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5 Tips to Make Hiring Experienced Engineers Less Hard

5 tips for hiring experienced engineers

Has your engineering team been sitting on an open role for a specialized position that you just can’t seem to fill? You’re not alone. It’s a candidate’s market and there are over 1.4 million unfilled positions for software engineers in the US. 

Recently, CodeSignal’s CEO, Tigran Sloyan, and VP of Engineering, Michael Newman, joined Vivek Punjabi, Head of Talent at Bolt, to talk about this issue and how companies can be proactive to improve their chances of securing that all-important “yes.” Here are the tips we’ve distilled from that conversation, which you can (and absolutely should!) watch in full here.

1. Hire recruiters who can speak engineering

Having recruiters who are more technical is essential to connecting with senior engineers. This doesn’t mean recruiters need to be able to write code, Michael explained, but they should have enough knowledge to steer the conversation: “We’re looking for someone who can work on MongoDB, and [the candidate] mentioned they have NoSQL experience, that seems relevant—maybe we can talk about that.”  

How do you find such recruiters (not to mention, when they’re often harder to hire than engineers?). Background is less important than attitude. “I look for curiosity,” Vivek said, “and I look for folks who have mastered anything complex. They should want to know more, they should want to go deeper.” 

2. Tailor your process to the role

“We have two different processes: one for more junior candidates and one for more senior candidates,” Vivek explained. Junior candidates are challenged on data structures and algorithms, while for senior candidates, the interview is more focused on design and previous projects. 

Beyond adapting for the candidate’s experience level, interviews should be specific to the real-world skills that the candidate will need on the job. “For mobile, we [have candidates] make an app with XCode and Objective-C,” Vivek said. “What we need to measure is constantly evolving.”

3. Build an engineering brand

Marketing goes a long way towards being successful at recruiting. “My philosophy is if we can be in front of you at some point, and then a recruiter reaches out to you, you’re more likely to respond,” said Vivek. Bolt’s strategies range from creative ad campaigns to exciting benefits and new hire gifts. 

Strategies that the engineering team can contribute to directly include running engineering blogs, developing for the open source community, and investing in having high-quality documentation. All of these have the benefit of conveying what your company is working on, why the work is interesting, and why your engineering org would be a great place to join.

4. Be upfront and transparent

Good communication can save everyone a lot of time, and earn respect from candidates. Vivek shared a few tips:

  • First, Bolt has created a one-pager or “dossier” about the company’s engineering organization, including their technologies, processes, and culture. “It’s very technical, and we’ve frontloaded all of these items so candidates can screen in or out.” 
  • Second, they keep emails short and to-the-point, but personal. “Engineers want to know, ‘what’s my call to action, and how fast can I get there?’ We like when the hiring manager can send on our behalf, personally. We make it very easy to read.”
  • Finally, to help with closing offers, Vivek’s team has built a special communication aid: “Because we’re a startup, we offer options—and it’s hard to value that. We have created visualization tools that allow candidates to see the upside and what it looks like if we go to a certain valuation.” 

5. Understand what motivates each candidate

Worried about standing out from the biggest tech companies? It might be comforting to know that money isn’t everything. Certainly, you want to be competitive—but as Michael observed, “For most candidates I’ve talked to, especially experienced candidates that have worked at least one other job, there’s always something they’re looking for that’s not money.” 

They might crave less bureaucracy, an exciting technology stack, or a mission that they connect with on a personal level. If you can build a rapport by understanding the unique factors that motivate each person, you’ll start to hear more “yes”es. 

Bonus tip: Think about what you can offer that FAANGs might not be willing or able to provide. Vivek shared how Bolt has succeeded in recruiting candidates on the basis of an appealing benefit: their unique four-day workweek. 

Conclusion

Both engineers and recruiters have key roles to play in hiring, which Vivek described as the “heartbeat and lifeline of the company.” While time is of the essence, it’s worth slowing down to make sure that you’re focused on quality and not just quantity. When you’re confident in your values and what you have to offer, you’ll attract people you’re excited to work with and who are likewise excited to take your organization to the next level. 

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