How not to hire a technical resource

It’s straightforward—you don’t really want a pole vaulter running your 400-meter race, do you? You’d do everything you can to ensure that you find the “right” person for a...

It’s straightforward—you don’t really want a pole vaulter running your 400-meter race, do you?

You’d do everything you can to ensure that you find the “right” person for a job.

Assuming plenty of heads are nodding in the affirmative, here’s a question.

Then, what’s going wrong? So many companies are witnessing high attrition and poor job performance despite trying novel hiring approaches.

Perhaps, they have failed to identify the recruiting edge they need when hiring technical resources.

Let’s look at a few things you might be doing that’s crippling your business.

Don’t jump the gun

Your star developer has just left your company and you’re left with a vacant position. Every day that role is vacant, your company falls behind the project’s schedule, incurring a loss. Obviously, the immediate urge is to fill up that position ASAP. Right?


Hiring someone just because the resume looks good can’t be a very wise decision, can it? Take it slow and like any good relationship, you can only be sure of it over time. Get a probable candidate to spend time with the team, get them to work on a part-time assignment, pair program, and see if your candidate is someone you might like to hang out with on a Friday evening. But whatever you do, don’t make a hasty decision. Filling an empty spot isn’t enough; finding the right candidate for the spot is.

These are the hidden costs of a hasty hire:

  • The average cost of one bad hire is $17,000
  • The cost of hiring the wrong person is at least 30% of the employee’s first-year earnings
  • 80% of turnover is due to bad hiring decisions

The number one reason is a rush to fill the job and the second reason is that the employee just didn’t fit.

Remember, this is true even for a company that needs a developer urgently. For the ones that have time (which is most of you out there), take it slow. Going for a convenient hire is far worse than going for a not so perfect hire. Don’t compromise on quality because it will only translate into wastage of resources down the line.

Hint: To ensure optimal efficiency in terms of time, cost, and effort: Standardize your interview process, be super-specific in your job description, get all your hiring docs ready before, and ensure effortless onboarding.

Don’t let just one person call all the shots on hiring

Your product is built using Python and Django, and you’ve found a resource who says he/she is good at it. Your CTO is on leave for the next week or so, and your HR manager decides to take things into his/her own hands.


Chances are that your CTO comes back to find a new resource who has just been hired for a nice salary. A month or two later, the company must recruit another resource because (surprise, surprise) the first one didn’t make the cut.

With all due respect to HR professionals, a programming role should require the clearance of the top techie in the company. Of course, you can find a resource with an adequate skill set without doing the above, but you’ll only end up with an average coder. Remember Instagram, Facebook’s billion-dollar acquisition, was a team of 12 people of exceptional coding acumen. On their, talent acquisition may not be able to identify the great from the mediocre.

Hint: Get your CTO involved in the hiring process.

Don’t forget hiring for values fit

So, you’ve found your Python/Django ‘ninjas’ and you’re all set. Roles filled, HR happy. Only, the people you’ve hired, are, quite frankly, obnoxious. Geniuses in front of the terminal, these new resources are turning out to be very hard to get along with. And as if that weren’t enough, they are manipulative, deceptive and don’t work well with a team. But they are great coders, so the company is going to want them to stay. But your colleagues cannot stand their behavior and start looking elsewhere. And you thought these were great hiring decisions.

Source: Australian Fitness Network

With technical abilities being a given, another attribute for a resource, which is just as important, is being able to fit in or adapt easily to the company culture. In this article, the founder of HubSpot rightfully summarizes that a company needs to prioritize 5 ideals, which it will not compromise on, and see if candidates fit in. If they do, the company can rest easy. If they don’t, avoid hiring them.

(This article in HBR tells you why it is worth it to invest in an inspirational company culture.)

Hint: The most likeable person is not always the most competent person. When sourcing, cast a wider net. Ask culture-driven questions, and assess fit to create a happy, loyal workforce. Culture is often overrated and given too much importance, but you can train for skills not character.

Don’t forget to make the NSA look like child’s play

You’ve got your star hire and you’ve built great PR around the person’s hiring. On the face of it, there’s probably nothing wrong with the candidate. He’s a kickass coder and he even seems to value the things that are important for the company. Plus, his resume is a work of art. What could possibly go wrong?

Liars are abundant because there are enough reasons to lie for. And this is very true in the more senior people. A great project on a resume might have been someone else’s work which he/she knew how to present well.

Do a background check that would make the NSA proud. This is a good infographic on the Core Components of an Employee Background Check from First Contact.

Source: Victig Screening Solutions

While technical capabilities, if tested right, will be hard to fake, the attitude and the mindset of the person can be easily concealed. And as actions speak louder than words, what they did in their previous company is the best litmus test of their attitude. There’s nothing wrong in spying; after all, it is your company.

Hint: Sadly, we live in an era of resume fraud and identity theft. Protecting yourself from bad hires includes checks references, previous gigs, schools, criminal records, and credit reports. Let the candidate know you will be conducting background checks and get their consent.

Don’t wait too long

If you’ve found someone with the right technology skill set and meets the set of values that define your company, there’s no reason why you should refrain from hiring. It is an imperfect world and a perfect hire is a myth. Of course, if you’re spoilt for choice, choose the best offering, but often, that isn’t the case.

According to a Robert Half survey:

  •         57% found waiting for long periods of time for updates post interviews terribly frustrating
  •         39% considered 7 to 14 days to be too long for a hiring process
  •         33% assumed employers are not interested if they don’t respond quickly
  •         39% lose interest and look for other positions when they don’t hear from the company for long
  •         32% formed negative opinions about the decision-making abilities when the hiring process was slow
  •         46% were willing to wait 1 to 2 weeks after the first interview, 23% were willing to wait 2 to 4 weeks, and 8% were OK to wait for a month or more

“Candidates with several options often choose the organization that shows the most interest and has an organized recruiting process,” says Peter McDonald, Robert Half’s Senior Executive Director.

Source: The Cooper Review

Long decision times and employment processes will easily put off developers and a few delays in getting back to them is more than enough motivation for them to start looking elsewhere. Get to the point and give them a binary answer. These answers usually turn out to be right.

Hint: Once you have defined your needs and set timelines for hiring, Improve the efficiency of the interviewing process, keep your candidates informed by communicating regularly, and make a verbal offer at least when you know you have found the right person.


Try different methodologies to evaluate their analytical skills and attitude. Value their strengths and ensure they fit the team dynamics.

The interview and assessment processes must be paced properly and structured. Once that’s done, and you have all the information you need, decide quickly. Set a high bar, but if your candidate scales it, hire them right away. You should hire for current needs and needs that you anticipate.

And if you’re waiting for the perfect hire, well, it doesn’t exist.

A few interesting reads

Hiring the Right People & Building a Team

Culture: Why it’s the Hottest Topic in Business Today

PS: For more such insights on tech recruitment, we invite you to join our LinkedIn group“Yours Truly HR” 

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