5 Tips for Hiring Tech Talent without a Technical Background

May 19, 2021
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5 min

Hiring tech talent successfully means your company can compete in today’s market. Every hire is critical. Yet, technologists possess deep technical skills that are completely foreign to most hiring managers. So, if you can’t speak their language, how can you know they are truly right for your team?

For instance, let’s say you need to hire a Data Scientist. How do you identify what technical skills your organization needs? What do you look for on resumes? How do you vet them? How do you determine their level of expertise for the skills they list on their resume? 

It seems overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are our top five tips to help you master the art of hiring tech talent. 

Be clear on the technology vision

Before you hire technologists, you need to identify what a successful hire would look like. This seems obvious, but it can be nuanced and trips up a surprising amount of hiring managers, particularly for startups.

In the early stages of a company or project, you could well be hiring someone who chooses the tech stack. Their choices will have ramifications for years to come, affecting how you build your website, apps, and products—essentially your business.  Do your homework, leaning on your network, to understand how these choices will impact your business. 

Another question to reflect on is whether you are building your ‘starter home’ or your ‘forever home.’ In other words, do you just need a solution to get things off the ground that can be adapted over time, or will creating a legacy solution that will amount to future technical debt? This will help inform decisions both in terms of the tech and the talent to support it. 

Finally, don’t forget to factor in how hard it is to find technical talent that aligns to your stack—and what their salary requirements will look like. Sometimes, choosing more mainstream tech stacks means more options for affordable talent, which means your business has more opportunities to grow. 

Know how to spot a phony resume 

Is your candidate saying they are proficient in every coding language? Just as companies can utilize keywords in their website copy to optimize Google placement, candidates can pack their resume with keywords to ensure that their resume passes the inspection of an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) screening tools.

  • Here are some guidelines to test that a resume is real:
  • The resume cites less than 20 technologies.
  • The technologies listed serve as supporting points to the story told in the bullets on the resume.
  • The responsibilities noted are supported by an outline of specific projects, initiatives and business impacts.
  • The resume makes the candidate appear human, noting hobbies and extracurricular interests. 
  • There is consistency in their resume and across their social channels (like LinkedIn) and their employment at all prior companies can be verified easily. 

Know what it will take for a candidate to “pass” the interview 

Interviewers know to prepare a list of questions to ask the candidates during an interview. Often though, they fail to identify what the right and wrong answers to these questions look like. Hiring managers like to think they’ll just know the right answers when they hear them, but this quickly creates a breakdown across the hiring team. This lack of clarity creates debate after the interview, adding critical delays to the offer process. Delays give candidates time to find other jobs, and create doubt that your organization truly wants them. 

To eliminate these delays, be prepared before you interview. Use bullet points to identify what you do want to hear, and just as importantly—what you don’t want to hear. Organize the answers so that you can give the candidate a score for each of their responses. 

This way, a simple matter of tallying scores will make it super clear when the right candidate is found, and you can quickly move on to the offer stage.

Know your non-negotiables 

Just as it is important to know how to build a score for eligible talent, it is also important to know how to identify ineligible talent. This should be a separate checkbox list from the score, where talent either has the required skills or doesn’t. If your talent does not have the skills, they need to be eliminated to avoid big hiccups your business doesn’t need.

For instance, your first hires should always be able and willing to code. Startups teams will fail to produce traction if they are composed of too many chiefs and not enough indians. So, the rockstar VP of Engineering candidate who can’t start out in the coding trenches, becomes a hard no in a startup. 

It is equally dangerous to hire people that are too junior. Your first hires should have prior experience building products from scratch so you can be sure they really understand their role and can communicate what they need. You need these hires to lead and work at the same time.

Leave the guesswork out of hiring

Even if you can’t tell a SQL statement from a Python program, you can still test these skills with confidence. Hiring platforms, like Filtered exist to help companies make the shift to skills based hiring. Why bother rolling a dice on someone when you can test them on their coding performance up front? 

Even for experienced developer interviewers, systematic testing of development skills can be an eye opening experience. For instance, say you have two candidates who arrived at the same result for a code test. How do you decide who is the better developer? One indicator could be how often and what they searched on Google to arrive at the answer. It is no secret that every developer uses Google, but how often and for what can indicate that the candidate’s true skill level. Similarly, looking at how often they compile can establish their level of confidence. 

And of course, in today’s world of remote hiring, knowing that the developer who completed the coding challenge is actually the developer you are hiring is paramount. On average, one in ten technical candidates presents some level of fraud, made even easier by remote interviewing. Using technology to catch that fraud is just common sense. 

In fact, nowadays, technical recruiters are using skills based hiring as a screening tool. They are turning to take-home tests, data challenges, and developer events to build a shortlist of high-performing candidates before even reviewing resumes. This helps to lower your interview to hire ratios, and ensure you use your hiring managers time wisely. 

Hiring is one of the most difficult parts of company building. You won’t always get it right. But following these tips can certainly help improve your odds of success. 

Want to try skills based hiring? Try it free.