September 14, 2020

Developer Hiring Is Hard

By Wes Winham

Hi, I’m Wes. I spent 10 years as the head of engineering for a technology company, and hiring was my biggest challenge.

Here were some of the pains I felt:

Hiring for technical work takes time. A lot of it. To find my best employees, I had to interview 30–40 candidates. Between reviewing resumes and GitHub, phone screens, on-site interviews, and take-home tests, my team spent many hours per candidate. Every great hire took upwards of 100 hours — a huge drain on my team that was often stretched thin.

Even after all that time, I sometimes got it wrong. I considered all of the common tools — FizzBuzz, whiteboard challenges, code quizzes, brain teasers, programming trivia, and more. These helped screen out wild mismatches, but didn’t help me separate mediocre from exceptional.

What about great engineers who don’t have name-brand credentials? To preserve my time and sanity, I sometimes screened on imprecise signals like a college degree or experience at a hot tech company. I don’t know about you, but some of the best engineers I know are self-taught. I needed a way to differentiate between candidates who looked good on paper and candidates who had the grit and aptitude to make a big impact now and as we scaled.

Then there’s onboarding. If I hired someone that wasn’t exactly the right fit for the position, it might take them 3x as long to get productive in our codebase. And if you end up hiring someone who doesn’t have the skills, they kill morale for the rest of the team and you risk your top engineers leaving for greener pastures.

I started Woven to create what I wish I’d had.

Research from Google and others has demonstrated that work samples are the best way to predict success on the job. And if you do them right, candidates prefer them over traditional interviews too. I used work samples at PolicyStat to give me deep insight into my candidates’ abilities. But it was a massive investment. From choosing an engaging problem to calibrating it against my team and my candidate pool — it was almost a full-time job.

With Woven, you get the predictive power of a work sample calibrated for your team and your domain without the pain of maintaining it, so you can focus on finding the right culture fit.