4 Steps to Better Technical Hires

Technical recruiting placements can be a blessing and a curse for companies of all sizes.

On one hand, companies have an ever-growing need for highly qualified developers, system architects, database engineers, network administrators, and other technical talent. Demand for application developers is particularly high, as verified by a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics forecast that projects 31% growth by 2026. Accordingly, the global population of software developers is expected to increase from 23 million in 2018 to 27.7 million by 2023. Across the board, tech labor represents a huge revenue opportunity for staffing firms.

On the other hand, technical positions can be notoriously difficult to fill. Despite having databases full of resumes from seemingly accomplished programmers, recruiters consistently struggle to identify so-called “hidden gems” (i.e., qualified engineers who are not currently employed). As a result, your recruiters end up making recommendations based on educated guesses, leading to an abysmally low recommendation-to-interview ratio.

So, how can your firm capitalize on the growing demand for technical talent without placing unrealistic expectations on your recruitment team?

In this article, we’ll explore best practices for efficiently identifying “hidden gems” and, in turn, making better technical hires.

Step 1: Audit Your Existing Technical Recruiting Process

Let’s start by examining your firm’s technical talent management process. Like most companies, your technical recruiters probably spend a majority of their day on time-intensive tasks. Consider these questions as you audit your recruiting process:  

What is your process for sifting through resumes?

Your in-house database of engineers is extensive, to say the least. Although your resume database allows recruiters to perform basic keyword searches and filters, it’s not uncommon for a single query to return hundreds of resumes. Depending on the efficiency of your recruiters and the your team’s specific requirements, sorting through this many resumes could consume several hours of manual labor. Even after considerable administrative work to build a shortlist of resumes, recruiters still lack the tools necessary to objectively evaluate skills.

Do you factor in online information?

LinkedIn.com can be a recruiter’s best friend, especially when it comes to providing additional context to a shortlist of resumes. Peer recommendations, endorsements, and group memberships deliver an added layer of objectivity, which is why recruiters spend so much time searching for, connecting with, and engaging candidates through LinkedIn. That being said, a developer’s LinkedIn profile cannot measure true skill level or predict success in technical interviews. Therefore, you’ll need to take info from platforms that indicate a developer’s skill and activity (e.g., Github, Stackoverflow, etc.).

How are you engaging with technical candidates?

For any given job opening, it’s possible that your recruiters might talk to a dozen or more candidates. Some developers are more responsive than others. Some are only available during certain hours of the day. Even with the help of automated scheduling calendars and talent management systems, merely scheduling an initial conversation can require considerable effort and cause delays in the recruiting process.

How do you interview technical candidates?

Your recruiters are not coding experts. They do a great job of following the standard script for interviewing technical talent; unfortunately, interviews rarely provide the meaningful insights that are necessary to assess a developer’s skill level.

Pro baseball scouts don’t ask pitchers how fast they can throw a baseball. Instead, they use radar guns to evaluate the pitcher’s true abilities. The same can be said about technical talent. Skills are best assessed by having developers solve real-world coding challenges and complete objective assessments – not by asking subjective interview questions.

How do you assess technical talent?

Without a reliable way to assess technical talent, your recruiters are forced to make educated guesses about each candidate’s capabilities. Some recruiters rely on spreadsheets to weigh the pros and cons of each developer; others make recommendations based purely on a “gut feeling.” Either way, your clients deserve more than educated guesses. They deserve data-driven recommendations that factor in each developer’s core skills, coding language expertise, responsiveness, and overall technical ability.   

Step 2: Compare Your Technical Assessment Options

After auditing your hiring process, you may find the recommendation-to-interview ratio as your biggest bottleneck. Improving this metric can have a positive impact on all other metrics, including top-line revenue growth. Therefore, to improve recommendation-to-interview ratios and deliver more hidden gems to clients, some staffing firms incorporate a technical assessment component into the recruiting process. Technical assessments, when implemented properly, can help your firm efficiently identify engineers who will not only pass the hiring manager’s interview – but, more importantly, will have a high probability of succeeding on the job, too.

Here are two common approaches for administering technical assessments. (As you’ll see, the second option is usually the preferred path.)

