Hiring tech-talent is hard. And it has been a nightmare for most companies in the past few years so much so that The Great Resignation has nearly been as hot a topic as Covid has been so far. Companies have exploited all old ways and its tweaked variations to hiring/poaching new talent in vain.
In times of crisis, what shines are ones values exhibited by their culture. This post is a run through of some of the things that I have acquired and demonstrated in action to improve hiring processes. The wiser side of you should make you see not just the techniques in isolation but the values underpinning it.
1. Demonstrate your values and culture all through the hiring process
"Action speaks louder than words" is the adage. If the culture and values that are loud mouthed in various advertisements are not demonstrated during the little time that the company folks spend with a candidate, they have lost the battle already. Did you ever pay attention to this aspect?
For instance, you can't talk of integrity and humility without demonstrating it in your endeavors. There is not point blaming the candidates for doing offer shopping and not joining your company without you reflecting on what you can get better at. Some companies withhold the offer until before he joins their company in the hope that it will change their situation for better. This only irks the candidate prompting him to pick another opportunity.
Shouldering the responsibility as an engineering leader, I keep telling all my team members and stakeholders alike that we are the ambassadors of the company we are employed in and that it is important for us to demonstrate our culture and values in true spirit. One of the things I always work on is that a candidate for interview enjoys his time by having a constructive conversation with my team members during their time so that they know what they are walking into. This also meant my team members know the best side of a candidate they interviewed to make an informed decision.
2. ATS (Application Tracking System) is a must-have and not nice-to-have
It is surprising that many companies out there are either not using an ATS or is under-utilizing it. Think ATS as a project management tool for hiring at the very least. Without it, all we get to hear is excuse and speculation. With it you can substantiate observation with data for better discussions and decision making.
For the benefit of those not using of leveraging an ATS, there are so many modern day ATS systems like Zoho Recruit, FreshTeam, Greenhouse, Lever etc. that are too good that you can't imaging living without it to make bets on your hiring processes. Some of the super benefits include easier collaboration with Recruitment team, live dashboarding, funneling, status reporting, traceability, data mining, better talent searching and prioritizing, etc. Now, if you really really can't afford a modern day ATS, try out a product from a startup out there that might not have a host of features. Trust me on this, "Something is definitely better than nothing" and you will derive your RoI (Return on Investment) on this choice sooner than you expected.
3. Bet on self-improvement over aping others
How much of your hiring template is a copy of another company's that you admire? Have you not incorporated it in your hiring process blindly without taking the context of your company?
I tell my teams that getting things wrong is okay and that we will work on identifying our gaps by working together as One Team. To this end every step in selection process is made transparent right from the kind of questions to ask and what can be expected from a candidate.
Make continuous improvement a habit and it will sooner or later become your company's culture.
4. Make hiring inclusive instead of it being a exclusive privilege of select team members
Is it not common in your company to have hiring done by selective team members? Not in my teams. In my teams, this is no privilege and I make it a point to ensure everybody in my team gets to become a part of the process irrespective of their overall/company experience. I put inclusivity in practice in hiring too and this has resulted in very many benefits -- some of them being shared understanding, better understanding among interview panelists, better team bonding, hiring standardization, scaled-out hiring etc.
5. Shift focus on selection instead of rejection
While we all witness companies taking pride in rejecting more candidates and we being part of it. What the leaders in these companies have missed out is the understanding that they have laid the seeds for cannibalism and ego. Over time, you will have team members competing with each other in rejecting more and more candidates, thus missing out on Golden Talent.
I took personal initiatives to change the language and mindset to focus on selection over rejection. This resulted in killing superiority attitude in interviewers over time and they becoming more mature professionals over time.
Remember, "As you sow, so will you reap".
6. Favor loyalty over stability
Stability is often misconstrued as loyalty which it isn't. Do know the difference to favor one over the other.
Stability is merely the duration a candidate stayed in a company. And Loyalty on the other hand, is the work the candidate has delivered in his capacity given his context. Companies overlook this aspect in an attempt to make their hiring life easier thus compromising on the quality.
Loyalty may seem pricier than stability but the returns on loyalty beats stability in terms of quality delivery and better culture of accountability. Don't trust me on this? Give it a try and thank me later.
7. Don't overlook qualitative attributes like being a good team player, open-mindedness, etc.
"Your attitude, more than your aptitude, will determine your altitude.", is the proverb. In hiring there is more to it. A candidate's attitude determines not only his altitude but that of the team's as well. Someone with great skills but a bad attitude in terms of working well with team members is only going to pull the whole team down.
This is something that I have not missed in hiring for managerial positions as well even though many believe it is not so important at that level. I say, "As the leader, so is his/her team".
8. Assignments or online tests are a great way to scale out hiring
A developer shouldn't fear coding. An architect shouldn't fear discussing trade-offs in architecture. A DB developer should fear writing SQL queries. A BA shouldn't fear eliciting and penning requirements. A QA shouldn't fear questioning requirements or playing around with the product. So on and on.. When you can test it out, why miss the opportunity? I have put a test in place for each of these roles to identify prospects.
9. Favor experience over graduation/course certifications
There are companies that have separate pay-scale and accelerated promotion channel for folks from ivy league campuses with easier hiring processes too. As secretive a thing as possible that these companies try to maintain it as, it spoils the company's culture making it toxic.
In my teams, I make things fairly transparent and equitable for all. I believe one acquires a degree or certification for knowledge and upskilling. When you have become stronger with it, you need no fast-tracks or pampering. In fact, I have seen companies pampering such folks resulting in weaker leaders with inflated egos. I do technical certifications from time to time and I enjoy the journey more than the certification itself. This experience is what made me come up with this practice and it has played out well for me and my teams.
10. Measure candidate's experience by their lessons
I strongly believe in continuously learning. When I talk to a candidate, I look forward to see what I learn during my time with the candidate. This is not an easy one. You need to put in deliberate practice before it becomes your second nature. Once it becomes your attitude, you can influence change in your team's culture too.
The other dimension to it is that not all companies are alike and even within one company, not all teams are alike. So it is important to understand what is it that the candidate has acquired during his time in the companies he has worked so far and what is it that he can bring on to the team to notch it up to the next level.
Stay hungry. Stay curious.