Technical Hiring Guide: Learn to ‘speak geek’ in four steps
By Kate Matsudaira
Recruiting for technical roles can feel like being in a strange place and not speaking the language; the acronyms and jargon can make it challenging to navigate a candidate’s qualifications beyond matching buzzwords on their resume to a job description.
This Technical Hiring Guide explains different tech roles and how they relate to one another in plain English. Before we get into specifics, let’s take a top-down approach to the roles.
Step 1: Understand Technical Departments
First, it helps to understand the departments within a company, as different divisions have different goals and responsibilities. Most technical hires fall into one of two camps: Building Software or Operations and Support.
Building Software encompasses all the roles related to creating software. “Software” could mean desktop applications, mobile apps, websites, and other tools. Basically, the output or result from “writing code.”
Operations and Support represents the logistics needed to keep things running. “Things” could be software, hardware, or processes in a business or organization. A great example is IT or tech support teams – their primary job is to keep things running smoothly, rather than writing code or building software.
One big difference between these two categories is that Building Software often (though not always) generates products, features, or revenue, while Operations and Support is generally a cost center to a business. Both groups are essential, so it is important to know how their different goals fit into the overall organization.
Step 2: Know the Team & Tools
Once you understand the technical areas of the business, the next step is to gain a deeper understanding of the team and the open position. Get a solid handle on the technologies in use and the desired skillset of any new hire.
Since job descriptions don’t always paint the whole picture, dig deeper into what the hiring manager is actually looking for in a new hire by asking key questions:
- What is their technology stack?
- What skills are their team missing?
- What technologies or tools will this new hire use on the job?
- Will the person be able to learn any of these on the job, or do they need to come with a mastery of one or several of those skills?
- If a candidate doesn’t have all the requisite skills, what other technologies or comparable skills might still make them qualified? If so, what are they?
- What are the skillsets and backgrounds of the current team?
- What are the skills, experiences, and traits of your most successful team members?
Not all hiring managers will be able to answer all of these questions, but this line of questioning will help you understand how eligible they consider different candidates, and help you identify the true “must-haves” in the position.
Step 3: Match Resumes to Roles
Now for the tricky part – matching candidates to roles.
One easy way to match a candidate with a job is to see if the candidate has a requisite skill on his or her resume. However, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee a good fit. For example, a person may not have mobile programming experience, but may have a strong C++ background,
a deep desire to work in iOS, and a great attitude that could easily fit into the role of iOS engineer. To see this potential match, you have to understand the open role and all the candidate’s previous positions.
Below you will find some common technical job titles, overviews of what each job entails, along with sample interview questions and answers for each role. These will help you dive deeper into understanding what each position requires and better screen and filter candidates for the hiring manager.
- Software Engineer
- Back-End Engineer
- Middle-Tier Engineer
- Front-End Engineer
- Web Developer
- Database Administrator (DBA)
- DevOps Engineer
- System Administrator
- Network Administrator
- Data Scientist
- Quality Assurance Engineer
- Software Engineer in Test
- Technical Lead
Step 4: Ask Good Questionsestions and try to hone in on what makes each person special. Consider some of the following questions I
Regardless of the resume or role you are hiring for, remember that every candidate is just a person with a collection of skills and strengths. Therefore, the best thing you can do is ask lots of questions and try to hone in on what makes each person special. Consider some of the following questions when you’re meeting with a candidate:
- Could you put them in front of customers?
- Do they explain things well enough to talk to a CEO?
- Are they curious and have a strong desire to understand how things work?
- Have they ever been on-call before and would you rely on them?
For each role, dig into the must-haves versus what can be learned. Then devise specific questions to help draw that out from a resume. Try to create questions that specifically target the key aspects of the role the candidate is applying for. Rather than asking everyone if they are detail-oriented, focus those kinds of questions on QA candidates and other people for whom being detail-oriented is a critical part of their position.
For example, you can still be an excellent software engineer even if you aren’t detail-oriented. For those candidates, you would be better off asking how they approach problems or collaborate with a team.
Although it takes extra time to customize your interview questions for every candidate based on the role, it will help you make better, long-lasting placements and hires. And that is what excellent recruiting is all about.
Technical Roles Cheat Sheet
When it comes to tech hiring, many positions overlap one another. This Technical Roles Cheat Sheet is a recruiters’ guide to some of the more common languages, frameworks and tools. It provides a baseline for matching up keywords on resumes and job descriptions to different tech disciplines. It isn’t fully comprehensive, and different organizations may have different needs. However, if a candidate fits into one role, they will likely be able to learn the other skills listed.
Since every role is different, and each candidate unique, the best thing you can do is to be great at understanding those differences and communicating them effectively. By doing the work many other recruiters won’t be willing to do, you’ll increase your ability to make outstanding placements and hires. That deep understanding of the roles, technologies and teams will help you make the best matches with the best candidates.