How To Hire the Best Candidate for the Job

Ryan Garaygay

VP of Engineering at Acquia



"Hiring is always hard; however, it is a big part of what we do as engineering leaders. We might spend upwards of 50% of our time hiring whenever there is active growth. But even when there is none, you still want to look into hiring because you want to make sure you have buffers as it could be up to nine months to find the right person. It helps to continually search for good candidates because sometimes employees get unexpected plans or move on to other opportunities, so you want to make sure you have resource capacity."

Actions taken

"An engineer is a good employee first, that happens to have engineering skills. When hiring, you want to think about: what does the ideal employee look like? What are we looking for? Before we hire, we refer to a list of competencies that we rate from 1-5 with 1 being someone who is just starting off with a high-level knowledge, 3 being a mentor, and 5 being an expert. Your team/company may not need a #5, but we do leave a space open for that as it shows room for improvement."

"There are two aspects to hiring: sourcing and recruiting. Knowing the competencies you are looking for is helpful for both because it will help you know where to look. As a hiring manager, I would usually sit down and analyze why I even need a new person and determine what they are going to do. You need to evaluate and narrow down what you actually need. Once you have that, you may even consult with the team to get some input on where help is needed and get any feedback from them about previous employees who have been in that position. After all of that has been established, we move on to phone screenings. For the phone interview, we tailor the questions to what can be answered over the phone (or screen share in some roles), for example, it's less effective to ask design questions over the phone. You and the candidate both has limited time so you have to make sure the questions are driven towards competency and their answers help you decide on whether or not to move forward."

"The harder part of the hiring process is the sourcing. Where do you find good candidates? Hands down, in my/team's experience the best way it is always through internal referral. The people you have right now have the values and principals that you are looking for in a future employee and likely share them with their friends/networks. We offer referral bonuses and more importantly keep our existing employees happy/motivated enough to want their networks to work with us. The second way to source new employees is to contact a few agencies or recruiters and give them the competency grid that you are looking for. Make sure they have an understanding the role and requirement (competencies rather than lengthy descriptions are more effective in my experience) so they can help properly screen potential candidates. The third way to source new employees is through websites with a good talent pool. It will most likely be expensive, but it is worth looking into if you are seeking a core team member. Lastly, you could source employees through networking events. However, I put that as last because there is no guarantee that the people that attend are actually looking for jobs. The best candidates are normally obtained through the first three."

"What if you find the perfect candidate, but you already have someone working in that position? As much as budget allows, I typically try not to turn down a great employee prospect because based on experience/anecdotes and past studies/articles, the median employee tenure is about three years. With that in mind, look at the budget that you have set for hiring. To a certain extent good teams/team members do not run out of great things to deliver. I would also suggest collaborating with the team prior to hiring to come up with the roadmap of what the new employee will work on for the next six months."

Lessons learned

In closing, these are the takeaways:

  • Draw a roadmap prior to interviewing. What are you looking for? Create a list of competencies and make sure they are all met prior to offering employment.
  • Seek employment referrals from current employees first. They know what the job entails and may have like minded friends that would make perfect team members.
  • On average, employees will change roles about once every three years. Make sure that you are staying on top of the hiring process so you can be prepared to fill in those gaps as need be.

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Ryan Garaygay

VP of Engineering at Acquia

Engineering LeadershipLeadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementCareer GrowthCareer ProgressionCareer Ladder

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