Talent Hackers NYC - Tech Recruitment

Meet the panelists:

 From the left: Liz, Joe, Cat, and Ryan.

From the left: Liz, Joe, Cat, and Ryan.

Liz Hall, VP of People at Trello

  • Joined in 2005 as their 5th employee under FogCreek. 
  • Trello split off into its own company when it was a team of 22 in June. They're now 33 people. 

Joe Humphries, Director of People at Stack Exchange

  • Joines StackExchange when it was 80 people, they're now 200.
  • Recruiting team just started with him but he now has a team helping him.

Cat Hernandez, Head of Talent at Chartbeat

  • Joined the team when they were 19 people and they've grown to nearly 100.
  • Considering international expansion to support international clients.

Ryan Nash, VP of Engineering at Gust

  • Joined Gust when they were a team of 4 and now has a team of 15 developers. 
  • Recruiting team for engineer is him and the HR coordinator but everyone on the team is involved in the hiring. 

Sourcing talent: what's the hardest role to hire for and why? What methods have you used to overcome this?

The hardest role to hire for is the one you need right now.
— Ryan
  • It's hard to fill a role quickly for immediate needs.
  • To source talent, Gust once sponsored a Heroku conference and set up a coding challenge for the attendees. Who ever solved the test the fastest won the games. 
  • It was a great way to meet direct hires and overall a great exposure for them.

How do you approach passive candidates?

You date.
— Cat
  • Date and leverage your relationships. 
  • Engineers will come and work for the people that they're compelled to work with. Get your VP of Engineering or CTO to meet the passive candidates.
  • It's not just the recruiter's job to recruit. If you have a strong company culture, everyone understands your value on the team isn't that you hire the next 100 people. Your job is to make sure your entire team is meeting the right candidates. 
Basically, don’t sound like a recruiter.
— Liz
  • When you reach out to a potential candidate, it's not offering a position but about starting a conversation.
  • Candidates don't care about the perks. They care about hard problems that the devs are solving. 
  • Tailor your outreach carefully and do your research. 
  • Be as specific and detailed as you can. 
The way you get people to work for you is to convince them you’ll be good for their career.
— Ryan
  • At Gust, candidates get paired with a developer for 8 hours like a normal work day as part of the interview process.
  • When they leave, they're excited about the projects they're working on and established a new credibility for the product and the team.
Get them excited about the product you’re building.
— Joe
  • When you reach out, make sure they know you just want to get to know them first. Don't scare them off with a hard sell. 
  • Even if you're still a small startup, get them excited about what you're working on.

Interviews & coding tests

Resumes never say yes. They always say no.
— Ryan
  • You can often tell by the first sentence on a candidate's resume if they're are a no. 
  • At Gust, once you get past the resume screening, candidates get taken through an hour long coding test tailored to them, sitting side by side with Ryan, or on the phone. . 
  • It doesn't matter what language they write in. You need to think about writing software above the language. 
  • Candidates will also get to spend a full day (8-9 hrs) paired with an engineer to determine cultural compatibility and skill set.
You can be the most tech competent person, but if you’re an asshole we’re not hiring you.
— Cat
  • All candidates go through the same code challenges - the same test for all engineering candidates at every level.
  • Tip: senior engineers don't like the term "code tests" - they tend to prefer "code challenges."
  • It's not about stumping the candidate. It's about learning about them to see if they'd be a good fit with your CTO.
  • Make sure your job copies are also more inclusive to older and female engineers. 
  • It doesn't matter what problems you're solving if the place doesn't feel like somewhere everyone wants to be in.
All candidates go through a phone screen, 4 levels of live coding screens, and then the last round is meeting Joel Spolksy (CEO).
— Joe
  • All coding screens are done online over Google hangout/Google docs.
  • 30 minutes long - designed to see how the candidate approaches and solves the problem. 
I look for people who can not only code but has the “gets-things-done” factor.
— Liz
  • I make the interviews really comfortable. 
  • I'm not here to stump anyone or have any surprises to waste the candidate's time.

Giving feedback

I’ll always give feedback. It’s not uncommon for me to go through half of the coding screen and say I’m not hiring you, but I’ll take the rest of the time to help them improve and create a positive experience for them.
— Ryan
Feedback is best coming from the horses’s mouth.
— Joe
In the beginning I was really transparent about giving feedback, but got into some sticky situations. I now use a legal snippet to explain why we can’t hire them.
— Liz
I give feedback to every single person I talk to. It’s good for recruiting company brand.
— Cat
  • You don't have to get super specific into the feedback - tell them what areas they can improve. 
  • This is a dance and if you want to work here, I have to vet you and you need to vet for us.

How scaleable is your interview process?

It’s scaleable because we train our engineering team to hire and interview.
— Joe

- If you don't have a big engineering team to help you screen candidates, then use as many peers as possible to help you determine the best fit.

What makes you good at what you do?

I don’t claim to know what I don’t know. I’m a good person, passionate, with clear expectations. I’m an advocate for people than a recruiter.
— Joe
I’m the voice and face and first impression of the company. I know my team inside and out with strong connections with every employee and product. My favorite question is “What’s the best thing about working at Trello,” because I can talk about the company and the people passionately.
— Liz
I treat people like people. I’m being human. You have as much power as I do in the conversation.
— Ryan
I’m good at what I do because I like what I do. It’s not about money. Find a role that makes you a better person.
— Cat

Any advice to someone who's new at recruiting?

  • Get to know the industry.
  • See what's trending.
  • Read Joel Spolsky's blog.
  • Learn tech skills if they're relevant to your company.