How to Source and Screen Developer Candidates Remotely
HR Tips Eli McGarvie
Corona has highlighted the need for better and more efficient remote working practices. Jumping into this new reality means rethinking recruiting practices to remain agile. When it comes to sourcing and screening for tech positions you’re going to want to be on your A-game.
We’ve created this handy guide to amplify your strategies to remotely source and screen developers. Sourcing and screening largely happen remotely anyway, so take the time now to explore new channels and brush up on some best practices.
1.1 Sourcing software engineer candidates
As a recruiter, you will spend the majority of your time sourcing, screening and interviewing candidates. It’s important that your process is streamlined since it’ll likely be the first experience a candidate has with your company. How you handle the candidates in these processes could have a direct impact on your brand’s public perception - you should always assume the experience you create will end up on an employer review website such as Glassdoor or Kununu.
Aside from building brand reputation, your sourcing strategy should help you reduce the time spent filling an open position in your company. The average time of an open IT position within a company is five-and-a-half months. Openings which drag on like this have been estimated to cost the average business a net loss of around €450 per day. You can see why it’s important to fill these positions as quickly as possible. And a few more reasons why sourcing is crucial (if you’re still not convinced).
Benefits of proper sourcing techniques:
- Find better-suited candidates
- Reduce time spent screening and interviewing
- Attract a larger pool of candidates
- Faster hires
- Lower cost-per-hire
5 ways to effectively source software developers
1 . Create a candidate profile
The problem a lot of companies face when sourcing software engineers is that they fail to specify exactly what they are looking for in the candidate, and so either aim too small or too big. There are a number of reasons for this; it could be that the engineering team lead has failed to communicate exactly what they are looking for in a candidate, or the recruiter lacks the specific technical knowledge to grasp the nuances of the position. This mistake is easily avoided by creating a strong and clear candidate profile before the search even begins. This will help target your position to the right group of job seekers, and equip you with a standard to measure applicants against.
How to build a software engineer candidate profile:
- Narrow-down to one main technology (e.g. Java, PHP)
- Identify required frameworks (e.g. Spring, Laravel)
- Identify the main technology, if only frameworks/tools are mentioned (e.g. Wordpress)
- Understand what the job entails (e.g. developing web applications, maintaining platforms, DevOps, developing architecture)
- Check for any other specific requirements (local language, years of experience) (e.g. Dutch)
- Industry experience relevancy
- Lead experience necessity
A job posting is likely to get 100+ applicants, and you don’t have time to wade through the onslaught of resumes to find the person you are looking for. Specifying exactly what you want will help you filter down to an amount that can be handled in a more timely manner.
2. Post a job advertisement
Whether you are posting a job advertisement on job boards or talking to candidates directly on Honeypot, it’s important to be specific and clear about what you are looking for. The job description is going to be the first introduction to potential candidates, so put your best foot forward.
Ideally, you want to present your company in an honest and positive way. We often see companies trying to break the mould with confusing titles like ‘full-stack ninja’ or ‘front-end wizard’. Please don’t do that. People can see through it and it’ll only turn away your most qualified professionals and make you look out-of-touch. Also, titles with ‘wizard or rockstar’ in them are not easily searchable on the web, which means less people are likely to spot them.
If you don’t know how to write a proper job post, there are a bunch of resources out there, but just in case, we’ve listed the most important points to consider below.
Tips for writing a job posting:
Keep it concise - Get to the point, don’t add anything that isn’t necessary to the job posting, and keep it realistic. When talking about your company’s history/values, keep it punctual and intriguing, we don’t want to hear your life’s story.
Design - Save your post from looking like a messy tangle of words by ordering it in sections with headers and using consistent formatting throughout.
Length - Your post should have just enough information to answer all of the important questions regarding the role and who is advertising it. Don’t overwhelm the candidate with pages and pages of definitions and bullet points, people are lazy and when confronted with giant walls of text tend to eject.
Tone & brand - The tone you employ in the post should be in line with your brand. Talk about the benefits of the role and the values of the company - job seekers most often look for companies that align with their values. And no, ‘free tea bags’ is not a benefit worth mentioning!
Inclusive language - The job seekers reading your post will share a number of different backgrounds, nationalities and genders. Think about those people when creating the ad, and try to utilise inclusive language to capture a diverse audience.
