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How to Attract Engineers When Your Company Scales Massively

Hiring
Scaling Team

2 July, 2019

Alex Kroman, SVP of Engineering at New Relic, shares his thoughts on sourcing and attracting the best candidates to your company and offers some hands-on advice for hiring on a massive scale.

Problem

Companies spend a lot of time and energy in hiring the best candidates. While sourcing and attracting the best engineers is a commonplace challenge, sourcing and attracting the best engineers on a massive scale is a massive challenge! When you scale rapidly and project to hire an additional 100 engineers in a year time, how to source and attract talent overshadows any other issue. In that kind of situation, any approach is worth trying. But focusing only on numbers and leaving quality outside of the equation will be of no good to anyone. Finding the right people for the right positions will make your business sink or swim.

Actions taken

  • We tried different approaches -- some worked while others didn't. There is no universal recipe, so try whatever comes to your mind. One of the approaches that always worked was relying on people's networks.
  • We asked managers to go together with engineers through their people's networks and list all interesting LinkedIn contacts. We would send potential hires a simple one-liner saying Haven't seen you in a while, do you wanna catch up? without explicitly mentioning the recruitment.
  • Think about what differentiates you as a company, what makes you unique, what makes you stand out. Wrap the answer up into a catchy pitch that emphasizes all the advantages of your company.
  • There are people who are super attractors, people with an admirable reputation who like magnets bring new hires to us. We would send them out to conferences to further spread the message and attract the right candidates.
  • Make managers accountable for hiring. That should be part of their OKRs. When hiring on a massive scale it would be fair to assume that managers will have to spend one or two days a week just on hiring.
  • Use your applicant tracking system to act promptly. If an applicant responds to a cold email be prepared to meet him/her instantly, even on the same day. Take advantage of the fact that most companies are still slow in responding to applicants.
  • Early on we had a scoring system that favored all-arounders We later learned that some of our best performers were weak in some areas, so instead of looking for top performers in all areas, we looked for candidates who excel in one specific area.
  • Take your chance with candidates who had bimodal feedback during the interviewing process. What may look like a complete disaster during the interview may smooth over in the office and you will get a strong performer and a must-retain employee.

Lessons learned

  • The most successful method of hiring people is through people's network. Every engineer should be asked to reach out to at least five people s/he knows and mine his/her own LinkedIn network.
  • Sell yourself to candidates by making credible claims. There is always a niche in which you can effectively compete. If not, create your own niche.
  • Hiring should be an integral part of the manager's OKRs. You can set your goals around the number of people reached or converted, or more simply around filling the position in a reasonable time. However, these metrics do not take quality into consideration.
  • Most companies are slow at hiring and that should be one of your advantages. A hiring committee can impede the decision and any more decentralized mechanism will be faster. Even if you are not entitled to make the final decision you can initiate the process.
  • There is no conclusive procedure that weeds out the stronger performers during the interview. What we have learned is that experience, education, language proficiency, etc. do not entail better performance. But the number of teams within our company does. The more teams you have been on, the better performer you are. This is why we allow and encourage engineers to move around the company.

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