Recruitment is hard and Interviews are complex

Recruitment is a complex and difficult matter, just like Interviews are far from perfect and are very exhausting both for companies and candidates alike.

Engineers looking for new opportunities have a great dislike for the process. It includes lots of calls, interviews, tests, and more. It’s a common feeling for many that they just took on a second job: looking for work.

Companies, on the other hand, don’t have an easier time with it. They have to sift through loads of resumes, read an insane amount of emails, and answer tons of calls. All in order to decide who they will actually interview in person. There are so many candidates that sound and look the part while many are barely qualified to make coffee in real life.

Common mistakes in interviews

I’ve been involved in hundreds—if not thousands—of these processes and worn multiple hats while doing so, and I’d like to make a few observations and important notes to candidates and companies alike.

First you have to remember: Great interviews don’t mean great hires! Both sides have to remember this, as it’s a critical point! There are many things that you will not know:

  • Will that person be hard-working?
  • Will they not give up when confronted with hard tasks?
  • Will they be able to find creative solutions?
  • Will they be a good coder or not?

There are many other things you won’t know; you’ll only know if the person has potential and how well they do at interviews!

When we interview as candidates and as companies we get very excited about certain opportunities (great cultural fit, amazing performance on interview tasks, everyone seems so nice, the unexpected feeling of a strong work connection, etc.) No matter how logical, measured, or obscure your personal reasoning is about that candidate or company, you won’t really know what it means to work together until you actually work together

None of the big guys do it

Google , Facebook, Twitter and many of the big guys, could have easily sent homework task to all candidates, but they don’t! They spend a day or more with a candidate, they run through code together, and they get a sense for what that person is like. So why are you trying to re-invent the wheel? You’re not going to write you own front-end framework, you’ll use React or Angular, so why not also recruit as they do?

Why homework tasks are silly and what should we do?

Way too many companies send people take-home tasks or, better yet, some silly HackerRank that tests people on solving a problem in a very time-limited manner.

I’m not sure who in The Valley started this and made everyone follow this detached from reality pr.

You’re well-funded? That’s no reason to assign a technical a homework task. Feel free to offer it, as some candidates like it, but your best bet is to spend time with a person, solve a problem, code together, etc.

Since we agreed good interviews != good hires, then why not do your best to simulate the environment of solving a real task at work? Isn’t that what you’d want that person to do anyhow?
Run through some code problem together and get a sense for what it is like to work together.
You’ll see how a person thinks, how he/she tackles hard problems, and gain much more insight than you would from a random test or take-home task.

What is the logic behind sending some obscure test or asking someone to build a software for you for free? Are you trying to miss out on good candidates? Should someone that is busy spend half a day, a day, or even more writing free code to prove that he/she is worthy of employment? Maybe that’s okay for recent graduates, but what about for people with 5–10 years’ experience or more? What profession in the world does that?

I’m a big believer in fairness, and if you ask someone to invest time then be willing to invest the same time yourself as well. While it will be more time-consuming, you will both have the chance to work through a task together and you’ll get a good sense for working with each other.

When homework tasks make sense and how to give them?

Personally, I say only if you’re willing to pay that person for their time and show that you value their time. Say you’re a starving startup—pick a small task, offer it as a stand-alone project, and assuming that the code is good, the candidate would sign over the rights and you might even use it. Then pay them for their time except if, of course, the code is bad and they do not pass.

In the next part I’ll talk about more interviewing tips and suggestions. Stay tuned!
D.