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Having a thoughtful interview process will help your company in the long-term

Seth Sakamoto

Fractional and Advisory CTO/VPE at Self

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Problem

At TuneIn, we wanted to hire a very senior engineer. We interviewed several candidates, including one who we were interested in until the final round of interviews, when we discovered that the candidate lacked a lot of technical skills. We had wasted time and complicated the process of finding the right candidate. At the same time, we were having trouble hiring. We were not attracting many qualified candidates for interviews and the qualified candidates often weren't interested when offered a role at TuneIn. And in addition, some hiring decisions were being made arbitrarily and we weren't learning from the past interviews we had done. I realized that there was a real need to improve our hiring process.

Actions taken

We implemented more discipline and structure in the hiring process. These are the steps we now take:

  • The first contact with candidates is a casual introductory discussion, which lets us understand their motivations (e.g. where they come from, why they want to move, why they are interested in our company, and projects they're most proud of) and lets them gain a cursory picture of what TuneIn is like.
  • If their profile and motivations match our criteria, a technical evaluation on the phone or via a video call takes place.
  • We then send the candidate a take-home exercise to do offline, and I personally review them. Technical exercises tell you a lot about the standards, communication, and abilities of a candidate. Mostly, it demonstrates how they manage tasks and what they would be proud to share.
  • If there are lingering questions about the candidate's behavioral or technical skills, we ask for updates to the take home exercise to see how they respond.
  • If the take home exercise goes well, the final step is to invite the candidate onsite to review their exercise, to probe more into their technical skills, and to further evaluate their behavioral attributes.
  • Finally, if the candidate did well we have a structured wrap-up meeting immediately after the onsite meeting, so that we can give the candidate feedback as soon as possible about whether we want to proceed. The results of these changes have been great: we hire people faster, we've upped the level of people we bring onsite, we have hired more qualified candidates, and we have clarified what behavioral attributes we are looking for.

Lessons learned

This change in our hiring process taught me these two lessons:

  • To be sure that the candidate will be a good fit over the long term, it is essential to build behavioral interviewing into every step of the process, and not to relegate it to a cultural interview.
  • Hiring should be thought as a long-term objective. You should hire someone that will, in addition to providing value in the short-term, grow with your team in the long-term.

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Seth Sakamoto

Fractional and Advisory CTO/VPE at Self


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