Option 1: Non-standardized Testing

A quick web search returns countless free and open-source testing templates that claim to measure technical competency. These tests can certainly be alluring, especially if there’s no existing assessment mechanism. Unfortunately, many of these tests are overly simplistic, fail to test for anything other than basic data structures and algorithms, and are susceptible to plagiarism. In fact, they often create additional bottlenecks and are not scalable, as each test must be manually scored by someone on your staff with the right expertise. What’s worse, non-standardized testing creates inconsistencies in your recruiting process and makes it difficult to know which assessments are actually working (or not working).

Option 2: Technical Assessment Platforms

Unlike one-off templates, a dedicated technical assessment platform can provide a scalable option for your recruiters. Instead of scouring the web for free assessment templates that might (or might not) fit, your team can pick from an extensive library of vetted coding tasks and challenges. Some platforms, including CodeSignal, will automatically score the assessments for you, further streamlining your workflow.

Step 3: Select a Technical Assessment Platform

Given the shortcomings of non-standardized testing, an increasing number of staffing firms are implementing technical assessment platforms. As your firm begins to evaluate assessment providers, look for a solution that offers these key features:

Offers a Robust Task Library & Customizable Assessments:

An ideal system will offer thousands (not hundreds) of prebuilt coding tasks that can be calibrated to your specific interview process. In addition, recruiters should have the flexibility to build custom assessments in minutes (not hours) by picking and choosing the tasks that best align with the client’s needs.

For example, let’s assume your client is a ride sharing startup that needs an experienced front-end developer. By creating a customized assessment that asks developers to write code for the most efficient route, you increase your chances of making an effective recommendation to the client.

Eliminates Manual Scoring Headaches:

A technical assessment platform should standardize the scoring of developer assessments. Systems that offer automated scoring can help your firm reduce unintended biases, achieve instant insights, eliminate the potential for plagiarism, and cut down on unnecessary administrative work. For added efficiency, look for a system that allows recruiters to easily download and share assessment summary reports with clients.

Supports Diverse Coding Languages:

It’s also important to find a platform that supports a diverse set of coding languages. There are more than 250 known computer languages and approximately 40 of them are commonly used. By implementing an assessment tool that supports high-demand and lesser-known languages, you’ll give your staffing firm an upper hand against the competition without having to invest in in-house subject matter experts.

Leverages AI to Build Data-Driven Coder Profiles:

Individual assessment scores can be useful in the context of a specific job opening, but what about future placements? In a perfect world, your technical assessment platform would leverage artificial intelligence to continuously monitor each coder’s expertise from a variety of perspectives, such as implementation, speed, and problem solving. Intelligent systems use this data to build a 360-degree profile for each developer, thereby making it easier for recruiters to hone in on top talent and fill vacancies.

Step 4: Deliver More Hidden Gems without Guessing

Does your company need a more reliable way to identify technical talent? Deliver more hidden gems by using CodeSignal. With CodeSignal, your recruiters gain the visibility they need to make informed recommendations. CodeSignal’s library of 4,000+ tasks and intuitive interface empower recruiters to create, administer, and analyze assessments that predict on-the-job readiness. In addition, the CodeSignal Predictive Coding ScoreTM enables data-driven comparisons about technical talent, leading to better placements, happier clients, and more revenue for your firm.

Schedule a risk-free demo of CodeSignal today.

Developer Success Story: Cory Watson at Liftoff

“It’s not enough to just get a paycheck. I had to find a place where I could always have something else to learn – something else to grow into.” – Cory Watson, Software Engineer

With the help of CodeSignal, Cory Watson has found exactly that and much more.

Watch this video or read about his impressive story below.

Challenging the Status Quo

After graduating from college with a degree in Computer Science, Cory started looking for jobs in his home state of Indiana. He landed his first programming job, made the move to Indianapolis, and began his career.

“The work was interesting, but, after a while, it felt like all the problems were solved,” Watson said.

Feeling increasingly burnt out, Cory knew a change was imminent. As a result, he made the difficult decision to move back home and reevaluate his career options.

“That’s when I found CodeSignal, and it was exactly the type of thing I was looking for.”

Participating in CodeSignal programming challenges gave Cory the additional confidence to take his game to a whole new level. With thousands of tasks, company challenges, and practice interviews, Cory refined his programming skills in CodeSignal’s highly engaging and interactive ecosystem.

