(Part 2) When Cabbies Make Ace Coders: Why Skill-Based Hiring Matters In Tech


Talent Assessment > Hiring Based On Skills


If in case you missed the first part of this blog, I have been talking to our CTO Vishwastam Shukla about how more recruiters and hiring managers need to use skills as the primary criterion for developer hiring. Vishy knows the importance of skills from his days as a coder, and from a very personal experience, which he narrated during our tête-à-tête.

Read the first part to know more about this, and scroll down for the rest of our conversation.


Question 4: Sometimes when you hire based on skill, you might need to upskill and train an employee to adapt to the nuances of the business. We’ve heard this before from recruiters. Isn’t this a monetary loss to the company then?


For many recruiters, the cost of hiring a candidate is an important metric that influences their decision making. Look at it this way though: a candidate from an Ivy League college would ask for higher compensation. You can use the same money to upskill a lesser-educated candidate and mold them to your organization’s needs. In the long term, the cost: benefit ratio remains the same.

There are also some intangible benefits to skill-based hiring which few talk about. It helps in building a stronger bond between employer and employee. The trust and belief you place in a candidate’s skills translates directly into ownership at work. Developers like to let their code speak for them, rather than a piece of paper. Focusing on skills also ensures the candidate values you more as an employer because you’re giving them an equal opportunity to showcase their ability – something that every programmer worth their money would love to do.

When you let skills be the only differentiator rather than what’s painted on a resume, you show a candidate the respect they deserve. In return, you gain a brand ambassador for life.

Vishy reiterates this with his own example. He spent 6 and a half years at the company he joined as a rookie, learning to be better. Even today, he remembers his team fondly and always gives them their due for making him the engineer he is.

It’s time we placed an equal focus on such softer aspects of employee hiring, as we do on productivity and other metrics. An IBM study shows that employees lacking opportunities to grow and develop (i.e upskill) in a role are 12 times more likely to leave. In that sense, skill-based hiring and upskilling processes can also help you retain your employees longer.


Question 5: Skills versus pedigree, which one wins then?


Vishy graduated from IIIT Allahabad, a premier college in India, at a time when tech education was still firmly formal. With online tools and courses available now, he thinks that there is NO justification for high-expense degrees anymore. Tech education needs to move away from the concept of formal classroom teaching, and recruiters need to understand the actual, rather than the perceived value of a college degree.

Checklist for skill based hiring - HackerEarth

Today, a developer could join an online course that runs cohorts for different tech stacks, teach themselves new skills via YouTube tutorials, or use practice platforms to upgrade their skills and go beyond classroom learning. Do they not deserve an opportunity to prove their skills just because their resume says they didn’t study in a Tier-1 college?

It’s also true that college degrees can be used as a proxy for social class and status, thereby reducing social mobility and augmenting inequality. 2020 has brought the conversation around unconscious biases to the fore, and as more recruiters adopt technology to ensure bias-free hiring, we’ll see the predilection towards academic lineage reduce even further.

If intelligence wins over degrees every single time, will we then see a demise of the IITs and Harvards of the world? It might not happen in our lifetime, but there is a definite need for colleges to evolve their curricula and ‘get with the times’. They cannot be charging big money for courses that are available online for cheaper.

Instead, they should aim to roll out a niche set of programs for which the general competency is not available freely. Colleges should also introduce tailor-made programs to help students hone their skills, and include methods to objectively measure progression within their curricula. (Harvard, if you’re listening, we’ve got a new business model for you!)


Question 6: How does someone used to hiring developers based on resumes shift to an objective, skill-based hiring process?


It’s definitely hard, especially for someone who’s been doing this for a while. Up until eight years ago, resumes were the only signals recruiters and hiring managers had about a candidate’s credibility. The first step, therefore, is to look for the same signals but in different places. Look for contributions on open-source forums like GitHub, and other developer communities. Check if a candidate believes in upskilling and what their choicest modes of doing so are. Many developers join hackathons, coding challenges, and boot camps to keep themselves updated with the latest developments in tech.

With experienced developers, you can also look at the flavor of work they have done at previous organizations. Most importantly, always have a wide talent pool to choose from instead of restricting yourself with selection mandates. This can be hard to do. The trick lies in using automated tools that help you reach out to a wider candidate pool and create a wide talent funnel. This way, you can significantly improve your chances of hiring right by identifying the right candidates through objective skill-based assessments and choosing the ones that match your company’s requirements for skill.

Don’t forget to check if your preferred candidate can write well, in any form or shape. Vishy believes this to be a hugely underrated skill in the tech role; one which most companies wouldn’t even mention in their JDs. Even when software developers write code, they are required to document it. Not just because someone else will find it hard to read their code one day, but more so because writing down what you intend to do through your code needs clarity of thought. It needs conviction. It needs you to exercise your cognitive muscles and forces you to be more right and less wrong.


Recommended Read: 4 steps to pick the right tech recruiting software

After this long discussion, our CTO had to go back to doing his CTO-y things, and I went back to wondering about how just a generation ago, we were trained to put so much emphasis on ‘where’ someone had studied, or had worked. It influenced every sphere of our lives; so much so that we forgot to check for the ‘what’ and ‘how’ at times.

Skill-based hiring brings back that focus on the ‘how’. Vishy says a coder’s attitude is never taught. It’s something they possess innately or learn subconsciously. I think the same is true of recruiters, too. We were taught a certain way of hiring, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know the process is flawed. If you’ve known that innately, or subconsciously, we hope to aid you in your shift towards a more fair and unprejudiced tech hiring process.

To SkillsVille, y’all! And let’s all take a cab for good measure 🙂

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