Employer’s Guide to Recruiting Top Tech Talent
Hiring experts who fit the organizational culture and understand the company’s business goals is more complicated than people think. Candidate expectations also evolve, and working for companies that invest in employee growth becomes a top priority for many professionals. Consequently, a job interview is no longer just a way to assess candidates’ skills and ensure they fit the company. It’s also about convincing candidates for IT jobs in high demand that joining your company benefits them.
This guide to recruiting top tech talent is intended primarily for company leaders and managers involved in the recruitment process. Still, some of its contents may also interest recruiters and HR specialists. Read further to learn about best interview practices, common pitfalls to avoid, assessing candidates’ skills and experience with the STAR approach, and top questions to ask during the job interview. But first, I will explain why employers and managers should play an active role in recruiting new employees.
Reasons to participate in the recruitment process
Sometimes the managers who will become the candidate’s new direct supervisors are not serious enough about the recruitment process. It happens that they don’t prepare for it at all. Among various possible reasons, the two most common are the lack of time and underestimating their own impact. Unfortunately, managers’ insufficient involvement often leads to extended Time to Fill and, occasionally - a bad hire.
The truth is that no one understands your team better than you, and nobody else can satisfactorily evaluate a candidate’s fitness for your working style. That said, interviewing everyone would be a huge waste of your time. The recruitment team should be responsible for the initial assessment of the candidates’ expertise. With their assistance, you’ll only need to consider a couple of top candidates.
By actively participating in the recruitment process, leaders can select candidates with the right approach and the strongest potential to augment their team’s current capabilities. Interviews are great for learning about a candidate’s temperament, motivation, and aspirations. Meeting someone in person also enables you to evaluate their expertise and avoid bias.
Reason #1: Learn the candidate’s approach
As a leader, you are uniquely equipped to assess if an interviewee has a mindset or the personality traits you seek. Sometimes, you need a person who can help you unify your team. Other times, someone with a critical approach and the ability to give constructive feedback will be a better addition. When meeting candidates, you get to learn about their principles, beliefs, and perspectives. Only you can determine whose point of view can effectively complement what your team already has.
Reason #2: Verify your first impression to avoid biases
When a candidate’s resume meets all your expectations, you might be tempted to make a quick decision in favor of that person. But a well-crafted resume is not always an objective representation of reality. On the other hand, a fantastic candidate may have a subpar resume that doesn’t represent their expertise accurately. Participating in a job interview allows you to revise any biases resulting from your initial impressions. Working with the recruiter and considering their notes and tips may give you useful clues about issues that require more scrutiny.
Reason #3: Evaluate the candidate’s skills
An interview is the only sure way to figure out if someone really has what it takes for the job. By asking relevant questions about someone’s experience and carefully listening to their answers, you will learn more about that candidate’s qualifications than in any other setting. To discover what questions you should ask, check out the candidate’s LinkedIn and GitHub profiles, go over their blog or website, and re-read their resume before the interview. Being well-prepared and curious is also a great way to build rapport with candidates and convince them to join your team.
Reason #4: Determine fit with company culture
Best candidates not only possess the skills and experience your team needs but also align with your company’s values and identity. A startup worker could be too laid-back for a more buttoned-up bank environment. Or maybe they are looking to fill a position in a financial institution because they were too businesslike for a startup. During the interview, you can learn how the candidate feels about your company’s way of doing things and figure out if they fit in.
Reason #5: Understand the candidate’s goals
When hiring someone, it’s equally important to consider where your company is now, as well as where you want to see it in a year. Interviewing candidates will help you find those whose aspirations and dreams align with your company’s strategy. Asking the right questions can decrease the chances of hiring someone who will leave your company in 6 months to attempt an entirely different career. Or become unhappy due to certain changes you already know will happen.
Save your valuable time by working with expert IT recruiters and minimize the number of interviews needed to find a perfect employee. Contact us!
