5 Mistakes To Avoid When Hiring Technical Candidates (And What You Should Do Instead)

10 July 2019 By Alastair Cleland

1837 Original

Hiring is tough. Hiring in a technical market - where demand exceeds supply of skilled candidates - is even harder. Since Pentasia was founded, we’ve had a front row seat to some of the best and worst interview processes; which means that clients are often asking us how best to run tech interview processes. And lucky you, we thought we’d share these pearls of wisdom (you can thank us later).

Mistake #1 - Not being open on background

Yes, it would be great to find that Python developer with 10 years’ experience in your competitor, who can tell jokes in front of a crowd and speak fluent Russian. But while it’s fine to have a wishlist, being too rigid means you’ll overlook great candidates that don’t meet 100% of your requirements – and in a niche market you may find your ideal profile doesn’t exist. We’re seeing good employers become more open on background. Even ‘big 4’ professional services firms EY and PwC have removed the degree requirementfrom their graduate schemes, saying that it unnecessarily restricts them.

Instead you should: Think carefully about which attributes are truly ‘essential’ and which you could overlook if you found someone who excelled in other areas. Then make sure the job description reflects this.

Mistake #2 – Having interview processes so frustrating your candidates lose the will to live

Yep, sadly we’ve been here. The list of “don’ts” include; delayed feedback, not giving detailed enough feedback, having an excessive amount of interview stages (“do I really need to meet everyone including the office dog?”), disorganisation, asking candidates to travel to the office multiple times unnecessarily,interviewers being unprepared on a candidates CV, interviewers being rude/abrupt/bored, miscommunication about the role, making an unrealistically low offer… we could go on. Another mistake is having the technical test first - whilst you may think you’re saving time, it will put people off (“why should I put in the effort if they’re not even prepared to talk to me”).

Instead you should. Give your candidate a great experience. Limit the amount of stages, make sure feedback is open and prompt at all stages, and treat all candidates with respect.

Pro Tip: “Start with a phone call or skype with HR to establish if the candidate is a good fit. Next step should be a technical test, designed to mimic the role as closely as possible. Third and final round should be a technical interview with the hiring manager. The whole process should take ideally a week, maximum two” [Robert Gray, Head of Technical Recruitment, Pentasia]

Mistake #3 – Thinking your role is their only option

This is surprisingly common, even in a candidate driven market like tech. Yes, you need to decide if they’re a fit, but don’t forget that technical candidates are likely to be in multiple interview processes and will be comparing your role against what else is on offer. If this is their only process, it’s probably because they’re only passively looking – in which case you’ll need to try even harder to convince them! Candidates usually know their worth so giving a superstar a monumental grilling is unlikely to do you any favours.

Instead you should. Be humble. Don’t think, “why should we hire them” think, “why would this person want to work for us”. Sell the organisation – what makes it a great place to work – and why this would role be a good move for them.

Mistake #4 – Not asking the right questions

We’ve seen it before – either a talented software developer stumbles over generic questions like “where do you see yourself in five years’ time”, or interviewers who haven’t been trained properly fail to spot a lack of technical skill or cultural misfit.

Instead you should – Train your interviewers on good interview practices (especially those with little hiring experience), and ensure questions aren’t repeated. Technical questions should be geared towards the technologies used in the role but also test how engaged and passionate they are about tech generally. Asking about side projects, interests or which future tech developments they’re excited about are a good gauge. Here’s some ideas for good questions to ask.

Mistake # 5 – Not acting quickly when you find “The One”.

So, you’ve found a candidate who has the right technical skillset, would be a great fit for the team, and is currently available. Well, what are you waiting for?! We’ve seen clients make the mistake of trying to keep excellent candidates on the backburner while they do ‘due diligence’ on the remaining candidate pool. In the meantime, their star candidate has accepted an offer from their other process (see #3) and they’re left with profiles who are second choice. Not ideal.

Instead you should – Act Quickly! Have your internal debrief on the same day as the interview; if it’s a positive, an offer should be put together ASAP. If you’re lucky enough to have multiple strong profiles interviewing for one role, schedule interviews as close together as possible (ideally on the same day) to avoid keeping people waiting.