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How to maximize assessment tools

This blog post is based on the fifteen episode of the data-driven recruiting podcast hosted by CodeSignal co-founders Sophia Baik and Tigran Sloyan. You can find and listen to this specific episode here or check out the video version embedded below.

Michael Newman, Director of Engineering at CodeSignal, joined the podcast today to share his experiences as an engineering manager, before having technical assessment tools and after.

Michael shares the difficulty of trying to predict how people are going to do at each stage of the interview process. With so many candidates and varying qualification levels, it’s easy to spend a lot of the team’s time trying to determine who will stand out. With assessments, you’re looking to automatically determine whether someone is going to do well at each step.

A good place to start when hiring engineers is to identify, as a team, what you are looking for specifically. It’s important to determine what attributes are essential in a candidate, like coding, problem-solving, communication and the ability to learn new things. Once you identify those attributes, you can understand what attributes are less important, like prior familiarity with a program or framework.

As Michael explains, when you have a strong candidate who can learn new things and communicate well, they can pick up a new skill quickly. This is the challenge with resume-based recruiting. A resume highlights things like the exact language or programs someone has used but can’t communicate how bright a candidate may be or their ability to learn quickly.

According to Michael, it’s important to know what you want to measure ahead of time and set a goal for what you’re trying to learn at each step of the process. Each step should be an indicator of how the candidate will progress. By the end of each stage, you should be able to decide whether or not that candidate advances. And at the end of all the steps, the team can be confident that hiring a particular candidate is the right choice.

Each stage having a purpose begins with the initial assessment that measures a direct skill. If the candidate has the right skills, they will progress to the next step, such as a phone interview. The first interview is a great time to measure another skill, like the candidate’s ability to communicate effectively. With an onsite interview, the spectrum is wider, and candidates might be assessed on their ability to learn and complete a realistic project quickly.

According to Michael, almost everyone should be invited to complete the initial skills-based assessment. Outside of an obvious mismatch, like an applicant that wants an internship or doesn’t graduate for a year, everyone gets a chance to show their skills. There are no filters related to schools or other proxies. Michael finds that candidates who perform well throughout the interview process often don’t come from a traditional path and wouldn’t have had a “perfect” resume for the role.

So how can you leverage Michael’s experience and apply it to your hiring process? He recommends the following: know what you’re trying to measure from the beginning, set a goal for each stage, be careful not to waste candidate’s time and stay open. Some of the best people he’s ever worked with came from various backgrounds and likely would not have been given a chance with the outdated resume recruiting process.

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