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The term “candidate experience” is thrown around often in the talent space, especially within tech where hiring engineers is extremely lucrative. As a Technical Recruiter at Cisco Meraki, I believe that providing a great memorable candidate experience gives you an edge over all your competitors. This is especially true when hiring senior engineers who will not be impressed by a swag bag or free lunch, but rather the thought and care you put into the interview process. I sat down with three Senior Software Engineers at Meraki to ask them what made our candidate experience unique, and how other companies can emulate these techniques for similar success.

Be a Business Partner

When asked what each engineer liked most about Meraki’s interview process, Daniel, a Site Reliability Engineer, instantly answered that “he wasn’t treated like a number.” It sounds like common sense, but many companies still get this wrong. Of course there are hiring goals to meet, but valuing a candidate as purely a number makes an engineer feel like they’re simply a piece of your puzzle.

Instead, be a business partner and make each candidate feel that you are in this together. I do this by consistently checking in after each interview, providing timely feedback (whether positive or not), and being a resource from the very first conversation for questions ranging from our tech stack to interview tips to health benefits. If I’m unsure of an answer, I admit it and round back shortly with the proper information. My recruiting philosophy is to be as transparent and accountable as possible so there are no surprises from Meraki or the candidate throughout the process.'

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In doing so, I build trust and partnership. Ryan, a Firmware Security Lead, agreed with the importance of this partnership, saying, “Interviewing is a very personal experience. You're putting yourself out there and it's vulnerable. One of the things you did really well for me was that you gave me comfort and confidence.” This partnership extends after an offer is signed as well. When accepting a Meraki offer, every interviewer a candidate met will send a congratulatory email to the new hire. On your first day at Meraki, you’ll find a handwritten card from your recruiter welcoming you to the family. These are small things to implement that can have a great impact on your candidate experience from beginning to end.

Have an Engaging Technical Process

Meraki’s interview process is embedded with intentional opportunities to highlight our technologies and products, and we put tremendous thought in sharing our enthusiasm with candidates. At every onsite, this includes a personal live product demo during your first interview of the day. Suzanne, a Senior Mobile Full Stack Engineer, noted that our product walk through was one of her favorite moments of the entire interview experience. The Meraki Engineer was “interested in showing me Meraki’s web app called Dashboard. When I had questions, he was excited to answer. Immediately, the first person I talked to was excited. It made the interview fun.” An extra 15 minutes for a product demo is well worth it!

In parallel, Meraki’s interview process is also structured to provide candidates multifaceted opportunities to demonstrate their technical strengths. We realize that like programming, interviewing is a collaborative problem-solving process. Is the engineer going to like working at Meraki? Will we like working with the engineer? Thus, we evaluate interviews not solely based on right or wrong answers, but also consider whether a candidate takes feedback well, if thoughtful questions are asked, and if a candidate has the potential to grow with us. Meraki also gives the option of interviewing with either a whiteboard or a laptop with a shared coding platform. The flexibility to use either platform is an easy way companies can make candidates more comfortable in a stressful interview environment.

Sell Your Company, Too

When asked what companies could do better to improve an overall candidate experience, Ryan thought, “Companies often forget that they are also selling themselves. In many ways, I'm interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing me and that has to be recognized.” Aside from the technical interviews, Meraki tries our best to show candidates our day-to-day engineering and overall Meraki culture. This includes a personal office tour from our Recruiting Coordinator, a lunch hour with Meraki Engineers not on your interview panel to chat all things non-technical, and a wrap up at the end of your onsite with your Recruiter to cover anything we may have missed. If available, Meraki’s Engineering Directors or our CTO also sit down to chat during your onsite. At the end of the day, you’ll have met with a diverse group of Engineers who each provide a unique perspective of working at Meraki. This is truly where companies can shine and for most senior engineers, will be what they remember most when interviewing -- the people. Daniel closed with this final thought, “I've worked with so many people who are just super smart and that's why they got the job. It's rare to find a company with people who are smart AND who actually want to be around each other. It makes a big difference."

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