Fantastic tmlidy and where they live

    Hello! My name is Anatoly Panov, I have been working in IT for more than 15 years. During this time, he went from a developer to a headlining team leader. He worked in companies such as Badoo, Lazada. Since the beginning of this year I am in Avito. I lead the development of new projects and the development of verticals Auto and Real Estate.

    At the beginning of my work in Avito, the task before me was to assemble three development teams. Two of them were already partially staffed by developers, but none of them had a technical manager. They needed to quickly find and hire.

    As it turned out, it is not so simple. In addition to the basic requirements for techlides - to be good developers, they must also be good managers, which are even harder to find. Programming can be learned while sitting at home at a computer, and in order to become a good team leader, you need to practice with living people. Find yourself a test team is problematic.

    Today I would like to share my experience of finding and recruiting tmlides. I will tell you where to start, and what process of the interview I came to.

    Where to begin?

    The first thought, of course, was this: let's get rid of the internal candidate. But the transformation from functional teams into cross-functional ones that started 1.5 years ago has already “eaten” the entire reserve. Only one position was able to close from the inside, two more people were to be hired.

    Prior to that, I did not have to engage in hiring Timlide. In my teams, they appeared in a more traditional way: there were always guys who showed themselves well in business, and we raised them.

    It turned out that the process of hiring timlides consists of the same three major steps as hiring developers.

    • Create a requirement profile of the candidate.
    • Find candidates in the market, to understand who among them fit the profile.
    • Conduct an in-person interview.

    I will go through all three stages and tell you what I did at each of them in order to find a suitable candidate.

    Create a candidate profile

    In order to launch a search for candidates for a vacancy, we must have a candidate profile, a document in which it is written that for the position, who we are looking for, the candidate’s goals that will be in front of him in the near future, and the skills that he will have.
    I was lucky: we have already formed the general requirements for the position of the team leader. It is called the “unit development manager,” or abbreviated TUL (from the English technical unit leader).

    Before we talk in more detail about the requirements, I would like to tell you a little bit about how we work out the development, so that it is clear why certain requirements have arisen.


    We started with the usual functional structure. Avito had back-end development teams, frontend, mobile developers, testers. Everything is standard. When it was necessary to do some big task, it was either decomposed, and small pieces went down inside the teams and were prioritized inside, or cross-functional teams were assembled for the task. Over time, it stopped working. It became more and more difficult to prioritize, there were more teams, there was a lot of communication between them. Tasks have ceased to reach production with the speed we need.

    Cross functional teams

    We decided to go to cross-functional teams. We call them units. They are formed around significant parts of business functionality. For example: instant messenger, ad serving, search results, the search engine itself. A unit contains all the competencies in order to drag a feature from the idea stage to production with minimal dependencies on external commands. It includes both technical functions and product in the form of product managers, designers - all those people who prepare us backlog.
    Each unit has two types of managers. The first is the leader unit, its task is to form a backlog for the team and prioritize it. He is responsible for achieving business goals. The second is just the technical head of the unit. He is responsible for what the development team does, for the quality of the code they write, for its security, for planning and achieving the goals. Participates in the formation of the product backlog (its task is to find technical blockers and take care of their elimination in advance).

    Requirements for technical leaders

    What requirements should such a manager meet? Ideal technical leader:

    • has a technical background,
    • can manage people
    • can hire the right people
    • has an understanding of how to build a development process,
    • knows how to develop yourself and the team
    • business outcome oriented
    • able to plan and control the achievement of results.

    It turns out that our TUL is a little more than a timlid in the usual sense. You can ask: "Do all your teams have the same requirements for leaders?". Of course not. The requirements are also influenced by the profile, what the unit is doing, its goals. Teams can vary greatly in composition depending on how great the functionality for which they are responsible. A couple of examples based on the vacancies that I had.

    The first project is Domofond. The team from the start should have been 12 people, we planned to move the development of the Domofond from South Africa to Russia. Plus, we had to rewrite the project from the current technology stack (.NET, Windows Server) to the Avito stack, so that we could further develop and maintain it on our own. We wanted the head of this unit to have practical experience in managing a team of more than 10 people. He had to be good at hiring, and he had to have mobile development experience, because Domofond had two mobile applications written on the Xamarin cross-platform framework.

    The second team is Verticals SWAT. We formed it in order to support testing of business initiatives in Avito verticals (Auto and Real Estate). The task of this team was to quickly make small prototypes, testing business hypotheses. The head of this team had the task to build the development process so that we could quickly deliver and test these business hypotheses. He should have a good understanding of the MVP startup process and requirements for it.

    We are looking for candidates

    So, the first stage is over. We have a candidate profile with which you can go to HR: tell them what we want, sit and happily wait for a bunch of cool resumes to be brought to us.

    Is everything cool? Not. The resume rarely shows the candidate’s real capabilities, his skills, what he can do. I have observed this very often: it seems from the resume that this is a great specialist, but in the interview you understand that this is a mistaken impression. Therefore, at the resume search stage, we simply determine whether we want to communicate with this person in person or not. It suits us by profile (which is formed at the last stage), or not.

