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The ultimate guide to hiring 10X engineers


In today’s competitive hiring market, attracting and securing top-notch software engineers is a challenging—yet critical—task for any organization. The challenge: Traditional processes for hiring engineers are slow and burdensome for both candidates and hiring teams. Engineering teams suffer from reduced productivity due to spending many hours a week screening and interviewing candidates, rather than building software. And candidates feel frustrated by a process that can take months. To make matters worse, the traditional process often results in bad hires because the assessment and interview tools companies use provide a poor signal of candidates’ job-relevant skills—costing your company thousands of dollars. Luckily, a better way is possible.

This comprehensive guide by CodeSignal draws from hundreds of thousands of data points and nearly a decade of experience in the area of technical hiring. Our industry-leading technical interview and assessment platform has helped hundreds of top companies optimize their tech hiring processes and make the right hires, faster. Some of the results our customers have seen include:

  • 45% increase in onsite-to-offer rate
  • 60% reduction in engineering time spent on recruiting
  • 100% increase in volume of candidates screened

Our partnership with our customers has given us unique insight into the challenges technical hiring teams are facing today—and what recruiting and engineering teams can do to address them. This guide provides you with the tools, strategies, and insights necessary to streamline your hiring process, reduce common pitfalls, and ultimately build a team of high-performing engineers who will drive your organization’s success.

Skip ahead to a section of the guide here:

What do companies look for when hiring 10X engineers?

Some of the top qualities companies look for when hiring 10X engineers are candidates who possess a unique blend of technical expertise, problem-solving abilities, and interpersonal skills. These highly sought-after engineers are game-changers, known for their ability to create significant impact through their exceptional performance. Let’s dive into the key skills that set 10x software engineers apart from their peers.

First and foremost, coding speed and fluency are essential. The best engineers are those who can quickly write efficient, clean, and maintainable code. A truly “10x” software engineer might be able to develop an entire feature in the time it takes an average engineer to complete a single task. Their proficiency in multiple programming languages and frameworks allows them to adapt to different project requirements, helping their teams meet tight deadlines.

The ability to solve difficult problems is another defining trait of a 10x software engineer. These engineers thrive in challenging situations, thinking outside the box to find innovative solutions. When faced with a complex system issue, they might come up with a creative workaround that not only resolves the problem, but also improves overall system performance. Their analytical skills and knack for identifying the root cause of issues make them indispensable to their teams.

Motivation, passion, and work ethic also play a crucial role in determining the success of a 10x software engineer. They are driven by an innate curiosity and a desire to constantly learn and grow, which keeps them at the forefront of industry trends and advancements. Their enthusiasm and dedication often inspire their colleagues, creating a positive and high-performing work environment. 

Finally, teamwork and communication skills are essential for 10x software engineers. They understand the importance of collaboration, and their ability to effectively communicate with colleagues from different backgrounds and expertise levels ensures the smooth functioning of their teams. For instance, they may excel at explaining a complex technical concept to a non-technical stakeholder, bridging the gap between different departments and helping the entire team work towards a common goal.

Getting started with engineer hiring

Establishing clear technical hiring goals is paramount to the success of any organization looking to build a top-notch team of engineers, fast. By creating a comprehensive hiring plan that covers each step of the hiring funnel, companies can streamline their recruitment process, ensuring they attract and retain the right talent. Investing time and effort into crafting a well-thought-out hiring strategy ultimately leads to long-term success and growth for your organization.

How to create a hiring plan step by step

A hiring plan, in the context of recruiting software engineers and other technical talent, is a strategic roadmap that outlines the goals, processes, and criteria for attracting, evaluating, and onboarding top-notch professionals in the tech industry. This comprehensive plan helps streamline the recruitment process, ensuring that organizations efficiently identify and hire skilled engineers who will drive innovation, productivity, and long-term success.

Step 1: Sourcing candidates

What are the best ways to source engineering candidates?

One of the most effective ways to source software engineering candidates is through hiring marketplaces. These platforms may specialize, for instance, in connecting tech companies with a pool of highly skilled engineers. By utilizing such marketplaces, organizations can efficiently identify top talent that matches their specific needs while also reducing the time and effort spent on the hiring process. 

