Hiring an Engineering Team

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Hiring the right people and using the proper method when it comes to your engineering team can be a daunting task! Luckily, we have collated some tips and tricks you can use during the assessment, interview, and team building. Before you know it, you’ll be on your way to the perfect team of engineers!

Different Approaches to Assessment

The industry baseline for new grads and developers (mostly junior, but sometimes senior too!) is to evaluate their talents using a technical exam. Individual Contributors (ICs) and hiring managers, though, are seasoned, and there is a lot of debate over whether they should be required to code during their interviews as well.

If you’re hiring someone who already has a stellar portfolio and over a decade of experience, a simple binary tree task is not only pointless, it’s also a little demeaning. Full-time developers don’t want to do take-home challenges, either; all that does is add hours onto an already full workday.

Some assessment and vetting of technical skill are needed. However, your best bet is to suit the test to the role and to the candidate as best as possible.

Individual Contributor Assessment.

Your ICs are in charge of a lot of the work on high-risk projects, so you definitely want to make sure they can code! Those with the knowledge but decayed practical experience could quickly falter at a hurdle and lead to a costly mistake. Coding talent and up-to-date problem-solving skills are essential.

Engineering Managers Assessment

The level of technical ability needed depends on the level of seniority. A low-tier manager may only need to write decent code, while someone higher up will need to display knowledge and experience of architecture and system design.

The thing to remember about management is that soft skills are just as essential as their technical skills. Yes, they need to have technical knowledge – but that’s only useful for managers if they can also lead, listen, and communicate effectively!

Those applying to senior roles who already have a good portfolio or background in the industry can probably skip the actual coding section of the exam. After all, someone who has served as vice president of a tech company for a decade probably understands system design and modern architecture pretty well. This remains true even if they haven’t written any code in a while.

Role-Specific Assessment

A good idea is to focus technical questions on realistic situations. It’s helpful to the employer and to the candidate if these focus on your company specifically. Sadly, this isn’t always feasible with a large number of candidates or a short amount of time!

However, you can get around this by offering sets of coding and technical questions which are similar, if not precisely the same, as the daily technical requirements at your company.

Get rid of brain teasers and other questions like them – they’re not going to help you find the best fit, just who is best at interviews! It’s also better to set candidate expectations to take a more realistic approach.

Watch your time limit, too. Junior candidates can do long-term multi-day examinations, but don’t expect the same from senior developers who are otherwise working full time.

Common mistakes

There are three prevalent mistakes new managers make when they’re building their engineering team. Here is what they are and how to fix it.

1. Using the candidates as a mirror.

Everyone is guilty of this – it’s much easier to connect with candidates who share your values, personality traits, interests, and work styles. However, this isn’t the point of a team, and it will lead to huge gaps where creativity is concerned.

Diverse teams are essential. Different backgrounds, different values, and different workstyles mean a team who can work together to find a solution to any problem.

2. Forgetting to give clear performance expectations

If your team shows excellent leadership and management skills all by themselves, that’s great – but they can’t be entirely autonomous. Your job is to keep checking in with your team and make sure they’re very clear about what they’re trying to accomplish.

3. Over-management

On the flip side, you need to give your team space to breathe! They need permission to approach their processes and problems in their way and promote their individual responsibility, ownership, and perspective.

Beating the curve

There will always be a learning curve when it comes to getting your team together, assessing the individuals, and learning to lead. Just keep practising, be open to learning, and you’ll be on your way to success in no time.