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How Canva’s Scott Crowe Hires Tech Talent During Hyper-Growth

When you’re a startup in the midst of hyper-growth, hiring the right engineering talent quickly becomes both the biggest challenge and priority to sustain your momentum. 

Just ask lead recruiter Scott Crowe, whose main focus has been to increase the technical ability and maintain the high bar set for the engineering team of Australia’s fastest growing startup: Canva.

Canva is an online design and publishing tool that grew to over 10 million users worldwide over the last few years.  In early 2018, Canva reached new heights when they joined the ‘Unicorn’ club by being valued at USD 1 Billion. 

With a strong focus on tech, Canva is building a world-class engineering team to help create the future of design. Not only has Canva skyrocketed in growth over the last couple of years, Scott’s team plans to more than double their tech team over the next year, which comes with its own set of challenges.

Scott recently joined our panel of speakers at HackerRank Main() Sydney, during which he offered a few insights that are too good not to share with you:

What do you believe has been the biggest challenge in tech recruiting for Canva?

The common challenge everyone seems to be facing at the moment is talent shortage.

But the biggest challenge for Canva is to find the right candidate. You can have 150+ people who look great on paper, but when you whittle that down, in the end, you probably get to 4 or 5 people who would get to an interview.

The problem here is that you are initially talking to over 150 people because their resume suggests they are a stellar fit, only to find that most will not meet our requirements. This takes time with all the discussions, telephone interviews, etc – time that could have been invested elsewhere.

Have you made any change to your technical assessment to counter this challenges?

Skills-based assessments, such as HackerRank, help identify people early on who possessed the right skill set in order to land a job at Canva. It’s a matter of distinguishing folks who only look good on paper versus those who are fantastic programmers.

It’s now possible to have a more refined set of candidates who can make it into the subsequent rounds and has certainly helped save a lot of time.

We previously had a very in-depth take-home task as part of our process. What we realized is that some people will spend 40 hours on the task and some would spend 5 minutes and move along.

We now have a different process thanks primarily to HackerRank whereas a candidate you can choose the way you like to be assessed.

The options are:

  1. A one-hour session in CodePair, which is a more efficient way to assess, and also less time consuming for the engineering team.
  2. For those who aren’t as confident speaking through technical problems, there is a technical test available which can be done at home.

The results in this choice are pretty much 50-50 with candidates choosing both paths. We went from 46% candidates not submitting the task to 1% of people who decide not to continue through the process. This has a huge impact on our conversion rates.

How do you attract tech talent? What’s driving them to Canva?

There are those who will tell you things like you need to have a cool office, with a ping-pong table etc.

But I have personally never heard of anyone declining an offer because there is no ping-pong table. No one has ever asked me about these benefits before interviewing.

In reality, people are more interested in knowing about the people they are going to work with and learn from, and the problems that they are going to be solving. If most of their day is spent in front of their screen, working on whatever they’re doing, that’s probably going to be top priority for them. If you can convey the complexity of the problem you’re trying to solve and the type of people who you get to work with, then you don’t really have to sell the other aspects of a company.

Referrals have been one of the best sources in tech. How does that impact diversity and inclusion?

Referrals don’t affect your diversity and inclusion initiatives if you have a diverse base to start with. If you have 50 people that all look and think the same, then they are all going to refer another 50 people that look and think the same.

If you have a good baseline to start with, then you are not going to have a big problem with your referral programs affecting diversity and inclusion.

I think there are also other parts to diversity and inclusion that will inevitably shape the culture of a company.

For Canva,  it isn’t just about talent attraction and hiring, it’s also retention. If you have a loud voice in the room which happens to be the majority, even when you introduce more diversity into the group–they may not be heard. So for us, there’s much more to it than simply relying on referrals.  


Next: Atlassian’s CIO: On Getting More Women into Engineering Leadership

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