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How Can You Do Skill-Based Hiring Right—And Wrong?

Hiring Developers

The Dos and Don'ts of Skill-based Hiring

Traditional hiring methods have their limitations, and can lead to mismatched skill sets and poor job fits. Skill-based hiring, on the other hand, has gained popularity as a way to objectively identify and evaluate candidates’ practical abilities. 

The thing is, there are right ways and wrong ways to implement skill-based hiring. In this article, we’ll explore the dos and don’ts.

The dos of skill-based hiring

“Do” build relevant technical assessments

One of the fundamental dos of skill-based hiring is to design technical assessments that closely mirror the tasks developers will perform in their role. 

Ensure that the assessment evaluates the skills, tools, and technologies directly related to the job. This not only provides a more accurate picture of a candidate’s capabilities but also sets expectations for the role from the outset.

“Do” be reasonable when it comes to assessment length and difficulty

Candidates shouldn’t be expected to spend several hours or even days on an assessment. 

Keep assessments reasonably short and make sure that the difficulty level matches the role’s requirements. In other words, don’t ask a senior engineer to write a “Hello World” program.

Candidates should be able to complete their assessment within a reasonable timeframe, allowing them to showcase their skills without feeling overwhelmed. A test that takes days to complete may well discourage top talent from pursuing your organization. 

“Do” facilitate two-way coding conversations 

To focus on skills doesn’t mean to eliminate any human interaction.

After the technical assessment, schedule follow-up interviews where candidates can discuss their thought processes, problem-solving skills, and approach to coding challenges. This collaborative interaction also provides valuable insights into a candidate’s ability to work with others.

“Do” choose a performant, familiar development environment for technical interviews

Spoiler alert: a whiteboard is not it. 

Ensure that candidates complete their technical assessments in a performant, familiar Integrated Development Environment (IDE). This environment should mimic the one they would use in their day-to-day work and include all the normal features (syntax highlighting, auto-completion, multi-language support, refactoring support, etc.). 

Using an IDE they are comfortable with allows candidates to perform at their best.

The Don’ts of Skill-Based Hiring

“Don’t” focus on resume pedigree

One of the biggest hiring mistakes you can make is narrowing your candidate pool based solely on resume pedigree. The opposite of skill-based hiring, if you will.  

“When recruiters spend just seconds on application and resume reviews for each candidate, unconscious bias can easily creep in. For example, a Harvard graduate or Google alumni might be moved to the next stage without regard for skills, while a top performer without well-known institutions or organizations listed may be quickly passed over.”

– Jen Dewar, Women in Tech

Be conscious and thoughtful about your screening process. Don’t assume that candidates with prestigious degrees or experience at well-known companies are the only ones worth considering. Instead, focus on evaluating skills and potential contributions.

“Don’t” neglect other skills and technologies

While specific language proficiency might be essential for a role, remember that developers can learn new skills and technologies. Don’t limit your hiring process to only one language or framework. 

Consider the transferability of skills and a candidate’s ability to adapt to new tools and processes.

“Don’t” ignore soft skills

66% of developers and 56% of recruiters consider that, when it comes to hiring software engineers, soft skills are just as important as hard skills. 

Don’t make the mistake of hiring someone solely based on technical prowess without evaluating their communication, teamwork, analytical and problem-solving skills. Developers who can effectively collaborate and communicate are valuable assets to any organization.

🔖 Related read: Skills-Based Hiring Is on the Rise

“Don’t” restrict resource access

Lastly, don’t limit candidates from using available resources during assessments and interviews. In real-world development, developers have access to online resources, documentation, and collaboration tools. Allowing candidates to leverage these resources provides a more realistic evaluation of their problem-solving abilities.

With this in mind, we recently released our CoderPad Interview ChatGPT integration to enable interviewers to observe how candidates critically approach problems and utilize modern toolsets. Many users of our ChatGPT integration use it as a collaboration tool during interviews with candidates. They present a question to the candidate and allow them to use the integration as they would Google or StackOverflow.

“Don’t” presume that skill-based hiring starts and ends with assessment

Skill-based hiring is a holistic approach. Make sure to adjust every part of your funnel to facilitate skills-based recruitment. 

Take your job descriptions, for example.

Rather than describing the person you hope to hire, focus on the results you hope to see—and the skills needed to achieve those results. Highlight the role’s responsibilities and the skills needed to get the job done. This way, you avoid creating an unnecessary barrier to entry, like a requirement for a formal computer science degree.

You may well find that this approach boosts your application numbers. According to LinkedIn research, job posts that mention “responsibilities” without mentioning “requirements” receive 14% more applications per view.

🔖 Related read: How to Get Started with Skills-Based Hiring

Skill-based hiring is a powerful approach to finding the right talent for your organization, but it must be executed thoughtfully. By following the dos and avoiding the don’ts, you can create a hiring process that accurately assesses a candidate’s abilities, fosters collaboration, and ensures a strong match for your team.