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Creating New Hiring Methods to Find Qualified Candidates

Scaling Team
Different Skillsets
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Hiring

2 November, 2021

Robin Gupta
Robin Gupta

Engineering Manager at athenahealth

Robin Gupta, Engineering Manager at athenahealth, shares his most recent challenge of remote hiring in an oversaturated technical market.

Problem

Recently, I’ve had to scale up my team very quickly. I have experience with the hiring process from earlier on in my career, but it felt like a cakewalk compared to the current hiring circumstances. With hiring taking place remotely, due to the Covid, I had to take candidates at their face value and assume they were not acting unethically: whether that be fake experience or education. A second difficulty I’ve been facing is "The Great Resignation", where everybody is changing or leaving jobs, making it very tough to find candidates. Lastly, I have been hiring in Bangalore, an IT hub, where there are hundreds of organizations hiring but a very minimal talent pool. Combined these three struggles have made it difficult for me to scale my team effectively.

Actions taken

My first step was to engage the hiring funnel and find a qualified pool of candidates to continue with interviews. My method was to stray away from HR candidates and tap into my networks of friends and family, consisting of Whatsapp and Slack groups. I posted the job application throughout these platforms and asked members of my network to send any potential candidates my way. I acted as the salesperson for the roles I was looking for and moved as quickly as possible to ramp up this process. I found that by using my network I could connect with candidates I trusted much quicker.

After finding candidates and widening the funnel, I asked my peers to loan me their team members to use as interviewers. As I was scaling my team, the problem was that I didn’t have enough bandwidth to operate my team and complete the number of necessary interviews. I provided anyone who volunteered with a cheat sheet of interview questions to help them with the values and skills I was looking for. In return for their assistance, I would buy these individuals a coffee or beer. I was scaling my hiring process and interviewers to ultimately scale my team.

During the interview itself, I’ve found that many companies look for strictly technical skills. In contrast, I was not looking for gold-standard code but a candidate’s level of commitment. I ensured that all my interviewers were looking for learnability over technical ability. Throughout my interviews, I always asked if the interviewee was switching jobs for compensation or challenge. The answer to this question was an indicator of the values and compatibility candidates would have with my team.

A lot of the companies use HackerRank or a similar program that assesses potential members. Usually, they are looking for the exact answer that matches their own answer rather than a new alternative. During my interviews, I tried to help the interviewees solve these problems and work together, as that is how you do it on the job. I told all the interviewed candidates that the questions I would ask were conversational points with no right or wrong answer.

Throughout this process, I tried to give feedback to candidates that were not hired. I passed my feedback to HR, and my HR team would let this person know. To help them grow, I felt that feedback was vital for these candidates to better themselves. When members were accepted, we would schedule weekly or biweekly meetings to keep these new team members engaged and answer any questions they may have.

Lessons learned

  • After the offer rollout, don’t leave the candidate. Stay in contact and engage this individual. Not only will that person feel more welcomed, but you will gain any hints if this individual may not join the team.
  • During the screening and interview process, don’t look for technical skills but learnability. Skills can be learned on the job, but values and mindsets cannot.
  • Learn to hack the hiring funnel. Everyone wants hiring to be done quickly, which can be challenging in today’s remote world. Use your networks to find trusted candidates and connect with them faster.

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