AKF Partners

Abbott, Keeven & Fisher PartnersPartners In Hyper Growth

Interviewing Engineers Continued – Part I (The Recruiting Process)

We wrote almost a year ago about how to interview engineers.  It has been one of our most popular posts so we thought we’d expand on it a little.  In that post we outlined the general process that we recommend to hiring managers to follow.  These basic steps included: 

  1. Recruiting, hopefully with a knowledgeable technical recruiter if not give whoever is doing your recruiting a set of questions to ask.
  2. Phone screening, in order to save time do at least one phone screen with all candidates before bringing them on site.
  3. Code test, we recommend you use one for all engineering candidates so that everyone is treated the same.
  4. In person interview, conduct at least a technical, cultural, and logic interview for each candidate.
  5. Offer or decline, make a decision on each candidate quickly it reflects on your company.

Since writing the original post, we’ve decided that there are a number of ways that we can expand upon the topic.    This will be a three part series, covering in order the three areas that we believe to be most important when making a decision about having someone join your “family”.

This post will cover recruiting.  Article number 2 will be a deeper dive into the technical evaluation and article 3 will cover the “cultural fit” aspects of interviewing.

You should view your recruiting process as a pipeline that needs to remain full at all times if you want to quickly turn around and hire new engineers.  We’ve found that the five most successful sources of quality recruits, in no particular order are:

  1. Your own extended network
  2. Internally sourced candidates (candidates offered up by your engineering team)
  3. College sourced candidates
  4. Candidates from a professional recruiter
  5. Recruiting “fairs”

In the days before social networking sites, your personal network consisted of the people with whom you had contact information in your online and offline contact “rolodexes”.  Today they include the 1st, 2nd and 3nd order contacts within such popular business networking sites as LinkedIn, Plaxo and Facebook.  Call your close acquaintances, email those with whom you have some form of relationship and post messages to the remainder of your lesser known contacts when you have new jobs to fill.  Moreover, and to our point on pipelines above, work your network all the time for potential candidates and keep their resumes or contact information. 

You should also consider keeping a list of candidates that have been mentioned to you over time.  This might be in an excel spreadsheet or maybe even a little Access database.  Your HR team may have a tool for you to use to keep track of potential candidates whether or not you have a job open.  Or your company may have a relationship management system that you can use for this purpose, something like a Salesforce or Bullhorn implementation.

The important point to remember here is that recruiting is an activity you should ALWAYS be performing.  Don’t wait for an employee requisition to source qualified candidates.  You might not have a job to offer today, but if you are always looking to upgrade your team you may find an individual that is twice as good as the worst performer on your team.

The next source of qualified candidates is those recommended by your team.  During one on ones, talk to your superior performers and find out the names of folks with whom they’ve worked.  “A” players tend to run in packs and are often willing to recommend other “A” players.  “B” and “C” players do not often recommend people better than them, so be careful about sourcing candidates from these people.  Once again, this should be a career long activity – not just one you dread when you have a requisition.  Take people to lunch or breakfast or go out and have a beer and find out their interests.  Keep track of them and bring them in when you need them.

Colleges and universities are another source of candidates.  Far too many companies go to these places at the last minute when they need people.  Unfortunately for these companies, the great candidates are often picked up well before their graduation dates.  Some of the best recruiters in the industry scout for talent in graduate programs as if they were a baseball scout.  If you want quality candidates from universities, you need to forge a long term relationship with the university.  Start an intern program, wherein you are bringing in college sophomores and juniors and evaluating them over the course of 1 or 2 summers.  Then make the best ones offers before they go back for their senior year or during the holiday break.  Select one to three colleges with which you will partner closely.  You might have a tiered system consisting of a top-tier school (MIT, CMU or the like), a good public school (Wisconsin, University of Washington, University of Florida, University of Illinois, etc) and a local school.  You can get good talent at nearly any school, but the better the school the higher the likelihood that the school has already selected great talent for you.  Consider making a donation through your company to the school to forge a strong recruiting relationship, present at school events and get to know the students.

Professional recruiters either retained or contingent based, are another source of candidates.  This approach has the highest relative cost of all the options.  It’s probably not an option to keep your pipeline full constantly, as these companies hope to turn around engagements quickly.  They are a good source for when you have requisitions open and your other paths aren’t working well.  If you are a larger company, you might have full time recruiters.  You should keep the resumes of past individuals you thought of as “good” but did not hire for future needs.

Finally, when you have a lot of hiring to do and you need a large source of candidates, consider putting on a “fair”.  These events are productions, where you advertise in advance of the fair, have a company presentation, cater food and have a large number of your staff (only folks who are qualified to interview candidates) around to run potential candidates through a screening process.  

Remember – keep your pipeline full at all times.  In so doing, you’ll find that you can quickly turn candidates into employees and keep your team strong.