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Streamlining Hiring Processes to Attract Top Technical Talent

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Top technical talent is always in high demand. These candidates are fully aware their skill set is highly sought-after – their inbox is flooded with emails from recruiters and headhunters about new ‘exciting’ job opportunities.

But the prospect of jumping through lots of hoops to get an offer isn’t all that exciting.

Elite candidates value their time and are growing increasingly tired of long and tedious hiring processes. Those businesses that don’t move with the times will lose out on the brightest and best technical talent time and time again.

As an IT recruitment agency, we routinely see two main candidate pain points throughout the hiring process:

  1. Arduous and time-consuming take-home assignments.

  2. Too many interview stages.

These legacy policies need to be revised and updated for the modern market. Now more than ever, companies need to streamline their hiring process in order to attract first-class talent and ensure they see the process through to the end.

Take-home assignments

In early 2017, Jason Shen, CEO of hiring platform Headlight, conducted a study into hiring processes in the tech industry. They surveyed 50 employers (hiring managers) and 161 tech professionals including engineers, developers, product managers, and data scientists.

68% of candidates encountered take-home assignments when applying for jobs, and 51% of hiring managers reported that they use them to assess candidates.  However, both parties expressed concerns about the demands they place on applicants.

As a hiring manager, you need to keep the following two points in mind:

  • Candidates are likely facing other assignments from different companies.

  • Candidates need to invest additional time preparing for interviews. Shen and his team noted that half the surveyed candidates spent more than 10 hours preparing to interview at each company and a third spent more than 25 hours.

Given this, many candidates don’t have the time to complete lengthy assignments properly. Others simply refuse to do them in the first place. Shen’s study showed unanimous agreement amongst candidates that the scope of the assignment should be applicable to the job role.

Jamie Rogers, Co-founder of Venturi’s US division, explained that when candidates are faced with multiple assignments, they do the quickest first and leave the longest till last.

“Candidates will often progress through to the final stages of the process with the shortest take home test before they even get round to starting the longest technical test. For this reason companies with very long technical tests consistently lose out on strong candidates. With this in mind, concise assignments that get straight to the point are your best bet when it comes to securing top technical talent.

Alternatively, some companies now bring candidates on-site to do assignments. Typically this is a two-hour process. The first hour consists of a short, carefully-considered technical test. Those candidates that pass proceed to the next stage: a one-hour interview.

While a timed test places some extra pressure on candidates, it is a more attractive prospect than investing 5+ hours in a take-home assignment, which could potentially be rejected after submission.

Number of interview stages

Companies that have four or five interview stages put themselves at a disadvantage to those with two or less. “Ultimately, the less obstacles you place in front of candidates, the better your chances of securing those in highest demand,” said Jamie.  

In this regard, many organisations have woken up to the idea that less is more when it comes to hiring. They have a concise process, and they move through its stages quickly. It tends to look something like this:

First Round – Phone Interview

This is typically conducted by the technical hiring manager and usually lasts around 30-60 minutes. It serves three main purposes:

  1. To assess whether the candidate has the foundational technical know-how for the job.

  2. To assess the communication skills of the candidate.

  3. Determine whether they are a good fit for the company culture.

Second Round – On-site Interview

Those candidates that pass the phone interview are then invited to an on-site interview. As mentioned previously, this is broken into two stages: a technical test and a face-to-face interview stage. The technical test may be a traditional sit-down exam or it could be something less formal like an interactive whiteboard session.

In the face-to-face stage, the candidate will sit down with the hiring manager as well as other key stakeholders in the business i.e. the people the candidate may be asked to support in some way or other. Rather than facing an intimidating panel of six or more interviewers, candidates typically progress through this phase in stages, sitting down with two people at a time.

If they need to meet more people, it is simple enough to add another interview “stage” by bringing in more interviewers and making it a three-hour on-site interview while the candidate is there. You should aim to minimise the number of times you bring the candidate on-site and then send them home again.

“This simplified process enables you to get offers out to strong candidates quickly. This will give you a real advantage over competitors with hiring processes that are drawn out over several weeks,” said Jamie.  


Pretend you’re a candidate for a moment. You are applying for similar positions at two different companies. Company A takes you through the two-stage process outlined above and you receive an offer within a week of your initial application. Company B has also taken you through two interview stages, but with an offer already in hand from Company A, Company B requires you to progress through another three interview stages before making an offer. Would you have the motivation to continue on with your application at Company B? Probably not. Many fantastic companies lose out on great candidates due to this sort of scenario.

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. For this reason, a well-known phrase in recruitment is ‘time kills all placements’.

The future success of your company depends upon your ability to attract the very best technical talent. Therefore, you should work to construct a hiring process that conveys a sense of urgency.