How NOT to hire a technical resource

As cumbersome as it might sound, you can somewhat relate to companies that have numerous rounds of interviews. You want to be absolutely sure about whom you're hiring and it is only through multiple interactions that you will get to know about a candidate’s aptitude and attitude. It’s straightforward really, - you don’t want a pole vaulter running your 400-meter race.

But, given the companies that employ this hiring technique and the attrition rates they experience, you’ve got to feel that something is wrong. After all, what is the use of these multiple round interviews, if you still don’t find the right candidates?

Today’s technology hiring isn’t great and a lot of it stems from not being able to assess the candidate rightly. There’s enough literature about the top mistakes that recruiters make, and here are the top 5 most relevant to technical hiring-

1) Jumping the gun

Your star developer has just left your company and you’re left with a vacant position. Every day that place is vacant, your company falls behind the project’s schedule and thereby, incurring a loss. Obviously, the immediate urge is to fill up that position ASAP. Right?


Hiring anyone whose resume looks good can be the single biggest mistake you can ever make. Take it slow and like any good relationship, you can only be sure of it over time. Get a probable candidate to spend time with the team, get them to work on a part-time assignment, pair program and see if your candidate is someone you can hang out with on a Friday evening. But whatever you do, don’t make a hasty decision. Filling an empty spot isn’t enough; finding the right candidate for the spot, is.

Now remember, this is true even for a company that needs a developer ASAP. For the ones that have time (which is most of you out there), take it slow.


2) Getting the wrong people to hire (read human resources)

Your product is built using Python and Django (so is ours), and you’ve found a resource who says he/she is good at it. Your CTO is on leave for the next week or so, and your HR manager decides to take things into his/her own hands (without using HackerEarth Recruit’s newest feature).


Chances are, that your CTO comes back to find a new resource who has just been hired for a nice salary. A month or two later, the company has to recruit another resource, because (surprise, surprise) the first one didn’t make the cut.

With all due respect to HR professionals, a programming role should require the clearance of the top techie in the company. Of course, you can find a resource with an adequate skill set without doing the above, but you’ll only end up with an average coder. Remember, Instagram, Facebook’s billion dollar acquisition was a team of 12 people; all exceptional coders. You want less, but exceptional coders, and HR professionals, more often than not, will not be equipped to assess them.

Get your CTO to be involved in the hiring process. (Or use HackerEarth recruit and get him/her involved at a later stage. But keep them involved anyway!)


3) Finding the right culture fit

So you’ve found your Python/Django ‘ninja’ and you’re all set. Role filled, HR happy. Only, the guy you’ve hired, is, quite frankly, obnoxious. A genius in front of the terminal, this new resource is turning out to be very hard to get along with. And as if that weren’t enough, he/she is manipulative, deceptive and doesn’t work well with a team. And if this person is in a senior role, his/her statements and representation about the company is the butt of the jokes in your community. But he/she is a great coder, so the company is going to want them to stay, but your colleagues cannot stand their behavior and start looking elsewhere.

And you thought this was a good hire.

With technical abilities being almost a hygiene factor, another attribute to a resource, which we believe is just as important, is being a culture fit. The resource is of no use if your company doesn’t relate to them. In this article, the founder of HubSpot rightfully summarizes that you, as a company need to prioritize 5 ideals, which you will not compromise on, and see if your candidate fits in. If they do, you’ve found your guy. If they don’t, avoid hiring them. Simple.


4) Make the NSA proud! Reference check!

You’ve made your star hire and you’ve built great PR around the particular person’s hiring. On the face of it, there’s probably nothing wrong with the candidate. He’s a kick ass coder and he even seems to value the things that are important for the company. Plus, their resume is a work of art. What could possibly go wrong?

Liars are abundant because there are enough reasons to lie for. And this is very true in the more senior people. A great project on a resume might have actually been someone else's work which he/she knew how to present well. Furthermore, the immediate past speaks volumes about what your values really are.

Do a background check that would make the NSA proud!

While technical capabilities, if tested right, will be hard to fake, the attitude and the mindset of the person can be easily concealed. And as actions speak louder than words, what they did in their previous company is the best litmus test of their attitude. There’s nothing wrong in spying; after all, it is your company.


5) Don’t wait too long - Decide quickly

A bird in hand is better than two in the sky. If you’ve found someone with the right technology skill set and meets the set of values that define your company, there’s no reason why you should refrain from hiring. It is an imperfect world and a perfect hire is a myth. Of course, if you’re spoilt for choice, choose the best offering, but more often than not, that isn’t the case.

Long decision times and employment processes will easily put off developers and a few delays in getting back to them is more than enough motivation for them to start looking elsewhere. Get to the point and give them a binary answer. These answers usually turn out to be right.

And if you’re waiting for the perfect hire, well, it doesn’t exist. If you think that this somewhat contradicts the first point, remember that the interview and assessment process has to be slow. Once it’s done, and you have all the information you need, then decide quickly. Have a high bar, but if your candidate scales it, hire them now.

About the Author

Raghu Mohan
Raghu is an engineering grad handles Marketing at HackerEarth. Prior to this, he was an editor at When he’s not working, you can find him at the nearest music shop having a jam session.