In addition to hiring marketplaces, posting job ads on various platforms, such as LinkedIn, Indeed, and niche job boards like Stack Overflow Jobs, can also help organizations source high-quality software engineering candidates. To attract diverse and nontraditional talent, companies should ensure that their job ads are inclusive and unbiased, and consider promoting them on platforms that cater to underrepresented groups in tech. By casting a wide net and actively engaging with diverse communities, organizations can not only enhance their employer brand but also foster a more inclusive work environment that drives innovation and creativity. 

What are the top websites for recruiting engineers?

The top websites for recruiting engineers are LinkedIn, Indeed, and Glassdoor, which are well-known for their extensive user base and comprehensive job search features. Niche job boards like Stack Overflow Jobs, GitHub Jobs, and Dice cater specifically to the tech industry, offering access to highly skilled and experienced candidates who are actively seeking opportunities in the field. By strategically utilizing these websites in your recruitment efforts, you’ll be able to efficiently source and engage with exceptional software engineering talent that aligns with your organization’s needs and objectives.

What are the pros & cons of recruiting engineers through hiring marketplaces?

The pros and cons of recruiting engineers through hiring marketplaces are complex. Some benefits are that, firstly, they provide access to a large pool of skilled professionals, which can reduce the time and effort spent on initial candidate screening. Additionally, these platforms often include features such as skill assessments, coding interview challenges, and candidate ranking systems that streamline the evaluation process and help companies identify the most suitable talent for their specific needs. 

On the other hand, there are some drawbacks to using hiring marketplaces for recruiting engineers. One is the cost, as these platforms typically charge subscription fees or placement fees that can be quite significant, especially for smaller organizations with limited budgets. It’s also worth noting that hiring marketplaces tend to focus on specific skill sets, education, and experience listed on a candidate’s resume, which may not always align with an organization’s unique requirements—or which may be too specific, causing companies to miss out on highly skilled talent with nontraditional backgrounds. Finally, relying solely on hiring marketplaces may lead to a limited scope in candidate sourcing, as some exceptional candidates might not be active on these platforms, preferring more traditional job search methods or relying on their professional networks.

The role of employer branding in the hiring process

Employer branding plays a crucial role in the hiring process, as it directly impacts a company’s ability to attract and retain top talent. Building a strong employer brand involves showcasing your company culture, values, and work environment, which helps create a positive perception of your organization among potential candidates. To become a company that engineers will want to work for, focus on promoting a culture of innovation, continuous learning, and growth. Emphasize the exciting projects and technologies your team works with, as well as the opportunities for professional development and career advancement. By showcasing these aspects of your company culture in your recruiting materials, you’ll be able to appeal to top engineering talent and close your top candidates more often.

Step 2: Evaluating your pool of engineering candidates

What are the right skills and qualifications to look for in an engineer?

When hiring an engineer, it’s important to prioritize skills and qualifications over formal education, as the ability to perform effectively in the role is often more closely tied to practical experience and expertise than to traditional academic credentials. Key skills to look for include strong problem-solving abilities, proficiency in multiple programming languages and frameworks, adaptability to new technologies, and excellent communication and teamwork capabilities. 

Additionally, consider candidates’ portfolios, open-source contributions, and relevant projects, which can provide valuable insight into their real-world experience and skillset. Utilizing platforms like CodeSignal can greatly assist hiring managers in evaluating the technical skills of engineering candidates, as it offers a range of technical assessment and interview solutions for every stage of the engineer hiring process. Using a pre-screen assessment, for instance, is an accurate and efficient way to identify highly skilled technical candidates at the top of the funnel—both for new grad talent, who may not yet have robust portfolios of work to share, and for more experienced software engineers. 

How to conduct a technical interview

The best way to conduct a technical interview is to create a structured, objective, and skills-focused assessment process that accurately evaluates a candidate’s ability to perform in the role. Begin by carefully designing coding challenges or problem-solving tasks that are relevant to the position and reflect the actual work the candidate will be doing. This approach helps to gauge their technical proficiency, problem-solving skills, and thought processes. Utilize platforms like CodeSignal to administer and evaluate these technical assessments, ensuring a consistent and objective evaluation of each candidate’s performance. 

