Hacking Hiring

Congratulations! You got the job.
We will get back to you soon.
Can you join us next week?
What are your salary expectations?

As working people we have all heard these statements quite often and if you haven’t heard of it you are either a student who will most probably hear it quite soon or you are a filthy rich businessman who never worked a job in your life (just kidding). Now if you are on the other side of the board, the one who is doing the hiring, this is the article just for you, you could be the HR manager, the HR associate, the development team lead, or the development manager, it does not matter because it concerns all of you.

Now, typically there are a few ways that are common with hiring. The cold calling technique as in every other cold calling marketing where you go through a list of candidates and simply do a cold call without knowing the actual competencies. This might work a couple of times, but most often it does not since you don’t really have a true target, you are simply shooting in the dark. The second one involves shooting a cold mail containing a very generic message to huge mailing list, “Dear Bla Bla, We have an opportunity for a Bla Bla in our Bla Bla company and we need the following Bla Bla competencies”, or something like “We need a 5 year experienced person with a list of competencies at an expert level only a hard core person of 10 years of experience can have” and getting responses from interested individuals, which does work certainly better than the previous list, but you would have to really sift through all the profiles quite rigorously given that you will have tons of people who would simply apply for the job just because they need it to get that offer and show off to their manager for a raise.

With all the above techniques, there is one major flaw. They are all passive at best, involves very little time to write the email or to make the call with all the generic descriptions and the salary tagline. You tend to lose multiple precious hours just sifting through the profiles to find candidates who match the generic job descriptions, and then the development leads or the managers tend to lose another couple of multiple hours trying to get a fit from within those profiles that have already been sifted and at the end of the day if you are lucky out of a hundred profiles you might just find one. Or if you are exhausted, you might end up finding a couple of mediocre candidates who don’t really fit but you simply want them to fit the description because of your project quotas.

This is truly a terrible way to go about hiring people, because not only you lose precious time and energy but also the chances that you hire a candidate who does not fit your profile and you end up losing business as once you hire the candidate, you realize that they are not a good fit and that’s not even the worst part of the story. The worst part is when you start searching for a replacement for that specific candidate with the exact same technique as the above. What an irony. You are truly locked in the matrix.

Well, after more than 8 years of being a software engineer working in multiple roles and being involved in hiring lots of candidates to build existing teams or teams from scratch I have learnt quite a few things that could really be helped in the hiring process, the method of truly hacking the process of hiring.

Firstly, when going forward with hiring, you should know what you really are hiring for, the job description, all the technologies, tools, processes that are part of it. It is not a necessity that a single person knows all of it, but instead remember that we are all human beings, and therefore for everything in the job description, also have alternatives ready, not that every single thing can be substituted, but you can definitely have a couple of substitutions. For example, having to use Git as the version control can be substituted with something like Bitbucket, or anything else as long as the person has used some sort of version control in a very process specific manner.

Secondly, you should search for candidates who have all these skills on various platforms like Github, Stackoverflow or Linkedin. I know I am being partial towards the IT industry, but every industry has their specific platforms in general where their counterparts gather online or even offline. People who have some sort of identity on these platforms in the most rudimentary forms are still some of the possible candidates that can be approached.

Next, job fairs, hackathons, industrial events which cross lines with what your company does, are great places to meet potential high-powered candidates. Or be the hosts to such events and the candidates will automatically flock to you.

Do not look only for a specific skill fit (code/technology fit), but also look for a behavioral fit for the team that you are hiring for. Analyze the team that you are already hiring for, make sure to know their behaviors first before venturing out for your next candidate. Focus on basic behavioral interviews first which could be disguised as informal meetings just so that you can catch the candidate in their most natural environment. Make sure that the candidate aligns with the behaviors of the teams that you are hiring for.

Do not underestimate the power of poaching candidates from other companies. Research your competitor companies, find out the technologies that they deal with. Know their technical stacks, find out various combinations of different technical skills. For example if you are hiring for a software network developer you should possibly be looking at companies who deal with such work such as Cisco, Brocade, Broadcom, Qualcomm, Intel, etc and target such candidates from these companies.

These are the basic hiring hacks you can perform, or even use as part of your hiring strategy. I have done these while hiring for my teams before and they worked wonderfully. I hope that they do work for you as well.

If you are looking for more ideas and strategies, comment in the posts, join my twitter feed and message me, subscribe to my newsletter or even find a way to email me.

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