Remote work used to be a luxury or a benefit, but it is now a necessity for business. But even as cities shut down schools and companies close offices, the demand for software engineering talent isn’t slowing down.
Karat conducts technical interviews for companies hiring software engineers. Over 60,000 remote technical interviews have been conducted.
As head of Karat’s solutions engineering team I am responsible for helping clients create structured interview processes that are in line with their hiring criteria, assess core competencies, as well as getting the best predictive hiring signals.
These past weeks have been filled with meetings with hiring managers and engineering leaders who are anxious about the impact of the absence of onsite interview loops on technical hiring.
Remote hiring is a major trend in the workplace. Every company should be aware of three key concepts: competency, measurement and interviewers.
Candidates don’t understand how or what they are being measured in code tests and remote interviews. This is one of the biggest problems with code tests.
Designate a person to review the job description and responsibilities. Then, align these elements with competencies. You might think about how they will be assessed at the end, and what skills they will need for success (this will help you when it comes to onboarding).
Once you know the competencies that are being assessed, it’s critical that your remote interview questions evaluate one competency at a time — otherwise, you’ll introduce noise and false negatives into the process.
Avoid ambiguity. It is important to assess the candidate’s competencies and not their mind-reading abilities. Make it clear what you are asking the candidate to perform. When you ask a candidate to code, be clear about whether you are looking for optimality, speed, functional code or optimality. If you ask them to test it, let them know.
A technical interview question might sound like this: “In our next question, you will be asked to show your ability to manipulate data sets. While optimality is not required, we are looking for a program that works. We’ll then have a discussion about how to test your program, and what edge cases might be.
These techniques are best for in-person interviews. However, it is more difficult to understand body language or clarify minor points in remote settings. This makes them even more important.
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While remote interviewers must be technical evaluators with empathy and kindness, they also need to demonstrate kindness, compassion, and adhere to clear guidelines.
This will help candidates feel comfortable and allow them to show their true talents. It is especially important to establish rapport with candidates when conducting remote interviews.
Every interview starts with project conversations, which allow candidates to share their most memorable work examples. This helps them get comfortable in the virtual environment and boosts their confidence in coding questions.
Karat has a dedicated group of software engineers who conduct technical interviews. They learn from experience, so we mentor them and quality control their performance.
We help them recognize bias-inducing handholding and give the right tips or assistance when needed. It is possible to greatly influence a candidate’s performance by giving a hint that is well delivered. Therefore, it is important to establish clear expectations and ensure interviewers follow the guidelines.
Remote/video interviews have the advantage that you can record them. This allows you to not only assess the candidate more objectively but also review your interviewers and offer feedback on how they can improve.
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Engineers know that consistently measuring performance is key. Although bias and subjectivity are not uncommon in interviews or roundtables for hiring, it is possible to ruin your hiring signal by aggregating inconsistent feedback from remote interviewers.
Interviewers should make observations, not draw conclusions, in order to create useful interview data. One example of a good observation would be that candidate X could write fully functional, optimized programs for the first two question with moderate debugging but ran out time on question 3. This is potentially biased.
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A structured interview process should be established by every company. It should clearly define and communicate competencies, train and review interviewers, and measure performance. You’ll be able to generate a more predictive hiring signal which will justify the time your engineers spend interviewing.
Remote distribution and distribution of the hiring process can quickly amplify any inconsistencies in your existing process. It’s worth creating and committing now to a plan before you lose your hiring signal.
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