Best practices for interviewing candidates
You may be a great speaker and leader, but job interviews are a different form of art. To make the best of them, you must be well-prepared and know what you want from the conversation. On top of that, you have to understand what the candidate wants to get out of it.
As you evaluate the candidate, they also evaluate you, the position, and the company. To make them want to work with you, treat the candidate as you treat clients or partners. Since you demand respect, you should also respect the candidate. Candidate’s experience throughout the recruitment process will influence how they (and their network) perceive your company. Even one lousy interview can seriously harm otherwise successful employer branding efforts. Follow the tips below to ensure candidates leave the interview with a smile on their faces.
Optimize the job posting
Before the recruitment process starts, meet with the lead recruiter and make sure the job description, duties, and qualifications are optimized for the role you want to fill.
The interview’s length will change depending on the number of questions you want to ask. Always plan accordingly to make time for detailed answers and remember to leave space for the interviewee’s questions. If you’re going to interview a couple of prospects in one day, make sure to schedule at least 15 minutes between the interviews to make notes or simply rest a bit. You can also use the 15 minutes as a buffer if an interview takes longer than expected.
You can’t just wing a job interview. Doing so will only put you in a bad light and waste everyone’s time. Take the 5 steps below to ensure the interview serves its purpose and doesn’t make you look unprofessional.
- Re-read the job description and make a list of topics you want to focus on. Think about what skills the perfect candidate must have. Consider what makes these skills essential and how they will be used.
- Write down the questions you want to ask. Follow the STAR approach described in a further section of this guide to skillfully judge the candidate’s competencies.
- Review the candidate’s resume to gain a better understanding of their work experience and ask more detailed and relevant questions.
- Reflect on probable questions the interviewee can ask you. Typically, candidates inquire about the company, the project, and the purpose of the role.
- Practice pitching your organization. One of your goals is to convince the candidate that this is the job they desire. You want them to be excited about the idea of working with you.
Meetings with an agenda are more productive, so you should always create a structure for the interview. Free-flowing conversations are great, but without a plan, some things may fall through the cracks. By following a plan, you will stay focused and address all points you want to cover with the candidate. A simple agenda can look like that:
- Set the stage. Introduce yourself, and ask the candidate to do the same.
- Share information about the company.
- Share information about the role’s responsibilities and fundamental characteristics you seek in a successful candidate.
- Start asking questions.
- Ask about previous relevant experience. Try to be specific.
- Ask the candidate if they have questions.
- Explain the next steps and say goodbye.
Make the candidate feel comfortable
Interviews can be nerve-racking for all participants. The candidate’s decision will impact both their career and your company. To reduce the negative impact stress may have on your conversation, strive to create an atmosphere where you and an interviewee can feel at ease and speak openly. Start by briefly describing the interview, including its expected length and a broad summary of the topics you’ll cover. Remember to smile and be friendly. You will get more valuable answers and learn more about their personality.
Sell the role and the organization
The best talent is difficult to find, and convincing them to tie their professional goals to your company is even more difficult. Once you are convinced that the candidate meets your expectations, dedicate a part of the interview to convincing them why this opportunity is worth it.
To persuade the interviewee, share the company’s vision, describe growth opportunities, and explain how the role will evolve. If a candidate is perfect for the role, consider proposing an additional meeting with someone from your team. Who could be more convincing to join the team than someone who already did?
Be curious and open
Every candidate is different and has something unique to offer. It will help you to learn about their uniqueness if you ask follow-up questions to dive deeper into their previous experiences and learn about their ambitions. Remember that employees contribute not only their skills but also the values they believe in. For example, if a candidate is active in their community, they might be great at building team spirit, which will impact everyone’s output. Strive to connect the past with the future when interviewing candidates. Consider how someone’s past experiences can influence their future behavior, and a short interview can provide you with more information than you could anticipate.
