How to Cut Your Engineering Recruitment Time in Half

Candidate Selection

Looking to hire an engineer? Aren’t we all.

That’s the problem to the supply and demand equation, which is creating the engineering shortage. But Bret Reckard, a technical recruiting manager at Sequoia Capital, recently offered up some sage advice on how to cut the recruitment time in half.

It comes down to employee referrals, according to a TechCrunch post by his colleague Bryan Schreier. He notes Reckard estimates that a company looking for a dozen engineers will spend roughly 1,200 hours recruiting, if only 20 percent of the job applicants come through employee referrals.

But if you ratchet up employee referrals to 80 percent, the average amount of time needed to recruit the dozen engineers is closer to 750 hours.

“Between 40 to 60 percent of hires should come from referrals,” Schreier says. “If your percentage is less than that you likely aren’t doing enough to encourage referrals, or worse, your employees can’t recommend your company to their friends.”


He softened the blow by noting that another reason could be that a startup has tapped out its network it uses to hire. But in either case, a young company hasn’t likely gone to extremes to get its employees to recruit engineering talent.

One suggestion is to meet with employees and develop a list of the best engineers from their previous jobs, social networks and college. These lists can be as important as an employee referral of a friend.

Closing the Deal

Improving the intake of referrals is one of two key measures to speeding along the process of landing the dozen engineers. The other key component is closing the deal with the applicant.

Companies should ideally be able to get 75 percent of job applicants to accept their offer, Schreier notes. “Your close starts as soon as you met a candidate with no upper limit to the lengths you can go,” he says.

That type of attitude isn’t lost on some companies, like StumbleUpon. For the past year, the startup has been using a same-day offer technique for senior engineers it is hot to hire. A candidate is interviewed and an offer is extended immediately afterward.

“I find [same-day offers] make the process easier. You have a good engineer, you get them in the door and you don’t over think it,” says Brenda O’Kane, StumbleUpon’s head of engineering, in a recent interview with Dice News. “If we wait five days to give them an offer, we may lose them.”

One Response to “How to Cut Your Engineering Recruitment Time in Half”

  1. Mickey Mouse

    I think you missed a big area of waste: untrained interviewers, untrained HR, poorly-written job ads, poor Glassdoor reviews, and other things the company does to develop a reputation that will scare away the most talented (the least desperate) in the talent pool.

    When I apply to a Dice job, I indicate that I won’t let the company waste too much of my time, ever so politely. Here’s an example:

    — No phone screens that are just definitions, unless I can ask one back if I sense the interviewer feels my answer wasn’t adequate. It’s too easy to find something someone doesn’t know in a bookshelf full of books, like most software developers have.

    — No interviews before you verify my degree. I provide a certified degree if they like, and a note from my doctor claiming my memory is intact (most of it is). This way the interviewer and I don’t waste each other’s time with “prove you have knowledge” types of interviews.

    — No phone calls without a job description. So many recruiters waste time leaving phone messages on a million candidate’s voice mail.

    The list goes on… but obviously, gone are the days when recruiters were technically-savvy, and could vouch for a particular candidate. Nowadays, anyone can be an IT recruiter, even technical novices. And THESE are the people that don’t know what to look for, have no training in professional interviewing and really don’t care, and wind up wasting so much time for the candidate and the company. AND they pick the “fanciest” candidate… like they are picking a favorite YouTube video… based purely on how “fun and entertaining” the candidate was.

    What’s really sad is that as the technically-challenged recruiters flood the IT market, they start writing blogs on Dice, advising how to interview. So, America needs to get weed out all of these technically unskilled recruiters that have come to dominate the market.

    Always report bad interviews/experiences with a company on Glassdoor.