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Adopting a Recruiting Strategy to Help Find the Best Fit for Your Engineering Team

By Carlos Taborda July 30, 2018 10 mins read

Having a solid recruitment strategy is key to successful team building in engineering organizations of all sizes.

Finding the right fit for YOUR engineering team is not an easy task, and there are many barriers to locating a team member who best fits your organization. In this article, we will cover how to recruit for the best fit for your organization.

Recruiting Process Best Practices

Before you put energy into researching where to post a job or how to source people, you must ask yourself, “How will I know when I’ve found who I’m looking for?” At the foundation of your recruitment strategy, you should brainstorm and define the answers to the three following questions:

  1. Do we want to grow or buy the skill sets needed?
  2. What do we value most in our current employees?
  3. How do I interview to test if a potential employee is a fit?

Do we want to build or buy the skill sets needed?

This question should always be answered first, and the answer will vary by the position you’re hiring for. First, let me explain what I mean by each with regards to company decisions. Buying talent is usually best when a company does not have the potential inside the organization and needs the skills immediately, for a short term project. Building talent is best for when a business has an ongoing need with the ability to train. To answer which is best for you, determine what your needs are. To help guide the decision, I’ll break down each a bit further.

Buying talent gives you someone who is seasoned and can hit the ground running on day one. Whether they have invaluable industry knowledge like HIPPA, have experience building a specific technology stack, or have a rolodex full of contacts to pump in some fresh new opportunities, you can expect results, fast. With this option, you are also able to recruit easily by tailoring your application to include specific technical questions to find the top candidates. The challenges of choosing this option include not only availability, but retention. The higher and more focused the expertise, the smaller the resource pool and the more you might have to give (and keep giving ) in order to retain an employee that fits your needs. These resources are usually monetarily motivated, and, depending on your department budget and pay grades, might cap out quickly and leave the organization sooner than you’d like.

When you have a good amount of experts within the organization, and are looking for succession planning where industry knowledge isn’t the key to an employee’s success, you can look at building your talent. For instance, as you are recruiting you might look for people that have the right education, have worked or interned in the right company, have an amazing cover letter full of passion for YOUR business. The advantage here is you are hiring employees to grow them to their potential. They will mold to your process and there won’t be any mental blockers in how things “should be.” With the right employee attitude and a bit of training, you will have a passionate and loyal employee. They will feel more connected to the business after being mentored and developing over time, and hopefully they will stay for a longer period of time. The challenge is interviewing based on soft skills can be difficult and sometimes you hire a somewhat inexperienced person thinking they have the capacity for the position only to find out they don’t.

There are challenges with every strategy, but when identifying your recruitment strategy be honest about your specific challenges and plan your process to help mitigate them. Keep these challenges in mind as we move to the next question.

What do we value most in our current employees?

The answer to this will fuel your interviewing process directly, as it is the foundation of the company’s beliefs. If you already know what your company values are, use them to identify what to qualify your potential employees with. If you have not identified these core values, take a step back and define those before proceeding.

Here at Gistia, we reviewed our values as a company and talked about how these qualities show in each of our top employees. We then boiled those qualities down to a few factors: Personality, culture and skills. We then ranked these on what was most important to us when adding people to our team. Unanimously we agreed that personality is most important. This was influenced heavily by the fact that we tend to grow our employees rather than buy skills. We believe that personality traits such as trustworthiness, dependability, and ability to collaborate are qualities we cannot teach, but are invaluable. Next we look at whether or not this person will fit into our culture.

These traits often overlap with personality, but are important enough to be measured separately. We are mainly a remote team, therefore, being self driven and responsive are critical. We need employees to unblock themselves where they can, have that “can-do” attitude and find a way to keep things moving. Of course if there is an actual blocker, managers and other team members are there to lend a helping hand, which speaks to our emphasis on the collaborative personality trait. Finally, we look at skills. We want a strong foundation and the desire to learn. Potential employees don’t have to be an expert when they enter on their first day of work, but we do want to leave an interview with the feeling that they will WANT to be an expert and have the capacity to become one.

There are some instances where we have bought skills for projects and roles that current employees are unable to grow into in our time frame. For instance, when interviewing team leaders we prioritize skills over culture, but personality is still essential.

You might read this and be able to walk away with the same strategy behind evaluating employees or you might need to review your values and find your own qualifying factors to measure potential employees against. Either way, before you start to grow your project team or company, you will want to have an idea of what type of characteristics are valued and a complete understanding how your current team reflects them.

How do I interview to test if a potential employee is a fit?

