I’ve been an engineer and a recruiter. Hiring is broken. Here’s why… and what it should be like instead.

I’ve been in and around eng hiring for the past 13 years, as an engineer, a recruiter, and a founder of a technical recruiting marketplace (interviewing.io). Over the course of those 13 years, I’ve become increasingly disgruntled at the state of hiring, and now I’m mad enough to write this blog post.

If you’ve ever been on either end of the table, you’re probably mad at the state of hiring, too. Whether you have given it a lot of thought or whether you just feel it deep down, something about the whole process feels off.

But we’ve been doing it this way for so long that we probably take much of how hiring works as gospel, and it’s really hard to tease apart all the different components of the process and examine why they are the way they are. In this post, I’d like to challenge many of the things we assume about hiring, and, perhaps most importantly, I’d like to lay out my platonic ideal for how eng hiring should work. It’s a simple axiom, really:

It should be easy for smart people to talk to other smart people.

Or, another way to put it … if I’m a good engineer, it should be easy for me to talk to a hiring manager at a company I might be interested in, at a time of my choosing. But that’s simply not possible today. Despite the refrain that we’re in a candidate’s market and that there’s a shortage of good candidates, which should mean that candidates should have the power to call the shots, today’s hiring process couldn’t be further removed from this ideal. And it’s not just broken for a specific type of candidate. It’s broken for everyone.

If you’re reading this, you might be an engineering manager, a senior engineer with stellar credentials, a recent bootcamp grad, an engineer from a background traditionally underrepresented in tech, or some combination of these. What’s truly messed up about the status quo is that, regardless of which of these groups you fall into, your journey will be unnecessarily unpleasant. Though the degree of unpleasantness will not always be the same, it’s not about race, seniority, pedigree, or gender … or even which side of the table you’re on. Hiring, in its current incarnation, is broken for everybody.

Why? Let us go then, you and I, into the bowels of the status quo.

A candidate and a hiring manager, never the twain shall meet

Let’s say that I’m a competent generalist engineer who looks good on paper, and I’m thinking that it’s time to look for a new job. What happens next? The idea of having to mount a full-on job search is so daunting. 

I could try some job boards to see which companies are out there. But what would I filter on? I know a lot of programming languages but am not set on having to work in a specific one. How can I tell if I’ll hit it off with the team? I’m applying via a job board to a position I know next to nothing about — will anyone even respond?

Suppose I find some companies where I might want to work. If I’m lucky enough to know someone there, I’ll have to get them to refer me, even though that may not actually do much to speed things along. And if I don’t know anyone there, applying will be an exhausting long shot. Odds are no one will look at my application, and having to redo my resume — or worse, write cover letters — seems like the most tedious kind of busywork.

I guess I can always dig through the recruiter spam I’ve gotten. But do those recruiters still work at the company? If they do, how long will it actually take to get into the process?

Breaking character for a moment, a friend of mine recently got this recruiting email from Google, who has elevated gaslighting to an art form: somehow the fact that it takes two months to get through their process has become a selling point.

Once I do get into the process, why do I have to endure the same intro call ten times with different recruiters who can’t tell me anything about what I’d be working on at any level of depth?

Do I join some platform, create a profile that I copy-paste everywhere (with writing that was just as painful as the aforementioned resume/cover letter) and sort of hope that decent companies contact me … only to have to begin the same recruiter calls over and over again, as above?

Will I have to take some quizzes that drill me on obscure syntax or make me solve toy problems that have no bearing on my engineering ability before I even get to have the aforementioned inane conversation with a recruiter?

If I’m actually good at my job, why can’t I just set up some conversations with companies I think are cool and see if it’s a fit? Why do I have to subject myself and others to an endless parade of vapid conversations and the inevitable busywork that precedes them?

Here’s the truth. Even if I look good on paper and am well-connected, hiring still sucks because of all the noise, uncertainty, and time wasted … but at least I have options. They might not be exactly the right options for me, but at least they exist. On the other hand, if I’m an engineer without a pedigree or a network, my choices are extremely limited, no matter how good I am. Recruiters aren’t reaching out to me, I’m not well-networked enough to have friends refer me, and I definitely don’t hear back when I apply.