Better yet, Cory realized that his score was on par with – if not better than – other developers who took the same tests.

“There were some people who I thought might just be better than me,” Watson said. “Going head first into that kind of challenge was the best confidence booster I could have asked for.”

Top Coding Score Leads to Silicon Valley Job Offer

Soon after establishing his top-tier Coding ScoreTM through CodeSignal, Cory received an interview invitation from Liftoff, a well-known mobile app marketing and retargeting company based in Palo Alto, California. Liftoff needed developers who were efficient with code but could also dive deeper into a variety of areas, such as front end, machine learning, and distributed systems. Cory’s Coding ScoreTM and CodeSignal profile made it easier for Liftoff to gain a 360-degree understanding of his skills and expertise even before meeting in person.

“Cory had a really high coding score, and we were impressed with that,” said Yordanos Asmare, Recruiting Lead at Liftoff.

Seeing Cory’s true potential, Liftoff came through with an enticing offer. Cory accepted the offer, packed up, and moved west to embark on an exciting new career in Silicon Valley.

Since joining Liftoff, Cory has enjoyed a more fulfilling work life.

“Liftoff is the perfect place for me to keep moving forward and advance my knowledge of computer science,” Watson said.

Liftoff has also benefited from the relationship.

“From the beginning, Cory hit exactly the bar we were looking for – able to get things done with code quickly and also ramp up rapidly on some tough problems,” said Harry Robertson, CTO & Co-Founder at Liftoff.

Challenge Yourself to Achieve Greater Things

Frustrated with your current career path? If so, perhaps it’s time to follow Cory Watson’s lead by challenging yourself through the CodeSignal platform. As Cory so aptly pointed out:

“We need to challenge ourselves….to try new things and get excitement out of what we’re doing.”

If you’re ready to take control of your career and challenge yourself, sign up for your free CodeSignal account and get your Coding ScoreTM today.

Increasing Your Recommendation-to-Interview Ratio with Hiring Managers

Demand for technical talent is at an all-time high, and this trend shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. In this article, we’ll explore why an optimized recommendation-to-interview ratio can lead to a competitive advantage for your staffing firm.

In fact, according to a report published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “employment of computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations.” Employers across all industries need highly qualified engineers who can develop innovative software applications, harness big data, design scalable systems, and maintain security in an increasingly connected business landscape.

To keep up with growing client demand for technical talent, many staffing firms are focused on expanding their portfolio of developers. Having a solid pool of technical talent is no doubt important, but it’s not always the best place to start. Rather, making incremental improvements to existing processes could yield immediate value and set the table for future growth.

What is the Recommendation-to-Interview Ratio?

Before we discuss best practices for streamlining your recommendation-to-interview ratio, it might be helpful to provide a basic definition for this metric:

Recommendation-to-Interview Ratio: The percentage of candidate recommendations made by your staffing firm that result in an interview with the client.

Real World Example: Let’s say that one of your clients is a small or medium sized software company. Last month, the company’s hiring manager requested your firm’s assistance in filling an open position for a full stack developer. Over the course of the engagement, your recruiters have recommended fifteen coders, but the hiring manager has only interviewed five candidates (and rejected the other ten). In this situation, your recommendation-to-interview ratio equals 33%. Obviously, your rejection rate is 66%, but we’ll discuss that topic in a future article.

Hiring managers appreciate an efficient recommendation-to-interview ratio, as it allows them to engage technical talent faster with less administrative effort and, ultimately, make smarter staffing decisions.

Better recommendations lead to more placements for your staffing firm. Placements lead to increased revenue, improved customer loyalty, and a healthier reputation in the industry.

Why Technical Placements Have Low Recommendation-to-Interview Ratios

In a perfect world, your recruiters would deliver a handful of prequalified, hire-ready engineers for each job vacancy. Instead, recruiters end up sending dozens of unqualified candidates because they lack the proper tools to assess technical ability. Each rejected candidate negatively impacts your company’s recommendation-to-interview ratio, thereby causing unnecessary friction in the relationship.

Why can’t your recruiters be more efficient when it comes to filling technical jobs? What are the reasons for such a low recommendation-to-interview ratio?

