Interviewing Technical Talent At A Startup When You Aren’t

Interviewing Technical Talent

Interviewing Technical Talent

Technology companies need technical employees. No secrets there. But the earlier the stage of the company, the fewer employees there are, making each employee’s impact that much higher, especially your technical hires. And while many startups have the luxury of a technical founder, co-founder or early CTO, the ones that find themselves lacking in technical leadership, knowledge or background still need to secure top technical talent. So without this knowledge base, how does a non-technical team find, qualify and hire top technical talent?

Get Help Qualifying Technical Skills

Let’s face it – if you don’t know anything about it, you really aren’t in the best position to ask about it. And if you aren’t a technical professional, then trying to asses a technical person’s skill set is a futile effort. So what’s the solution? Find someone who can. Technical recruiters are a great resource for this. You can also find technical consultants and professionals in your area that would be willing to help. Your investors, advisors and mentors will all have resources to help you vet your candidates technically. They know the importance of hiring top talent, and will help you find the right resources to do so effectively. Even fellow entrepreneurs can be a resource. Despite the fierce market for top technical talent, the entrepreneurial community is by and large a very helpful and supportive environment; because those people have been there and know the value of the right help.

Interview Outside Their Technical Skills

Your candidate’s technical skills for the job are important, yes. Yet manager after manager will tell you that there are more important things to vet for. That’s where you come in. When interviewing candidates, determine their character. What motivates them? Sure, they have the skill sets you want, but would the person fit culturally within your organization? Would they lack chemistry with their co-workers? For early stage companies, deciding whether or not a candidate is startup material is a big step. How do they handle stress, pivots and tight deadlines? The list goes on and on. You may not be able to qualify them on their C++ skills or their NoSQL projects, but you can qualify them for other more valuable assets.

Use Multiple Interviews

Just because someone has the technical knowledge for the job does not mean they will fit with your company culture. The technical knowledge, execution, and personality of a candidate should all be considered. This is where multiple interviews and recruiters can help. A recruiter can narrow your search to only those applicants with the technical expertise. On the other hand, multiple interviews can allow your human resources team to narrow the list of applicants before your engineering team asks the technical questions. Both of these methods take advantage of a division of labor that results in your company finding the right candidate for both your culture and your technical needs.

Test Your Candidates

Even if a candidate looks good on paper, they may not work out. This is because they might have all the right answers for the interview, but they lack in execution. The best way to mitigate this risk is to hire new employees based upon a temporary assignment. Jason Fried of 37Signals has some good insights on testing employees on projects before making them a member of your team. “When we hire designers, we give them a one-week project to do for us and we pay them for their time.” (Big Think: The Importance of Hiring Late) This option allows you to ask some questions and consider how they fit with your team before bringing them in permanently.

While it is a challenge to ensure you have hired the right candidate, you can mitigate risk with each of these suggestions. Using a recruiter can help you focus in on the candidates with the technical expertise you need. Conducting multiple interviews can ensure a potential new hire will fit with your company culture. Asking your network for help should be an important step when qualifying. And vetting new talent through short-term projects can help you decide if they execute well within your organization. Doing all of these things will help you find great techies, even if you’re not technically inclined yourself.

Finding top technical talent is a tough game, never mind interviewing and successfully hiring them. If you are an early stage or growing technology startup or company, and are having trouble finding and qualifying the caliber of technical talent you need, Millennium Search is ready to help! Speak with us today about how our executive search firm helps top companies and their investors locate and secure top talent!

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