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Post by Rich Moy on Oct 31, 2017, 12:00:00 PM

If you were to ask someone who has never recruited developers to describe your job, you’d probably get a few interesting answers. But you’d likely find few, if any, who’d say that a tech recruiter should ever push back on a final hiring decision. After all, your engineering managers know their teams better than you do, right? Why would you ever question their feedback on developers?

Of course, you know that’s not an accurate overview of your job. You’re responsible for building relationships with developers, providing a top-notch candidate experience, and partnering with hiring managers to select the right people to join the team.

That’s a tall order—and as challenging as your job already is, there’s one tough question you need to ask your technical managers during the interview process.

Can You Tell Me Why You Rejected This Developer?

Saudia Ganie, a Senior Technical Recruiter at Digital Ocean and panelist at our recent NYC Developer Hiring Ecosystem Report Launch Event, said that her team is always exploring ways to reduce bias during the interview process. In a recent example, she explained that because interviewers were unable to clearly define how they measured a candidate’s confidence, they removed the criteria from their rubric altogether.

That led her to say the following:

Once you find this courage, the obvious (but often nerve-wracking) next step is to ask your engineering managers why they’ve rejected a candidate.

Our CEO Joel Spolsky says that most of the time during a technical interview should be spent letting the developer prove that they can write code. He adds that it’s easy to get caught up in preconceived notions about a candidate based on their educational background or even the impressions they leave on your colleagues. To avoid making this mistake, Ganie and her team at Digital Ocean implemented a structured interview process, which requires their hiring managers to provide objective explanations for how they came to their decision.

How to Get The Answers You Need

You might already require your hiring managers to provide concrete (and more importantly, technical) feedback when they want to reject a candidate. But sometimes, getting those answers can be a challenge itself. Why is that the case? Take a step back and say the following words aloud to yourself: “Why are you passing on this developer?” Without any added context, you might make an engineering manager feel as if you’re accusing them of making a mistake.

Still, you’re the person who has to reach out to candidates to deliver the bad news. As tricky as this conversation might be, there are a few things you can do to make it easier on you and your decision makers. Here are a couple of things that you should keep in mind when you communicate with your engineering managers.

  • Avoid pointing out what they haven’t done. At best, engineering managers have the time to be part-time recruiters, so be sensitive to their other demands. But developers often ask for feedback, especially when they’ve been declined for a role. Let your managers know that you’re asking this question because you want to be prepared to provide feedback to the candidate.
  • Don’t ask them for lengthy write-ups. Be sure to let your engineering managers know that you don’t need a college-length essay. A three to four sentence paragraph about why they feel the candidate’s technical skills aren’t up to par should be plenty.

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