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Where to set your technical bar?

This blog post is based on the seventh 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.

“We set the bar high.” This is an important topic of discussion when it comes to recruiting and one that we hear discussed a lot. There’s a proud perception that comes with having a “high bar” for your organization. Clearly, no one wants to work for a company that broadcasts they have low standards! But, this elusive “high bar” could be working against you, especially when it comes to setting the bar for skill assessment. 

How could having a high bar be a bad thing? You’re attracting the best quality candidates, right? Wrong. What you may be doing is limiting your applicant pool. By setting the bar too high, you’re eliminating potential employees that could have joined your organization and done a good job for you. 

You can also create another problem if the bar is set too low. Allowing a lot of people to enter the recruiting funnel – who aren’t qualified to do the job – can slow down your interview process and waste a lot of valuable time. 

You want to hit the sweet spot when it comes to setting the bar, ensuring you don’t miss quality candidates or create a huge time suck in the recruiting department. So where do you start? Begin by assessing your company and the role itself. If you’re a large organization that can hire and train candidates to become a great team member, you may be willing to set the bar lower. It doesn’t mean you want to open the floodgates unnecessarily, but you can focus on measuring more fundamental skills. If you’re a smaller organization or start-up – where EVERY member counts and must hit the ground running – have a slightly higher bias and take your time to be selective. 

Another good way to determine where to set the bar is to gather data to avoid making evaluations in a bubble. Here’s why. Let’s say you ask candidates to take an assessment that operates on a scale of 0 to 100. You get the results of your first recruit and they’ve scored an 80 on the test. Great! Right? Well, without an evaluation against the candidate’s peers, how do you determine the value to place on the results? A score is just a number. Instead, look at how one score compares to the population who took the test. If only 5% of the population scored 80 or more, you might have a solid candidate. If 90% score 80 or more, it’s a different story.  

When setting a bar for your assessment, remember it’s one dimensional. Don’t limit yourself to making a decision with only this information. And don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a high bar is always a good bar.