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Assess technical skills before moving candidates forward in the interviewing process

By Natalia Panowicz

According to a December 2016 survey by the career site Indeed, nearly 90 per cent of companies reported they find it challenging to find and hire technical talent. Seventy-five per cent of HR managers surveyed said that the time it takes to fill IT positions has increased in the past three years.

Technology is the catalyst for disruption across industries and more and more companies realize they must put more skin in the game to remain competitive. The need for tech talent is no longer limited to IT or engineering – coders, programmers and engineers are now essential employees across most functions. As a result, the hiring demand for related positions has far outpaced other roles. Naturally, every company wants the best and brightest programmers – but what’s the best way to identify those people?

As those in the HR profession are well aware, subjective assessments of candidates through conversations and interactions are crucial and reduce the risk of making bad hires, which are costly for organizations and demotivating for employees. Understanding the interpersonal skills you can’t glean from reading resumes is the reason most interviews happen, and much of the information gained during the interview is invaluable to determine if the candidate will integrate well within the established company culture.

There are countless subjective characteristics to consider: Do I want to work with him? Are they engaged and enthusiastic? Will she enrich our culture? Each position, candidate and interviewer is unique, and a magic formula for evaluating people skills and cultural fit doesn’t exist.

On the other hand, it is possible to objectively assess the technical skills of candidates. Doing so facilitates recruiting at scale to save HR teams time, eliminate bias, reduce engineering resources wasted by interviewing unqualified candidates and provide a common language to fill the knowledge gap between HR professionals and the technical teams they’re helping.

Identifying and evaluating the strengths of potential new hires early on ensures only candidates with skills best fit for the position move on to in-person interviews and increases the chance they’ll be successful in their new role.

Increasing the objectivity of the hiring process is especially important when hiring for technical roles because it serves as a filter to quickly identify the most skilled programmers to advance through the hiring pipeline and ensure no one’s time is wasted in the process – time of the HR team, that of other key decision-makers and the candidates. Identifying and evaluating the strengths of potential new hires early on ensures only candidates with skills best fit for the position move on to in-person interviews and increases the chance they’ll be successful in their new role.

With objective assessments, all candidates complete the same job-specific tasks, with the same instructions. Subsequently, the same assessment criterion is used to evaluate their results. The outcome is feedback that even non-technical HR professionals can understand and use to make informed hiring recommendations: How quickly can they identify and resolve problems? What process do they use to do so? How well do their skills and approach fit what the company is looking for?

“Objective assessments get us through the vetting process faster and help us determine whether to move forward with someone at each stage in the recruiting process,” said Beth Sallomi, global HR and talent operations leader at Fandom. “We can get a better sense of a candidate’s capabilities through real-life examples.”

Another byproduct of reducing human involvement early in the hiring process is the elimination of potential bias. An objective assessment isn’t influenced by where a candidate went to school, who the candidate knows, a person’s gender or any other factors that may consciously or subconsciously influence hiring decisions. It’s simply an apples-to-apples comparison of each candidate’s skills.

Everything you can learn about each candidate is informative and potentially valuable, but basing candidate screenings on signals like education background and work experience might unnecessarily eliminate strong candidates with non-traditional backgrounds. It even has the potential to introduce unnecessary positive bias based on the prestige of their college or past employers.

Relying on traditional indicators shouldn’t be the only determinants used to make hiring decisions – especially in an industry where the most successful professionals often take non-traditional paths to get there. By marrying subjective and objective recruiting methods, HR teams can successfully and efficiently find and hire new employees with the best long-term potential. n

Natalia Panowicz is the chief operating officer at Codility.

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