hiring engineers

Looking to Hire Engineers? We’ve Got You Covered.

In today’s job market, finding a qualified engineer to fill an open position is a lot harder than you might expect: according to a report by Sequoia Capital, it takes approximately 990 hours to hire a dozen engineers, which is an exorbitant amount of time by anyone’s standards. [i]

Why does hiring engineers take so long?

Simply put, there’s just simply not enough engineers to go around, and things are only going to get worse: in the next decade, the U.S Department of Labor expects there to be a nearly 1.4 million unfilled computer specialist roles, with new university graduates only filling about 30 percent of the open positions. [ii]

This means a couple of things for companies looking to hire an engineer: first, you’re going to need to act fast. The best engineers are likely to already have stable employment, and if not, they probably already have one foot in the door at a new job.

Second, you’re going to need to adapt: simply listing your open your position in the usual places and screening for the usual indicators will probably yield poor results. Your hiring processes are going to need to be smarter, more efficient, and capable of onboarding a new candidate before they decide to change their mind.

At Newton Software, we specialize in helping employers attract and engage the most qualified candidates, which is why we’ve put together this great guide for filling your open technical position.

What Makes it Difficult?

Atop of the fact that there aren’t enough engineers to go around, if you do happen to find a qualified candidate, they still might not end up being a good fit for the company.

Engineers, in this case, those who sit in front of a computer and create things, have a bevy of different talents that they can potentially bring to the table, and unfortunately, there isn’t a single set of skills that ultimately define what a “good” engineer happens to be.

Therefore, matching your candidate’s proficiencies with the required skills for your open position can be an extremely difficult endeavor, especially if you’re not an engineer yourself.

With the pool of potential candidates shrinking every year, this can cause some employers to become anxious and lead them to onboard candidates too quickly, resulting in poor results and frustration from both parties.

How do you avoid these sorts of situations?

Basically, it comes down to one thing: creating an effective hiring process and sticking with it.

Creating a Process

When it comes to finding an engineer, creating and implementing a hiring process that’s repeatable is of the utmost importance.

In many cases, hiring a new employee involves a whole lot of “shooting from the hip”, which is especially true with smaller companies where the very structure of an interview can change depending on who happens to be in the office.

While this may work for some companies, finding an engineer in this manner is not a safe bet.

With a technical hire, the goal is to be able to run every single candidate through the same set of questions, tests, and evaluations, so that it will be easier to compare one candidate’s results to another.

Additionally, during the interview process, it would be a good idea to have the candidates interview with multiple individuals to get a balanced perspective on what they bring to the table.

However, first things first: before all else, an effective hiring process must be able to target the right candidate for the job, as this will help make things a little easier down the road.

Targeting the Right Candidates

If you were to close your eyes and think about the perfect candidate for your technical position, you might envision an MIT (or equivalent) graduate who’s hungry for opportunity and can solve any problem thrown their way.

What you might not envision, is a salesperson at a furniture store or a line cook at a fast food restaurant.

However, findings from Triplebyte, a company that specializes in recruitment for engineers, show that pedigree is often not a good measurement of how a successful a candidate may be.

Indeed, it is true that as a group, engineers who graduate from a school like MIT go on to do great things and are highly successful, but most engineers that you will find on the job marketplace will not be from these schools; in fact, it may be the case that some of them won’t have a technical background at all.

This means that some candidates should not be disqualified simply because they don’t have an engineer degree, especially since there are so many talented, self-taught coders and computer engineers out there who simply need the opportunity to prove their worth.

As such, it would be a good idea to refrain from giving interviewers and test conductors the full resume of a potential candidate so that each candidate can be judged solely on their ability to both complete their interview assessment and answer the interviewer’s questions.

Otherwise, the individual or individuals conducting the interview may be inclined to act on their biases for what a “proper” engineering resume should look like.

Conducting a Technical Interview

After the screening process is complete, it is now time to conduct the technical interview.

In general, most technical interviews consist of two parts: the assessment and the verbal interview.

Creating the Perfect Test

The perfect interview assessment needs to challenge the candidate in a manner that is nearly identical to the responsibilities of the open position.

While this may seem like an obvious point, it is a common misstep that many companies make while filling an empty technical position.

For example, with software engineering, there are programmers who excel at working quickly and in an iterative fashion, while others may perform better with more long-form styles of writing code.

Therefore, depending on what kind of engineer you’re looking for, your assessment will not only need to be able to test the candidate to see if they have the know-how to fulfill the responsibilities of the position, but also make a determination of what “kind” of programmer they are as well.

Asking the Right Questions

Knowing what questions to ask a potential technical hire can be extremely difficult for many reasons.

No matter how desperate a company may be to hire an engineer, there is still the issue of whether the candidate will be a good cultural fit to consider.

While the candidate may have excellent assessment scores, if they are unable to articulate the methodology behind their solutions, then they may not be a good hire, especially if the open position involves some sort of leadership responsibilities.

In general, you’ll want to ask your candidate some simple engineering questions, even though they likely just completed tougher questions on the pre-interview assessment. The purpose of these questions is to allow the interviewer a chance to see how the candidate’s mind works, and to see how well they can articulate the solution to the problem.

Additionally, it would be a good idea to ask if they have any extracurricular activities. When evaluating these responses, watch for candidates who pursue engineering projects on their spare time, as this indicates that the candidate is truly dedicated and passionate about their career.

It is also true that engineering candidates who have an interest in things that are more creative or artistic could have some intangible problems solving skills that they can bring to the table.

Finally, avoid asking questions about past projects that the candidate may have worked on for a previous company. While it’s tempting to get a candidate to speak at length about their past work experiences, it may not end up proving useful, as the specific set of skills or solutions used in a previous project may not be applicable to future projects assigned by the company.

Closing the Deal

Once it’s all said and done, and you’ve found your perfect recruit, it’s time to make them an offer and close the deal.

It’s important in these situations to remember that a highly qualified technical hire is likely to accept your offer based on a few conditions: a competitive pay rate, the prospect of fulfilling work, and perhaps a feeling that they can get along with everyone at the company.

That last part is important: once the offer is accepted, those in charge of the onboarding process need to be careful of not changing their tone; otherwise, the candidate may view this as a sort of bait and switch and start looking for the nearest available exit.

Additionally, since your new technical hire may be finishing up a personal project or a boot camp of some sort, it may be necessary to push the candidate’s desired start date as far back as possible.

Improve Your Hiring for Engineers With Newton’s ATS

Built by recruiters for hiring professionals like you, Newton comes with the tools that you need recruit top engineering talent: from posting jobs and scheduling interviews to making offers and onboarding new hires. To learn more about how Newton can help your business succeed, schedule a time to speak with one of our product experts below.


[i] https://www.sequoiacap.com/article/recruit-engineers-in-less-time/

[ii] https://resources.envoyglobal.com/blog/the-stem-talent-shortage-technology

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