An objective comparison of candidates necessitates using the same process, criteria, and questions for each of them. This way, the information you gather is structured to facilitate accurate evaluation. The common framework will also help in avoiding unconscious bias. Some people are great at making unforgettable first impressions, but when you ask them more detailed questions, the lack of practical experience comes out. Others went to prestigious colleges, worked at well-known companies, and had impressive titles, but their actual skills are inferior to a less memorable candidate. By comparing candidates’ answers to the same questions, you will better understand which one has the most suitable expertise.
Write down details
When it comes to recruitment, too much relying on your memory is a mistake. Talking with at least a few candidates who all give similar answers to the same questions can make it difficult to remember who exactly gave the best answer to which question. You should always take notes from all interviews. Write down the essential information and key facts you learned and create a scorecard to evaluate candidates’ responses efficiently. Tell the candidates that you’ll be taking notes to put them at ease.
Pay attention to body language
Body language offers hints about whether the candidate is honest or not. In an in-person interview, you can learn a lot from candidates’ gestures, tone of voice, and how they sit. With online interviews, note whether the candidate is looking at different screens.
Listen to what the candidate says
Active listening is a skill that every leader could benefit from. In the case of recruitment, an interviewee who receives your full and undivided attention is less likely to resign from the process. Avoid asking about things the candidate has already discussed, as it comes off as disrespectful. Be as engaged as you want the candidates to be.
Ask follow-up questions
People tend to exaggerate their accomplishments both in real life and in recruitment processes. Asking a follow-up question about a candidate’s role in the project they just described will give you much more accurate information about their experience. Ask about their daily tasks, to whom they were reporting, and what was their most significant personal contribution to the project. For example, after asking how they solved a problem in a previous role, follow up by asking what process they followed or with whom they worked. Ask open-ended questions to learn how the interviewee thinks.
Ask about short-term roles
People tend to think that someone who changes jobs frequently can’t be a good employee. However, rejecting candidates just because they didn’t fit in somewhere else or were only contracted for short projects is not a good idea. The IT job market is tough, and switching jobs often is commonplace. Startups open and close almost every day. Established businesses compete for a select handful of expert candidates. IT experts are needed in all industries, and an insurance company has a very different culture than a warehouse.
Don’t act on the bias. Ask the candidate about the reasons for frequent career shifts. Try to learn why they left and assess if a similar situation may happen in your team. Inquire about their career goals. Maybe in previous companies, they didn’t have a chance to grow. Consider their aspirations and whether your company can support them in the long term.
Answer the candidate’s questions
The interviewee wants to learn a bit about the job, your company, and their role within it. Before you finish an interview, you should always ask the candidates whether they have questions or concerns. Answering those is another opportunity to “sell” them the role and the company. If a candidate doesn’t have questions, tell them to email you in case anything pops up. It’s a simple thing that results in more involvement and better candidate experience.
Share the next steps
Before you part ways, explain the subsequent steps. Don’t leave the candidate worrying about what happens next. Tell them when to expect an email, what the next steps in the recruitment process look like, and when you will share feedback with them. If you have the information, share the timeline for filling the position. Keep deadlines realistic, stick to them, and notify the interviewee in case of delays.
End the interview on a positive note
When finishing, thank the candidate for meeting you and recognize the time and effort they invested. Say what you liked about the conversation and whether they impressed you. Being nice to candidates impacts your employer branding and pays off if you choose this candidate.
Provide timely feedback
At Maxima Consulting, we conducted thousands of interviews, and the one thing that every candidate appreciates is constructive feedback. People want to know what they can improve, and they want that information from experts. If a candidate wasn’t the right fit, use your notes to briefly explain why. Giving advice on how they can improve will make you stand out, as it’s rarely done.
Improve your recruitment process to secure the best candidates. Our expert team will audit your existing workflow and suggest strategies with better results. Schedule a free consultation.
Common mistakes in interviewing candidates
Avoiding missteps is the easiest path to success. That’s why you should learn from mistakes that others made, follow recruitment trends, and continuously implement improvements. You don’t have to use all best practices when interviewing candidates, but make sure to avoid the following mistakes. Even one slip can scare a valuable candidate away.
