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How Salesforce Uses HackerRank to Prioritize Developer Talent

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Earlier this month, we hosted our largest HackerRank.main() event ever—which includes insights into how businesses are solving the continuing challenges of hiring the right developers and scaling their engineering teams. 

One of the sessions included an in-depth interview with Tim Ahern, Recruiting Leader of Engineering and Technology at Salesforce. 

Click here for the full interview or scroll down for key highlights. 

Salesforce Tick Tock Talk

Led by our very own CMO, Jennifer Stagnaro, they discussed what’s essential to building a hiring strategy in 2020 and how to eliminate any implicit biases or preferences when evaluating candidates. Here are a few key takeaways from this talk:

1. Structure leads to alignment and consistencies that help scale your business. 

I know a good candidate when I see one. This might be the approach many hiring managers take when looking to scale their teams. 

However, without defining the core skills needed for the candidate to be a successful hire, it’s easy to fall prey to implicit biases and preferences over raw talent. 

Tim suggests hiring managers must identify core competencies that map to what a successful candidate looks like. That way, managers can evaluate consistently against competencies versus backgrounds or other biases. 

“It can be a challenge to keep all interviewers aligned on how they evaluate candidates,” says Tim. “But it is something that is really critical in terms of making sure they hire the right candidates with the right skills.”

This hiring philosophy helped Tim’s team build a more diverse workplace. “I do think when we really move towards competencies, we're going to be able to move the needle in terms of making sure we have more of a diverse and inclusive environment,” says Tim. 

2. “Screen people in instead of screening people out.”

Many candidates feel they’re being set up to fail during an interview. Either the test was impossible or the interviewer was too hard. While tests are meant to be challenging, they shouldn’t be built to trick the candidates.

Tim suggests the assessments should help identify who would be successful at this role and help that individual move forward in the process. He calls this, “screening candidates in versus screening them out.”

He recommends sharing full transparency with the candidates and looking for ways to help them prepare for assessments.

Instead of looking at candidates' responses as right or wrong, Tim’s team reviews coding answers that might appear incorrect at first glance and revisits those with the candidate. That allows the candidates to explain their reasoning, giving Tim’s hiring team further insight into their problem-solving capabilities. 

3. Investing in the right technology is key to building a consistent hiring process and improving the candidate experience.

Before investing in HackerRank, Tim says the interview experience at Salesforce was very inconsistent—whether it was from a candidate standpoint or a hiring manager standpoint—they didn't know what they were assessing against. Proctored tests weren’t very inclusive based on candidates’ work schedules and personal life. 

Once COVID-19 hit, Tim knew it was time for a change.

His team pivoted quickly to go into full virtual interviews with training, delivering HackerRank’s Interview Platform to recruiters and hiring managers within just 7 days

According to Tim, “HackerRank saves the developer time and also addresses the needs of candidates to have that flexibility to take the test when applicable and when they're available. It made a huge difference.”

“Having that consistency for every position—the candidates were fairly evaluated and given an equal opportunity to show their skills,” he adds.

HackerRank also helped the hiring team gain data-driven insights so they can make more impactful decisions and adjustments to their hiring process. Receiving candidate feedback on their overall experience with the platform along with other rich data (like test health) helps not only provide candidates a better experience but defined what Salesforce wanted to measure going forward.

4. Get buy-in from your executive team early on.  

When it comes to defining a new hiring process, you need executive buy-in immediately. Tim suggests thinking of it as “pushing down” rather than “pushing up” so stakeholders are invested in its success from the start. 

“We've established what we call the HackerRank Advisory Board, which is made up of senior executives in our organization,” says Tim. “So we use a top-down approach in terms of getting our engineering leaders and hiring managers to use the new process.”

Instituting a group of stakeholders (or Advisory Board) helps roll out the platform across different teams and weaves training and onboarding into the companies’ overall objectives. 

Thriving in the New Normal with HackerRank

While a few things might return to normal (eventually), Tim’s team has adapted to this new normal—and hasn't looked back. 

“We're not getting back to normal, it's just not normal,” says Tim. “We’re still going to have people distributed, grant people in the office because they may have a choice if they want to work in an office, and people may be remote. That’s why we have a process in place that can help adapt to the new way of the world in terms of how we operate.”

For Tim, it’s all about staying ahead of the curve and being proactive versus reactive with change. 

“I don't know what's going to come up in six months,” says Tim. “But if it changes, we certainly want to be ahead of it as much as possible.”

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