Let’s take a look at the other side of the table. Let’s say I’m an eng manager who needs to hire more competent generalists for my team. Having worked as both an eng manager and a recruiter, I can tell you that what happens next isn’t particularly inspiring.

As an eng manager, I sit down with a recruiter and try to explain what I’m looking for. Nine times out of ten, I want a smart person who can get shit done. But, after a farcical game of telephone, somehow those criteria get warped into years of experience with a specific technology or requirements about where the candidate went to school. I also end up with an uninspired, sterile job description that fails to capture the imagination of any candidates who might unwittingly stumble upon it.

My recruiter then goes to any number of sourcing tools of which LinkedIn Recruiter is the ubiquitous, lackluster market leader. They type in keywords I didn’t ask for and filter on credentials I don’t care about to come up with the same homogenous list of candidates every other recruiter at every other tech company is chasing.

They then contact these candidates en masse with generic copy about my team and the hard problems we’re solving. They celebrate single-digit response rates and spend the minimal time left over to give a cursory glance at candidates applying directly.

Why is hiring broken?

So therein lies the ineffectual dance. This is the process we’ve come to accept. As far as I can tease out, the axioms that underlie today’s recruiting best practices go something like this (some of these were told to me verbatim when I was starting out as a recruiter, even):

  1. Thou shalt not engage with active candidates. After all, in this market, strong candidates aren’t looking. Good recruiters build relationships so that when a good candidate does decide to enter the market, the recruiter is there, behind the next doorway, ready to spring!
  2. Engineering time is expensive, so it’s critical to do as much top-of-funnel filtering as possible to make sure that it’s spent on the right candidates.

Are these axioms wrong? The sad truth is … not really. I’ve written in a previous post about how market forces rule everything around me, and recruiting best practices are no exception. In an economy with a surplus of jobs and a shortage of talent, it follows that the best talent is going to be harder to find, engineering time will be expensive, and recruiters in their current incarnation are, dare I say it, a necessary evil. 1

The data supports our current world view. According to Lever (one of the two application tracking systems widely used by startups, Greenhouse is the other), here’s a breakdown of how many candidates from each source it takes to make a hire. Note that here, larger numbers are bad — for many companies, internal referrals are the best source and inbound applications are the worst.

Source: https://www.lever.co/recruiting-resources/articles/recruitment-process/

Looking at this data, you can see why recruiters simply ignore online applications. The same dynamics also apply to platforms such as AngelList — like any jobs board, it’s noisy and probably full of candidates who don’t have much leverage (e.g., juniors/bootcamp grads and people requiring visa sponsorship).

As for the value of eng time, guarding it carefully isn’t exactly wrong either. In fact, if you look at what a typical hiring process looks like today, you’ll see that most of the time spent is by engineers conducting interviews.

Hiring process stageWho does it?How long does it take?
Resume reviewRecruiter10-30 seconds
Recruiter screenRecruiter45 min
Technical phone screenEngineer1 hour
Onsite – Eng portionEngineer6 hours
Onsite – Recruiter portionRecruiter1 hour
OfferRecruiter OR Eng mgr1 hour

Engineering salaries are high, so given that most of the time spent on a single candidate is with engineers, it’s rational to put some recruiter gates at the top of the funnel to protect eng time. The idea is that recruiters will effectively screen out most candidates and only pass on the most promising ones to the eng team.

Unfortunately, when you look at an actual typical funnel, you’ll see that despite attempts to gate the top with recruiters filtering resumes and making intro calls, it’s not really working. Below is what a typical funnel looks like.

If you do the math and look at how many hours are spent — not per candidate but per hire (more useful because hires are ultimately what we want) — you’ll see that despite attempts to save eng time, recruiters spend roughly 15 hours a hire 2 and engineers spend about 40. In a process where you don’t make an offer 50% of the time and only convert those offers to hires 50% of the time, these numbers get much worse.

But, hey, recruiters are doing their best, and if we put engineers at the top of the funnel without making any foundational changes, we’d lose an order of magnitude more engineering time (and money)! So today’s approach makes some sense, even if it’s not entirely functional.

