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5 Ways to Strengthen Collaboration Between Talent Acquisition and Engineering Hiring Managers

Hiring Developers

Building a great team of developers requires a strong, collaborative partnership between talent acquisition and engineering managers. But often, there are underlying misalignments between the teams that make it challenging to work together effectively.

When hiring managers and talent acquisition teams aren’t collaborating well, time gets wasted, miscommunications happen, and candidate experience suffers. 

Last week, we brought together a panel of engineering and talent acquisition leaders to share their best practices for working in sync to meet technical hiring goals. 

Below are some of the key pieces of advice that came up during the discussion.

Align on candidate profiles

It’s absolutely essential to align on what the ideal candidate looks like, from the get-go. 

You need to know what skills, technologies, and experience are relevant to the role. You need to get knee-deep in the specifics of what good, great and bad look like. What are the non-negotiables? Where is there wiggle room? What does a “day in the life” look like for this role? 

Experts Nathan Sutter and Vanessa Gregg say that getting TA and Engineering together to review internal job descriptions, before starting to source candidates, is essential. 

Both parties need to be specific, critical and realistic about the desired profile (skill set, experience, learning potential, etc.)—in relation to company goals and market realities. 

“It all starts with defining what the actual job description is, and really nailing it down to ‘what are the actual needs’. Everything else can be nice-to-haves.” 

Vanessa Gregg, Technology Division Account General Manager at Telus International

“I’ve found that in joint sessions with Talent Acquisition, when discussing what I wrote up as a job description, I’ve realized: ‘maybe I don’t need this or this, or I should be looking at this differently’. I’ve always found those types of conversations to be helpful in drafting a candidate profile that you actually want to chase and that’s realistic.” 

Nathan Sutter, Global VP of Engineering at CoderPad

⏯️ Snippet: Nathan Sutter and Vanessa Gregg talk about how to align on a realistic job description

Put candidate experience first

Candidate experience should be a joint priority, and at the center of your hiring process. 

Unfortunately, candidate experience suffers when TA and Engineering don’t see eye to eye. 

Sara Ali says that missing or turning up late for a technical interview is the most common and most damaging display of misalignment she has experienced. 

“As I think about the worst misalignments I’ve seen, I think they all have to do with prioritization and lack of prioritization between the teams. I think we can all agree that interviews are at the heart of how we hire, and all of my horror stories have to do with hiring managers, engineers, engineering managers […] missing interviews.

I think nothing is more detrimental to us as talent teams, engineering teams, and to our candidates, than when people miss interviews.” 

Sara Ali, Engineering Recruiting at Hightouch

How can you highlight just how important candidate experience is? A smart approach is to leverage quantitative and qualitative data. 

Dive into analytics, underline where it is that candidates drop off, how long it takes them to move through the process, etc. Present those numbers to the teams to give them a clear idea of what the funnel looks like, and where it could be improved. 

In addition, grab any opportunity you can to gather qualitative feedback from candidates. Identify recurring issues (or praise!) and adjust your process accordingly.

⏯️ Snippet: Sara Ali on how detrimental missing interviews can be

Build trust

As intangible as it may sound, your hiring success relies on trust, communication and respect. 

Whether you’re a hiring manager or a recruiter, it’s important to get a real understanding and appreciation of the other’s role. You’re in this together, you have the same end-game: positively impacting the product/solution and business. 

“I try to make sure that there’s buy-in on both sides. [An understanding] that recruiting is going to help the business, and we’re not just annoying people who are asking for tons of time, we are really thinking through this thoughtfully, because we’ve invested time into learning what you do day to day. Knowing that there’s a commitment on both sides is really helpful.”

Sara Ali

Sara Ali suggests that technical recruiters should get truly knowledgeable about their engineering team: their goals, their challenges, their organization… She encourages TA professionals to shadow meetings, take classes, attend events, etc. 

“Becoming knowledgeable is the first step to building trust between Talent and Engineering teams. I think it’s important to think of yourself as part of the organization that you hire for. I think any learning that can happen is going to be super useful […] Even if you have no idea what people are talking about, you’re still learning. It makes those conversations with engineers, both internally and externally, so much easier.” 

Define success

Another way to align Talent Acquisition and Engineering managers is to define success and manage expectations. 

Both parties need to agree on goals and understand what is expected of them in terms of action, collaboration, timeline, outcome, etc.

In terms of goals, for instance, the aim for both parties is not simply to extend an offer and to have it accepted. The aim is to get the right candidate, in the right role, via an engaging and efficient process. 

“It’s key to define what success looks like outside of just ‘put a body into this seat in my team’, which is the least nuanced definition of success you could have here […] What are the outcomes that we’re looking for here? […] That’s the way I like to kick off every single one of the placements for my team. Because if you don’t start there, everything else just gets harder.”

Nathan Sutter

Vanessa Gregg emphasizes the fact that success isn’t measured on the day of the hire, but rather after the first 30, 60, 90 days to 6 months. Both TA and Engineering should be aiming to recruit developers who are going to stick around and thrive. 

“Success is not just finding the right candidate. It’s about finding a candidate that will be able to grow, and is going to stay in the company […] What we’re thinking is: ‘Is this person going to stay for 3 months? Is this person going to be successful?’. If that doesn’t happen, it damages the trust that was built. 

For me, success is something that is measured 6 months after someone is hired. Were they the correct person? Have they meshed well with the company culture? Are they contributing to the team? And if yes, what did we do in that process that we can replicate next time.”

Vanessa Gregg

In terms of collaboration, it’s important to be upfront about commitments and expectations. Exactly what feedback is constructive? What timeline is acceptable? The success of your hiring process depends on transparent communication and mutual responsibility. 

⏯️ Snippet: Gerardo Tobar and Vanessa Gregg discuss constructive feedback as part of the hiring process

Leverage tools

Tools can really elevate your tech recruitment process. 

Indeed, you should always be looking for ways to streamline your hiring process—and the right tools can help you to do so.

That might look like leveraging reporting and analytics, automating certain steps of the process, and/or facilitating top-notch technical tests and interviews

TA and hiring managers should continuously align on use and interpretation, so as to make the most of their tools and avoid any misunderstandings. 

If you use CoderPad Screen for your technical assessment, for example, we’d recommend including your engineering team in the creation and calibration of tests. Align on what you’re trying to identify, what kind of score you’re looking for (depending on the test parameters and difficulty level), what red flags look like, etc.

⏯️ Snippet: The panel discusses tools and how to best leverage them

Collaboration between TA and engineering managers is crucial to building a great tech team. Misalignments can lead to wasted time, miscommunications, poor candidate experience and even costly mis-hires. 

Hopefully the insights shared by our wonderful panelists at Hightouch and Telus International will help you to improve talent acquisition and engineering collaboration and meet your technical hiring goals.