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Creative Recruitment Strategies to Hire Great Candidates

Diversity
Hiring
Team Processes

14 October, 2021

Lyle Kozloff
Lyle Kozloff

Senior Support Engineering Manager at GitLab Inc.

Lyle Kozloff, Senior Support Engineering Manager at GitLab Inc., shares how one of the companies he worked at brought some innovative ways on the table to hire top talent.

Problem

Building a diverse team in a highly competitive landscape is becoming increasingly challenging. At one of the companies I worked at, the hiring process used to be fairly standard: an open application on our jobs site that filtered into our hiring stream. This worked well enough, but we found that there was both a high amount of variability in the quality of candidates and not enough variability in the types of candidates. Diverse teams perform better, and in customer support, this holds (even if anecdotally) more true. The team we wanted to build had individuals from a variety of backgrounds. This was both because of the company's value of diversity, but because some of our top performers weren’t candidates that might not have been obvious choices for Support Engineers: former librarians, ski-instructors, even someone whose immediate previous role was working at a grocery store. Boiling down what makes a great engineer and then going out and finding those people was the challenge to overcome.

Actions taken

Our hiring process broadly has the stages you’d expect: application review, screening, written assessment, technical interview, manager interview, senior management interview, reference check, and then offer. The first step to form was before all of that: to find quality candidates sometimes you have to go out and find them.

For a time, we actually closed our public job posting and went to a 100% actively sourced model. This worked exceedingly well in filling our pipeline up with a variety of candidates. Additionally, we introduced monthly “Sip ‘n Source” events where managers (and others!) spend some concentrated time finding folks to fill our pool.

We also introduced managers and senior managers to the screening stage of interviews. Moving the last person to interview to the first has been a game-changer 一 very different views and the totally different highlight of the candidate’s skill sets. It also means that candidates can ask their very hardest questions from first contact and get answers from those best equipped to answer them.

Once you’ve found quality candidates, giving them a great experience is important if you want them to join. A base for that is inclusive hiring practices that both let the candidate shine, but also get you valuable data from a variety of perspectives. For example, we require that during the process candidates speak to at least 1 non-male interviewer. This means that candidates are exposed to a variety of folks on our team who may answer candidate questions very differently. On the flip side, our interviewers' sensitivities are different which means we get better data on whether the candidate will be a good fit.

Some other things we do are make sure to be aware of any adjustments to the interview that might be requested and offer them upfront or make them default. For example, enabling the “live caption” feature on our video calls means that candidates may turn on subtitles for the interviewer. This means that folks that have a preference for written text, or folks who might not have English as their native language can process interview questions in a different format. Minor adjustments like this help us connect with individuals who might not be able to present their best work in a traditional interview.

Taking it further, if a person were interviewing for our company and needed financial support, they can get reimbursed for child care or adult care (given that they have a dependent). If they do not have a laptop or have access to one, they can be reimbursed for renting one. In the case they don't have access to the internet, we would reimburse them for transportation to (and the payment for) a meeting room in a coworking space. We even go so far as to reimburse any loss of hourly pay.

This all sounds great, right? The final thing you need though is feedback. Regardless of whether or not they are hired, what do candidates think of the interview process? Every applicant who interviews with us receives a survey to measure their interview satisfaction. We track that for all our candidates and review verbatim feedback as well as the overall NPS score. Each quarter we review these reports and make adjustments as we see opportunities.

Lessons learned

  • Feedback works both ways. As much as candidates need our feedback and honesty, the company’s hiring process needs it too. Getting that feedback means you can continuously improve your hiring process.
  • “Hire people based on their trajectory, not pedigree.” This is what is followed in the company, and I think it has been a great mantra for sourcing, interviewing, and hiring.
  • A diverse group creates better results. To get true diversity in thought, background, and experience you have to go out and find it.

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