Realistic hiring practice for engineers

Original author: Sam Dunne
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Hiring engineers can be a difficult, tedious and cumbersome procedure. Candidates read books , how to pass an interview, which indicates the maturity of existing methods. We hire professionals to create a product, not to re-implement old algorithms. I have not yet seen a programmer who writes every day with a marker on the board without access to the Internet to test his decisions.

In this blog, I will discuss the hiring process that we developed in Qstream.

Job responsibilities

The job spec (job spec) is an extremely important aspect of hiring, because it is usually the first impact on a potential candidate. If you do not make an effort here, then you worsen the chances of attracting talent.

When we first compiled such a description, we studied the experience of various companies that are considered industry leaders. As a result, we came up with a format that we believe is meaningful and clear, not only for engineering positions, but also for any others. Below is an example of the structure.

About vacancy

Job description (role) is the most important part of the specification, since it details what the candidate expects from the position. This section is your step towards the candidate. You must be sure that you present yourself correctly.

About Us

This section is used to describe who you are as a company and what you provide to customers. I propose to use the help of the marketing department staff to compile this section and verify that the description has been agreed for all posts.

About you

Here you set some expectations, it is important to do it openly and honestly. Too often, there are demands for a decade or more of experience with technology that has barely turned three years old. It spoils the impression of you in the eyes of the candidate.

Review all previous requirements every time you post a new job. Do not expect one option to suit everyone. For example, is a four-year experience really needed, or is a two-year enough experience? Is a PhD degree or higher education required? Maybe industry experience is enough?

Ask the question: “Is this necessary?” For each item. If you cannot convince yourself of the answer, remove the requirement.

Candidate Guide

In my opinion, one of the biggest problems of existing practices is how employees of a company communicate with a candidate during hiring. It is usually passed from person to person, due to which there is no continuity and, depending on the culture of the company, discomfort may arise in the first week of work.

To solve the problem, we introduced the concept of "candidate guide." In general, this person - someone from the company who is responsible for all communications with the candidate, reports all the information about who is being interviewed, where to go and when to be there. For successful candidates, he acts as a guide in the first week of work. He is responsible for getting to know the team, introducing the newcomer to the entire office, helping with any questions or problems. This process allows the employee to get used to his new role with the support of a familiar person.

Five principles

We identified five necessary principles for this process:

  1. Hiring based on realism.
  2. Be indulgent to the quality of a resume.
  3. Be attentive to the candidate.
  4. Open the interview process for the whole team.
  5. Chat outside the office.

1. Hire based on realism

Make sure that the tasks for the candidates are realistic and relevant for their job.

As I mentioned in the introduction, many technical interviews offer unrealistic problems, such as:

  • Print all line permutations.
  • Implement an algorithm for reversing a single linked list
  • Reversal of integer bits

These kinds of tasks, usually solved on the board, do not suit us very well for two reasons:

  • Most of the software development work does not use any of the above.
  • In all the software development work I have a laptop and google

2. Be indulgent to the quality of the resume

Subjectivity is the enemy when it comes to evaluating resumes.

If you can read and understand the summary, but reject it because you don’t like the format, then you miss a lot of talented people. Here a clear scoring mechanism will help, I will tell about it below.

Bertram Wooster and Ernestine Anderson recruited their teams. Bertram hired interns to work in retail stores, Ernestina hired software developers to create a new supply chain. Ernestina asked: “Bert, I have hundreds of resumes, how to choose from them suitable for an interview?”

Bertram smiled. He grabbed a stack of resumes and began to sort them: the first back to the heap, the second to the basket, the third to the table, the fourth to the basket. When finished, Bertram got rid of half the summary: “Very easy,” he said. “Just don’t take unlucky people to work.”
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3. Be attentive to the candidate

The more comfortable the candidate feels, the sooner he will show his best qualities.

Remember the last time you looked for a job. You probably worked at another company at the same time ~ 40 hours a week, interviewed several companies at the same time, and you had your own life outside of work.

