Hiring for the Modern Web

Going deep: Was it worth it?

The interview process started seven months before the first hire. I wasn't even the hiring manager at that time. Candidates were wide spectrum from an unemployed laborer, an overqualified designer and an engineer that preferred FORTRAN. Only a single candidate made it through the vetting process. The team was devastated when this seemingly viable candidate flubbed the final executive interview.

We wasted so much time …or so I felt. I took over as hiring manager and got serious. No head hunters. If we were going to start this process over, I was going to do it properly.

Help Candidates "Fail Fast"

Taking cues from @davidshariff (Front End Web Development Quiz) I developed a quiz to quickly measure a candidate's competency. Of course this test had some fundamentally right and wrong answers, but, more importantly, it allowed the candidate to choose their own solution. A solution that I could assess, but also one that I could only "grade" if they successfully submit a solution. Over half of the candidates were unable to finish. This was a good thing.

At this point, I was still employing an initial phone screening. I'd like to create a better way to distribute my front-end test, but i'l need to randomize it, serve it and deliver it securely. I'd rather not see the test out in the wild as most of the test relies on not knowing what the problem is.   

The feedback I received from tested applicants was positive: Some understanding that they were not yet ready for the position, other candidates coming away with a list of skills to brush up on and a few who displayed excellent proficiency yet diverse solutions.  I was pleased. The test worked and when paired with the traditional application/resume submissions, it was producing results that were just not possible from live coding or traditional interview Q/A sessions.

The more technically adept candidates (e.g. computer science majors) were subjected to an additional live coding session with an engineer. Nothing beats live coding to measure the weight of that CS degree, current competency and, of course, their confidence.

From there the candidate pool was greatly diminished. Skype and in-office interviews could commence without restriction. I felt every minute spent with a candidate from this point was worth the investment. With high expectations from the remaining candidates, we were able to peek into the weeds of roles that are usually hidden during a generic interview process. Each candidate that came through our door was able to, technically, do the job, understood the expectations and had proven so.

Transparency is key in the F2F interviews. No-holds-barred!

Brace Yourselves Fools!

Moving from the interview process to making the hiring decision was quick …and painful. All issues were on the table immediately. Follow-up meetings, working meetings …whatever we could do to be 100% sure we were bringing on board someone who not only could do the job, but was a great cultural fit. We wanted all stake holders to be confident.

Feathers will be ruffled, the team will be tired of the process and generally it will be uncomfortable. You must remained focused on your goal and be confident that your process will work.

Hang on, you're almost there!


This was not my first rodeo, but it was the first time I grabbed the bull by the horns. Even with better vetting, the hiring process was intense and should be considered a full-time job. Proper testing was crucial for success. Getting the right people in the room early made a huge difference.

Allowing the direct manager to be the hiring manager cut down on decisions made by personal preference alone. Working interviews are for the direct to evaluate everyone in the room. Your co-workers are as much a part of the interview as the candidate is.

Sometimes, when teams are small, the right candidate can just land in your lap. When the team is large and stakes are high, you need to invest in the right process. This process was a huge investment, but I finally hired two great people and have the full support of the team at large. These were crucial positions to fill and the process was intense. When you're ready to hire and you really need the right candidate, take it seriously.


Associate Interactive Director  |  Balihoo

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