Ryan Bryers, CTO & CIO, Car Finance 247
In IT there are plenty of things that are really easy to say but in practice quite hard to do, at times we can underplay the effort required to accomplish a task. One of them is recruitment of high quality IT leaders & engineers.
I have initiated a journey here at Carfinance247 where we will Digitally Evolve the great technology we have to a World Class platform. Working in parallel with Jon Wilson the Chief Product Officer we have a strong business & tech vision that we will realise iteratively through 2019 & 2020.
With some changes in strategic organisation structure and attrition in resources in the early part of the year I have a recruitment plan that aims to bring in the skills and experience I need. I'm quite far down the road in recruiting for a variety of roles from Heads of Engineering, Delivery and Data Science to Principle and Senior Engineers to Scrum Masters to UI Engineers and quite probably a few other roles I've not mentioned. Simple, put a few specs out, talk to a few recruiters and make some offers ..... what are you waiting for, you should be done by lunchtime !
The reality is this, if like me you are looking to recruit a decent number of people (say 8+) then be prepared to handover at least 60% of your work time to building the team and stick to your principles when the going gets tough. It will get tough too, it will get frustrating and at times you'll wonder if there are even people out there that meet your needs.
From the outset myself and Iona Bryant who leads on Recruitment for 247-Tech had to set in play a process of how we would recruit people, it's not just a case of read CV, have a meeting and make an offer. We came up with the following approach:
Create a set of expectations that we want to see on a CV
Set a principle for how we assess a CV's content to ensure it's accurate
Run a 30-minute screening interview phone call with a candidate
Set the candidate a code test to complete (for Engineers) or perhaps a practical test for a non-engineer
Bring them in for a face to face interview that is informed by the test
Depending on the level of the role have an "About you" phone meeting to see if there is a good cultural fit
I guess you can immediately see that this process isn't a 5-minute side of the desk thing. Each step of the way is supported through collaboration tooling for all those involved in reviewing and assessing candidates.
Step 1 is simple, I already knew that I was looking for people that have a C# background but had shown desire, passion and experience with the newer .Net Core. I was setting a clear path to Docker containers using Kubernetes to get there supported by an automated DevOps CI/CD process, I was looking for experience in these areas. Google is my preferred cloud but I wanted to see someone with experience of Public Cloud and Google would be a bonus.
Step 2 is slightly more difficult, it's one thing to see all of the points in Step 1 noted in the skills box on the CV but it's another to assess the practical application of those skills in a commercial environment. From the outset we determined to look for cross reference of skills to experience with the skills. The balance to strike is experience versus passion. If someone claims a skill but hasn't used it then you have to be a little wary if the skill is real or mature enough but if the skills is claimed through a passion to learn and grow then there is a positive indicator about their potential.
Step 3 is an obvious step for me but not as common as it should be in the industry. It is the audition to make it through to the face to face stage. This is where you get the chance to test the person versus the CV and assess the depth and maturity of the skills and experience. The key point here is to ensure that on your side of the phone there are at least 2 people asking questions from different viewpoints (one technical, one process/business).
Step 4 is one that draws a lot of challenge but I strongly recommend that you enforce this for engineers. Send them a code test and ask them to complete a Github repo and share it with you. We're not talking 2-3 days of effort here, we're looking at 2-3 hours of work. I'm challenged a lot by by people in industry on this point but I'll give you a footballing analogy, would a Premier League Manager recruit a football player if they didn't see him play ? Answer is NO. You're recruiting an engineer so it's not unreasonable to have them show you what they can do (10 keepie uppies please and 20 press ups !).
Tests though can also be practical, ask a Scrum Master to bring in a process they'd follow from planning to retrospective, ask an agile PM to create a PPT on how they'd run metrics on the sprints and report them, ask a CX person to create a PPT to show their approach to getting the experience right through user testing.
Essentially, be creative but don't ask for a time excessive output.
Step 5 is part reliant on Step 4, the first part of the face to face interview is to review the test and ask them why they took the approaches they did. You'll be incredibly surprised that some people that shone in the phone interview in Step 3 crash and burn in the outcomes of Step 4 that you review in Step 5 face 2 face. I guess that's the equivalent of someone telling you they will bend a 30-yarder into the top right hand corner of the net versus watching them step on the ball as they run up.
When people question why I ask for a test I explain how I see people fail in the outcomes of the test. Let's face it, I'm agile so if I'm going to see failure I'd like to fail as early as possible.
Step 6 is all about culture. You may have the best engineer or leader in terms of their pedigree but if they aren't going to fit in or could negatively disrupt things then you may have to say no. I generally only use this step for "Heads of" roles to ensure I have the right top down approach to leadership. I have also used it in a very recent interview process to try and pick a preferred candidate in what was a photo finish in ability/capability.
Step 7 is the end game, where you get to relax right ? Nope. This can often be as testing as the entire 6 steps that precede it. You are now so close but you start to run the risk of the counter offer, the competing offer, the notice period, the wobble (the reality of leaving where they are) and the on-boarding process. There is nothing more frustrating than the last minute message to say someone has pulled out.
As I said right at the start, you need to be prepared to hold your nerve and maintain your standards. You should only bring in people that will enhance the team and ideally bring in skills you don't have or don't have in abundance. There have been times when I've been tempted to compromise and drop below my standards as it can take time to see the right CV's or the process seems to take a long time. We've streamlined ourselves and all being well we can get from step 1 to 7 in 10-days for the right candidate. We've been well supported by a number of recruitment partners (namely Digital Gurus, MRJ Recruitment, Evolution Jobs, Nixor & ConsultRPM).
Recruitment like painting the 4th bridge is a never ending process !
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