Although these approaches are rational under existing constraints, they’re neither particularly efficient nor particularly fair to the individuals subject to them. This doesn’t mean that we can’t improve the system … But before we talk about what we have the power to change, let’s dive a bit deeper into the constraints we face today.

Currently, though the market has softened a bit in the wake of COVID, we’re still in the midst of an engineering shortage. This means that eng time is expensive, which also means that, as you saw above, companies want to save eng time as much as possible. As a result, there is a palpable tension between the pain caused by the talent shortage and the expense of interviewing the wrong people.

Stacked against the backdrop of this tension lives the problem of information asymmetry. Companies don’t actually know which candidates are strong, nor do candidates necessarily know which companies are a good fit for them. 

Market forces tell us that the side with less leverage will have to do the work. In a market where candidates have more leverage (they’re the ones in short supply), companies have to do the work of chasing candidates. And chase they do! In the absence of meaningful performance data, companies to a tee pursue a small subset of fairly homogenous candidates from MIT/Stanford/Google/Facebook on LinkedIn Recruiter.

And so we end up with a paradox: in the midst of a talent shortage, companies ignore the candidates who apply to them and pay recruiters without domain expertise to chase the same ten engineers with the same credentials. This is a textbook example of an inefficient market.

Perhaps surprisingly, given companies’ current constraints — market forces AND information asymmetry — the paradoxical hiring process of the status quo ends up being the logical, inevitable conclusion. This is why we have come to accept the impossibility of getting in front of a company, dealing with bad recruiters, and overlooking good non-traditional candidates.


That is the world today. But let’s imagine for a moment that you, as an engineer, had a credential, based not just on where you went to school or where you worked, both of which have repeatedly been shown to not be predictive of actual ability, but based on actual coding ability, past performance, and so on. 3 And let’s say that this credential was persistent (once you have it, it doesn’t go away). And once you got it, it awarded you the ability to be treated well in your job search.

Traditionally, market forces would dictate that I should be the one who is courted, but if my “pursuit” isn’t a waste of time but actually an efficient, useful signal-gaining interaction, then why doesn’t it make sense for me to initiate contact with companies? After all, companies don’t know when I’m looking. Historically attempts to identify when candidates flip from “passive” to “active” haven’t been effective (the now defunct Entelo Sonar is an example), so if the act of contacting a company is useful to me and puts me in the driver’s seat, why wouldn’t I do it? Remember, when we’ve solved for credentialing and companies know I’m a worthwhile investment, they’re not going to treat me poorly.

In a world with functional credentialing, putting candidates in the driver’s seat makes sense. After all, candidates are the only ones who know when they’re looking. So why shouldn’t they be able to act on that? Instead of them chasing companies, call it doing non-committal recon … and then, once things get more serious, in a market with a shortage of candidates, companies will still be the ones doing the chasing.

Put simply, when we have functional credentialing, when we disintermediate recruiting, and put candidates in the driver’s seat, we suddenly have an efficient, liquid marketplace. So, if it’s that easy, do solutions like this exist? And do they work?

Isn’t this problem being fixed already? A brief history of hiring solutions, and how everyone eventually becomes LinkedIn Recruiter

Sadly, no, though it’s a problem that many smart people have tried to tackle by building products. Historically, these products have been variants of LinkedIn Recruiter, some with more window dressing than others. Several companies tried to be different but eventually succumbed to the inevitability of the LinkedIn Recruiter model. Three examples you might be familiar with are:

  • Hired
  • Triplebyte
  • AngelList

What’s the problem with these solutions? There are two common threads:

  • Lack of credentialing: Most of them don’t have reliable performance data, or if they do, they never got companies to trust it enough (thereby not addressing the problem of information asymmetry), and these platforms typically don’t allow candidates to take charge of their own job search. 
  • Lack of candidate autonomy… and too many middlemen: Today, hiring is owned by recruiters who sit between companies and candidates, and hiring platforms are no exception: most of these platforms don’t allow candidates to contact companies when they’re interested. It’s not bad for companies to do outreach, but candidates know best when they’re looking. As we noted earlier, though market forces tell us that companies have to do the chasing, it is far more efficient for candidates to initiate contact. Unfortunately, most of these platforms actually make the process less efficient by adding an extra hurdle: requiring candidates to interact with a recruiter who works for the platform before speaking with a recruiter at the company in question before finally meeting with an engineer. Hired called recruiters who worked for them “talent advocates,” and Triplebyte named them “talent managers,” but they’re simply other names for recruiters, just like you’d have at an agency.

