how to screen tech candidates

Key Things to Consider When Screening a Technical Candidate

Vik Bogdanov
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The recruitment process can be tricky and there is always the risk of hiring the wrong person. This is what makes screening an important component of the hiring process as you can easily end up wasting your time and money.

Having said that, it’s also good to note that most companies fail when it comes to a well thought out screening process. Sometimes the screening process can even alienate top talent, so it’s necessary to take steps to tweak it and get it right. 

Why do Many Companies Fail at Effectively Screening New Hires?

Reference checks are important, but a lot of companies fails to take this simple step. Another dimension to the problem is the fact that a lot of candidates list colleagues as references instead of supervisors rendering the reference worthless.

If you want to make sure that you hire the right technical candidate, it’s time that you approach the task of checking references in a whole new manner.

For a start, you can call the references early instead of later in the hiring cycle where the company has already settled on the candidate. Further, if the candidate failed to provide an appropriate reference, do your homework and track down a former supervisor.

The conversation that you have with a former supervisor will give you insight into the candidate’s technical ability and personality traits that will indicate whether they will work well in your team. So it’s important to also ask questions about their interaction with coworkers and managers.

But the most important aspect of this conversation will be questions about how they reacted to feedback.

Finding a former manager won’t be that hard and there might even be a chance that one of your current employees has worked with them before or knows someone that did. So make sure that you check their LinkedIn profiles before calling anyone.

Engaging in this process will either reassure you that you’ve made the right selection or put up a red flag that makes it necessary to reevaluate things. If you’re working with a recruitment agency, make sure that they follow through with the process just as requested.

A simple way to do this would be to ask for detailed notes about their conversations with supervisors or ask if they would allow you to speak to the former supervisor directly.

Beyond Tech Skills, a Cultural Fit is also Important

Even if you found top talent, a cultural fit will be important as it will dictate if this match would work or not. For example, if the candidate had a great work ethic that was supported by technical knowledge, but didn’t respond well to feedback, you have a massive problem.

If you hire someone that’s not going to grow from feedback, you’re going to have plenty of problems down the road that will impact the team’s overall productivity. As a result, it really pays to slow down the recruitment process and try to find out as much as possible about the candidate.

Some Screening Tips

Screening technical candidates is much more than an interview, test, and a reference check. It’s rather a full package that is designed with a series of checkpoints to help you better understand the potential new hire.

Testing is a good way to ascertain if the individual has all the right skills for any situation, but it’s not for everyone. This is primarily because testing isn’t always a great reflection of one’s true abilities or how well they will work for you.

One thing to note here is that your candidate is also evaluating you while you are evaluating them, so you also have to approach testing carefully as, let’s face it, most people hate taking tests. Done incorrectly, you can also give your candidate the wrong impression that you lack confidence in their abilities.

But what if you’re recruiting for a high-level position that doesn’t even lend itself to testing?

A multiple choice test in this context will be a massive fail. So in this scenario, it’s better to approach someone with a similar background and expertise to talk to them in person. They will be able to give you a good indication as to whether the person knows their stuff or not.

Regardless of the position, you have to try and get the candidate invested in the screening process or else it could feel like limbo in an HR nightmare. If you help them understand that all you’re trying to do is figure out if it will be a “good fit” for them and your team, it will be easier to add value to the whole process.

All this must be done while managing their expectations, so inform them right off the bat about the screening timeline and stick to it.