The job responsibilities of a CTO vary greatly depending on the size of the company, the leadership, and the presence of an HR department. But even the busiest of CTOs still find the time to be somewhat involved in the recruiting, interviewing, and hiring process of their future technical reports. We spoke to a handful of CTOs across the globe to learn more about their specific recruiting practices, tips, and tricks.
Meetesh Karia, CTO of The Zebra, focuses on making the candidate experience the best it can be. He stresses the importance of building a great reputation with everyone you interview to spread the word about your business and team. Anyone who interviews should leave wanting to work for the company even more than when they walked in the door – regardless of whether or not they'll receive an offer.
To ultimately make the candidate experience the best it can be, he suggests removing the “red tape” to your application or interview process, saying, “Excessive structure will typically stunt/bore/disenchant most developers. Conversely, building a team with structure and organization – but without lots of bureaucratic overhead – will attract talent."
"Building a team with structure and organization – but without lots of bureaucratic overhead – will attract talent." - [Tweet This]
Robert Gibbons, CTO of Datto, hires top performers by asking specific interview questions to get a true read for candidates and their passions or inclinations, which can indicate their strong suits as a future employee.
One question he asks goes as follows - “If I talk to my mother and bring up a web browser and type Amazon.com and hit enter, it's the equivalent of black magic. [But] between me and you, we know it's not black magic. In as much technical detail as you possibly can, tell me how that works.”
Gibbons says, “When candidates approach this question, some adopt a metaphor: ‘Well, it's like a post office, where you send out a letter and eventually you'll get a response back.’ Other candidates will go super granular to discuss the IP address, DNS server, packets, and you can learn a lot based on where they start. Whichever way they go helps pivot the conversation and ask about specific areas of focus.”
Gady Pitaru, CTO of Badger Maps, stresses the importance of referrals in the hiring process. Even as a CTO, he is still involved in most of the recruiting and hiring, as each hire is very important at this stage of the business.
Pitaru says, “Referrals are so important. If I have already invested the time to hire a really good engineer that I trust, then their referral should hold more weight than any other form of recruiting. After we find a solid pool of candidates, the engineering team holds first-round interviews, since cultural fit is very important with a small team. These interviews have a more formal format, with both technical and non-technical questions. I then hold the later-round interviews, which are more meet-and-greet and informal. If the whole team feels good about a candidate, I move forward with making an offer. As our company gets bigger, it will likely make less sense for me to be involved in the process as much as I am now.”
Tomer Naveh, CTO of Adgorithms, uses his company’s thorough interview process to weed out the weak candidates. When interviewing technical candidates, he makes sure that not only do they have great math/statistics/programming skills, but that they have common sense and a practical approach to solving problems.
Naveh elaborates, saying, “For example, let's say that I tell a candidate, ‘I have a customer who wants to run an advertising campaign to sell mobile phones. How would you choose the initial set of sites to advertise on?’ Some candidates would respond with, ‘I'll put the data in a matrix and run Algorithm A, then Algorithm B.’ Better candidates will start by asking more about the business context of the problem before they dive into their math. For example, ‘What kind of phones are we advertising?’ ‘What campaigns did this customer run in the past and what was good about them?’ If they say, ‘I'll go watch campaign managers and ask them how they would solve that problem, and only then will I design an algorithm,’ they get extra credit.”