These problems feed off each other, and failing to address them makes it impossible to build a solution where it’s easy for smart people to talk to other smart people.

Hired

Hired is a technical recruiting solution probably everyone has heard of. Hired has gone through a few evolutions, but when it started, it was called DeveloperAuction and only accepted candidates from MIT/Google/Facebook/Stanford, etc., allowing companies to “bid” on engineers before ever interviewing them.

DeveloperAuction’s goal, as I understand it, was to align hiring with market forces. Candidates have more leverage in the market (as we discussed earlier), so DeveloperAuction decided to call a spade a spade and actually give candidates that power by literally having the “weaker” party place bids.

Hired’s/DeveloperAuction’s approach ran into both of the aforementioned roadblocks: lack of credentialing and lack of candidate autonomy.

Lack of credentialing was problematic because: 1) pedigree isn’t a reliable indicator of performance in the first place, and 2) once Hired exhausted their initial Stanford et al. pool, they didn’t have a reliable means of credentialing to separate the good candidates from the bad. In addition, companies weren’t reliably bidding on all candidates, concentrating instead on a small pool of candidates who were often not interested in the companies that were bidding on them.


Hired tried asking job seekers to take quizzes, but of course only the people who needed to take them actually did so, which meant mostly juniors, folks with visa constraints, or people who didn’t look good on paper (some of whom were of course diamonds, but that’s not enough to build a business around).

The second problem, lack of candidate autonomy, came to light because pretty quickly Hired realized that (due to lack of meaningful credentialing) companies typically bid on the same ten people, and those ten people, because of how many options they had, weren’t interested in most companies. To mitigate these issues, Hired brought on an army of “talent advocates” (read: recruiters) whose job it was to prime the pump and ensure that companies were bidding on the “right” candidates behind the scenes.

Now, as a candidate, not only do you have to talk to an in-house recruiter, but you have to talk to Hired’s recruiter before that!

Of course, employing an army of recruiters makes achieving SaaS margins impossible, and, before you know it, you’re basically a tech-enabled recruiting firm.

Eventually, Hired moved away from the auction marketplace model, fired most of their talent advocates, and fulfilled their destiny, becoming a glorified LinkedIn Recruiter clone. Recruiters could search for candidates, just like on LinkedIn Recruiter, based on their pedigree, languages they knew, etc. Being a LinkedIn Recruiter is a business with better margins, and it’s a model that makes the middlemen who hold the purse strings — the in-house recruiters — feel empowered, which perpetuates the market inefficiency we identified earlier.

Triplebyte

Triplebyte’s story started out completely differently. They wisely rejected pedigree as a viable means of credentialing and adopted the admirable mission of democratizing access to opportunity in software engineering.

As Triplebyte was a YC company, they started out as “the common application for engineers who wanted to work at a YC startup.” To ensure that candidate quality was high, Triplebyte came up with a two-step vetting process: the first was a coding quiz anyone could take. If you did well on the quiz, then you conducted a lengthy technical interview with one of Triplebyte’s contractors. Triplebyte brought on a number of engineers to conduct these interviews, and they also created their own canonical technical interview that every candidate had to complete. If you did well in the interview, regardless of how you looked on paper, you got fast-tracked to onsites at Triplebyte’s customer companies.

Triplebyte, to my mind, did an admirable job of trying to solve the credentialing problem. But their approach was not without shortcomings: 1) not everyone wanted to take their lengthy quiz, even though the quiz was well done, and 2) scaling up an army of interviewers, all of whom had to be trained in exactly the same way, was non-trivial and not cheap. These challenges were surmountable, but the challenge that wasn’t arose from the second issue that all companies had to face: lack of candidate autonomy, which was driven in part by a lack of faith in the credential.

