and non-technical skills in your team members to differentiate your value proposition as their career sherpa.
It’s a balance. To make our hiring process efficient, we want to have a clear understanding of the motivating factors that captured the candidate’s attention and convinced her to get on a call with both you and the recruiter. It’s only after you’ve identified those motivating factors that you can start soft selling the right incentives that will hook her into proceeding to the onsite interview. This phone screen does that while also digging deeper on a technical level. It allows you to get context around how she works and what it would look like if she worked on your team.
If you feel confident about the candidate, it’s time to move them to the on-site visit.
In the next part of this series, we’ll cover tips and frameworks on how to prepare both candidates and your teams for the onsite interview. Are there tips or frameworks that you use during your phone screens that increase the probability of success? Share them below to help others get an idea of what makes your company’s hiring process great.
Derek Ling is Director at Talent Accelerator, a consultancy that helps startups and early-stage companies grow their most valuable asset – their people. He’s helped startups and executives hire hundreds of candidates by building meaningful talent experiences.