4 effective ways to evaluate developers and hire the best
6 MINUTE READ
When discussing the challenges of hiring in the tech sector with our customers, the issues that crop up again and again are the skills shortage and competition with other companies. This is unsurprising, the tech skill shortage receives widespread media coverage and shows little sign of improvement.
But according to the HackerRank 2018 Developer Skills Report, a lot of businesses struggle with a different aspect of recruiting – skill evaluation. More than 60% of hiring managers reported that evaluating skills was their number one challenge – as opposed to lack of talent.
According to the 7000+ employers surveyed, CVs still remain the most common way to assess developers. This is where the problem lies. The traditional CV is a fairly rudimentary way of evaluating a developers skill set.
Screening CVs is a great first step. But there are a whole range of skills which aren’t genuinely screenable from a CV. As a result HR departments are often left scratching their heads when deciding which developers have the most potential.
So what other techniques can you use to give you a better outcome during your IT hiring process? Here are a few suggestions from our recruitment team.
Check the candidates portfolio/coding samples
In our experience, the most skilled and conscientious developers have a creative portfolio of their previous work. In addition to their CV, you can ask candidates to provide a link to their personal website or a list of open source personal projects. If they are contributors to GitHub or SourceForge, request them to indicate which specific parts of the projects they were responsible for.
If they have published blog articles on their own site, read a few of them. While it is rare to find a coder who also happens to be a great writer, they are out there. By doing your due diligence you might find that ‘unicorn’ you are looking for just by taking 10 or 15 minutes to screen their posts.
Doing this kind of digging puts you in a much better position to ask more insightful and specific questions when it comes to the interview stage. You can ask candidates specific questions about a project, their approach to troubleshooting, and creative decisions involved in development. This review can give you a deeper insight into both skills and personality that a technical test ever could.
If you conduct technical tests, roll them into the on-site interview
Technical tests are commonly used to assess a developers coding style and ability to think logically. Often these tests are given to candidates to complete at home. However, best practice is to arrange to conduct these tests in person. In the vast majority of cases this is more effective than tests administered at home. Here’s why:
- Many highly-skilled developers simply point blank refuse to complete take home technical tests. However, most are more than happy to demonstrate their technical proficiency in a face-to-face scenario.
- Conducting technical tests on-site helps streamline your recruitment efforts by combining two hiring stages into one. This enables you to get an offer out to strong candidates quicker. The longer your hiring process is, the more external factors you allow to come into play e.g. offers from other companies or approaches from recruiters.
- Eliminates the potential for cheating and dishonesty.
- Allows you to assess how the developer handles pressure.
For these reasons many companies now choose to bring candidates on-site to do assignments. However, the traditional ‘whiteboard coding test’ isn’t a very good practice to adopt. Writing code in front of an audience is unnatural, awkward, and stressful. And if the developer gets stuck, it’s humiliating.
So how can you evaluate coding skills without causing unnecessary stress?
Solution: Ask the candidate to work together with the technical hiring manager to build something small (aka pair programming)
They pass the keyboard back and forth and solve the problem together. With pair programming, you can still evaluate skill, but it takes the pressure off. Even better, it gives you a chance to make sure the candidate works in the same way as the rest of the team. The technical hiring manager can tell you whether the candidate is a good fit both technically and personally right away. When picking a task, choose something small enough to finish in the interview and analogous to the work your team is already doing.
Use social media to your advantage
Most companies now use social media in some form or other during their recruitment efforts. The reason is simple. Multiple studies have shown that using social media significantly improves candidate quality compared to exclusively using traditional recruiting techniques like phone screenings and filtering CVs based solely on skills and experience. So don’t waste the opportunity. Investing time on social media during the hiring process will likely pay dividends in future.
LinkedIn is particularly helpful in providing supporting evidence of a candidate’s technical ability. After receiving a developers CV you should review their LinkedIn profile to make sure they both match up in terms of skill set and career history. Any discrepancy between the two should be noted and investigated further. In addition, have a look at a candidate’s LinkedIn “recommendations” for third-party verification of their skill set and ability to work well as part of a team.
Furthermore, filtering developers through the lens of their Twitter feed can help confirm whether they would be a good fit for your company culture. If they are genuinely passionate about tech, this should be apparent in the type of content they choose to share. While it’s not 100% objective, reviewing Twitter feeds can also help you weed out those candidates who appear to have an overtly negative attitude.
Ask a trusted IT recruitment consultant to help
Working with an IT recruitment agency can save you a lot of time, money and hassle. A specialist IT recruitment consultant can find you an experienced software developer with rare skills in a few days. In fact, at Venturi there have been numerous occasions where we have sourced the right IT contractor in a matter of hours.
In most instances, HR departments are stretched thin as it is. For this reason, bringing in outside help can significantly reduce your ‘time to hire’ metric. This translates into fewer costly open vacancy days.
A specialist IT consultant should also be able to help you with pre-screening, tech testing, background checks, portfolio evaluation, and immigration questions for hard-to-find talent.
IT consulting is not as expensive as many think. For instance, at first glance, contractor day rates may look completely unaffordable. However, operating on a flexible payment model means you aren’t bound into any long-term contracts. This means you can set a fixed budget and stick to it. Using contractors also helps you steer clear of a whole host of additional expenses such as National Insurance, healthcare, and pensions.
We hope some of the strategies above will help you improve your assessment processes and help you find the right candidates for your team.