Hiring a developer? Challenge accepted!
The 2018 Developer Skills Report by HackerRank is out and loud, sparkling debates all over the programming world. In this article, I will discuss the results of talent attraction and hiring. What if I told you I have the secret to overcoming hiring challenges?
HackerRank asked 7,000+ employers to name the biggest challenges when hiring talent as well as the assessment tools they use the most. The results are intriguing! Interestingly enough, what the employers identify as the biggest challenges are not taken into account when deciding the best assessment tools for the hiring process. To give a quick example, countless articles have presented convincing arguments on resume screening being the least effective way to assess skills; yet employers list resume screening as the most used tool by 80.9 percent! What’s more, employers list the lack of talent as the third biggest challenge (by 41.1 percent) to which I might argue that it may be the time to train our technical managers to assess talent, instead.
Do this instead of that
Hiring the right people takes time and technical managers should be prepared for that. It is understandable that when you have to screen 20 or more candidates for a position you, ideally, want to cut the assessment process short. However, you cannot expect to effectively assess skills and talent by using that shortest possible process by generic coding tests and resume screenings. It is time to put some thought and effort into the screening process.
- From resumes to portfolios – instead of mindlessly screening boring resumes focus on developers’ portfolios and project samples.
- Not interviews but presentations – you shouldn’t interview candidates; ask them to give small presentations on their field of expertise, instead.
- Leave phone screening aside – used to be an important part of the hiring process but let’s just move forward. There are more creative and effective ways to assess skills than a bunch of technical questions during a phone call.
- Coding tests? It depends – simple coding test might be an effective enough assessment tool among junior developers. But when you are screening senior developers you need to find better ways to assess their skills and experience. Design small projects that represent the assets and skills you are looking for in a developer, set a minimum and maximum time limit and simply let them shine!
Time for managers to go back to school
And when I say school, I mean that it is time for managers to rethink their approach to the hiring process and be willing to adapt and learn.
- Take candidates’ time into account – developers value the time they spend on an interview as much as managers do. Take an interest in their schedule and adapt. Especially for the project challenge, make sure you find a timetable that is appealing to both of you.
- Be respectful – As Brandon Savage argued, it is disingenuous and disrespectful to ask from programmers to develop a fully functional application for you, without any payment, in order to simply test them. Respect and appreciate the time and the effort every candidate puts into the interview.
- Do not disregard non-technical assets – There is still merit in the non-technical assets of a candidate. Focus on cultural compatibility and behavioral appraisal.
Tips for tech-less technical managers
Now, let’s just not go as far as saying that managers who do not possess programming skills should keep clear of the hiring process. There are still ways to be successful at assessing talent and programming skills even if you are clueless in coding.
- Search your community – as Jeff Atwood argues in one of his articles, not all companies have a community but it is important, if you do, to prefer candidates from this community.
- Simplified presentations, a real challenge – as a friend of mine once said you do not really know something if you cannot explain it to a 5-year-old. Ask candidates to give simplified presentations explaining their expertise as if they were talking to a child. You will be surprised how difficult it can be!
- Open source contributions – search among the names of open source contributors to add to your candidates list.
- Time for you to go back to school too! – attend conferences and learn everything you can learn about programming.
Diversity remains an issue
According to the HackerRank survey, employers rank the lack of diverse candidates the fourth biggest challenge during the hiring process (28.3%). It is often discussed that women are underrepresented in the tech sector. The survey results appear to validate this assessment. Since this article is focused on the hiring processes, I am not going to present here the possible ways to deal with the lack of diversity and how to get more women interested in technology. Have a look at JAXenter’s interview series on women in tech and find out the real-life experiences of women in technology.
All in all, it is safe to say that assessing individual talent and skills is no easy business. Nonetheless, I do hope these suggestions will be helpful to anyone who is willing to make the effort in changing generic screening processes into creative assessment experiences for both parties.