In 2016, Pipedrive passed 30,000 business customers, collectively having a myriad of sales concerns, preferences, and demands from our sales management tool. This means our engineering team had to grow, too. The main reason: to speed up development of all those features our customers want, without compromising our high standards for deployment.
Pipedrive had already attracted many great engineers, but when hiring for a large quantity of candidates who meet your quality requirements, you may have to look beyond the immediate local talent pool.
We’ve added about 30 engineers in the last six months, and I’d like to share some of what I learned while we did it.
If you don’t already have a person or team dedicated to hiring into your company, you should find one before taking on any major recruitment project. An in-house recruiter is more economical than a recruiting agency and helps to get quality employees who fit your job requirements and company culture.
To hire 30 engineers, you’ll need to have at least 200 candidates going through the interview process, and your recruiter will need to find and evaluate 500-600 potential leads, to find those 200 candidates. Our numbers were 35 engineers from 218 candidates from a pool of 628 leads.
A great recruiter not only finds candidates, but also leads them through the interview process, coordinates internal communication about them, and helps to evaluate whether candidates are a cultural fit. They will also regularly review the hiring process, and try to optimize it for fast feedback and clear expectations to participants.
We were lucky to get Olga Shatokha, who moved to Tallinn, Estonia, from Ukraine to join Pipedrive as a talent hunter for engineers. Her previous experience at a recruiting agency and her wide network of connections helped us to extend our reach and hire awesome engineers at a great pace.
The most critical part of her job is to keep the ball rolling and not to drop it on the floor, meaning Olga is the central point for all formal communication with candidates, as well as all internal stakeholders. Not only does this help to give a consistent, cohesive view of the company, it also creates a positive impression of the company, even if the candidate is unsuccessful in this attempt.
It’s important to explicitly define your developer hiring process, so everyone understands the stages of the process, as well as which stage each of the candidates is in.
At the time, our technical hiring process looked like this:
Step 1: Introductory interview (first half explaining Pipedrive, our values and processes, as well as the kind of person we look for; second half allowing candidates to tell their story and why they are interested in Pipedrive and the relevant position).
Step 2: Home test task to validate the candidate’s technical abilities and commitment to work at Pipedrive.
Step 3: Technical interview with developers to test passion and enthusiasm, as well as fit within our current team – their opinions matter more than you might assume.
Step 4: Interview with Pipedrive co-founder and president Timo Rein to ensure that, at least by now, the candidate understands the past and expected trajectory of the company and their role in its continued growth.
As you can see, we approach hiring like a sales negotiation: You’re selling your company to the candidate, and the candidate is selling their skills to your company. We kept a shareable system of record with all information about candidates, their communication, and interviewers’ feedback. And, we also regularly reviewed the process to determine what we should change or adjust.
After receiving additional funding, we then had to adapt to speed up hiring. As mentioned, we had already employed our in-house recruiter, Olga, to concentrate solely on bringing in engineers. Even so, it didn’t take long before I noticed my weeks were filling up with interviews, leaving little time for anything else.
Olga and I decided to review and change the process. The idea was to involve more engineers and engineering leads in the process. As a result, initial interviews were done by one of the team leads — followed by a test and technical interview. Then I talked to the candidates who had made it through. The final step, an interview with Rein — and someone at the New York office, usually the head of human resources — was retained to ensure the cultural fit of potential hires.
As you can see, our process is lengthy and requires dedication from the candidates, but it helps us to find people really interested in working for Pipedrive.
At first, we were mostly hiring through referrals, as it reduces the risk of bringing in the wrong person and can speed things up. But at some point, all contacts will be exhausted, and you’ll need to look outside of your network. Such extra steps can be a great way to fill the gaps in talent your network can’t.
We have hired engineers from as far away as Brazil, as well as closer to home in Europe, from countries like Lithuania, the U.K., Ukraine and Belarus.
Among the inducements to relocate for Pipedrive, we invite candidates we covet to visit Tallinn and the Pipedrive offices to meet future colleagues and even have a dinner with them. In addition, we offer a relocation bonus that equals one month’s salary.
Once you start hiring more than a couple of people per month, you need to streamline your developer onboarding. In Pipedrive, we try to time the start dates of multiple people so they can be onboarded together.
On Day One, people get the usual information about the company and receive their laptops and access to various systems. On the second day, all new employees start product training. After four days’ training, new employees are capable of helping Pipedrive customers; this is what they will do for the next couple of days.
After general product training, engineers join their teams, but advanced training — focused on explaining the architecture of the Pipedrive systems, code development rules and deployment process — continues in the following weeks.
By the end of the second week, everyone understands how Pipedrive works, and how they can improve it by coding and deploying new features and bug fixes.
Involving engineers in hiring helps us to create a sense of responsibility for the new employees; hiring stakeholders make the extra effort to ensure the success of the person or people they helped to select. Try to involve everyone in the process — through review of test results, participation in interviews or technical onboarding presentations.
We even ask our junior developers to assess senior candidates’ ability to teach and explain.
When budgeting for new positions, plan for junior hires. Mixing senior engineers with junior engineers has numerous benefits. Junior people have a lot of energy and motivation to learn new things; almost everything is new to them, and they’re motivated to fix small problems or implement tasks that senior people find boring. At Pipedrive we try to have junior developers on each product team; 20% of our engineers are either junior staffers or interns.