Hiring and retaining talented software developers is a challenge for both startups and enterprises. This is true for all types of businesses (not just technology companies) that are engaged in upgrading legacy systems and developing applications to boost operational efficiency (and better serve the modern customer).
What makes it near impossible to hire and retain software developers is a considerable shortage of tech talent. According to the report, State of Software Development in 2018, it’s the second biggest challenge after capacity issues, time management, and delivering working software.
In the U.S. alone, there will be a million vacant technology jobs with fewer than 400,000 professionals to fill them by 2024. When there’s such a severe shortage of software engineers, it makes it much more difficult to search, recruit, and retain them.
For example, more often than not, startups can’t match the salary and benefits packages offered by large corporations. On the flip side, enterprises fail to provide excitement and autonomy over projects like startups. This results in people quickly jumping ship whenever there’s a better offer.
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So how do businesses of all sizes overcome these challenges to meet their internal and external goals successfully? Let’s take a look.
Evaluate Their Soft Skills
Even if your HR department is filled with top-notch recruiters (who have significant experience in tech recruitment), it’s just near impossible to evaluate the qualities of potential candidates.
For example, how would you ascertain if the candidate would make a great team player? Or, how would you assess a potential hire’s ability to innovate and think creatively?
Technical skills can be measured through programming challenges, but when it comes to “soft” skills, it’s difficult to take the same approach. In this scenario, doing a test will be futile because the correct answers will be obvious to them.
Just like the right people can help grow your business, hiring the wrong people, like someone who’s not a team player, can bring the whole company crashing down. This is especially true for startups with a small number of employees. The wrong hire also wastes your time, damages positive office culture, and adds to your bottom line.
If the potential candidate ticks all the boxes during the technical evaluation, it will be a good idea to bring in a non-technical employee into the interview to help with the screening process.
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After giving them some time to engage in a non-technical banter, check with your staff member if the candidate treated them with the same respect when they realized that they didn’t hail from a technology background.
If they were condescending, impatient, or disrespectful, it’s time to hit the breaks and move on to the next potential hire. Even if they are highly skilled, you need people who will have a positive impact on the overall organizational culture.
You can even take it a step further and provide feedback during the interview. If the candidate becomes defensive, then that’s a red flag that you should explore with even more feedback.
Engaging in non-technical chats before the actual interview can also help the candidate relax and expose more of their real personality. So if you want to hire and retain the best, don’t ignore this common recruiting mistake.
After all, like Marissa Mayer, co-founder of Lumi Labs and former President and CEO of Yahoo put it, “in technology, it's about the people. Getting the best people, retaining them, nurturing a creative environment, and helping to find a way to innovate.”
Here are some sample questions that you can ask at your next interview:
- In your opinion, what’s the biggest mistake you have made?
- When you look back at your career, is there a particularly difficult situation that stands out? Can you describe the problem in detail and how you solved it? In hindsight, what would you do differently?
- What would our company gain by hiring you? Is there anything I should be concerned about?
- What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
- At the end of the day, we’re all humans that are far from perfect. So what aspects of your personality are you working on?
At Intersog, we have found that collectively, these questions and techniques shed light on the candidate’s real personality. So it has become a critical part of making a successful hire.
Figure Out If They’re a Good Fit
If the interviewee aced the technical and soft skills evaluations and the interview, you have to figure out if she or he will fit in with the team. One way to do this is to evaluate and compare the candidate’s personality, technical skills, and communication skills with the rest of your staff.
You can also look at their LinkedIn profile and blogs to see how they interact with colleagues and critics. This will give you another perspective of their personality that may not have been obvious during the interview.
A lot of startups lack resources, so they get around this by hiring software developers based on employee referrals. However, for it to work, you need to have a healthy company culture where your software engineers are happy.
What makes an excellent company culture can be defined by your team. All that matters is that they feel good working for you. No one would promote your company to a friend if they were unhappy, so the best place to start is by running a satisfaction survey.
At the same time, changing your corporate culture will be a considerable challenge that will take time. However, it can be achieved by taking a bottom-up approach where the steps are defined by the team. This will increase your chances of getting everyone to buy-in to your corporate cultural transformation.
Workplace satisfaction will have a significant impact on employee retention. So it will serve companies both big and small to invest in making their staff happy. I mean, let’s face it, no matter what you pay them, there will always be someone else who can offer a better remuneration package. So happiness will be the decisive factor that will help you hold on to them.
Not Just Years of Experience but the Right Experience
When hiring top tech talent, you will need to focus on candidates with the right experience. Even if a potential hire has extensive industry experience, it won’t matter if they have never worked on a similar product.
Beyond having experience working on similar projects, you also have to look at their track record. For example, how many projects were they able to complete successfully?
Companies often make the mistake of focusing on years of experience when relevant experience would have worked better and sometimes cost a lot less.
Furthermore, hiring managers shouldn’t focus on how much each software developer has memorized. If you want to evaluate their technical acumen, it will serve you better if you can measure their problem-solving abilities and critical thinking instead.
In conclusion, it’s important to note that while the techniques described above can be critical to the recruitment process, hiring is a journey and not a destination. Every company will be different, and every project will also be relative.