Here are a few possibilities:

Shortage of Technical Talent:

Most experts agree that we’re in the midst of a tight labor market. As pointed out in a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics survey, there is approximately one unemployed person per job opening in the United States (as of June 2018), down significantly from the July 2009 ratio of 6.6 unemployed persons per job opening. In other words, the pool of available candidates is shrinking, and technical talent is no exception to the rule.

Vague Requirements from the Client:

Hiring managers aren’t always the most technically-minded people. Prior to submitting requirements into their vendor management system (VMS), many hiring managers consult with in-house technical resources to gain a better understanding of needs. When in-house engineers are too busy to chat (which is common), a hiring manager may have no other choice but to commence and rely on partial information. This makes life especially difficult for your recruiters.

Lack of In-House Technical Knowledge:

With more than 250 known programming languages to potentially recruit for, how can your team be expected to consistently make informed recommendations? Without the right tools, they can’t. And, when clients ask for engineers with specialized skill sets, such as Ruby on Rails expertise, merely developing a quorum of viable candidates can feel like an impossible task. Tapping into adjacent talent pools would be nice, but your current database of candidates doesn’t offer such flexibility.

No Data to Support Your Recommendations:

Most notably, your current process lacks a data-driven approach to recruiting technical talent. Just because a developer says he’s a JavaScript expert doesn’t make him one. In reality, your staffing firm needs a reliable way to validate developer expertise prior to making client recommendations.

How to Improve Your Recommendation-to-Interview Ratio

Remember, hiring managers aren’t impressed by the number of engineers you can throw at them. They want high-caliber technical talent, and they expect data-driven reports to back up your recruiters’ recommendations.

To give hiring managers what they really want, your staffing firm needs a technical assessment platform. Such systems improve your recommendation-to-interview ratio by helping you:

Get Better Pre-Screened Candidates

Resumes and LinkedIn profiles provide minimal insight into a developer’s true skill level. By implementing a flexible testing platform, your recruitment team will feel empowered to create, customize, send, and evaluate technical assessments that simulate an on-the-job environment. Rather than basing their recommendations purely on a “gut feeling,” your team will have an objective, scalable method for evaluating a developer’s technical competencies and potential job fit (before an introduction is ever made to the client).

Utilize Predictive Scoring

Artificial intelligence is revolutionizing how staffing firms predict on-the-job success for developers. Unlike simple answer matching formulas, machine learning algorithms reduce recruiting bottlenecks by analyzing code based on multiple variables, including accuracy, simplicity, and speed of completion. Some platforms go one step further, delivering a comprehensive coding score for an unbiased indication of each developer’s technical expertise.

Improve Candidate Turn-Around Time

Instead of clicking through hundreds of resumes, your recruiters gain instant access a segmented list of developers who fit the client’s needs. Recruiters can reallocate this time savings to value-added activities, such as conducting real-world programming assessments and engaging engineers in real time.

Build a Skills-Based Candidate Profile

Deliver clients an enhanced level of service by sharing candidate profiles, assessment scores, and other analytics captured during the pre-screening process. Give clients the full transparency they need to make informed staffing decisions.

Search for Adjacent Skills

For those hard-to-fill roles, some platforms make it easier to identify candidates with adjacent skills. Look for a system that supports domain scoring and in-depth programming language assessments, which provide a new layer of context for your recruiting team.

In short, by implementing a technical assessment system, your staffing firm can deliver additional value to clients by making data-driven staffing recommendations. Doing so is bound to result in an improved recommendation-to-interview ratio, which should make a noticeable impact on client satisfaction.

Scale Your Staffing Firm

With demand for technical talent on the rise, your company needs a more scalable solution for identifying, evaluating, and recommending candidates. After all, clients are far too busy to sort through countless resumes, only to settle for subpar results.

Schedule a demo of CodeSignal and learn why our Predictive Coding ScoreTM is rapidly becoming the new standard for successfully evaluating and placing technical talent. The CodeSignal Predictive Coding ScoreTM improves your recommendation-to-interview ratio by identifying developers who are likely to perform well in technical interviews (based on a candidate’s problem-solving abilities, skills, speed and accuracy and other important factors).

CodeSignal also makes it easy to conduct real-world programming assessments, identify talent, and share assessment results with clients. Learn more about improving your recommendation-to-interview ratio with CodeSignal.