Once you passed Triplebyte’s assessment process, just like at Hired, you had to interact with a talent advocate (Triplebyte labeled them “talent managers,” but again they’re just recruiters). The talent manager would examine your background and short-list you for some companies of their choosing, where you’d then go onsite. You could have some input into which companies you spoke to, but it was limited, and if you didn’t meet the company’s (often somewhat arbitrary) criteria, no matter how well you did on the assessment, its doors were closed to you.

As with Hired, having an army of recruiters AND interviewers working for you makes achieving SaaS margins impossible, and then, you’ve essentially become a tech-enabled recruiting firm (albeit this time one with much better performance data!).

Just like Hired, Triplebyte eventually moved away from the auction marketplace model, fired most of their talent managers and interviewers, and fulfilled their destiny, becoming a glorified LinkedIn Recruiter clone. Recruiters could search for candidates, just like on LinkedIn Recruiter, based on their pedigree, languages known, and so forth. One thing Triplebyte still does differently, however, is to leverage their aforementioned coding quiz to annotate candidate profiles. (Presumably, they are using their historical interview data, from when candidates had to do BOTH, to predict how people will perform in interviews.) The limitation, of course, is that great people will be unlikely to take the quiz in the first place, especially now that it no longer fast-tracks them to an onsite.

AngelList

My last example is AngelList. AngelList is a bit different from Tripleybte and Hired because they have not fully succumbed to becoming a search aggregator, probably because AngelList’s main revenue driver isn’t their recruiter business but their angel investment marketplace.

The big difference between AngelList and the others is that AngelList does give candidates autonomy — you can apply to any company of your choosing — but without the credentialing piece in place, it’s toothless. As with their inbound channels, companies have learned to ignore AngelList referrals because they’re noisy and full of candidates who don’t have much leverage (again, juniors/bootcamp grads and people requiring visa sponsorship, for example).

Currently, AngelList has some early attempts at credentialing in place, mostly quizzes that self-select out people who don’t need to take them. Because their credentialing lacks weight, when a candidate reaches out to a company on AngelList, they aren’t fast-tracked. It’s just like applying via an online job board.

When I was doing research for this piece, one quote about AngelList stuck out (specifically, it was about the now-defunct A-List offering), speaking poignantly to the importance of removing the barriers between candidates and companies during the hiring process. It’s nice when it’s easy for engineers to talk to engineers.

How to fix hiring

As you can see, historically, recruiting solutions have been plagued by two limitations: lack of credentialing and lack of candidate autonomy and resulting middlemen. What happens if you remove them and build something free of these restrictions?

In this beautiful world, once I’ve established that I’m smart and can get shit done, doors of companies are open wide to me. Imagine this. I scroll through a list of employers, pick one that I’m interested in, bypass all the bullshit that typically happens at the top of the funnel — the scheduling, tedious recruiter calls, resume reviews — and I just get to talk to an engineer at that company. Maybe I’m not sure I want to work there yet, and that’s fine. But this way, I get signal about whether I want to, in a way that talking to a recruiter or reading a job description simply can’t replicate.

And I don’t have to wait for recruiters to find me on LinkedIn or in Triplebyte or some other search aggregator, then contact me, all while hoping that the chaotic universe somehow delivers a reachout from a recruiter at a company I actually want to work for at the right time. Or that the recruiter who reached out to me when I wasn’t looking a year ago still works there. But odds are they don’t.

There’s no substitute for chemistry, in dating or in hiring. All the carefully crafted job descriptions in the world pale in comparison to talking shop with someone on the team. That’s how it should be.

In this new world, even though there’s still an engineering shortage, with the advent of persistent, meaningful credentialing and candidate autonomy — the two limitations that have plagued hiring solutions to date — can we now overturn the two “axioms” that have so hampered recruiting? Here they are again:

  1. Thou shalt not engage with active candidates. After all, in this market, strong candidates aren’t looking. Good recruiters build relationships so that when a good candidate does decide to enter the market, the recruiter is there, behind the next doorway, ready to spring!
  2. Engineering time is expensive, so it’s critical to do as much top-of-funnel filtering as possible to make sure that it’s spent on the right candidates.

