Leonardo da Vinci wrote the first professional resume in 1482, although resumes didn’t become a central part of the hiring process until the middle of the 20th century. Resumes have traditionally determined how candidates apply for jobs and how employers make decisions. For some industries, this remains true today. However, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t always work, particularly for roles like software engineering where qualifications aren’t easily conveyed on a piece of paper.
The technical hiring process is broken. It’s time for recruiters to move beyond the resume and get smarter about targeting the right candidates.
By 2020, there will be 1 million more computing jobs than qualified applicants to fill those jobs. A report from Workable found that it takes an average of 59 days to fill an engineering role. In a survey by Jobvite, 65 percent of recruiters said a talent shortage was the biggest hiring challenge they faced.
The problem, however, isn’t really a shortage of qualified candidates — it’s a disconnect between candidates and employers.
The internet has made it easier than ever for a company to post a job listing and for candidates to search for positions that interest them. According to Glassdoor, the average corporate job opening gets 250 resume submissions. This might seem like a good thing on the surface, but most technical recruiters don’t have the bandwidth to filter resumes at this volume. Instead, they have to use broad-stroke criteria to sort through applicants. For example: Has this developer worked for a big-name tech company? Do they have a computer science degree? Did they graduate from a top university?
Certainly these factors may hint at whether a candidate is qualified, but pedigree is not a proxy for skills. An Ivy League degree doesn’t matter if someone doesn’t have the basic skills to do the job. Resumes can be unreliable, vague, and misleading — which is bad news for both employers and applicants. A qualified candidate may slip through the cracks because they aren’t adept at quantifying their own abilities, while someone who refers to themselves as a “coding ninja” may not actually have what the job requires.
Resume-based recruiting also allows biases to seep into the hiring process. The tech industry, with its sharp racial and gender disparities, has a notorious diversity problem. Many hiring teams operate on predefined notions of what an engineer “looks” like, and these notions can be based on race and gender, as well as other factors like education and work history. Resume-based recruiting, as well as referral reward systems, can perpetuate these problems.
Furthermore, relying on resumes is inefficient from an operational perspective. Since resumes convey such a limited amount of information about someone’s skills and what they are like to work with, these documents can only serve as starting points. Between phone screens, technical interviews, and on-site interviews, the subsequent hiring process can suck up hours and hours of engineers’ and managers’ time.
What’s the solution this conundrum? Skill-based recruiting.
Invert the Funnel
Skill-based recruiting moves skill testing to the top of the funnel. Instead of sorting through resumes, arranging interviews, and then finally verifying candidates’s skills, employers can optimize their recruiting processes by assessing skills at the outset.
The skill test for a particular job should reflect the daily work of a software engineer in that role. Recruiters can send out the tests and then move candidates to the next phase based on their results. For a job listing where a company might have received 500 resumes, maybe only 20 candidates pass the short coding test. That significantly narrows the field and ensures all candidates who get an interview are a good fit. This saves both the recruiter and the engineering team significant time and energy, as no one has to evaluate candidates who turn out to be unqualified.
Moreover, skill-based recruiting is an effective way to combat bias. In this arrangement it is skill, not a candidate’s race, gender, college degree, or work history, that advances them down the pipeline.
Consistent online evaluations also allow for more successful interviews. Skill tests are often conducted via whiteboard during in-person interviews, which means they are not standardized from candidate to candidate and the results can be easily lost. Skill-based recruiting focuses on collecting objective, quantifiable data. Employers can see how candidates go about solving challenges and save all completed code tests in a library, which establishes a network of potential future hires.
For the HR team, this approach means they can present engineering with more qualified candidates and improve their funnel metrics. That’s a benefit to HR and engineering alike. Just as importantly, it frees up HR’s energy to focus on meaningful interactions with potential hires, who will be more likely to accept a job offer as a result.
Tigran Sloyan is the cofounder and CEO of CodeFights.