In addition to technical assessments, incorporate behavioral questions and situational examples to evaluate the candidate’s communication, teamwork, and adaptability skills, which are crucial for success in a collaborative work environment. Lastly, involve multiple team members in the interview process to gather diverse perspectives and minimize the impact of individual biases. By adopting a structured approach to technical interviews, companies can ensure they identify and hire the most capable engineering candidates, ultimately contributing to the success and growth of their organization.

How to assess an engineer’s technical skills

Assessing an engineer’s technical skills can be challenging due to the diverse range of programming languages, frameworks, and technologies in the field. A candidate may be a great fit for your role, for instance, but you’ll pass over them if your interviewers use a different coding language. Additionally, it can be difficult to design assessment and interview questions that accurately measure a candidate’s ability to perform in a real-world work environment, while also accounting for factors such as stress and time constraints. On top of that, many companies develop custom coding questions that may appear relevant to the role, but that aren’t backed by validation research and so may not accurately predict candidates’ job performance. Utilizing platforms like CodeSignal, which offers research-backed, validated skill assessments and a live coding interview tool, can help ensure a consistent and objective assessment of candidates’ technical proficiency. 

When developing a technical assessment or interview question, consider incorporating practical exercises, such as code reviews or debugging tasks, to evaluate candidates’ problem-solving abilities and familiarity with real-world engineering practices. A comprehensive tech hiring platform like CodeSignal provides candidates with a true “flight simulator” experience with a coding environment that feels just like coding on their local machine. CodeSignal’s state-of-the-art integrated development environment (IDE) includes features that allow hiring teams to assess role-specific skills: a full filesystem for full-stack engineers, Jupyter notebook for data scientists, live front-end preview for front-end developers, and more. This allows hiring managers to more effectively evaluate engineers’ specialized technical skills at each stage of the hiring process, ensuring that they identify and recruit the most capable talent for their teams.

How to overcome the challenges of screening engineering candidates in technical hiring

Overcoming the challenges of screening engineering candidates in technical hiring requires a streamlined, efficient approach that minimizes the time engineers spend on early-stage screenings and interviews. One of the primary concerns in the hiring process is the potential loss of productivity as engineers devote substantial time to conducting assessments and screening candidates. Another is the time engineers spend maintaining and rewriting those assessments when custom coding questions are inevitably leaked online. 

Apart from wasting engineering time, a tech hiring process can go awry when its technical evaluation tools fail to capture a strong signal of candidates’ skills. When this happens, companies waste time interviewing unqualified candidates—or conversely, they pass over qualified candidates who were filtered out by their screening process. Both of these problems put your company at risk of using biased and unfair hiring practices, which presents a risk to compliance with employment regulations like EEOC. To address these issues, companies can leverage screening platforms like CodeSignal, which enables teams to pre-screen a large volume of candidates quickly, accurately, and objectively. 

By utilizing such platforms, organizations can effectively assess candidates’ job-relevant skills and narrow down the pool to the most promising applicants, without burdening their engineers with time-consuming early-stage screenings. This not only helps maintain productivity within the engineering team but also ensures that technical interviews and assessments are focused on the most qualified candidates, ultimately contributing to a more efficient and successful hiring process.

Step 3: Making an engineering job offer that will get accepted

How to decide which candidate you want to offer the job to

To make an engineering job offer that will get accepted, it’s essential to first carefully decide which candidate is the best fit for the role and your organization. Begin by evaluating the technical skills, problem-solving abilities, and practical experience of each candidate, ensuring they meet the requirements of the position. Leverage assessment platforms like CodeSignal to objectively measure and compare candidates’ technical proficiency. Next, consider each candidate’s soft skills, such as communication, teamwork, adaptability, and cultural fit, which are crucial for success in a collaborative work environment; CodeSignal Interview, for instance, allows for remote onsite interviews where a panel of interviewers can assess candidates’ ability to build software collaboratively. Involve multiple team members in the decision-making process to gather diverse perspectives and minimize individual biases. 