Let’s look at #1 first. Does this still hold? No! Now, when candidates are active, they can just approach companies they’re interested in. No more skulking and waiting and guessing and writing software that tries to predict when passive candidates are on the move.

How about #2? Nope. Now that candidates come vetted, putting up artificial gates to save eng time doesn’t make sense anymore. If anything, putting up gates would now be an antipattern because it delays the sell — the sooner you can get an engineer talking to an engineer about The Work, the better.

Now, as a candidate I’m actually in the driver’s seat. I can talk to companies I’m interested in learning more about, at any time, without all the hurdles and frustrations that define the current process.

Why do I feel so strongly about all of this? It’s exactly what we’re working on at interviewing.io. At this point, you might roll your eyes and say, what a cheap plug. Or wonder why we think we can succeed where so many others have failed. But, before you do, think on this. I’ve spent the last five years of my life dedicated to bringing this vision of hiring to fruition because I believe, in my heart of hearts, that this is the only way hiring can be both efficient and fair. If I didn’t talk about the thing I made which addresses this very problem, and if I didn’t believe in it to the point of fanaticism, I’d be a raging hypocrite. And if I weren’t proud enough of what my team and I have achieved to promote it, then I’m doing everything wrong.

Or, hell, we could be completely mistaken about our approach… being contrarian doesn’t necessarily make you right in the long run. Hell, maybe devolving to LinkedIn Recruiter is the only way. But, look, I really hope not.

In any event, on interviewing.io, once you’ve built up your reputation by doing mock interviews (persistent, meaningful credentialing), you can look through a list of companies, and regardless of who you are or how you look on paper, you can book an interview with an engineer at that company as early as the next day (candidate autonomy and a direct line to an engineer).

You can pick companies you’d like to talk to…
…and grab a time slot that works for you. There’s an engineer on the other end. No recruiters or resumes.

It feels like magic when it works, and 40% of our hires have been people whose resumes you probably wouldn’t pick out of a lineup (in fact, many had been rejected due to their resume by the very same company that eventually hired them through us). The remaining 60% of our hires are people who look great on paper but were fed up with the Kafkaesque dog and pony show that traditional hiring has become.

Of course, one of the limitations of our approach is that we’re getting performance data about engineers from the practice interviews they do on our platform. Any seasoned interviewer will tell you that the signal one gets from a technical interview isn’t the whole story. A candidate’s performance can oscillate from interview to interview, some candidates are less familiar with the format, the system can be gamed by memorizing Leetcode problems, and so on. But it’s a start, and we’ve found that data in aggregate (performance in at least three interviews) is much more predictive than a single data point. Interview performance aside, we hope to build a corpus of data about people that goes beyond how they do in interviews and also tracks how they perform on the job.

All I want is a world where it’s easy for smart people to talk to each other. That’s the world we’re trying to build at interviewing.io.

  1. From what you’ve read up until this point, you might think that I hate recruiters and find them useless. Not so, dear reader! I hate bad recruiters. And, unfortunately, most of them are bad. What’s sad is that the good ones, instead of spending time on tasks for which they’re uniquely qualified and well-suited, are instead stuck at the top of the funnel sourcing engineers whose qualifications they don’t have the domain expertise to evaluate and selling them on roles they don’t have the domain expertise to describe. The best recruiters I’ve worked with are singularly amazing at shepherding candidates through the process, tirelessly stewarding a company’s employer brand, advising hiring managers on the best ways to close, keeping an analytical eye on the funnel to identify issues before they even arise, and much more. 
  2. If we add in time to review resumes, it’s an extra five hours (at most). 
  3. I’ve done a lot of the work around resumes/pedigree not being a useful predictor. Here are some of my favorite pieces: Lessons from a year’s worth of hiring data, Lessons from 3,000 technical interviews… or how what you do after graduation matters way more than where you went to school, Resumes suck. Here’s the data. But I’m not the only one. Google has found that GPA isn’t predictive of on-the-job success, too. 

