Hiring for Your Best Software Team Possible
Software teams spend a lot of time thinking about processes and requirements for development so that we can build great software systems. However, we seem to think much less about how to hire the people for the teams that will build those systems.
Organizations often treat interviewing and hiring as an ad hoc process, using intuition and vague requirements as a way to make decisions. But without standardized measures, it turns out interviewers tend to select people who are just like themselves. This results in a workforce with similar strengths, interests, and backgrounds, but a lack of diversity—which can make for ineffective teams.
Even if you acknowledge that a more systematic process is needed, how can you overcome human bias? One obvious way is to remove some of the human aspects. Many websites are now available to help match job seekers with jobs, including one from the makers of eHarmony. Like with that dating site, these services attempt to make better matches based on less superficial qualities, such as how candidates approach solving problems, as opposed to a list of technical skills alone.
There are also proponents of blind hiring, which hides information from hiring agencies that is likely to lead to biases. Instead of seeing candidates’ resumes, companies would only see their skills. This can help employers—and job seekers—identify unexpected matches and avoid making decisions that are unduly influenced by personal preferences that may not be in anyone’s best interests.
Another way to ensure diversity is by harnessing big data. Analytics can help you remove preconception and bias from your evaluation and identify qualities that you may not expect would correlate with job performance and retention.
While analytics and other tools can help you identify biases and missed opportunities, you still need to spend time understanding what skills you need on your team and how you will evaluate them. Johanna Rothman has written an excellent guide to hiring knowledge workers that provides some basic steps you can apply to add more rigor to your hiring process.
Among the points she makes is that you need to spend time considering what skills and qualities you are looking for, including acknowledging the distinction between required skills and desirable skills. Rothman suggests that this preparation will not only help improve the quality of the results you get from your interview process, but also make the experience better for the candidates, which will improve your organization’s reputation.
It takes great teams to build great software. It’s worth putting the same care that we put into understanding and building our products into hiring the people who will work on those products.