    We read the summary

    What do I look at the resume?
    The most obvious is work experience. I looked at candidates from the year: I think that this is the period when a person can fill a sufficient number of managerial cones and get used to this role if he has never done this.

    It often happens that HR brings an “empty” resume: there is only a list of companies in which the person worked and positions. This usually happens because a person is not actively looking for work, they found him somewhere on LinkedIn. Or they bring a resume similar to our candidate profile, but there is information in it that does not say anything specific about a person. "I was engaged in the development of microservices", "I did the service of such and such." But if the company in which the candidate worked is fairly well-known, then indirectly his skills can be judged by public information about the company.

    And the last thing that gives us information is how the candidate himself writes about himself, about his skills. I will give examples.

    The first candidate writes that he was engaged in designing a new sharding scheme, implementing monitoring, optimizing the main project database, and restarting the project on a new platform. A lot of technology and a little about the processes. Apparently, this is a good techie, but we do not understand whether he knows how to manage a team.

    The second candidate writes that he was engaged in analyzing business requirements, preparing tender documentation, and supporting the production process. Nothing about technology, nothing about the team, everything about the processes. Most likely this is a good manager.

    The third candidate was involved in managing the team, doing technical analysis of the architecture, correcting errors, developing the playing coach, recruiting people to the team. Fairly balanced summary. It looks as if all those skills that interest us, he has. I would like to talk personally with such a person.

    After such an analysis, we should have several people who have many coincidences with the profile of our candidate. But sometimes there are people on whose summary it seems that they should approach us, but we still don’t understand whether we want to call them or not - not enough information. There are two more ways from which it can be taken.

    We screen and ask for recommendations

    Screening is a short telephone interview where we ask all candidates pre-prepared questions. According to the answers we want to get an idea about a person, to get the missing information about him. Unfortunately, I will not be able to share any work here, because the bright idea that screening interviews can be conducted for timblids, came to me after the vacancies were closed. But if I did it now, then I would use the advice from the book “Who. Solve your problem number 1 »Jeff Smart and Randy Street. The book is devoted to hiring the right people and there is a separate chapter on how to do screening interviews, as well as a large section on the formation of requirements for your position.

    Another way to collect the missing information - recommendations for the candidate. At this stage, there is no task to collect a full-fledged feedback from his colleagues and the boss about how the candidate showed himself. This can be done at the end, when we already talk to him in person. Here it is just a test of adequacy. Speaking in terms of QA, we do a smoke test and sanity check of this candidate. The important thing: I do it not only for those candidates whose profile is incomplete, but in general for everyone where I can do it. For this, I use only my network of contacts, my friends in these companies, or some familiar colleagues. This is important because it sometimes happens that the candidate seems to be with a good profile, everything is great, but a negative feedback comes to him, which you should listen to.

    The second stage is over. We should have a list of candidates with whom we want to talk. We turn to the most interesting - to face-to-face interview.

    In-person interview

    In our company, face-to-face interviews for managerial positions usually consist of three stages.

    First stage full-time interview

    The first stage is the most common interview with a manager and HR. The task of this stage is to understand whether the profile of the candidate corresponds to what we need.

    If you compare the hiring of the developer and the team leader, then the developer of his hardskill is very easily checked by exam interviews. Looking at how a candidate answers questions, how he solves problems, we can judge his knowledge. The important thing is that if the candidate knows how to do something, he will most likely apply it in his work. With timlidov everything is different. They very often have hardskills as softskills. For example, the ability to give feedback is a hardskill for a timlid, but the skill itself is a softskill. It is very difficult to test such skills in interviews.

    We can ask the candidate: “Can you give feedback?”, And he, of course, will answer: “Yes, I can.” We can try to play a role play with him, ask him to give us feedback, but everyone understands that we are in an interview, and the candidate will most likely give us some kind of socially expected answer. We will never know if he will do the same in real life. Therefore, for managerial positions, the most important thing is not to look at the theoretical knowledge that the candidate has, but on his real practical experience. What he did, what problems he solved, what he encountered, how he overcame difficulties.

    Theoretical questions can also be asked, but only if for some reason the candidate did not have real experience in solving problems from this area. For example, he never hired people, he had a large HR department that did everything for him.
    I will give a few examples of what I ask for an interview, and tell you what we are testing with it.

    Questions about technical background

    The first block is about the technical background of the candidate. I start by asking you to tell about some interesting feature, project, something the candidate did. Further, depending on the answers, you can go into details. You can ask what the architecture of the project was, so that the candidate could tell us, draw on the board. This is necessary to see how he can talk about something complex person who is not familiar with this area of ​​knowledge. You can talk to him about the load, if his project was heavily loaded, and we are interested in this topic. If the candidate talks about the fact that it was just an interesting product feature that was cool from the point of view of the product, you can purposefully ask: “What complex technical projects did you do?”.

    Questions about hiring

    The next block is hiring issues. Did a person ever pick up? If so, what did the process look like? What questions does he ask at interviews? How does he check certain qualities of candidates, what does he look at, what kind of people does he want to hire in the team?

