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Top 5 mistakes in technical recruiting

This blog post is based on the fourteen 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.

Today, we’ll unpack the top five mistakes we see in technical recruiting, starting with number five.

Number Five – Looking at resumes before conducting a technical interview.

A technical interview measures technical ability. You don’t need to know what school a candidate went to or any other details that can introduce bias upfront. Avoid the invitation for unconscious bias by skipping the initial resume review.

Number Four – Not having a clear plan for which interviewer measures which skill.

This mistake occurs during onsite interviews, where often three to five engineers are going to be conducting their own interview with the candidate. Companies who don’t have a lot of experience with this might ask each interviewer to come up with their own questions, meet with the candidate and then regroup as a team to discuss. This creates an overlap on the skills that were measured and not enough wide coverage.

Measuring a candidate’s ability to write JavaScript, for example, includes more than measuring general ability. It involves problem-solving skills, their quality of code and more. Figure out what matters in advance and assign each interviewer a specific section to assess. When the team gets back together, you have a full picture of the candidate and their skill level.

Number Three – Letting interviewers see each other’s feedback before writing their own.

This is a huge problem that’s easy to overlook because we don’t understand just how much other people’s opinions influence our own. Although it’s a common problem, interviewers can avoid it by formulating a personal opinion before reading anyone else’s. Almost every applicant tracking system has a permissions selection to hide other interviewer feedback. Be sure to utilize this to avoid being influenced. The best team decisions are made when everyone starts with their own independent views.

Number Two – Giving open-ended take-home assessments. 

An open-ended assessment typically happens before an onsite interview. The candidate will likely be given a project with instructions that include a statement like, “Most candidates take approximately two hours to complete this assignment.” Some candidates will listen to that and stop precisely at two hours, investing the exact amount of time necessary. Others may take two days to complete the same assessment, just to be sure they can compete and show their skills. For those that take longer, getting a generic response that they’ve been rejected after so much effort, can be a debilitating experience. And ultimately, it’s not a true assessment because it’s open to interpretation by the candidate. Be clear and the experience (and assessment results) will be fair.

Number One – Making resume review the first step of the hiring process.

Resume reviews are inherently biased. And 90-95% of candidates are submitting a resume that is not going to stand out. Recruiters acknowledge that the top of the funnel is the biggest problem in hiring, so rejecting the majority at that step, defeats the process. Start with what candidates can do and assess their skills, whether you’re hiring early talent or more veteran applicants.