14 Responses to “I’ve been an engineer and a recruiter. Hiring is broken. Here’s why… and what it should be like instead.”

  1. NoneOfYourBusiness

    A very long article, way too long. Started reading at the beginning and stopped.
    I am a dev. I have my code online. People can see what I code, how, how I handle people opening issues. How I rewrite things. How I organize the branches, how I test things. It’s all there.

    So.. why would I spent even a minute losing time for you and people like you ?
    When I get home from work and I have a few hours to write code and handle my projects, you want me to spent what, 45 or 90 minutes per recruiter that asks me to get into some stupid website for programming stuff I will not use at the proposed job, that I would consider you a fool if you spend time re-inventing the wheel, and a madman if you’re not using a well known, battle and server tested library instead of your own code that has probably more bugs than this sentence has characters ? Seriously ?

    Good developers have their code to speak for them. It’s all there. We’re not gonna spend stupid time on your white boards. We’re not gonna spend time on your collection of evaluation stupid web sites with algorithms problems. Our side projects are more precious than all that crap you push around.

    You’re the ones looking for us. We already have good jobs, well paying. So unless you have interesting stuff for us to do (intellectually mostly) we’re not interested. And you will have to go dig and search in Gitlab for those working on the software and tools and code you’re seeking. You will have to do that job from now on.

    Because we don’t have time to lose with you. I’m done wasting time. Every minute of my life that passes is lost forever, and my lifetime is finite. No way I’m gonna spend my precious time to help you find someone and grab cash on the way for “recruiting”

    In a time and age where developers push code on Gitlab and alike if you are still thinking you’re going to see the best of us work for you, you are a fool. Now the time has come for people like you to hunt looking at code we put online. We’re no longer wasting time.

    Reply
  2. Christian Nodal

    I realize you’re trying to sell a product here and don’t want to undermine that, but while the diagnosis is pretty strong the prescription is flawed because the primary filter here (supervised competition-style coding) still takes a “racehorse” approach to hiring — instead of directly and transparently eliciting signal relevant to the specific role you’re attempting to fill, you have software engineers administer naive psychometric tests they’re not competent to administer in order to detect a hypothetical and broadly defined “good programmer”. This style of hiring is the product of a runaway selection and memetic imitation (and economics) — I’ve never seen a company think through its hiring process from first principles and arrive at something like this.

    The supervised competition-coding-interview doesn’t primarily assess engineering competencies, but rather a narrow band of human intelligence and familiarity with certain problem types and social scripts — via multiple proxies, while introducing tons of noise, no less (see: stereotype threat — yes, the literature on it is mixed. It’s real.).

    Consider that there are now (expensive) prep courses for this style of interview, not unlike what eventually emerged for the SAT. And just as with standardized tests, a significant part of the value-add from prep courses is familiarizing you with the accidental complexity involved in the test. Massive inefficiency and cargo-culting.

    (Given the historically narrow demographic composition of the field, all of this adversely impacts a wide swath of people from backgrounds underrepresented in the field, for whatever that’s worth.)

    Reply
  3. Douglas

    Thank you for this so thorough, insightful, and thoughtful review this broken market and for attempting to improve it. NoneOfYourBusiness has a point. Real world coding and team workflow interaction speak for themselves. They’re out in the open for you to find on Github and Gitlab.

    Reply
  4. Nate Abele

    I guess I must be busier than the people who are down on this, but I just wanted to say thanks for writing this, and for trying to fix the shit-show. Also of note, a friend recently launched vette.io, which is in a similar vein, but tries to decouple the credentialing from the rest of the pipeline.

    Reply
  5. NoneOfYourBusiness Whines

    I love how NoneOfYourBusiness complains about not having time for the job hunting (when the article is all about trying to shorten the time spent on the process), and also complains about the article’s length … and then he writes a crazy long (for a blog comment) response 🙂

    But my absolute favorite was the contrast of how they think they’re some hot shit dev … and then they mention Git *Lab* … as if the entire industry didn’t revolve around Git **Hub**.

