Are companies getting it all wrong when hiring software engineers?

by September 12, 2019 0 comments

Software has eaten the world – car companies and banks now compete on the quality of their software tools, and whole industries are undergoing disruption. Certainly, technology is a big part of this digital transformation, but none of this is possible without people with the software development talent to make it happen. It is no surprise that the competition for tech talent is stiff. NASSCOM predicts the AI, Big Data and Data Analytics talent gap to grow from 62,000 to 1,40,000 over the next three years.

So if digital transformation is so important and technical talent so hard to find, why do companies go about hiring software engineers all wrong?

We have seen it happen at dozens of companies: They bring in candidates, put them in a room, give them a coding test, and tell them they have 45 minutes to complete the code. Perhaps they ask them to find an answer to an absurd and even unsolvable problem. This is meant to be an assessment of a candidate’s technical and problem-solving skills, which is a good goal, but nothing about these artificial tests predicts how the candidate will actually perform in a real world work environment.

We all have this image of a software coder as a loner, working at odd hours doing things that no one else can understand. The reality is that software engineering and coding is a team effort, with lead architects, project managers, and a repository of code where work-in-progress is shared by a team of developers. Far from having to recall everything from memory, the first step for solving any software development problem is to use Search engine platforms. Why reinvent the wheel when you can find the plans for it on the Internet?

Yet, when companies are assessing candidates, they make the engineers work alone and prohibit them from using any reference sources, as if the assessment was some sort of school exam. The working world is nothing like school, so why test people that way?

So how do we revisit this old school methodology of talent assessment? We put the software engineering candidates in a new-age, digitally connected work environment. Imagine a talent assessment toolbox with exercises designed around real-world problems and the tools that engineers can access to ideate, collaborate and solve as a team.

Such a work is collaborative in nature, so we create an environment that assesses someone’s ability to collaborate. What we are really looking for in these sessions is how an engineer works with colleagues. Does he or she contribute to the success of others? When solving a problem, do they get pulled down into a rabbit hole and never come out, or do they know when to seek help?

As companies strive to rethink their business and undertake digital transformation, they should also look to transform the way they onboard talent. How something is done matters in a team environment, and that is what needs to be evaluated in our hiring processes. We had go with team players and creative problem solvers any day over skilled developers who work in silos.

In this evolved digital age, talent assessment approach must explore whether candidates know how to play well with others. After all, you learn more about a person when you interact with them than when you make them take a standardized test.

Raj Sundaresan, Chief Operating Officer (COO), Altimetrik

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