Stop Thinking Like HR When It Comes To Effective Tech Recruiting

When Steve Yegge took the stage at Talent 42–the Seattle based tech recruiting conference and the brain child of Recruiting Toolbox‘s John Vlastelica and Carmen Hudson–his hope was to provoke rethinking the process of hiring technical talent.

While it may have not been mission accomplished (after all, the hiring process is as entrenched as any recruiting function), Yegge pushed back as a recruiting outsider to push back against the status quo. He is, after all, an engineering manager.

To him, the biggest mistake recruiters make is clear: thinking like recruiters and HR people.

Yegge, it should be mentioned, is notable for accidentally posting a scathing review of Google’s social network Google+ in its early days. He did end up keeping his job and maybe that’s one of the reasons why he has a unique take on why the recruiting process is broken.

He focused in on the interviewing process which, as he puts it, has little correlation to real-world performance in most companies. According to Yegge, there are three potential solutions to bad technical interview process:

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  1. Wimpy fix: Optimize your broken interview process. He equated this to fixing your broken parachute by making you fall faster and more efficiently.
  2. Braver fix: Take more risks, recalibrate your interviews and change signal weights. Instead of falling back into old habits and doing interviews the old fashioned way, take a risk with a candidate, fix your interview process to better correlate to performance and change the weight that you put on an interview.
  3. Best fix: Onsite coding labs, offline coding problems, open-source collaborations, professional internships, and contract-to-hire. For technical talent, being able to do the job is much, much more important than being able to talk about doing the job. So real coding problems, both online and offline, collaboration on open-source as well as alternatives to regular employment like professional internships and contract-to-hire are all better solutions than trying to fix an interview process that is inherently flawed.

There was also a wealth of other technical recruiting information shared at Talent 42 including:

  • Jeff Holden, SVP of Product from Groupon and Jocelyn Goldfein, Director of Engineering for Facebook, talked up their efforts to attract world class talent. It was great to hear from people outside of recruiting who both understood the bigger and smaller issues surrounding talent attraction.
  • There was also a very heavy sourcing presence, including SourceCon regulars such as Shally Steckerl and Eric Jaquith doing two very packed hours of standalone sessions as well as a panel that gave a hands-on tutorial on sourcing concepts.
  • There was a great session from Microsoft’s John Phillips about the challenges of scaling talent acquisition and innovation at a behemoth like Microsoft.

For those in tech recruiting, there were a lot of peers in the room to talk to and collaborate with. And with the scarcity of events that come to Seattle, this is one that I definitely won’t miss the next time it comes around.

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