4 Secrets To Hiring The Software Engineers You Need

Rhonda Larson

Today, software powers almost everything, and almost every company is a software company. That means if you're looking to hire software engineers, you'll face stiff competition.

To stand out to these highly sought-after candidates – and find the talent that best fits your culture and needs – spend a little extra time planning for this hire.

Here are four areas to focus on before you even approach an engineering candidate.

1. Know Exactly What Kind Of Engineer You Need

Software engineers are as diverse as the products they make. An engineer working in a large company might have deep knowledge of a mature product. One working at a small company with very few engineers might have a breadth of knowledge across many aspects of code.

If you’re hiring an engineer to work at a small company, make sure your candidates are able to work with diverse people, including sales and product teams. When companies are small, everyone has to work together.

 Ask yourself whether you need deep knowledge on a specific topic or an ability to learn fast across multiple topics. Then consider what that answer demands in terms of personality. Know the list of coding skills, business skills, and interpersonal skills that will make the person in this role successful.

2. Decide Who Will Handle The Screening

You will want to evaluate positive interpersonal skills, so don’t be afraid to include business people in your interview team.

At the same time, for deep subject matter expertise, you need to involve someone with the knowledge to challenge the candidate. Make sure to include the right technical expertise in your screening team to properly evaluate the depth or breadth of coding skills you need.

Build out a well-rounded interview team with experts on each attribute. The person who screens for technical competence should not be the same person screening for project management. The reason to do so isn’t because people cannot have both competencies, but because they won’t have time to do both well in an hour-long interview.

3. Create The Right Environment For Evaluation

Many interviewers expect software engineering candidates to perform in unnatural environments. Imagine a typing test conducted on a piece of paper instead of a keyboard. Now imagine what it’s like to code on a whiteboard.

Job candidates, including engineers, are rarely equipped to be successful under stress. If you want a true measure of their skills, alleviate the stress of unnatural environments.

Many online coding solutions facilitate coding interviews. These solutions offer benefits beyond making the candidate more comfortable. Many have compilers so you can see if the code runs. They include code snippets so the candidate does not get caught up writing basic code. They offer playback so you can review what the candidate did or you can share it with other team members after the interview. They even have plagiarism detectors to help you evaluate originality and creativity. And, they have scoring to better provide a quantitative evaluation that allows all candidates an equal opportunity.

4. Help Your Candidates Prepare

Finally, you have just done an immense amount of work to get ready for this interview, shouldn’t you help your candidates prepare, too? Some companies, like Facebook, hire experts to conduct interview prep classes for its candidates.

If you’re interviewing new college grads, they may have no idea how it is different to work versus going to school. Don’t make them guess.

On the other hand, experienced engineers might have specialized in their current job so much that they need a little push to help them learn your languages. Don’t eliminate top talent just because they don’t know exactly the one thing you ask in an interview, if it can be learned. Instead, evaluate for ability to learn in addition to deep expertise (where required).

Successful Hiring For Technical Roles 

To have a successful hiring process, know what you need, know who can screen, create a familiar environment, and provide training when appropriate. These steps will help you build a talented team of programmers and engineers.

Want more hiring tips? Subscribe to The Works, then join the conversation online with @goodhiretweets, @HackerRank and @rhondalarson1 #HiringTips.

Rhonda Larson

Rhonda Larson


Rhonda Larson leads business operations at HackerRank, a company working to flatten the world for engineers and their hiring managers. Before HackerRank, Rhonda drove metrics, process, and strategy at companies like NetApp, Yahoo! and Simply Hired. She started her career with McKinsey after earning a Ph.D. in Chemistry from UCLA.

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