By now you should have an understanding of how the questions you ask relate to the qualities you are trying to find in employees. Here are some tips on how to overcome barriers when it comes to asking the right questions in order to filter down your potential candidates.

Recruiting Process Best Practices

The first barrier is your application process; does your company have a custom application? This can be a quick and easy way to make sure you are focusing your energy on the right people. Next, make sure you are asking questions that are easily exported and filtered in a data context. Here at Gistia, we prioritize the foundational skills needed from a candidate. This includes the budget we have available for the open position, and, since we hire remotely, their time zone. These are items that we cannot be flexible on. We ask these questions so that we do not waste a job searchers time, or our own. Filtering the priority level of potential candidates into high and low potential will streamline the reviewing process with hiring managers. Once a decision is reached it’s time to schedule meetings with the candidates who have the highest potential. Be careful not to reach out prematurely, if you’re not prepared for the interview, you run the risk of burning bridges.

Now that you have an understanding of the importance of catering questions to employees who will best fit your company, let’s start interviewing. By now you should have a standard set of questions to ask every interviewee to see if they are a good fit. For a frame of reference, here are the questions we use because we have found they give the best results.

Recruiting Process Best Practices

  1. Personality
    1. Start with a couple open ended questions on how a candidate would react to a situation: How do you handle an assignment when you know you cannot complete it in time? What would be your process in resolving?
    2. An open ended question on how an interviewee has handled a situation in the past. This one is useful because you want a concrete example of what they have done in the past. You can tailor the question to fit any experience you want them to explain. Seeing their thought process on resolving challenges can show you what kind of person you are talking to: What is the most challenging project you have been responsible for? Why? How did you manage to solve or complete the project? Have you ever worked with a challenging project sponsor/client/team member? What was that like and how did you maintain the relationship?
    3. General questions on describing an interviewee and their work ethic, as well as assessing the interviewees answers to the open ended questions. A great question to ask: (Tell us a little about yourself?) How does the interviewee answer questions?: Do they sound egocentric? Are they clear and confident? Do they mention team accomplishments or working with other people? Do they answer selfishly? Do they have a positive or negative tone? Thinking about these answers will help you to identify if their personality is in line with your company values.
  2. Values/Culture
    1. Ask questions relating to what the interviewee values from an employer. Try to phrase questions in a positive tone. Don’t ask questions about what they don’t like in an employer, but instead try asking: What do you want in your employer? What did you enjoy most about your past employers?
    2. Open ended questions on ideal work environment. Asking these questions will allow you to assess if you will be able to retain an employee or if they will do well with the current culture: Describe your ideal culture; is it team oriented? When reviewing the answer they provide ask yourself: Does he or she want to develop and grow within your company? Were there monetary perks mentioned? Do they prefer a flexible work schedule?
  3. Skills
    1. Generally this section is more straightforward than the other two. Come prepared with a little knowledge of the previous work experience to tailor questions about skills. Ask for a description about the interviewees day to day duties in their last job. As you review their answer ask yourself: Have they supported the skills they listed? What is their level of knowledge behind this skill? Does the skill/experience match your requirements? Does the interviewee have the potential to adapt in the areas they are lacking?

The last barrier we will be discussing can be something that is more of a show and tell. Try giving the interviewee a challenge to complete in a certain period of time. Have them whiteboard a solution relevant to the job. Another option is one that occurs before hiring. By giving the potential new hire a trial period you are able to monitor if they are a good fit. We practice paid trial periods with our employees. The trial period is a limited number of hours per week (around 3-5) where we can introduce them to a context of a project and assign a small task to see how they integrate with the team and allows us to monitor how they tackle the task. The interviewee has the understanding that we are actively making sure they are a good fit for us and we are a good fit for them. This is our final box to check before offering a full time job to candidates. It gives us extra confidence in our hires and keeps our turnover down.

Hopefully after reading this article you come away with a better understanding of how refining and customizing your interview process helps to build a team specific to your needs as a company. When you begin with the decision of buying or building an employee, you allow yourself to take a close look at your needs as a company. After making this decision, it’s time to identify your company culture. A strong understanding of your culture and values as a company go hand in hand with developing a strategy catered to producing reliable results. With the suggested foundational questions identified, you now have the tools to create an interview process catered specific to your needs. Once an employee is hired, there are several options, such as a trial period, for seeing how well they integrate with your company. When interviewing, the process is just as much about them as it is you. At the end of the day, the pulse and success of the company is dependent on culture. These tips are meant to help you discover your potential and ease the recruiting process. Happy hunting.