How not to hire a developer

How not to hire a developer

In Oleksandr’s practice, there were some problems with hiring. First, there is a long feedback loop between the point when the developer search process begins and the point when they start producing some of their first results. Secondly, team leaders have quite a bit of information to reflect on, because they don’t hire that many people, only if there is no 2x growth per year. As a result, there is no understanding of how cool those people are who were screened out for some reason.

This article is published on behalf of Oleksandr Ptakhin. In recent years, he has been working as a manager. He hired developers as a team leader in large companies, startups, medium-sized companies, and even has experience in hiring in a state-owned company. Oleksandr will talk about his personal experience of hiring developers in companies of different sizes, describe the problems he has seen, and “tell” how to improve these problems (which, of course, is not a guide to action).

Oleksandr Ptakhin

He started at the Russian Railways, worked at Yandex, startups, managed a group of developers at Admitad.

Note. The story continues on behalf of Oleksandr.

As employed in corporations

In large companies, they hire a conveyor belt, which is no secret, of course.

  • There is HR screening.

  • There is a technical screening, usually for an hour, where some tasks are offered, to code, to solve algorithms.

  • And several sections of technical interviews with various developers, for greater objectivity, this is a rather long stage.

The corporation has formalized hiring, which is always a logical and understandable process. It is unlikely that you will be able to change anything in it. But even with a large, formalized and annoying process, something can be done. By “doing something” I mean somehow improving the process for myself and my team. How did I do it? He gave a practical task for the technical interview, which was about mathematics and logic, and a little about reducing uncertainty in the developer’s work. An example problem is to output all prime numbers from 1 to N.

She works well. Here is a candidate:

  • and can ask questions, for example, clarify terms, because few people remember the exact definitions of a mathematics course;

  • and write the solution on a piece of paper, or on a PC, or in an online editor;

  • and fix it right away.

That is, here we immediately understand how the candidate thinks, and how he writes the code, and how he explains it. You can give more difficult tasks, but I don’t see the point in this, because if a person under stress writes some minimally working code, he writes the same plus-minus at work.

What to do if the candidate solved this task? Let’s take it, as practice has shown, he is also good at his job. Why didn’t you decide? Here it is not clear how cool they are, because we have a conveyor, but we are now talking in the context of hiring in a large company. And in a conveyor belt situation, we are limited by both time and selection criteria.

Yes, it’s sad and it’s our limitation as team members. But for a large company, when you have hundreds of vacancies and you need universal hiring, there is no other way to invent. Maybe you have a solution? I don’t have any yet.

How did you hire a startup?

All by myself.

It was 2019. Startup. There is no conveyor. There is no money for Moscow salaries. There is also no experience of hiring remote workers. There is nothing.

I wrote the vacancy myself on Python medium, posted it on the headhunter myself, sorted through all the applications myself, interviewed and refused, of course, also myself.

Here the situation is completely opposite to the corporate assembly line. But here you can turn around and hire “normally”, as it should be? And you can start with the text of the vacancy – not like HR, but in a human way, right?

Since I hired at a startup, I discovered that corporate clichés like “young, friendly team with an office, coffee and livers” don’t work. It’s informational noise that candidates miss the same way we miss the words “communication” and “stress tolerance” on resumes. Such things reduce the credibility of the rest of the text.

How to write then? I went from the opposite and admitted my shortcomings. “We don’t have testing on the project right now, our code base is not in the best shape, but we are willing to spend this time to fix and move forward with the business goals.” And otherwise — stamps in corporate vacancies are forgiven at the expense of salary. A startup cannot write like that.

And it was also useful to me as a team leader. While describing the shortcomings of the work, a specific description of who I need with the most accurate list of duties and tasks is immediately formulated.

Then he posted a vacancy on a headhunter and on Facebook. Interestingly, Facebook did not work. The audience was irrelevant, and I was not a community and did not even realize that it was, in fact, very valuable. Some channels like remotes were suddenly recorded, but there was no exhaust.

As a result, the headhunter worked. I fiddled, of course, with a headhunter, analyzing the reviews of candidates with 1-3 years of experience, but I still found the person I needed. The candidate I hired (previous point) did not solve the task completely at the interview, but I took him for soft skills. And was ready to wait until he pulled up hardy. It worked. It is unlikely that I would have managed to do this in a corporation.

For the sake of fairness, I will say that he still sent me the decision after the interview. And yes, it was possible – we don’t have an exam.

How did you hire in a medium-sized company?

On the example of the last company where I worked.

Let’s start with mistakes.

  • We have given test tasks when in doubt and where we can filter. Not everyone agreed to do it – Junas agreed more often, the rest much less often. With this, it seems, we simply cut our hiring spree and extended the hiring of those we need.

  • The feedback was also weak, which also misses the opinion about the company.

  • Admitad has three rounds of interviews: technical screening for half an hour, technical interview for 1.5 hours and final interview. And it takes a long time – people receive offers from competitors faster than we conduct interviews.

  • The gap for medium-sized companies should be easier — approximately 70% of candidates passed our screening and only 10% made it to the finals (according to statistics, 20-30 interviews).

  • Screening doesn’t filter people the way you want them to—rather, they weed them out.

What shall I do? They began to conduct phased experiments.

  • First, they changed the text of the vacancy, which was not written so well.

  • We started to combine 3 interviews in 2 stages – without screening and a test immediately for a technical interview, so that it would be faster and we could immediately understand whether a person can do what we need or not. A “warning” also helps here: we call for a technical interview, but we warn – “Guys, the meeting will last an hour and a half, be ready, but we can finish earlier.”

These two actions have significantly improved the situation. Of course, the improvements took place iteratively – they planned an experiment with the format, changed something, conducted “experiments”, analyzed the result, all over again. Regular PDCA 🙂

Together: bad advice

Looking back, I now know how to screw up a hire.

  • Template and meager text of the vacancy.

  • The code cannot be launched during the interview.

  • Long test tasks.

  • More rounds of interviews, especially screening required.

  • Take as much time as possible between stages.

  • It is urgent to change the current process because someone wrote about it in an article or spoke at a conference.

All this will worsen our situation.

Well, to prevent this from happening, I am now constantly “getting involved” in recruiting processes, because experience tells me that it is not possible to hire a good person without personal participation. Well, no way. If you want a person in the team – do not give the hire for ransom.

A minute of advertising: if you are looking for developers – go to headz.ioAn AI recruiting service that saves, on average, up to 40 hours of sourcing.

Related posts