Avoid corporate speak - It’s a huge turn-off for the young folk! Sure, you may be representing a fintech company and want to be taken seriously - totally understandable. There are ways to do this without using rigid acronyms and boring language.
3. Utilise your personal network
Another way to source potential candidates remotely is through your company’s network. Inbound interest will most probably reveal your strongest leads. The applicants who are responding directly through your website will be familiar with your brand and have a high interest in working for you. So make sure you are posting to your website and local channels (Twitter, LinkedIn, Xing, Facebook, etc.).
Many recruiters also use LinkedIn and Xing to source potential candidates - it’s a great way to connect with talents already in your ecosystem. You can easily check profiles and see if they have the relevant skills and if they are open to new opportunities.
Software engineers and tech professionals get bombarded daily with invitations and offers of all kinds. The overuse of these mediums has significantly reduced lead quality and response rates. We often hear developers complaining about spam messages and irrelevant offers, keep that in mind when reaching out to software engineers on these platforms.
4. Join chat rooms and online communities
Working from home or in another city means you won’t be able to connect with local talent at events and meetups. Thankfully, there are a bunch of places online where you can network and source qualified talent without stepping foot outside your home.
Actually, without having to be there in person, you can get far more involved in the community then if you were travelling from event to event (and you’ll save a ton of time). There are online conferences with active chat rooms, online developer meetups, and plenty of active developer forums. These online spaces are going to be great for sourcing talent for hard to fill positions.
Don’t barge into these spaces with guns ablazing, asking every user if they would like to interview at your company. Take a curious approach by asking questions and getting to know the people there. The more involved you are in these tech communities the more trusted you’ll be when asking for a qualified lead.
5. Use Honeypot
Honeypot is a platform which allows you to quickly and easily source qualified tech professionals. With local and international candidates all in one place, you won’t have to scour the internet or send out a billion DMs to get a solid lead. Candidates on Honeypot are actively looking for new tech roles, meaning you won’t be wasting your time sending messages to passive opportunists.
The platform is a great way to source talent from across the globe; with boolean search, responsive filtering options, and 85% talent response rates, you can fill your pipeline with pre-screened candidates and build your team quicker compared with other channels. 80% of the companies searching on the platform hire within 4 weeks.
Candidates are verified through a code challenge and a call with our Talent Success team, meaning less time wasted for technical hiring managers. If you’re not familiar with the platform, here’s a quick rundown of how to use the Honeypot platform.
Steps for finding qualified talent using Honeypot:
Optimise your company profile; fill in each section, add some team photos - ensure you’re giving a great first impression. Talents will use the profile pages to learn more about you and your company, so make sure your company’s personality and brand shine through!
Start with a more broad search and keeping in mind the people who may use different wording or terminology.
Start narrowing by years of experience and role.
If you are familiar with Boolean search you will want to add required tech-stacks and skills to refine candidates further.
Ideally you want to filter down to between 5-20 talents. If the group is larger, narrow further by selecting some nice-to-have skills.
At this point you’ll have a handful of quality matches, but before you jump to an interview invitation, you’re going to want to read through their personal profiles to get a better understanding of who the candidate is. Check their interests and industry experience. Here, you will also be able to read the notes from a Talent Success Adviser, who’s there to give honest feedback on the candidate from a pre-screening video call.
Once you are confident with the search matches, you can go ahead and use the messaging system to send out an interview invitation. We advise you use personalised messages as these better your chances for the talent to accept the invitation.
That’s it! With a few simple steps you can quickly source qualified tech professionals from around the world. You can read more about getting your invitation accepted here.
1.2 Screening Candidates Remotely
Screening is essentially filtering out applicants who do not meet the requirements of the role. It can be a lengthy process, though if sourcing was done effectively your time spent flicking through resumes (or profiles) will be cut in half. Assuming that you have already disqualified candidates who don’t meet the experience level or lack relevant skills, your time screening will be primarily focused on assessing the personality and cultural fit of candidates. And like we mentioned earlier, be serious about who you email or reach out to; careless screening methods can damage your brand, and cause a bad impression for future candidates and employees.
8 steps to effectively screen candidates
1. Consider what qualities you want in a candidate
You probably already have a list of qualities that you would like in a potential employee. You want to see that they align with company values and that they mesh well into the engineering team. You obviously want them to be excited about the product or industry they would be working in, and a startup is going to require a very different personality than a large corporation. But there’s something else to consider: if you are hiring someone remotely, chances are they will be working remotely or find themselves doing so at some point. Remote work is not for everyone, and it requires some additional traits you may want to consider in a candidate.