Mistake #1: Visibly reacting to candidate’s replies
Candidates can see your facial expression. If they give a wrong answer or say something surprising, don’t show it. You risk stressing the candidate out and spoiling the rest of the conversation.
Mistake #2: Scheduling too many interviews
You don’t want to rush an interview. If you can’t focus on the candidate you’re meeting right now, you waste everyone’s time and show a lack of respect. If you have too many interviews scheduled, it’s better to reschedule some of them than to be in a hurry during all of them.
Mistake #3: Reviewing the resume last-minute
It helps a lot if you learn about the candidate before you start talking with them. Allocate enough time before an interview to thoroughly review their resume and find points worth discussing during the meeting.
Mistake #4: Interrupting when candidates speak
Interviews are conversations. Use them to learn about candidates, so you can then make informed decisions on whom to employ. You may also have a lot to say, but when you ask a question, let candidates answer it comprehensively. Interrupting their statements can make them uncomfortable, and you may miss important details they want to share.
Mistake #5: Giving up control over the conversation
Some people are really talkative and easily take control of a conversation, even accidentally. Remember to follow the agenda. If you see that the discussion goes in a weird direction, tell the candidate you are satisfied with their answer to the last question and jump to the following topic on your list.
Mistake #6: Asking inappropriate questions
Some questions shouldn’t be asked in a professional setting, especially during a job interview. Most of these questions are related to gender, religion, sexual orientation, and race.
Mistake #7: Being distracted
Stuff like checking your phone, replying to messages, or browsing the web during a job interview is disrespectful. It won’t matter if you ask the right questions and smile or nod at the right moments if candidates feel you don’t care. Always avoid any kind of multitasking when interviewing a potential employee.
Mistake #8: Complaining
Nobody likes a grouch. When hiring your next team member, avoid negative talk about your coworkers and business. You want to portray your company as a nice place to work and convince candidates to join, not discourage them!
Mistake #9: Forgetting to prepare
You’ve spent time preparing the job description, and the recruiter found the best candidates. Before you meet them, go over the job description once again. Make your agenda and consider possible questions. It’s better to reschedule an interview than try to wing it.
Mistake #10: Involving too many people
Some employers engage way too many people in the interview, which can intimidate a candidate. Limit the number of people in the interview to up to three. The same goes for the recruitment process as a whole. You want candidates to know who is their dedicated contact person and not be overwhelmed. Engaging many technical experts and managers may also increase the cost of recruitment. Instead of working on tasks you pay them to deal with, they will attend numerous meetings that all demand preparations and reviews.
Mistake #11: Overselling the company culture
Cultural fit is undoubtedly significant, but people can change and adapt over time. Sometimes putting too much emphasis can discourage candidates with little comparable experience. Strive to present your company as the perfect environment for them to thrive without sounding like a radio commercial.
Connect with our expert consultants to find ways of making your recruitment process completely error-free. Book a meeting now.
The STAR approach
STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. You can use this approach to gain insights into candidates’ competencies and experience when discussing a project they’ve worked on or a specific implementation.
- First, focus on the Situation. Ask the candidate about specific circumstances in which they used their skills, a piece of software, or something else that’s relevant to the role.
- Second, comes the Task. Ask about the specific tasks the candidate had to perform in the situation. Seek details - you want to know what exactly they were responsible for.
- Follow it up with Action. To learn the candidate’s workstyle, ask them about specific actions they took while executing tasks in the discussed situation. Inquire about the process they followed.
- Learn about the Result. Last but not least, ask about the results of the candidate’s work. Inquire about their work’s impact on the situation, project, and company. Notice whether they connect the results to their individual actions or the whole team.
Questions to ask and avoid during a job interview
Asking the right questions is essential for an interview to be useful. First, focus on questions about the role that call for detailed answers. Describe the role’s significance within the project and let the candidate prove they are the right person to do it. Make sure your inquiries are relevant, specific, and perceptive. Follow up on candidates’ answers and use open-ended questions to identify their priorities and observe the way they think. Then, ask questions that will test their character and emotional intelligence.
