Some job openings receive
hundreds of applicants, so you need to filter through the candidates to find
the strong ones without spending too much time.
The most common approach to
filtering candidates is by conducting a phone interview to assess non-technical
skills. But in the case of software engineers what is the best approach that
will help you select the right fit for the open position?
Here are some insights into
which method should be used in what circumstances.
three most common approaches
Phone Interview— A recruiter talks to the candidate on the
phone screening for culture fit, communication skills, and evidence of
- Tests communication ability
- Validates points on a resume
- Assesses type of personality
- Eliminates candidates with high financial
eliminate extremely strong programmers. For a software engineer whose work is
solitary, communication though important may not take precedence over technical
expertise. A software engineer with more introverted characteristics tends to
find phone calls more uncomfortable than a recruiter, resulting in a less than
perfect impression on the recruiter. Majority of technical professionals prefer
email as the mode of communication over phone calls.
time consuming on the recruiter’s part
programmers who communicate well can pass
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the hiring manager too has already seen
the resume. A call can go great with recruiter, but then the recruiter has to
reject the candidate because the hiring manager didn’t think the candidate was
a good fit after looking at his resume. Notonly is this rough for the
candidate, but it also wastes the recruiter’s time. It can easily be avoided if
the manager first looks at the resume to make sure the candidate seems suitable
the hiring manager highly values communication and “personableness.” If this is
the case, a phone call can be appropriate. However, a hiring manager and their
team should weigh in the most on whether a candidate is a good fit for the
Coding Challenge Approach
Candidates are emailed a timed coding challenge that they need to complete
online. These can range from 30 minutes to two hours.
that the candidate can code
time for the recruiter
not simulate working coding environments. Usually coding problems are
algorithms and data structures, both of which are really used on the job unless
the role is in a field such as artificial intelligence. Plus, it’s timed. Real
life coding is never to be completed in 30 minutes.
to cheat. The fortunate thing for programmers and unfortunate things for
recruiters is that the world of programmers is highly collaborative. What this
means is that the solutions to a lot of algorithmic problems can be found
within a couple of minutes. While interview tests ask candidates not to cheat,
there is no way to be sure that they do not.
- Can eliminate very
strong programmers. As
mentioned earlier, these tests are very heavy on algorithms. Since people who
have not graduated with a major in computer science are a lot less likely to
know algorithms, a lot of candidates who are self-taught or have taken boot
camps will struggle on these problems. It does not mean that they are poor
programmers; it just means that these questions are not common in the world of
programming. By having this phase you can easily miss a large pool of qualified
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you have an enormous amount of applicants. This way you can easily filter for
who is serious about the job. When you get them on the phone, you’ll already
know they have some coding chops. However, please make sure that there is some
thought put into the coding questions. For instance, if you are hiring front
end developers, have front-end questions, not a generic software engineering
Project— Candidates are given a take home project
where they need to code according to the specifications decided on by the
hiring manager. These can range from two hours to however long it takes the
candidate to finish, which could be up to 12 hours.
filter the amount of desire the candidate has to work for your company. Many applicants will filter themselves by not completing the project, making the
recruiter’s job easier.
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time and resources to create and review the exercise. When a take-home exercise
is created, that means that someone in the company has to decide on the
appropriate take-home assignment. However, the big time component that comes in
when the candidate finishes the assignment. Once the candidate finishes,
several employees need to look over the code and evaluate whether or not the
candidate passes. It takes a good amount of effort to get several programmers
to stop what they are doing and evaluate, so you can expect some lag in time
before the team gets back to you.
as long as you want, but not really. Often, recruiters will ask software
engineers to complete the project in about X hours. The issue here is that the
more time that the coder spends on the project, the greater the chances are of
them moving onto the next round. This can really put a candidate in for a spin,
especially if the project is difficult … which they usually are. The consensus
among software engineers is that “X” is usually the least amount of time it
will take, and if you really want the job then you are probably going to need
to put in a few more hours. This increases the likelihood that the candidate
will not finish the project, especially if they are hot on the job market and
another employee has a shorter first-round process.
Ask for First-Round Interview. Normally, the interviewer and the candidate
gradually invest more in one another with each subsequent round of interviews.
When a company asks a candidate to do a take-home project, they are demanding a
large investment from the candidate. The candidate is much less likely to
complete it because they haven’t yet received an equal investment from the
get a feel for the candidate’s coding skills
screen for candidates who really want to work at your company
seeing the pros and cons to the different screening approaches can help you
with your hiring process. Some of the biggest mistakes are that different
companies pick the wrong first round. Maybe it’s a really small unknown startup
and they require a candidate to do a large coding assignment when the candidate
has not been sold on the company yet, or a recruiter who has a copious amount
of potential candidates screens everyone on the phone, leaving more qualified
candidates to competing companies. With a bit more tweaking to the first part
of the interview process, you could see an increase in the quality of the
candidates who make it onsite.