Traits needed for remote work:
Independence: Being able to work autonomously without direct oversight. Additionally, you want to be able to see that they can - and don’t mind - working alone. The best indicator of this is previous remote work experience.
Strong communication: The role will require continuous written communication through messaging apps and emails, meaning the candidate must be able to articulate complexities through the written word, and navigate the nuances of social interactions.
Emotional intelligence: How self-aware is the candidate? Do they know what conversations are best done via email and which are for video?
Experience: If a candidate has experience working remotely then you can likely assume they understand the challenges of working from home. Candidates without experience may be up to the challenge but they won’t have established structures and boundaries to keep themselves motivated and proactive.
Growth mentality: Ideally you want this trait in every employee, but even more so for someone working remotely. With constant oversight and assistance it’s easy for an employee to grow within a role, but that is a luxury remote workers do not have. Therefore a growth mindset will be essential for them to adapt to feedback and truly grow into the role.
Decisiveness: A remote worker is likely to be in a different time zone, which makes it tricky for quick decision making. The candidate needs to have the confidence and initiative to make sound decisions without relying on others.
Hobbies and interests: If you are considering a candidate for remote work make sure they have interests outside of working hours. It shows that they take care of themselves and value their time off. It’s much easier for someone who is available 24/7 to end up burning out.
2. Background checks and skill tests
It’s common practice to check a candidate’s Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn profile. You will gain a clearer picture of who the candidate is, their interests, how they express themselves, and what others are saying about them. Twitter is a personal favourite; people really show their true colours there, and you can quickly tell if you’d like working with that person.
Software engineers often have personal websites and blogs where they create and share personal projects. Their online portfolio will provide some valuable insight into how creative they are, what their passions are, and how knowledgeable they (actually) are.
Some companies make candidates take a test when applying, others prefer to do it after a screening call - whatever the case, it’s a great way to find out if the talent is up for the job, easily measured by a pass or fail. Asking a candidate to solve a real world problem will tell you more than a resume ever could.
We recommend you make your coding challenges and skill tests as real to your business as possible. This could be a problem the team is currently facing, a ticket or a future issue. Given they are helping solve a real business problem and outside the hours of their regular job, we recommend that you pay them for their time. The gesture will show goodwill and go a long way for brand reputation.
On the Honeypot platform, talents are pre-screened with an initial code challenge plus a follow up screening call with our Talent Management team. This ensures that the quality of candidates always remains at a high standard, meaning less time spent screening candidates and quicker technical hires.
3. The screening call
This is more or less the last stage of the screening process before you move on to skill tests and the interview stage. For a remote setting, the best way to conduct the call is via video conferencing. Yes, phone calls can be easily scheduled and are a little less intimidating, but we prefer video chat as it allows for a better and more personal interaction, which is important for building rapport in a remote setting. It also helps build trust and introduces the candidate to your company in a more personable way.
A qualified software engineer will most likely be pursuing multiple job offers at once, so the relationship you establish is key in motivating them to consider you company, and encourage them to take the skill test (a factor that causes high drop-off rates). Your conversation will likely be tailored to the candidate’s level of skill and how desperate you are to fill the position. Beyond that, there are a few things you will want to give and take from the call.
Here are the things you want to do in a screening call:
- Get to know them and gather a feeling for their personality
- Find out about their interests
- Share insights about the company (why they would want to work there)
- Build trust and motivation towards the role and company
- Explain what the hiring process entails, and set expectations for success and failure ahead of time
A quick note on call scheduling: Don’t just call candidates at any random time. With plenty of warning, coordinate a time which works best for them, taking into account location and working hours (there are some handy timezone tools below). A nice extra touch would be to send them the agenda ahead of time so they are also prepared for what to expect in the call (this will be appreciated by those anxious candidates).
4. Ask the right questions and give the right info
In the screening call your goal is to determine if they will be a good fit for the role, so ask questions which drive at the heart of the matter and avoid ones which waste time and provide little information, for example, ‘if you were an animal what would you be?’ - it doesn’t make so much sense. Instead, explore their background, and talk with them about what they are and are not looking for in their next role. You may also want to test their knowledge if you yourself are well-versed in technical topics.
