Recently I sat down with William Wechtenhiser (formerly CTO of SonicBids, VP of Engineering at Goldman Sachs and Zoom Info most recently) to discuss how to hire developers. William and I had talked a few weeks before about how hiring a developer is different than hiring anyone else as a CTO. I was curious, since I've never and most likely will never be a CTO, so I asked to have lunch and talk about it.
The lunch was great, we both had healthy-yet-hearty salads, and the conversation with William went really well and was quite interesting... so I figured I'd share with my readers, the highly devoted Hiringjuicers, what William's perspective for hiring developers is...
“Developers offer the potential for something great within an organization. A lot of technical hires act as a supporting function to an organization or a technology team, but developers can drive your business and be a huge profit, so you have to hire with a careful eye to what they can do and not just what they’ve done.”
“You have to know what you need and be able to part ways with what you want. You could have a list of 12 criteria that the candidate needs to have, but you need to also realize that each item restricts who you talk to. I always hire for potential when I hire a developer, but they have to have done something excellent in their life and be able to be passionate about it. The one exception to this is if I’m hiring for an Architect, they need to have more experience than the normal developer, but again, don't treat the candidate's experience like a shopping list. Like the Rolling Stones say, sometimes you can’t always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need.”
“You need someone smart and could solve problems – if they’ve worked at a company for 5 years and the work you’ve been doing has been boring, that says something about you as a developer! Wake up! This means you’re OK with doing boring work, and I’m not interested in talking with you if that’s the case. Assuming I do want to speak with you, I usually rely on a recruiter either internal or preferably external to screen the candidate and then I set them up with a short test.”
“I try to rely on my recruiter to connect and sell the opportunity initially. If you’re using a good recruiter, they should be able to sell the opportunity to the candidates and already have them interested before I do a brief 20 minute screen that more or less results in me scheduling the test at their convenience. After the test, assuming that it’s a pass, I’ll bring them in for a final interview and typically have a decision by the end of the day or the day after."
“If they complain about taking a programming test how much do you think they like coding? It’s not a standard test, I put one together based on their background so it’s fun and challenging for them.”
“Not at all – potential comes from junior to senior, you have to give the developer something in return for their hard work that isn’t just cash. You have to give them an opportunity to learn something new and be inspired to come to work everyday and work with a team that’s surrounded by like-minded developers. You either thrive or fail in that environment very quickly, as the team operates as a cohesive unit.”
"I pick an interview team for each position, so it’s in their best interest to find someone as it dominates a lot of their time. Usually it’s based on the application that the developer will be working on initially and the different team members that they’ll be working with on a daily basis – the QA of the application or the product manager as an example.
Also, before we start the interview process, I vet my character list to the team which is typically 6-8 characteristics that we need for them to possess in order to be successful as a member of the team.”
“Willingness to take on tasks during an emergency to help find a solution; to take on problems and learn from them; and to continually try everyday to be better at a skill than they were the previous day. Without giving away my interview techniques I ask questions like:
90% of what I'm listening for is tone... are they really excited about what they've done enough to get me excited about it?"
“I work with people. Companies are things that bring people together for a period of time, but this will change. Companies change and people move on, but I still keep in close contact with these people and still collaborate with them even if we’re not working together everyday. It’s the company you keep, not the company you work for.”
This is the first of a two part series with William, the next will be How to Interview and Hire a Developer. I'd like to hear your thoughts, some of what William is saying is unique and different from the norm - are there major differences in your hiring philosophy?
If you'd like to be featured on Hiring Juice as an expert, please let me know. I'm particularly looking for someone technical that can give me the scoop on how you technically qualify someone for a job? Specific questions that you have them whiteboard in front of you?
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