If you’re an engineering hiring manager, chances are you have a list of technical questions that are your gold standard for evaluating potential hires, right? Technical ability is imperative, of course. But are you getting the talent you really need?
I find that what is often overlooked in the hiring process is the people factor. Who is that person sitting in front of you, responding to your questions? The talent market is hot and candidates are the ones with the power these days. They decide which company best fits their needs and desires. You may think you’re interviewing them, but the reality is that candidates are interviewing companies and they choose the one that has the best experience, culture, flexibility, and potential for growth. Too often, companies do not realize this. And hiring managers make the mistake of leaving it up to HR or the CEO to keep tabs on the hiring landscape. You can’t afford to do that anymore.
Know the hiring landscape.
It’s absolutely essential that, as a hiring manager, you understand the hiring conditions in your market. As the boss of the people you hire, finding the right person to hire impacts you more than anyone else. It’s well worth your time to do a little research. Who else is posting for the same position? What are your competitors offering candidates? But most importantly, what do candidates want? Google the job posting and see what comes up. How are other companies positioning themselves? The landscape changes rapidly – sometimes on a weekly basis—which means you need to be able to adapt. If you do not find a way to make your company and the position stand out to candidates, you will lose them to a more attractive, alluring competitor.
Up your game.
How fast are you able to hire? If your competitors are hiring in five days, and it takes your company 15, you are going to lose the opportunity to hire top talent. Be aware that, like you, the best candidates are simultaneously interviewing more than one company. How can you condense your process so that you can make offers faster? Are you conducting multiple rounds of interviews? If so, can you get it down to one? You may want to consider extending one interview over a period of two to three hours, instead of 30 minutes, to allow all stakeholders to spend time with the candidate. Be sure, too, that each stakeholder who will interview the candidate asks different questions and has a unique agenda for the information they seek.
Sell your company.
No, you don’t have to be a salesperson; you do have to let your passion for your company shine through. Why do you love working for the company? Talk about it. What has enhanced your own career here the most? Candidates are looking for challenges they can thrive on. What are you offering that will do that? It’s important that you and everyone else who interviews the candidate to present the best image possible. Dress well. Discuss amongst yourselves ahead of time what key points need to be shared. Have stories you can tell about your projects and team’s successes. Coach interviewers to focus on responding to candidate’s questions with information that makes your company desirable. I had one candidate who turned down a position at a developer’s dream job because when he asked the hiring manager what was the most recent project he’d worked on, the manager replied that it was a maintenance project. Boring! This turned the candidate off and gave the impression that working at that company would not be challenging enough. The manager could have told him about several of the exciting projects he’d worked on over the last year or so, and would have, if someone had coached him to be mindful about the impact of his responses.
Ditch the script.
Many hiring managers use a well-worn script to conduct interviews. The reasoning is that it makes it easier to compare apples to apples if you ask the same questions of everyone. This used to work. Not anymore. Every interview is unique and situational. Toss your script and instead use a guided conversation. In fact, move the interview out of your office and go grab a cup of coffee with the candidate. Then talk. About your company, about your work, about the position, about projects you’re excited about, about growth, about career paths. And listen. Conversations are natural interviews. As you talk, the candidate will naturally discuss the work she’s done, her values, goals, and ask questions. You’ll have the chance to see what her energy is like and what type of challenges she finds energizing. You’ll still do your technical interview, but this part of the interview will yield the “people” information you need and will give the candidate a chance to truly connect with you and your company.
It’s time engineering hiring mangers think outside the box to get the best talent on their teams. By adapting to a changing hiring environment and making a concentrated effort to demonstrate why your company is best, you’ll have the greatest chance of convincing top talent to come and work for you.
Workbridge Associates is a professional recruitment and placement agency with operations in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, and Orange County, CA. We specialize in technology hiring for both permanent and contract positions, and have made over 30,000 successful technology hires since 1989.