Getting technical interviews right a challenge

Getting the recruitment process right is a challenge

Recruitment is rarely seen as an exciting process but it should be because this is a chance strengthen your team. The new role could be to replace someone or grow the team, either way, there’s an opportunity to bring in some new skills or experience that will benefit the team as a whole. The technical side adds more challenges to the process, but again, it’s a chance to find the right person while, at the same time, giving them a glimpse into the type of company you are. Recruitment is time-consuming so you want to make that time count and get value out of each stage otherwise it’s a waste of everyone’s time and potentially a damaged reputation.

The process needs to fail fast, don’t waste time on different stages if the candidate is not suitable. What is most important for you in the person? This could be a culture fit, a specific personal attribute, a certain technical skill, or something else. Whichever it is, find out if they meet this early in the process so you can fail fast and move on. This could mean changing the order of the stages or preparing certain questions for the phone screen to check for suitability.

Assessing the technical ability of a candidate needs thought and is usually something that evolves/improves over time as you learn what works. One thing to avoid is asking basic programming questions, they don’t help find the right person and even give a bad impression of you. The theory is straightforward to learn and correct answers are not an indicator of a good developer so it’s basically wasted time. Creating exercises for the candidate to complete gives more freedom for the person to not only show off their coding skills but also their thinking. Exercises can be relevant to the work they would be doing and gives you the freedom to make them as interesting or fun as you want. I created a simple test (here) that candidates completed on-site, we then had an open discussion about their solution and other ways the problem could be addressed. From this, we could check their coding style, their approach to the problem, and also their thinking. Over time you get to see the wide range of approaches and the thinking people use, the better candidates tend to stand out! With plenty of options available for technical tests find what works for you and your teams.

Communication is always an essential part of any role, you want to know that the candidate can communicate effectively. There are obviously exchanges throughout the process from emails to phone and F2F interviews that will give you a good insight into their ability. An additional exercise to really see someone communicate while having some fun at the same time, is to play a game called Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. It is not only a good test of someone’s communication skills but also their approach to problem-solving. Find out more about the game through their site, but this has a number of benefits: allows you to see how clear their communication is, it gives an opportunity to involve other members of the team, and simply adds some fun to the process! Here are a couple of blogs of how this game has worked for others: here and here.

There will always be mandatory experience or skills that you’re looking for, but the saying is still valid – hire for attitude, train for skill. We’re always looking for the next person to ‘raise the bar’ of our teams. This is easier said than done! It means thought has to go into the process and the questions we ask. There are no set of questions that work for everyone so agree on what you’re looking for and then you can find the right balance of questions. There are plenty of behaviour-based questions online to guide you.

Recruitment is such an important activity, but it is also repetitive so it’s important to make it fun. Remember, candidates are interviewing you as much as you are them. It should be a time to show off the company and what you have to offer. ‘Be prepared’ is the motto here. Know your open role, know the team they will join, then it will be easier to prepare for the person when you want to meet.

Once you’ve found your person their first 60 days with you are just as important as the recruitment process…but that is for a future post.





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