How We Grew Our Engineering Team by 20% in 1 Month

September 14th, 2017
John Grotegut & Sarah Wheatley

If you hire for technical roles, you know how difficult it can be to quickly move software engineering talent through your hiring funnel.

On one hand, you’re definitely not the only one vying for their attention: getting offers out to the best technical talent as quickly as possible is critical. 

On the other, the cost of a bad hire is at least 30% of their first year earnings. For well-paid technical roles, this works out to a sizable sum.

Striking a balance between thorough screening and quick hiring is something most organizations (with a few notable exceptions) continue to struggle with. 

It Takes How Long to Hire 12 Engineers?

According to Bryan Schreier, Sequoia Capital’s representative on the boards of Dropbox, Qualtrics, Hearsay Social, and others, it would take an average of 990 hours for a startup to hire 12 engineers. Spread evenly over the course of a year, that’s 19 hours a week.

Assuming a 40 hour work week, a single recruiter would need to devote half of their time on the job to hiring 12 engineers.

Put another way, the average month entails ~172 hours of work for a single employee. Allocating around 300 hours for interviews, you would need at least four recruiters dedicated to technical hiring to make 12 hires in a month.

We filled the same number of technical positions with a recruiting team of two - only one of which was dedicated to technical hiring - in a single month. 

Those 12 hires increased the manpower of our engineering team by over 20% in only 30 days.

Here’s how we did it.

Step 1: Focus on Sourcing

When it comes to recruiting software engineers, personalized outreach is your best bet. Most of the time spent by our recruiters was spent on sourcing. While we focused on LinkedIn, we also spent a large amount of time in other networks: Slack groups, user groups, and campus recruiting events were some of the other networks and tools we used for outreach. 

Referrals are also one of our most valuable sources of talent, though in this case only one of our twelve hires was a referral. The rest were sourced via personalized outreach.

Most sourcing efforts have a single goal: get high quality software engineers into your ATS. Getting them interested in what your company has to offer and explaining the unique projects they’ll be a part of - both ultimately lead to the same place: your application.

Depending on the simplicity and length of the application, this could be an easy ask, or the largest hurdle to your recruiting efforts. 

At HireVue we bypassed this issue entirely by entering interested candidates into our ATS and inviting all of them to a HireVue OnDemand interview and coding challenge (via CodeVue).

Step 2: Use a Powerful Screening Tool

We were able to put such a heavy focus on our sourcing efforts because we made use of our own robust technical screening tool. 

CodeVue is HireVue’s developer assessment tool. While it is not the only coding assessment on the market, it is unique because it is fully integrated into our OnDemand video interviewing platform. This means recruiters and hiring managers can place interview questions before and after the interview to get a feel for the “person behind the code”. 

Many organizations leveraging CodeVue use this functionality to ask candidates why they answered the way they did, revealing the developer’s thinking style and unique approach to problem-solving. At HireVue, we do the same. 

Since CodeVue coding challenges are autoscored (and also given an “originality” score based on previous answers and existing code, effectively checking for plagarism), our recruiters do not need technical know-how to identify the candidates that need to be prioritized. 

Step 3: Let Hiring Managers do the Heavy Lifting

While certain candidates are prioritized based on their score, every single OnDemand and coding challenge is reviewed by our hiring manager. Sometimes extraneous circumstances lead to a stellar developer performing poorly during the CodeVue, and their responses to our follow up questions reveal them to be a great talent. 

If our hiring manager thinks a candidate has potential, they are invited to a series of consecutive live interviews (conducted online) with the hiring manager and several members of the engineering team. These interviews evaluate candidates for fit, and assess their coding skill via live whiteboarding.

When the interviewers come to a consensus, the best-fit candidates are invited to an onsite interview with the hiring manager. All in all, the interview process takes an average of 10-14 days, though we made our quickest hire in only seven days

After that, it’s just a matter of getting the offers out.

What’s Missing?

Compared to many recruiting processes tailored to hiring software developers, our process here at HireVue might seem to be missing several steps. 

This is intentional. 

Where's the Application?

Most of the engineers we hired never filled out an application. While we have developer applications on our careers site, candidates sourced via LinkedIn or other social groups never see it: they are directed directly into the coding challenge and on demand interview. 

Since every applicant who applied via our online application is sent an invitation to a coding challenge regardless, it’s an unnecessary hurdle. 

Where's the Phone Screen?

When it comes to hiring software developers, the phone screen is usually pretty cursory. It’s meant to screen out those who obviously do not have the qualifications or experience mandated by the position, and maybe try and determine fit. 

If you’re screening applicants by phone, chances are you’re going to test their coding skills later on in the hiring process anyway. Why not give every candidate the chance to show their skills, regardless of qualifications or experience? With the abundance of online courses and books, many of the best new developers are going to be self taught - these candidates might not make it past your phone screen, but they’ll shine when you give them the chance to show their skills.

Where's the Interview with a Technical Recruiter?

Since our coding challenges are autoscored, we leave it up to the hiring manager and members of the engineering team (who both possess the required specific expertise lacking in a technical recruiter) to evaluate every candidate’s code and on demand interview. Like with the phone screen, interviewing with a technical recruiter would be an unnecessary extra step.

Key Takeaways

There are three general rules for hiring software developers we can distill from our success:

  1. Prioritize sourcing. Realistically, there’s only so much a non-technical recruiter can do when it comes to screening technical candidates. If you have faith in your screening tool and hiring managers (like we do), put a priority on finding the best passive candidates and getting them interested. Many passive candidates might be hesitant to fill out an application, particularly if they think it will never be seen. If you can, show that you’re taking them seriously and bypass the application step entirely.
  2. Empower recruiters to make decisions based on data. We realize that not every hiring manager will be willing to review every single coding challenge and/or interview. That’s why it’s important to empower less technical recruiters with autoscored coding assessments, so they can make data-driven screening decisions.
  3. Involve as few “extra” interviewers as possible. Involving layer after layer of interviewers (each with varying levels of expertise) isn’t just inefficient: it’s a scheduling nightmare for talent acquisition. Your hiring managers know what types of engineers they want: leave it up to them.

“But I Don’t Work in a Startup”

Realistically, startups do have something of an advantage when it comes to hiring software developers. Many developers actively seek out the “startup culture”; sourcing these tends to be easier for organizations in the startup stage. But for what more established organizations might lack in “startup-iness”, they more than make up for with recruiting manpower and budget for high-quality screening tools.

Case in point, IBM does something very similar with their junior developer hiring. They fill more than 150 different requisitions yearly across their organization using a “skills-based” process just like we do here. Obviously, there are a few things that change as the process reaches a larger scale, but overall their strategy is very similar to ours. Read how they do it at the link below.

About the Authors:

John Grotegut.jpgJohn Grotegut is the Head of Global Talent at HireVue. He leverages over 18 years of talent building experience to help build HireVue one amazing person at a time. Find him on LinkedIn.      



Sarah Wheatley





Sarah Wheatley is a Recruiting Coordinator at HireVue. She helps HireVue find the best talent while crafting a great experience for every candidate. Find her on LinkedIn.