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How to screen and interview software engineers at speed and scale

Kelly Lee
Digital Content Specialist

So you must be additional diligent when participating with software program engineering candidates as they’re notoriously troublesome to supply.

Assuming you’re capable of entice a good variety of candidates per position, you continue to should stability this amount with figuring out and shortlisting probably the most gifted engineers. In any other case, you’re possible sacrificing a mean of $30,000 (not together with compensation) for every unhealthy engineering rent.

On this article, we’ll speak about screening and interviewing the software program engineering candidates that you just do get – shortly and at scale. By the top of it, you’ll be in a greater place to construct or enhance your technical hiring course of. This implies:

  • Readability – everyone seems to be aligned on the best way you display and rent engineers.
  • Pace – quicker time to rent so that you keep away from shedding sturdy candidates in the course of the hiring journey.
  • Retention – hiring the fitting particular person within the first place can enhance worker retention.

To attain these targets, we’re going to recommend a normal hiring course of so that you can use and tweak in your group. We’re additionally going to current the dos and don’ts for screening and interviewing builders primarily based on CodeInterview’s first-hand experience primarily based on greater than 100,000 engineering interviews per 12 months.

However first, why ought to you will have a separate hiring journey only for engineers?

What’s totally different about hiring tech expertise?

Hiring technical expertise is, in some ways, much like hiring different forms of professionals.

You outline a job, promote the job publish, consider candidates, negotiate a suggestion and onboard the brand new worker.

Nonetheless, there are particulars on this course of that want particular consideration.

For instance, the sourcing channels you employ could also be developer-focused or you could have to depend on headhunting greater than common as a consequence of excessive demand for expertise.

In the case of screening and interviewing, you will have to consider standards equivalent to the particular applied sciences the position requires. After which, check for them.

Additionally, you will want totally different analysis instruments past questionnaires and conferences.

With that in thoughts, let’s take an in depth take a look at the important thing modifications it’s essential to introduce when designing and enhancing your technical hiring course of.

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1. Prioritize abilities over expertise and training

Few disciplines transfer as shortly as software program engineering.

New applied sciences and frameworks emerge on a regular basis and candidates that develop into complacent might fall behind, regardless of having a few years of expertise.

Furthermore, the perfect builders are sometimes self-taught tinkerers with little or no formal training in laptop science.

So whereas a candidate’s skilled and educational background is necessary, it is best to pay extra consideration to their abilities and thought course of demonstrated all through the hiring journey.

2. Depend on coding exams and portfolios greater than CVs

Don’t get me flawed – your screening course of remains to be prone to begin with a CV.

Nonetheless, that is extra of a tripwire to ensure irrelevant candidates are filtered out. For instance, when you’re hiring for a Senior Ruby on Rails engineer, you shouldn’t waste time on candidates which can be unfamiliar with this expertise.

So in distinction to most different roles, the CV won’t be an anchor level for you throughout additional phases like an interview. Somewhat, it’s going to be tasks the candidate has labored on and the way they approached them.

These days, you’ll usually have entry to the candidate’s GitHub as a reference to earlier tasks. You can too ship automated coding exams and talk about these throughout an preliminary interview.

Whereas some candidates could also be higher at promoting themselves on paper, exhausting coding abilities can’t be faked or exaggerated. For these causes, it is best to prioritize goal analysis strategies quite than resumes.

3. Ship take-home tasks as a substitute of competency interviews

Take-home tasks are usually longer (2-4 hour) assignments that dive deeper into a selected ability or expertise required for the position.

These assignments are sometimes paid and serve to slim down your shortlist to simply two or three candidates who make it to the ultimate reduce. As such, they’re effectively suited as a follow-up to the preliminary interview.

Whilst you can nonetheless have a competency interview, the take-home challenge can function the anchor level for this, discussing their thought course of throughout an answer presentation.

4. Implement an answer presentation

Whereas coding exams and take-home tasks are comparatively goal measurements of ability, some candidates might be able to bypass the principles by re-taking the check a number of instances or getting assist from a buddy.

That is the place an answer presentation is helpful – consider it as an opportunity for the candidate to justify their method. It’s additionally a great way to judge the candidate’s communication abilities.

5. Maintain digital or in-person whiteboard interviews

For senior-level positions that require in depth data of software program structure and design, you’ll usually must conduct a basic whiteboard interview.

6. Equip your self with new instruments

Hiring builders requires instruments past on-line conferencing and e mail – significantly when hiring tech employees remotely. For instance, you’ll want a coding interview device, technical evaluation software program and a digital whiteboard.

7. Undertake a brand new perspective for technical hires

As you may see, hiring technical expertise requires modifications to your hiring course of and instruments.

However there’s another factor to remember – the aggressive panorama, particularly when you’re not on the tech employees’ A-list. As a result of engineers are in such excessive demand, it’s essential to undertake a perspective round pace and candidate expertise to keep away from shedding candidates to rivals.

As well as, good builders are exhausting to search out so ensure you optimize your sourcing channels and take advantage of the purposes that you just do get out of your efforts.

Normal technical hiring course of to make use of

To current the perfect practices when screening and interviewing builders, we’ll recommend a pattern framework you should utilize straight or tweak in your group. Right here’s the method:

1. Pre-screen

CV add and a short questionnaire to filter out candidates that don’t meet your minimal standards. Your ATS ought to have the flexibility to filter purposes primarily based on self-selected abilities.

