Hiring top quality software engineers is a fiercely competitive process. Our Head of Talent, Natasha Katoni, shared some tactical advice in a recent video interview for early-stage companies looking to find and engage with engineering talent. In particular, Natasha offered replicable, data-driven frameworks for assessing and closing top candidates during the interview process. Read on for her key take-aways.
Start with a Plan
Hiring engineers is super competitive and many early-stage companies blindly dive in and start recruiting as quickly as possible. To avoid wasting valuable time and money, it’s vital to establish some sort of hiring plan before taking action. When drafting your plan, be sure to:
Once you’ve established a hiring plan, it’s time to find and engage top engineering talent. Rather than messaging thousands of candidates at random, use a data-driven approach that’s repeatable and debuggable. There are different channels you can rely on for your outreach, including:
Evaluate and Mitigate Bias
When evaluating technical skill, build a process that will help you create the most efficient, effective pipeline. Companies will often prioritize getting the signal they need from the interview process in the manner that works for them. It’s critical to remember that a candidate is also interviewing you and you need to accommodate their preferences. I often see companies insist, for example, on time-consuming take home assignments. While it allows the hiring team to gather deep signal, it can be difficult for the candidate to find time to complete. Give candidates an option – create a 1 to 2 hour take home assignment that they can opt into if they find that it’s more comfortable for them to code on their own. Build a pair programming interview as an alternative. You’ll see higher conversion rates if you create a process that allows the candidate to prioritize their needs.
Evaluating engineering candidates’ behavioral characteristics is equally important to assess. Your company’s values should drive what you look for, and prioritizing these 3 characteristics can help ensure you hire engineers who will be successful:
At the early stage it’s easy to hire candidates who are similar to you. Actively mitigate this bias by building a simple rubric for your interview process. It doesn’t have to be overly detailed, but record the same, core questions to ask for each position and level. Map out qualities of a great versus subpar answer. Establish an internal debrief process so you can have structured, objective conversations about candidates post-interview.
Recruiting as diverse a team of engineers is crucial. It’s not, however, a task you can delegate to recruiters. Diversity, equity, and inclusion must be a company-wide priority and supported from the top down. Incorporate DEI into your company’s annual planning, goals, and resource allocation.
Close the Deal
After finding and evaluating engineering talent, early-stage companies often find their job offers in competition with the likes of Facebook and Google. Systematically create compelling offers by asking candidates tactical questions such as:
Use these questions to create a tailored sell plan.
Timing is critical to creating an effective closing plan especially when competing against bigger companies for engineering talent. Figure out when the candidate is going to make their decision and work backwards to time your sell plan. Recency bias is powerful, and you want to come in with your heavy hitting closing moves and numbers as close to the end of their process as possible. You also want to learn how the candidate’s motivations develop as they continue in their conversations with other companies. Always be ready to pivot.
Equity can also help close the deal, but waving a wand and claiming big exits in the future won’t cut it. Treat your candidates as you’d treat your investors. Give them a mini-pitch that outlines your potential market and your plan of attack for said market. Model out specific success scenarios for the candidate based on real things your company is already doing.
If your company has any learnings or questions about hiring engineering talent, feel free to drop Natasha a note at natasha[at]amplifypartners[dot]com. For a full recording of this interview with Natasha, click here.