Here are some examples of remote questions you could ask:
- Do you have previous remote work experience?
- What tools have you used previously for collaboration and remote work?
- How do you track your projects and time effectively?
- What does your work environment look like?
- How do you stay in touch with the rest of the team?
- What kind of hours do you like to work?
Information you should share for remote workers:
- How the company will set them up remotely (do they need to organise their own setup or will the company issue it?)
- The remote onboarding process
- How often they will need to visit the office (will travel expenses be paid?)
- Remote working expectations (hours, responsibilities, rules, requirements, etc.)
5. Create an evaluation process
The next step is to create an evaluation process which you can use to measure candidates after the screening call so that you are not just going off of your gut feeling. If you had positive or negative feelings towards a candidate it’s best to be able to articulate them as you’ll likely be defending your decision later on or providing rejected candidates with feedback (highly recommended!).
Here are some things to consider when evaluating a candidate:
- Response time
- Preparedness - How much they researched the role (how committed)
- Communication style
- Technical knowledge
- Their interest in the role/company
6. Candidate screening tools
Candidate screening tools will help you through the entire process while managing a variety of needs.
Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)
An ATS is a great tool to manage applications and filter candidates based on certain criteria. The downside is that these tools are often costly - it makes sense if you get high rates of inbound traffic. If you handle the sourcing, use cheaper project management tools like Trello or Monday.com.
There will likely be a lot of back and forth between team members. To avoid the hassle of emails try using a workplace messaging system designed to streamline your communication channels.
Average salary for locations
You may have to answer questions around salaries which might be tricky if they will be working from another country. These websites can help you get an idea of what an average salary would be in each country.
Video conferencing applications
Handy time zone converters for international scheduling
For questionnaires and feedback surveys
Visa processing and relocation
The Honeypot team offers visa and relocation support for developers hired through the platform (check out our Ultimate Guide to the EU Blue Card for some more details on how we can help you). This may help you consider looking outside of local talent pools to the international market for talent recruitment.
7. How to turn down a candidate painlessly
Once the developer is screened you’ll either be progressing them to the next stage or discontinuing with them. For the latter you will need to communicate the news in a gentle but honest way. Always provide constructive feedback and let them know why you won’t be continuing their application. Feedback like this is appreciated, and if handled correctly, disqualified candidates will likely still view the company in a positive light.
Here are some steps you can take to ensure a candidate is turned away painlessly:
Tell the candidate promptly
Don’t wait until the end of the hiring cycle to share the bad news. Update unsuccessful candidates as quickly as possible so you aren’t delaying their job search any longer. It also shows respect for the candidate’s time, which will certainly be appreciated.
Call them back
Emails aren’t the best medium for sharing bad news. If you’ve spoken to them via video or over the phone, give them a quick call to relay the news. Make the call as quick and painless as possible, thank them for their time, and if possible follow up with an email recapping the conversation.
Get to the point
Avoid getting into a discussion on why they weren’t the best fit. Be clear and to the point as to why exactly they won’t be moving forward to the next stage. Make sure your feedback is constructive so they can get an idea as to where they might need improvement. Don’t be overly apologetic, and don’t sugarcoat your feedback.
It doesn’t matter how many unsuccessful candidates you are calling to share the bad news, make sure you are showing them respect and not just treating them as if they were another number. Use their name, mention something that you spoke about with them, and wish them on their way.
Tell the truth
Maybe the unsuccessful candidate was a great cultural fit yet not up to scratch on the technical side of things, and you want to stay in touch with them for a future role. Let them know this, and tell them that you will save their details for a future role (add them on LinkedIn!).
Finally, ask THEM for feedback
One great way to improve the experience of your hiring process is to ask for feedback from applicants. Applicants will honestly point to the strengths and flaws in your process, helping you to improve for future hiring cycles. Requesting feedback also shows that you respect the opinions of the candidates, and asking for feedback from both successful and unsuccessful candidates will ensure your procedure is fair and transparent.
8. Moving candidates on to the next stage
Finally, you will be moving the successful candidates to the next stage of the hiring process which will be interviewing and eventually resulting in a hire or hires depending on your needs. For more information on interviewing and hiring developers remotely, read here.
Read Part 2 of our Guide to Hiring Developers Remotely: How to Interview and Hire Developers Remotely
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