Tech Hiring Reality

50 candidates, 6 hires and a 100 hours later


Miguel Marcos interviewed 50 candidates for the open positions in his team last year.

It cost his company 100 hours (almost a full man-month) and only 6 ended up being technically good for the job.

90% of his and a lead developer’s time was spent on candidate triage, candidates who did not have enough technical knowledge to pass onto the next stage.

Kat: Can you tell me again who you are, and what you do?

Miguel: I’m Miguel Marcos, I started my career as a developer. I studied computer science at university. I worked as a developer for 10 years. Then quickly I moved towards architecture, a bit more hands-on. At some point the scope started broadening and then I started working with teams in order to set up the development roadmaps. I became involved in the hiring process, which was broken at the time. We had managers hiring engineers left and right, without doing any triage (without doing a good tech screening).

At my previous company, we started doing all the triage for all the developers first through me and then afterwards going to the hiring manager. I conducted all the first technical for all the engineers that joined the company. 90% of the engineers that applied for the job did not pass the first interview. Not because the interview was difficult but because they were either not fit for the role or not good enough yet.

When you want to hire somebody, you see a CV. If the CV is a maybe, then you go to an interview. Even if you're not sure, but there is a possibility for a good fit, the company should do the next step of interviewing the person. Not everyone is an amazing CV writer.
At my current company, I am in charge of management and hiring. Last year we had an open vacancy for developers. I, alongside
a lead developer, interviewed 50 people. It was very exhausting, but at the same time, I didn't want to let go of doing that first triage because you never know. We hired 6 of these people.

Kat: How long does it take you to interview someone, to do the triage?

Miguel: That first interview is usually 45 minutes long. I can extend it to an hour. I reserve an hour for myself. And if the interview goes really well, then I'm always ready to extend it. If it goes bad, I don't cut it short by a lot.

I never have a script. It starts really just by browsing the CV and picking up interesting things from there. I never do trick questions. I ask simple questions and I also try to put the candidates at ease. Sometimes people are nervous, they block a little bit, that's totally fine.

Kat: How do you decide to give a YES to a candidate?

Miguel: First, I try to establish that they have a baseline of knowledge for what's needed. So I do ask questions of which technologies they've been involved with, how they have used it, what kind of best practices they follow. Then I might also ask questions regarding performance. So I sketch some scenarios of, let's say you have a website, performance is not good. How do you start looking for the issues? How do you, what's your detective work around that? I want to see how their mind works around such a scenario. Then the second thing, which is really important, is enthusiasm. Even with very nervous people, once you reach points of interest for them, they start to get excited about talking to you. And that's what I want to hear in an interview.

Kat: What makes you give a NO to a candidate?

First - really bad communication. We work in small teams - remote or hybrid - and if a person does not have the communication skills they are not going to be able to work in a team environment. Second - not enough technical knowledge when I am hiring for senior roles. Finally, lack of enthusiasm.

Kat: What happens after a candidate passes the first interview.

Miguel: Usually there's a second interview. We only do two interviews. The second one is usually with a peer. There might also be some exercise that they need to do. But if necessary, if there's no decision on those two interviews, we might even do a third, final one.

Kat: How did interviewing affect your work last year?

We were actively hiring during the first 6 months. The low quality of candidates we were getting started to stress me out. Got a little bit of PTSD every time I needed to do another interview. A few times I had to apologize to the lead developers that were interviewing with me because it was so bad. We lost precious time. And I think that the ratio of good candidates v.s. bad candidates is really bad. Unfortunately, when we look at the CVs and see enough experience, we initiate the conversation. But until you start talking with people, then you really understand whether they are good developers or not.

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