    Questions about managing people

    The third block of questions is about people management. My favorite is: “Have you ever dismissed employees?”. He is cool because it is a difficult and painful story for all participants in this process: for the team leader and for the person he dismisses. And if the team leader has already been through this, then this is an excellent indicator of his experience. Plus, most likely, it will be possible to delve into this story, because the dismissal may well be a flaw in the team leader.

    Questions about the development

    The next block is about development. I ask about how the process was organized in his team, whether he did it himself, or the process was put by someone from above. Accordingly, if he did not do the process himself, does he understand why the process looked that way. Well, if something in the process of developing a candidate did not suit, then it is worth asking if he tried to change something.

    Second stage face to face interview

    We finished with the first stage of an in-person interview. If the candidate passes it successfully, then we conduct the second stage of in-person interviews with the team and stakeholders. Both of my vacancies were in the product teams, and for the team leaders of such teams it is very important to work closely with the product owner and business customer. Therefore, the composition of the participants was just that. When hiring other teams, this step may be different. For example, if this is a platform unit and we want the Timlid to write code, or if we know that the team will not accept a leader who has technical skills worse than its participants, then a deep technical interview can be held here, exactly the same done for developers.
    But I had a grocery team. What is the difference between the first stage of in-person interview and the second? First, a different lineup. At the second stage, the questions may overlap so that we have already asked the candidates at the first stage. But since they are already being asked by other people with a different experience, we will get a different point of view on this candidate. Colleagues can see something that I did not see. Plus, for me personally, this was still a very useful stage in terms of maintaining the hiring bar at the right level, because when the flow of candidates decreases, fewer and fewer people come to the interview, there is a temptation to lower the plan a little and finally take at least someone to close a position. But colleagues who have to work with this person can stop you in time and say: “Think better.” And the bar goes back up.

    The third stage of in-person interview

    The last stage is the protection of the case. This is such a test task for managers. The idea is exactly the same as with the test task for developers: to check how the candidate will behave in a real situation. It is very important to set an example as close as possible to the situation in your team, because only then can you understand how the candidate will behave if he comes to work for you. What did my case look like? I will show on the example of the Domofond project.

    The main part is the current description of the situation in the team, the composition, technology, skills, projects that are currently in work, goals and plans for the near future for the team and the candidate. And some restrictions, if any.

    The main things that the candidate should have covered in our case is to offer the option of transferring the project to the Avito technology stack, to argue why such a solution was chosen. Present the roadmap of the transfer and the plan for the first 100 days of work.
    Key success criteria were as follows. The transfer had to be completed within six months, making maximum use of Avito infrastructure platform technologies. The project was supposed to stay within budget. And the migration had to go with a feature-frieze with a maximum of one sprint.

    These are screenshots of a real presentation that was defended by the candidate of the Domofond project. It usually takes about two weeks to prepare for it. The presentation takes 20-30 minutes. About the same time we devote to the question and answer session.

    The last stage is over. At this point, we should have a candidate to whom we would like to make an offer. On this one could finish ... But there is one more stage.
    Sometimes it happens that everyone liked the candidate, he is very cool, we really want to see him at home, but for some reason he doubts, or there are some external circumstances that prevent him from making a decision. For example, he must move from another city, he needs to transport his family, and this is a problem for him. And here we must help him make the right decision for us. I call it "sell a job."
    I had a case when everything was cool, we liked the candidate, he liked us, but he could not decide on the release date. He told us: “I will come to you in two or three months. I need to finish the project I'm working on. He is very important, cool. I'm not sure when we're done. ” We called him to the office for the final final meeting, answered all the questions the candidate had not answered at that time, spoke up the situation, agreed that he would be able to help his team during working hours, he would have the opportunity to submit the project along with in general, we were ready to assist in every possible way. They gave him an offer, agreed that he would come in a month. He accepted the offer, came out ... and in the end did not take advantage of our offer, because they passed the project on time.


    In conclusion, I would like to stress that I learned from this experience something interesting and useful.

    • Firstly, if you have the desire and ability to teach and raise a candidate, then it is always best to do it from the inside. The story of internal career growth is always better than you will constantly hire tmlidov.
    • Secondly, it is necessary to do screening interviews by phone. This thing will help reduce the number of candidates you call for an in-person interview and that you clearly don’t fit.
    • Thirdly, for experience-based management positions, interviews are much better and more useful than theoretical interviews. It’s harder to lie about experience; it shows better how a candidate will behave in similar situations in the future.
    • Fourthly, for me personally, the protection of the case proved to be a new and extremely useful tool. I knew that such things were done for candidates for managerial positions in non-technical areas, but for IT specialists I did it for the first time, and the tool turned out to be very useful. He can help the candidate to reveal himself, to tell in detail how he sees his work in the future. It was the defense of the case that became decisive in the choice of the future colleague, because his story as closely as possible coincided with what we expected. And we made him an offer.

    That's all. Thanks for attention. If you have questions, write comments, I will try to answer them.

    PS I covered this topic in the report on Saint TeamLead Conf 2018, here are the slides .
    For registration used icons under the authorship of Becris and Freepik on Flaticon .

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