The Effectiveness Principle



Updated August 24, 2022
Technical Recruiting and Hiring

You’re reading an excerpt of The Holloway Guide to Technical Recruiting and Hiring, a book by Osman (Ozzie) Osman and over 45 other contributors. It is the most authoritative resource on growing software engineering teams effectively, written by and for hiring managers, recruiters, interviewers, and candidates. Purchase the book to support the author and the ad-free Holloway reading experience. You get instant digital access, over 800 links and references, commentary and future updates, and a high-quality PDF download.

Urgency around a hiring decision shouldn’t diminish the team’s focus on finding candidate-company fit:

  • Define what you’re looking for and decide how you will evaluate for fit before you begin recruiting. You can iterate on your criteria and assessment methods over time, but don’t bend them inconsistently on a candidate-by-candidate basis. This includes what you’re willing to compromise on (nice-to-haves) and what you’re not (must-haves).

  • Assess candidates in a way that’s as predictive as possible of on-the-job performance. There are many ways to assess candidates; choose the methods that will demonstrate how a candidate will perform in your role and at your company.

  • Align your assessment methods with your company’s processes. Recruiting methods should be consistent with onboarding processes and the expectations of the people you hire. For instance, if you attempt to hire for certain skills, but then judge performance based on a completely different set of skills, you are setting yourself and your hires up for failure. This also applies within the various stages of recruiting. If you screen applicants looking for certain qualities, but then interview for completely different qualities, you’ll be wasting your and candidates’ time.

  • Use structure and calibration when assessing candidates. Use structured interviews and assessments during the interview process, with clearly-defined areas of evaluation. All interviewers should be calibrated.

  • Use rigor to improve your decision-making. A large part of recruiting is an exercise in combating our own cognitive biases (especially unconscious bias), which can impact the effectiveness and fairness of your decision-making. Any recruiting process is noisy, and predicting the success of a candidate from a few touchpoints can be very difficult. At some point, someone will have to make a call about whether to hire a candidate or not, so structure and rigor can help combat biases. At a minimum, it’s helpful to be aware of the potential pitfalls that can affect decision-making, and find pragmatic ways of avoiding the risks.

The Fairness Principle

Design a recruiting process that is fair. In reality, a lot of the techniques that result in an effective process can improve fairness as well (like using structure, defining what you’re looking for ahead of time, assessing candidates in a way that’s predictive of job performance, and being mindful of bias), but fairness requires even more diligence.

  • Be aware of unconscious bias. We mentioned bias above, but we mention it again here because it can impact both effectiveness and fairness. Everyone on your team who is interacting with candidates or assessing them should be aware of and undergo some unconscious bias training.

  • Compensate fairly. Differences in compensation among engineers at the same level can be driven by unconscious bias and conscious discrimination. Having some structure and discipline around how you determine compensation can help prevent unfairness to creep in and build over time. Be careful about sources of pay disparity.

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