A brief list of thorough job-related questions
- How would you solve [a specific problem]?
- Tell me about a time when you had to solve a similar problem in your previous role.
- Can you walk me through the process you followed during the project?
- What was your role in various phases of the project?
- Can you give me an example of when you had to come up with an out-of-the-box solution?
- What do you pay attention to when starting a new project?
- How did you manage your time when working across multiple time zones?
These and similar questions can open up the conversation, creating room for follow-up questions. Every reply you get gives you a better understanding of the candidate’s skills, personality, and approach to work.
Top questions to learn about the candidate’s personality
- How do you stay motivated in your role?
- What character trait you’re particularly proud of?
- Can you give me an example of how you supported other team members who faced a challenge?
- What do you do in difficult situations to manage your stress?
- How did you resolve a conflict at work?
- What would you do if you couldn’t find a solution to a project-related issue?
- Please tell me how you would approach asking other team members for help.
- What were your relationships with other team members at your previous job?
People with high emotional intelligence often have a beneficial influence on other team members and their output. So-called “soft skills” also help in interacting with customers and suppliers. By asking personality-related questions, you will learn whether the candidate has high emotional intelligence, will fit your company culture, and what impact they might have on others. Remember that you look for different characteristics in a junior team member and different ones in an independent specialist. Similarly, a client-facing expert will need different traits than someone internally oriented.
Examples of questions you should never ask
- Where were you born?
- What ethnicity are you?
- Are you religious?
- What’s your marital status?
- Are you pregnant?
- How much did you earn in your previous jobs?
- Do you have any physical or mental disabilities?
Asking inappropriate questions is an excellent way to dissuade a promising candidate from joining your organization. However, simply offending someone is not as bad as getting an employment discrimination lawsuit, which may happen if you risk asking questions prohibited by law. To learn more about what is legally allowed in your country, consult the relevant governmental websites (e.g., Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the USA, Equality Act 2010: guidance page in the UK, article on Equal treatment and pay in the Netherlands).
Red flags to watch out for when interviewing candidates
As a company leader, you strive to hire responsible professionals who will provide value to your organization. One way to ensure that happens is to pay attention to candidates’ behavior and look out for the following red flags.
The candidate is too perfect
Perfection doesn’t exist, and neither does the perfect candidate. Someone who has answers to everything and is confident they’re always right is either a genius or a fraud. It’s better to opt for an honest somebody who can admit when they don’t know something.
They only focus on salary
Candidates focusing predominantly on salaries and job benefits are probably not very interested in your project or their career development. They are probably looking for a job that will not challenge them and an employer who doesn’t care they don’t care.
Their story doesn’t add up
Be careful if a candidate’s resume tells a different story than their LinkedIn profile or other sources. Look for differences in the timeline and skills. It may be just a mistake, so address those concerns openly during the interview and observe their reaction. Consider contacting their previous employers to verify the discrepancies, but before you do it, confirm that you can do it legally. In some countries, such as Poland, you must get consent from the candidate first.
They’re difficult to communicate with
No matter where you work, you must communicate with others. Utilize the interview to assess the candidate’s communication skills. Pay attention to the way they speak and how they convey information. Verify whether the interviewee is listening to you and whether they understand the role. Don’t worry if someone is a bit anxious - job interviews can be stressful.
Conducting your first job interview with a candidate will be the most difficult one. In time, your experience will push you to become a much better interviewer. For now, remember to treat the candidate like you would like to be treated and use the interview to learn about their experience, personality, and ambitions. A comprehensive interview will leave the candidate with a great impression of your company and build enthusiasm for the future.
At Maxima Consulting, we’ve been recruiting tech talent globally for the past 30 years, and we know securing the best candidates may be challenging, especially in niche technologies. Schedule a free consultation, and we will find a way to help you with your struggles.