By this point in the pandemic, we’ve all gained an increased appreciation for keeping our employees safe and happy. Far better to have a talented staff member working from home if — at least for now — they feel more comfortable there. An increased sense of security often leads to a corresponding uptick in productivity, too.
Whether you are interviewing for a remote or in-person coding position, though, you have your work cut out for you. Hiring is an expensive task, and you’ll want to keep the investment of your company’s recruitment resources to a minimum.
Conducting code interviews in real-time is the best way to eliminate those who would “fake it ’til they make it” — on your company’s dime. But by that point, you’ve already made a significant investment in the applicant. What you need is a way to sift out those who have overestimated their abilities and/or capacity to learn so you’re interviewing only the most qualified candidates.
The guidelines below can apply to the hiring of any position, but they help address some of the issues unique to the coding space. If you follow these principles, you’ll create a hiring process that is manageable for the honest but daunting for the fakers.
1. Assume the worst (sort of)
This guideline may seem harsh, and it probably runs contrary to your personality. However, any veteran coder will be familiar with (and unoffended by) this axiom. After all, the internet is chock-full of bad actors; assuming malevolent intent is a required safeguard for writing unhackable code.
That said, apply this attitude only to your review of application materials — not your interactions with the candidate. We all want to think the best of people, but adopting a healthy skepticism while evaluating documentation can spare your company a lot of pain.
2. Ask for — and check — references upfront
We’re more likely to trust a person if they have someone who can vouch for them. That’s why you should insist that all applicants provide at least three professional references when making their initial application. Let candidates know that your interview process requires random checking of all references.
You’re not trying to scare off qualified applicants; you’re simply showing that your interview process is rigorous. While evaluating application materials, keep a spreadsheet that lists all applicants. Divide the reference checks among two or three members of the interview team, with each checking at least one for every qualified applicant. By bringing multiple points of view to the task, you give team members another tool for comparing and contrasting their overall impressions.
3. Take note of any inconsistencies
Since you’re already using a spreadsheet, set aside one column for each applicant where your interview team members can jot notes for follow-up. Anything that prompts a “Huh?” from someone on the team should show up in this space. Use those notes to formulate questions that call attention to discrepancies without being judgmental.
Use open-ended questions whenever possible. You want your high-value applicants to remain comfortable while giving any posers exactly the amount of rope they need to hang themselves. You might ask:
- What can you tell our team about this particular gap in employment?
- What was it like to pursue this advanced certification while working full-time?
- We noticed that the app you developed is no longer in production. Why is that?
4. Track every applicant’s digital footprint
This part of the pre-screening process may make you feel a bit “stalkerish.” Calm down. Any informed coding applicant will expect you to run an online search of all information available to the public.
LinkedIn is a great place to begin, but don’t stop there. Poke around social media for anything the applicant has posted or even what others have posted about that individual. Social media being the dumpster fire that it often is, you should give the candidate the (relative) benefit of the doubt. However, do pay attention to patterns.
Something posted when the applicant was 14 can likely be overlooked. Did something post last week? Probably not. Your corporate culture definitely comes into play here and may well disqualify an applicant for non-work-related reasons. Better to make that call now, before you invest in a first interview.
5. Schedule your first voice or video call
Assuming a candidate has survived your screening processes thus far, it’s time to schedule the first interview. Use this process as yet another opportunity to make secondary observations about the applicant. Note the particulars of the scheduling back-and-forth in another column of your spreadsheet.
Did the applicant seem enthused? Were there any problems with finding a suitable time? Did the person show up on schedule and follow instructions received in advance? Your company’s list of questions will vary, certainly. Consider the level of contact this employee would have with customers as a guiding principle alongside the non-negotiables of your work culture.
Also Read: How Can You Hire A Hacker-Here Are The Steps
The pandemic has changed the way a lot of good workers approach their jobs. Many valuable employees have chosen to do more work from home, and that’s fine. However, remote work and remote interviewing can create a lack of clarity when trying to evaluate a programmer. Does this person have a strong work ethic? Can they be trusted to deliver — both with remote work and in-person, post-pandemic?
An uncompromising process of evaluating application materials prior to engaging with applicants can bring red flags to light and keep you from squandering further resources. But that assumes you are committed to paying attention to those red flags. The old Russian proverb still applies: “Trust, but verify.”