Time to set the engineer in charge of the recruitment process

By Sara Hedenström and James Mathieson, 16. of May, 2019

Recruiting Software Engineers is a challenge. The current market is dictated by engineers who can pick and choose between different employers. How often does a candidate leave a process due to it taking too long, or that they don’t have time to complete a coding challenge, or that they meet non inspiring people in the interviews, or the feeling that the company is not telling the whole story? We asked ourselves “Why is the process designed by the company? Why use the same procedures for everyone?” People are unique and have different strengths and weaknesses, so a process should be there to help and be adapted when needed. This also boils down to diversity - if we have the same process and steps for everyone, do we really think we will be able to attract and find the mix of people we want in our teams?

Whilst reflecting on our recruitment process - and looking at the processes in other companies - we started to feel that our process did not reflect our company culture. We talk about “bottom up leadership” and putting the people closest to the front line in charge of our processes; yet when we recruit, we dictate to the same people how they must show us they are “good enough” to work with us. With this in mind, we started looking at our recruitment processes from a different angle. We know what our company is about and what type of competences we are looking for, so if we clearly define “what” we want to know and “why” we want to know it, then we can leave the “how” up to the candidate - after all, they probably know better than us how to show off their competences.

Initially we started by concretely defining what was important for us to know about a candidate and then prototyped the concept with some engineers in our network. The feedback was positive, and to help improve the experience we were encouraged to include suggestions of “how” candidates could demonstrate their skills. Our new process is now live and both our interviewers and our candidates have so far been excited by this change.

From the engineering perspective - James Mathieson

I am a software engineer and I have worked alongside many Software Engineers over the years - many of whom I have recruited myself. I know we are in demand and opinionated. If you google “recruitment processes” you will see engineers debating and blogging about the best way to recruit another engineer - however, there are a few things that I feel are true:

We (Software Engineers) are happy to understand the “what” and the “why” from someone else, however, we aren’t so inclined to being told “how” to do something. With this process, We put our money where our mouth is and show from day one that we trust our engineers - we are putting the engineer in charge of the “how” before even starting at our company. Engineers see from the beginning that we are interested in more than whether they fulfill some checkbox criteria. We value how an engineer does things, listen to their choices and let them execute those choices. This gives a positive impression of the company and shows that we are hiring a candidate because we value them, not just because we need another engineer to fill an empty seat.

From the Recruiter perspective - Sara Hedenström

I have been in the Technology domain for about 12 years where I have conducted thousands of interviews and been part of many Tech companies, building great teams. The majority of my network is in this field, so the knowledge I have gained is large.

Our new way of interviewing benefits me early on as I am able to see how someone takes lead on these decisions and how they deliver value. I always try to build diverse teams and with this way of working I am able to learn more about a candidate as we see things we would not normally see in a standard, step by step process. Since the candidate owns the process, it gives me a natural opportunity to discuss feedback after a step or two, for example “Do you feel you had the chance to show us your best side or do you feel something was lacking? Do you have more things you would like to show us?”

The aim is to be flexible and discuss the best way forward with each candidate. No one likes to spend their time badly and I have always seen an interview as a dialogue with the person in front of me. This process lets us both put our best foot forward.

You can see our process in more detail here on our website.

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