    Reply
  6. My Name

    1. Please find/replace ‘eng’ with ‘engineer’. No one is an ‘eng’. It was a visual speed bump every time I read it.

    2. The tell here is ‘generalist’. Your entire premise creates an ice cream shop that sells one flavor: vanilla. Any truly accomplished developer has more depth than that and each one is unique. I don’t want clones, I want people. You aren’t humanizing the process, you’re automating the dehumanizing part of what’s wrong with exactly those companies that also think a ‘credential’ equates to ability. Saying, “we did the weeding so you don’t have to” to companies only works if you know weeds from flowers. Your only claim to a better world is candidates get a chance to prove they are vanilla even if they would not normally get in the door at ‘those’ companies. I suppose that’s progress but it’s weak beer at best.

    Reply
  7. Thea

    Oh goodie! So excited about the yummy alignment ‘snacks’ I got from this post, but mostly from the comments of NoneOfYourBusiness and My Name!!
    Our time is limited, therefore valuable. Developers’ time is valuable in a particular way. After tedious hours of building their expertise, they get to sift through a conventional job post and immediately tell it’s bull***t.
    If we do find a job that appeals to us, we all want our chance to present ourselves swiftly and efficiently. We want to be respected and to stand out with our unique experience and personality.
    The way in which the interviewing process is carried out in all the ways above ‘c**kblocks’ any hint of awesomeness just so the people behind it can get a sort of linearity.
    Though businesses still run on people. I’d love to see a company who makes this process in a way that expertise and uniqueness stand out from the get-go and makes us feel like we invest our time, not waste it.

    Also, I’m a recruiter and everything I’ve done in my profession so far has been to make people valued. I do the work (all the strings and ‘Git’s) beforehand so the hiring and candidate sides have a medium where they just kickstart the conversation and just skyrocket. It works amazing when you believe that their time is just as important as yours and that not all developers and engineers work the same.

    Reply
  8. Andrew Hundt

    I’m finishing up my PhD in robotics with exactly the elite workplace, programming, and education credentials you look for. The process described here in this article looks designed to create a workplace which is neither diverse nor inclusive, but I also visited your website and it does look like you’re making an effort there. I’m tired of the under-crediting of talent that doesn’t have a stirling resume, or takes a non-standard path to the workplace. Let me know where you are taking steps to ensure your process supports diverse and inclusive hiring practices and I’ll take another look!

    Here is a well written peer reviewed book that outlines much of the problem:
    Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors. Consensus Study Report. The National Academies Press, 2020 https://doi.org/10.17226/25585.

    Reply
  9. Person

    I am interested in how this could apply to any engineer other than software. ‘Engineer’
    is a very broad term, and some of the comments are correct – for software engineers, just see the code! But software engineers are really just a small subset of a larger field of engineering, though the problems in hiring described here are ubiquitous through the industry. Are you going to be able to tailor skill tests to a variety of engineering disciplines?

    Reply
  10. I actually use interviewing.io

    A couple key points:

    * The “shortage” of qualified engineers would be better characterized as a shortage of people who fit the traditional mold of a computer programmer.
    * There are programmers out there who are diamonds in the rough, without a long pedigree but with a ton of potential
    * Tech recruiting as done en masse today ignores those people

    interviewing.io lets the non-traditional candidates get a toe in the door. I’ve done their anonymous live coding challenges a few times, and I always came away feeling good about the engineer on the other side and about my own abilities.

    If you match the mold of a traditional candidate, then, yeah, interviewing.io might seem like a waste of time. But it offers one on-ramp to people who don’t have any other way in. And if the world has such a dire need for more programmers, shouldn’t we be encouraging people to take up computer science instead of slamming the door in the face of anyone who doesn’t match the perfect stereotype?

    I hope interviewing.io succeeds as a new way to hire talent. (I also hope to get a job! )

    Reply
  11. Geoff Smith

    My last major “HR” role we change the way we recruited to developing some key contacts we could trust for a recommended appointment and simply asking existing staff of the speciality, “Who do you know out there who you know does a bloody good job on this and would they fit with our team and customers well?” Over 50% of appointments were made this way in a fraction of the time and at next to no cost.

    Reply

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