There are three core principles for hiring well.
While most companies choose to optimize on one or two of these principles, the best employers prioritize all three.
Now, let me elaborate.
By “accurate” I mean, “how accurately does your interview evaluate for skills that is required to do the job well.” This is where most companies fall short.
Most companies use proxies to evaluate skills.
For engineers, this is Leetcode (or, “whiteboarding”).
For many business roles, it’s case studies.
For almost every recruiter screen, it’s basic behavioral/situational questions, aimed at gauging likeability and “culture fit” (whatever that really is).
Companies use proxies because it’s time-intensive to assess actual job skills directly.
For instance, imagine assigning a ticket in a complex code base instead of a 1-hour Leetcode question. This ticket would realistically take a developer a couple of hours to complete on the job. You will need to spend time scoping the problem, creating a mock codebase because of security risks, and offering it in a variety of technologies. Additionally, you will need to write up a detailed specification for the applicant to understand what they need to do.
This would require a ton of time from hiring managers. And the reality is, recruiting is only one part of a hiring manager’s responsibilities. So, they go with the easier approach.
Ironically, hiring the right talent is the biggest factor in determining the success or failure of a company, product, or team. However, developing accurate interview processes often falls to a volunteer group within the organization.
To accurately evaluate a candidate's ability to perform a job, it is important to place them in an environment that closely simulates the job. This includes providing them with the same tools and resources they would have on the job, giving them the same amount of information and support, and being transparent about the expectations. Whether the evaluation is done synchronously or asynchronously, these factors should be consistent with what the candidate would experience on the job.
Often, companies design interview questions that are intended to be "gotchas." These questions are not designed to assess whether you can actually do the job, but rather to weed you out of the hiring process. This is not the way to hire the best talent.
By “consistency” I mean, “how consistently do you evaluate all talent.” Most large companies do this well, most small companies don’t.
Consistent hiring is crucial for a fair and scalable process. This means that companies are clear about their criteria and able to consistently recognize when someone meets them, regardless of who is conducting the interview.
This approach curtails bias. It prevents decisions based on subjective feelings, such as liking someone's "vibe" or having a "gut feeling", which might just be due to their similarity to the interviewer.
Companies that prioritize consistency adopt detailed interview rubrics for every interview stage and for each specific role. All interviewers should be aligned on the criteria and what a “strong yes” versus a “strong no” signifies.
To better achieve interviewing consistently, companies create a short list of skills to assess during an interview. A typical interview step will assess no more than 5 key skills (better, no more than 3).
Smaller companies often overlook the importance of "consistency", especially if the same individuals interview all candidates. This problem amplifies when multiple interviewers have varying expectations, leading to uneven hire quality and heightened bias. Even if smaller companies don't have multiple interviewers, the lack of a clear rubric can lead interviewers to hire based on likeability, rather than the best person for the job. Consistent evaluation leads to fewer false-positives made based on personal bias.
Here is an example of a hiring rubric to help teams develop an interview process that is consistent.
By "efficiency" in interviewing, I'm referring to the optimal balance between gathering the right signal and minimizing time investment.
While capturing the right insights is crucial, many processes unintentionally have applicants invest unnecessary time. This can be because certain steps don't contribute value to the final decision or there's redundancy in information collected across different interview stages.
Consider the scenario where applicants must design a full project in a take-home test, consuming 20 hours of their time. Yet, in most companies, they are likely building off of existing code and might never initiate such a project from scratch. So, this doesn't effectively gauge their proficiency in certain areas and is time-consuming for them.
Most companies hire inefficiently. In fact, based on first-hand data, companies spend anywhere from $5-20K to make a single hire, just on interviewing cost alone (note: this is primarily for engineering hiring, within North America).
The most common inefficiency is that there is not enough screening at the earliest stages of the interview process. Most wasted interview time happens at the end of the funnel (i.e. 4 hour on-sites with an unqualified applicant) or at the offer-to-accept stage (i.e. the candidate rejects your offer).
So, how do you hire well?
To hire accurately, prioritize practical evaluations (i.e. actual job capabilities) over traditional proxies (i.e. “gotcha” questions).
To hire consistently, use a hiring rubric for every role you hire for. Develop this rubric before starting the interview process and use it for every applicant.
To hire efficiently, “figure out how you can get 80% of the signal in the first 20% of the process (pre-onsite!) with a recruiter screen and a hiring manager screen,” as shared by Tido Carriero (CPO of Segment) on how to efficiently hire and reduce engineering time spent in interviews. Here are some gold standard metrics shared by Plaid.
Finally, regularly correlate post-hire performance with interview evaluations to refine the process. Few companies correlate a candidate's job performance with their interview performance, making it nearly impossible to create a high-signal interview process that actually hires qualified candidates.
p.s. at Hatchways, we help companies develop real-world interview challenges and rubrics to more effectively and efficiently hire.