For most of us, changing jobs will be an incredibly tense and scary experience. It is unreasonable to expect the candidate to drop everything in order to focus on you - so you will not make a good impression. Be attentive to his time, simplify all interactions, allow people to postpone work until the weekend or early next week. Ask at each stage whether this is a fair and reasonable process.

4. Open the interview process for the whole team.

Everyone on the team will work with the person you hire. Therefore, it makes sense to involve them in the process.

Ultimately, it is important that each person on the team takes part in the interview process in one form or another. For example, each candidate can be assigned a new guide.

5. Chat outside the office

The less a candidate is nervous, the more productive the time will be with him.

Everyone knows the old joke about IT people without social skills.

- Hi, I'm an engineer. That is, I have a great potential for employment and I can fix things around the house.
- What are your social skills?
“Wow, you can't demand the impossible.”

Of course, this statement is not true ( mostly ).

Be sure to leave each office for a while out of the office. Do not do this interview, help the person feel comfortable.


1. Guide selection

It's time to choose someone responsible for the candidate. Make sure the guide has the appropriate experience and knows what to do.

2. Study summary

The only way to avoid subjectivity is to create a scoring system for this job. Specify the number of points for each item: from more important to less important, and rate each resume as it is. For us, this turned out to be a reliable and objective way to check resumes.

3. Telephone

First we call each candidate to talk about our interview process, company and vacancy. This gives the candidate the opportunity to ask questions or refuse. The call is not needed for dropouts. Everyone proceeds to the next stage of the process, if they wish.

4. Terms of Reference

Technical interview should be as transparent as possible. The goal is to give the candidate the maximum chance of succeeding in it. Assignments must reflect reality. Your employees know what requirements need to be met, what a successful result looks like, and have access to the Internet. Therefore, it is clear that the technical tasks are the same.

Together with the task, we report the mechanism of scoring. You may think this is strange, but it turned out that the results are still relevant to our expectations. Usually we look more at how a person approaches the solution of a problem, and not at the result. We specially make the task very large - and ask the candidates to spend no more than an hour. We make it clear that the goal is not to complete the task, but to accomplish everything possible at a given time.

5. Interviews in the office and social interaction

Visiting the office may be uncomfortable for the candidate, but you can organize it differently. In the interview process, not only technical abilities are checked, but also cultural relevance. If someone is nervous, then your duty is to provide a person with a sense of comfort.

This is how we structure candidate time in the office.

15 minutes
Arrive, look around, meet.

15 minutes
Drink coffee with someone from the team. This interaction is completely random. If it's sunny, we usually go to the park with coffee.

90 minutes
Work with the team. During this time, the candidate gets an idea of ​​our dynamics, and we understand his approach to daily work. We encourage the candidate to ask questions and ask for help if it is needed. The candidate is invited to somehow rely on the previously submitted task. We can provide a laptop or allow a person to work on his own, as it is more convenient for him.

15 minutes
Meet the technical director. In the conversation, you can honestly discuss the culture and direction of the company.

15 minutes
Meeting with someone from the personnel department (People Operations) to discuss the company and its benefits.

10 minutes
The final session summarizing the work of the day and the impressions of the candidate. We give him the opportunity to clarify his decision and tell about his approach.

6. Decision making

When the candidate left the office, the group meets in a room for discussion. This usually includes the candidate's guide, team leader, personnel department and technical director. We discuss the candidate and decide whether to make a proposal to him or not. We always report the decision the next day and constructively tell our observations about the work of the candidate for the day, regardless of whether we make him an offer or not.


Feedback is an important point that I have not yet described. We not only give candidates constructive feedback at every stage, but encourage them to do the same. This information helps to develop the process so that it remains competitive.


I can summarize a few key conclusions from this article:

  • Simplify the process for the candidate
  • Provide feedback at all stages, regardless of progress.
  • Use scoring for maximum objectivity.
  • Ask for an opinion about you and your process - and change the procedures if required

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