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We all know that technical recruiting can be a real challenge. This topic is always on our minds—in fact, Greenhouse partnered with Stack Overflow last year to discuss technical recruiting tips & tricks in a webinar.

If you’re not familiar with us, Greenhouse is a company that’s dedicated to helping other companies recruit and onboard the best talent. So it’s no stretch to say that we spend a lot of time thinking about how to optimize the hiring process.Here’s a quick overview of how technical recruiting works at Greenhouse. Our Talent Acquisition team includes a Director of Talent Acquisition, one Recruiting Manager, two Recruiters, and two Recruiting Coordinators. Both Recruiters and Recruiting Coordinators team up to fill the technical roles at Greenhouse.

Our Engineering team is currently 48 people strong. Last year we grew the Engineering team significantly with 30 hires, and we’re hoping to add around eight people to the team in the remainder of 2016.

We’re proud of what our Talent Acquisition team has achieved so far and continues to strive toward when it comes to technical recruiting. We’re excited to share some of the lessons we’ve learned along the way so that you can achieve similar success, too!

Part 1: Our general approach to recruiting

I mentioned earlier that Greenhouse spends a lot of time thinking about how to optimize recruiting, so here are a few of the concepts that guide our approach. These ideas are important for filling any role, but they’re especially beneficial for technical recruiting since tech roles tend to be more challenging to fill and can often include specialized assessments.

The kick-off meeting is EVERYTHING.

Our recruiters and hiring managers always do an extremely collaborative, extensive, 1- to 2-hour kick-off process. The purpose of the kick-off meeting is to set expectations and the tone for the relationship.

During this working session, the recruiter and hiring manager answer three big questions:

  • Who are we trying to hire?
  • How will we evaluate candidates?
  • What will the interview process look like?

They also spend a lot of time answering a host of other questions, all leading to what success will look like in this role. What will the person need to do in their first 90 days on the job? What are the long-term objectives of this position? How can the recruiter sell this position to candidates and find the right person?

If you’re curious to dig deeper into the process of answering these questions, be sure to check out our Structured Interview Workbook—it’ll walk you through all the steps our recruiters and hiring managers go through before opening a new role at Greenhouse and make it easy for you to kick off this process with your hiring managers.

It’s a lot of work upfront, but it pays off later on in the process. Not only does this approach help hiring managers understand all the work recruiters do behind the scenes, but it ensures that the recruiter and hiring manager are on the same page. They both agree on everything from the business need for the role and how to sell it to candidates to what the interview process should look like. This makes the entire interview process more efficient and focused—a definite win!

Modeling helps us see the future.

Around the time of the kick-off meeting, our recruiter will pull out their handy pipeline calculator to anticipate the pipeline and work needed in each stage.

What exactly is the pipeline calculator? Basically, we look at historic pass-through rates at key moments in the pipeline such as the number of candidates who went from phone screen to on-site interviews, the number of onsite interviewees who received offers, and the offer acceptance rate. We use these figures to predict the total number of candidates we need to interview to make a hire.

Based on our predictions about how many qualified candidates will apply directly, we can use our model to calculate how many prospects we’ll need to reach out to. And we can also look at historical prospecting rates to calculate how many messages we’ll need to send in order to get enough responses to fill the pipeline.

The pipeline modeling capabilities are something that our recruiting team has introduced recently. Greenhouse Technical Recruiter Lauren Allanson explains that the model “has been helpful in managing expectations with hiring managers. There’s a lot of work in recruiting that doesn’t immediately show results—a prospect might not respond for a few weeks, or hiring managers don’t necessarily understand how many initial phone screens it takes to get candidates to the manager interview stage—so it’s useful to be able to point to historical data and anticipate when you’ll reach certain milestones.”

Our recruiters (and all Greenhouse users) also have the ability to send weekly reports to hiring managers. These brief updates give managers a quick overview of how the open roles are progressing and tracking towards their goals.

Understanding hiring source is essential.

One of the insights that we’ve gained through modeling is that most tech roles don’t draw as many direct applicants, which means that these roles involve more prospecting than other types of roles. Since many tech candidates are passive candidates, we rely on other hiring sources like employee referrals and outreach to fill the majority of these positions.

Not only does this knowledge inform our approach to making tech hires, but it helps us make better predictions about the total number of emails we’ll need to send in order to receive a response, how long it’ll take us to send that many emails, and therefore how long the entire hiring process will take.

Part 2: Our technical interview flow

The recruiter and hiring manager will decide on the exact stages of the interview during their initial kick-off meeting, but here’s an overview of our typical technical interview process. Note that some of the stages may change depending on the seniority or scope of the role.

Step 1: Recruiting interview with recruiter

This initial phone interview covers a lot of ground: It allows the recruiter to perform a quick assessment of the candidate’s tech skills, overall work style, and motivation for considering another role, which they can then pass on to the hiring manager. At the same time, it’s an opportunity for the recruiter to sell the candidate on the role and working environment at Greenhouse. Because many candidates are passive, especially for tech roles, it’s generally the candidate’s first interaction with Greenhouse, so our recruiters do their best to make a good impression and leave the candidates wanting more.

Step 2: Remote coding exercise with engineer

During this round, the candidate will share a coding interface with a member of the engineering team and the two will work on building something together. At this stage, the Greenhouse engineer is hoping to learn about the candidate’s approach to coding and problem-solving.

Step 3: Knowledge-based technical phone interview with engineer

We’ve discovered that it’s useful to have candidates demonstrate their coding abilities early in the process. The content and difficulty of this phone interview can be scaled up or down, depending on how senior the role is.

Step 4: On-site interview with engineers and people from other departments

Generally, our on-site interviews feature two technical rounds that might include building software features or pair programming with an engineer. During the on-site stage, candidates will also meet with people from another team who will assess whether the candidate demonstrates our company values such as being authentic, collaborative, and open-minded and inclusive. If the candidate is being considered for a technical manager role, they will have another on-site interview with additional technical exercises, a meeting with our Head of Product, and a meeting with their potential manager.

Part 3: One of our technical recruiting challenges—and how we overcame it

Last year, the Security Engineer role was one of the most challenging technical roles we filled. It relied almost entirely on prospecting, and our recruiters sent numerous personalized messages.

When we ran this search last year, it included a take-home test in one of the initial stages because we believed that it was important to assess candidates’ technical skills early in the process.

However, when we looked at the pass-through rates, we realized that a high percentage of people were getting stuck in the take-home test stage because the vast majority of candidates were passive.

This was affecting our pipeline, so eventually we reached a point where we had to pivot and incorporate the technical test into the on-site stage. It was an important lesson for us to really consider where our candidates were coming from and how that might influence their willingness to spend time on a take-home test, especially during the early stages of the interview process.

When it comes to technical recruiting, we’re never done learning! We continue to examine and refine our approach to technical recruiting at Greenhouse. As we gather more data, we can adjust our strategy when it comes to prospecting, interviewing, and all other steps of the hiring process.

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