Right here’s the rationale: The CV and questionnaire are low boundaries for getting candidates by way of the door. Engineers, most likely greater than anybody, don’t like prolonged hiring processes. While you scale back the barrier to use, you create the preliminary dedication to finish the appliance.

At this stage, it’s necessary to develop a easy guidelines that can assist you filter candidates quicker. For instance:

  • Years of expertise
  • Programming languages & frameworks
  • Any huge achievements
  • Wage expectations

2. Display screen

Ship an automatic coding check to all candidates so you may objectively rank them primarily based on abilities and pace. Overview the highest candidates’ GitHub accounts to get a greater understanding of their expertise. Non-compulsory: request a brief video introduction, particularly for engineering administration roles.

Word: Coding exams are susceptible to dishonest (regardless of plagiarism detection). So don’t skip step 3 under:

3. Preliminary coding interview

Right here’s what it is best to do right here: put together! Candidates should not the one ones that get assessed at this stage. Additionally, you will characterize your organization and creating a foul impression by not being organized or having the fitting questions ready upfront can destroy the expertise and compromise your hiring.

Now, on to different sensible concerns:

Schedule the preliminary interview to speak in regards to the candidate’s method in the course of the coding check in addition to particular factors of curiosity on their resume. Put together a set of questions relying on the position so you may see the candidate code in actual time.

That will help you, listed below are some confirmed interview inquiries to ask:

  • How would you clear up drawback X?
  • Why did you choose this particular expertise/method?
  • What sort of sources are you able to suggest for somebody earlier of their profession?

Along with important thought, it is best to discover what number of clarification questions they ask (the extra, the higher!); are they enthusiastic when speaking a few resolution? Are they capable of current compelling arguments?

A majority of these questions will usually go an extended approach than theoretical questions from CS 101.

Non-compulsory: for senior roles, you may embody an extra whiteboard interview.

4. Take-home challenge

Slender down your candidates to the highest two or three utilizing a paid take-home challenge. Enable at the least every week to finish so the candidate can work round their schedule.

Listed below are some checkpoints that can assist you consider take-home tasks:

  • Does it run?
  • Can the candidate write good check instances?
  • Does the candidate clearly log modifications?
  • Did the candidate use a expertise/method they know effectively?

5. Resolution presentation

Schedule a presentation to debate the take-home challenge. The concept is to get a greater understanding of the candidate’s resolution making and communication abilities. It’s additionally a good suggestion to ask the candidate’s potential co-workers to allow them to meet (on-line or in particular person) earlier than step 6 under.

6. Trial day

Invite the perfect candidate to work together with your staff for just a few hours or a full day. That is the easiest way to see how they would slot in and acquire enter from their potential staff. The session will be in-person or distant, relying on the position necessities. Revert to the second-best candidate when you discover any purple flags in the course of the trial.

Whereas this will sound like quite a bit, it’s nothing in comparison with the prices of hiring a foul engineer. So long as you method the journey with respect for his or her effort and time, candidates will stay engaged all through.

When you undergo the method a number of instances, you’ll streamline the steps and obtain better pace. You can too modify the method by eradicating or automating sure components so it matches your individual wants.

For sure, junior-level hires won’t should undergo as rigorous an evaluation as a senior engineer or supervisor.

What to keep away from

Now you will have a beginning course of for hiring technical expertise. However what are some issues to keep away from in any respect prices to protect your employer model and the candidate expertise?

Little or unclear data

Overcommunication is the best way to go right here. There’s nothing extra irritating for a candidate than a set of unclear directions earlier than assembly a hiring supervisor that’s ready to be impressed.

Theoretical “trick” questions

Many candidates can have years or many years of expertise so introductory CS issues are possible a distant blur.

Good builders are capable of finding the knowledge they want shortly and have the mandatory expertise and instinct for efficient problem-solving. Keep away from theoretical questions designed to journey candidates until it’s essential to the position.

Prolonged analysis intervals

Good engineers will possible get a number of affords when on the lookout for a job.

Because of this it’s essential to prioritize pace and keep away from prolonged hiring procedures – or threat getting outpaced by rivals.

Be sure that your course of is streamlined and the whole lot is prepared for brand spanking new hires to start – from customary inquiries to onboarding documentation and authorized contracts.


After years of recruiting engineers and seeing how the perfect firms do it, that is clear:

Builders are exhausting to get and tougher to maintain.

If you wish to entice the fitting expertise and improve your probabilities of retaining them, I hope the recommendation above will show priceless in your technical hiring course of.

To summarize:

  • Create a parallel hiring course of for engineers to accommodate ample abilities evaluation.
  • Make the most of a normal process that’s understood by recruiters, hiring managers, candidates and different stakeholders alike.
  • Tweak the process we’ve got recommended to suit your personal wants.
  • Keep away from the widespread pitfalls when hiring engineers equivalent to lengthy analysis intervals and irrelevant questions.

And if there may be one factor to remove from this entire article, it’s this: hiring a foul engineer is worse than not hiring in any respect. So take advantage of your incoming purposes by rigorously selecting the right and most related expertise in your group with out compromise.

Munir Usman is the founder and CEO of CodeInterview – a technical evaluation platform for software program engineers. Beforehand, he based and later bought improvement company Pi Labs the place he personally recruited 100+ software program engineers to work on high-stakes tasks for firms like Microsoft, P&G and Nokia.

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