Whether we like it or not, these days, tech is one of the most important aspects of business — even for businesses that aren’t primarily tech-focused. Hiring the perfect technical lead is crucial to your product’s success, but if you’re not a technical person yourself, finding that person can be tough.
With this in mind, I asked a panel of successful founders from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) the following question:
What is one unusual way you vet potential technical hires and why does it work?
“The most awesome stage”
Last year, Facebook's VP of Design thought the TNW Conference main stage was the best she'd ever been on.
Their best answers are below:
1. Have Them Duplicate a Task
We’ll give a potential tech hire a task that has already been completed by an experienced tech person within our company. We already know how much time it took our person to complete it as well as the challenges they faced. This establishes a point of comparison for measuring how well they do completing the same task.
– Michael Quinn, Yellow Bridge Interactive
2. Walk Through a Previous Project
I ask potential technical hires to walk me through a recent project they collaborated on with a team — and what went wrong. It works because you can see how they think through problems, how they work through challenges, perceive their contributions as an individual and learn how they feel working in teams.
– Mary Ray, MyHealthTeams
3. Ask Open-Ended Questions
When interviewing potential technical hires, I try to avoid “yes” or “no” questions as much as possible. You want to get a grasp on the person’s personality when you’re vetting them, not just their ability to write code.
4. Complete a Six-Month Consultant Position
I make all employees go through six months of being a consultant. Once they have completed this, we have the team they are working with decide if we should officially hire them or not. This has produced the best results possible over time and has given us one of the best teams in Silicon Valley.
– John Rampton, Adogy
5. Examine Their Use Cases
I try to understand their passion and determination for solving problems. I try to come up with questions that will test their drive and curiosity.
I’m excited to hear about candidates who have done a lot of personal projects or who have developed their own games or apps. I like people who are actively looking for ways to apply their technical knowledge to actual use cases.
– Luke Skurman, Niche.com
6. Find Out Why They’re Passionate About Your Business
In any business, tech-centric or not, it’s important to have a passionate team.
One great question to ask technical hires is what part of your business they are most passionate about. Not only will it give you insight into whether they’ll be a good cultural fit with your team, you may also learn something new about how a technical hire views the technology or data challenges in your business that really get them excited to work hard.
– Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.
7. Encourage Pair Programming
Once an engineer has passed a one hour collaborative coding session remotely, we typically invite them for a full-day onsite interview at our company headquarters. During the day, they would pair program alongside our other engineers, go out to lunch together, attend any company meetings related to the product and get an overall sense of our culture and what a typical day of work will look like.
– Matt Mickiewicz, Hired
8. Audit Their Previous Work
Have someone technical audit their previous work to see how good and clean their code is. Often times, a finished product can look nice but the code behind it can be a complete mess.
– Josh Weiss, Bluegala
9. Discuss Technical Pain Points
Most technical hires have a laundry list of technologies and programming languages they are fluent in. It is my experience that having them discuss the negative technical pain points of these is more of a indicator of knowledge then the positive uses of them.
10. Split the Interview
One unusual way to vet potential hires that has worked well for us is to split the interview into two sections, qualifications and culture. Hiring candidates that are both qualified and good culture fits is essential to the synergy of our company. Because of this, we will ask job related questions first and then personal, getting to know you questions second.
Instead of asking one weird question in hopes of understanding that person’s character, we’ve built it into the interview process to make sure we leave with a good understanding of what that candidate has to offer and vice versa.
11. Have Them Present
We have all hires do a presentation on a topic of their choice in front of the team. Being able to explain technical concepts to non-technical teammates is a huge part of tech these days. This presentation does a lot to show how well they communicate.
– Wade Foster, Zapier
12. Ask Them How Things Work
I ask them how our technology works. But whatever they answer, I tell them that is not how it works. This achieves two things — it checks how prepared they are for the interview and how well they can think outside the box with my response.
– Ioannis Verdelis, Fleksy