Once you’ve narrowed down your options, weigh the pros and cons of each candidate, taking into account their potential impact on the team’s productivity, innovation, and overall success. By thoroughly evaluating candidates based on a combination of technical and soft skills, as well as their alignment with your company’s culture and values, you can confidently select the most suitable candidate to whom you will extend a job offer, increasing the likelihood of acceptance and long-term retention.

Making the offer via the phone, email, or both?

How you make a job offer—over phone, email, or both—matters for getting that offer accepted. A phone call provides a personal touch and allows for immediate clarification of any questions or concerns, fostering a strong connection between the candidate and the company. However, phone calls may catch candidates off-guard, making it difficult for them to fully process the offer and respond appropriately. In contrast, an email offers a detailed, written record of the job offer, allowing candidates to review the terms at their own pace and refer back to the information later. The downside is that emails can feel impersonal and may lack the warmth and enthusiasm conveyed through a phone call. 

Combining both methods can be an effective approach: begin with a phone call to express excitement and discuss the offer, followed by an email containing the written details for the candidate to review. This approach maximizes the benefits of both methods, creating a positive and memorable experience for the candidate.

How to prepare for counter offers and salary negotiations

As an engineering hiring manager, it’s important to be prepared for counter offers and salary negotiations when extending a job offer to a candidate. Start by researching industry salary benchmarks and understanding the current market value for your specific role and desired skillset. Factor in the candidate’s experience, expertise, and any unique qualifications they bring to the table. Establish a salary range and be clear about the maximum budget allocated for the position. 

Additionally, consider the various components of the compensation package, such as bonuses, stock options, and benefits, which can provide flexibility during negotiations. Before entering into negotiations, ensure you have a clear understanding of your company’s policies and limits regarding compensation adjustments. By being well-prepared and informed, you can confidently navigate salary negotiations and work towards a mutually beneficial agreement that aligns with both the candidate’s expectations and your company’s or team’s constraints.

How fast should you aim to close?

Engineering hiring managers should aim to close a candidate they’ve extended an offer to as quickly as possible, ideally within a week or two, as talented engineers are often in high demand and may have multiple offers to consider. Swift decision-making and clear communication can help secure the desired candidate and demonstrate your organization’s commitment to them. 

From sourcing to close, the overall hiring process for an engineer can vary depending on the role, the market, and the specific requirements, but a general estimate is anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks. This timeframe includes sourcing, screening, interviewing, negotiating, and onboarding. Strive for efficiency at each stage of the hiring process, while maintaining a thorough and well-structured approach, to ensure that you secure top engineering talent in a timely manner.

What to do after closing

After successfully closing a candidate, engineering hiring managers should not rest on their laurels. It’s essential to continue growing your pool of candidates and nurturing relationships with potential hires, even after you’ve filled a position. Building and maintaining a strong talent pipeline prepares you to deal with future talent shortages, unexpected resignations, or sudden growth within the organization. By proactively sourcing, engaging, and staying connected with potential candidates, you’ll be better prepared to fill open positions quickly and efficiently, reducing overall hiring times and ensuring your team remains productive and well-staffed. Moreover, fostering these relationships demonstrates your organization’s commitment to attracting top talent, further solidifying your reputation as an employer of choice within the engineering community.

Final thoughts

This comprehensive guide to hiring 10x software engineers has covered best practices for sourcing, screening, interviewing, and closing your top candidates. When sourcing candidates, aim to cast a wide net to increase the diversity of your applicant pool and find hidden talent gems. Make the most of your recruiting and engineering team resources by using a pre-screening tool to objectively identify highly skilled candidates at the top of the funnel. CodeSignal Pre-Screen, for example, allows hiring teams to evaluate a large pool of candidates accurately and efficiently. 

After you’ve narrowed down your applicant pool to candidates who meet your technical bar, dig deeper into their skills with an onsite or panel interview using a live coding interview tool like CodeSignal Interview. After you’ve honed in on the candidate you’d like to extend an offer to, make sure you’re prepared to negotiate and reach out via both email and phone to create a personalized candidate experience. Remember: A more efficient and realistic your technical assessment and interview process means the more likely it is that your top candidate will accept an offer.

Ready to learn more about how CodeSignal can help you elevate your technical hiring and make the right hires, faster? Schedule a call with one of our experts, who will be happy to talk with you about your tech hiring goals.