Need to focus on skill & ability, not qualifications, to find good tech talent: HackerEarth CEO Sachin Gupta
In wake of uncertainties prompted by COVID, tech employers across the spectrum have been forced to re-imagine the world of work, and 2021 saw clarity on the diverse ways of working that can co-exist in an ecosystem
Location-agnostic teams became a reality and companies adopted HR Tech solutions to keep up with the rising demand for transparent and more efficient processes. 2022 will be the first year of the transition to a more established hybrid, less full-time working from office - since the early days of the pandemic.
Sachin Gupta, co-founder and CEO of San Francisco-based tech talent assessment and interview solutions provider HackerEarth, says with the 'great resignation' in tech to continue, investments in HR Tech tools will see an increase with the need to drive people efficiency. It would also mean a year of lesser bias and more inclusiveness.
During an interview with People Matters, Gupta dwelled upon the change in hiring behaviour, looking at unconventional sources of talent - moving away from pedigree and qualification to skill and ability and eliminating bias in the recruiting process through tech tools.
Gupta wanted to create something on his own and was always driven by entrepreneurial zeal. The idea for HackerEarth came to him during his campus placement days in IIT Roorkee when he saw highly capable students not getting hired by relevant companies. An IIT Graduate in Computer Science, he has worked as a software engineer at Google, and before that, interned at Microsoft.
Here are the excerpts from the interview
Change in hiring behaviour
Let’s look at the Great Resignation, for instance, which was driven by the technology sector. One of the driving factors of this ‘mass escape’ was the fact that developers across the globe were feeling burnt out.
2020 shut us all down, and when we came back to the drawing table a year later, there was an enormous amount of pressure on tech teams to deliver new products, build business stability, and update legacy systems. We all know what happened after that.
Companies have finally understood the fact that the post-pandemic workforce is going to be geography-agnostic. Our normal five-day-work weeks are a thing of the past, and the new status quo is all about flexibility, collaboration, and empathy.
A Microsoft study says that 54% developers think their company is not empathetic enough.
We cannot look at hiring as just a numbers game, any longer. We have to look at the entire funnel - from the very first touchpoint between company and developer, to all the little nooks and crannies that affect hiring and retention. Do your employees feel represented in the company? Do they believe that you are a fair and equitable employer, who cares about their emotional and psychological welfare, as much as they care about writing good code? Do they have access to growth and upskilling opportunities?
These may seem to be tangential questions, but they do influence your company’s long-term hiring prospects and need to be considered when planning.
Unconventional sources of talent - shift from qualification to skill
Academic pedigree is not the sole marker of coding ability in today’s times. Our annual Developer Survey (2021) shows that while most coders hone their coding skills in school, there is a significant chunk that is learning on their own through online coding classes, or skill-building platforms.
Tech recruiters need to broaden their net and go beyond traditional job boards to find great talent. It’s vital that recruiters engage in a dialogue with the tech community from the onset. Hackathons are a great way of engaging the community and building brand recall, while opening up the sourcing funnel.
Another way of increasing your talent pool is by revisiting the must-have checklist for a job. Many times, candidates get intimidated when they see a long list of skills and requirements in a job description. This is especially true of female candidates, or candidates from a diverse or minority background.
The job ad is one of the first touchpoints between a recruiter and a candidate, and creating a laundry list of conditions will only alienate you from a majority of interested candidates. Instead, cast a wide net and hire for the essential skills. Coders learn new tricks every day, and the best ones will pick up adjacent skills on the go in a short span of time.
Eliminating bias in recruiting process through tech tools
You wouldn’t judge an athlete on their cooking skills, would you?
Similarly, when assessing developers, it is important to give them a test environment that they are used to, so they can do their best work in a familiar setup. Bias creeps in when we allow our natural proclivities to dictate our hiring choices. It’s always better to work with data than with ‘gut feel’, and you can do that by using platforms that are designed to take the guesswork out of hiring.
HackerEarth Assessments, for instance, helps companies send benchmarked take-home coding tests to their candidates. These tests are skill-based, with questions that simulate a developer’s daily tasks. The results are evaluated by an algorithm, which shows recruiters how a candidate's individual performance is. These results are also benchmarked against historical data, allowing recruiters to make informed decisions.
If a candidate moves on to the next round i.e. the technical interview, then hiring managers can use the HackerEarth Interviews platform to conduct this round. Our interview platform allows managers to set up video interviews where they can ask coding questions on the fly, thereby judging a candidate’s ability in real-time.
The tool has a built-in IDE (integrated development environment) so coders are not trying to write code snippets on a shared doc, while also managing their Zoom screens. The platform has support for multiple panellists, and a nifty feature for keeping notes during the interview so that managers do not provide the wrong post-interview feedback.
HR Tech outlook for 2022 - company and market insights driving the sector
For the last two years, the business world has been adapting to change. HR tech has been at the forefront, and workplace automation has taken on new meaning post-pandemic. The industry, as a whole, is pegged for many interesting changes which will allow companies to make work from home more seamless, reduce employee churn, and help increase efficiency.
I foresee tools and features that take into account employee psychology, help HR professionals find skilled talent in a more data-driven, strategic manner, and organise virtual workplaces to enable human strengths.
We have already seen an influx of these changes in the tech hiring domain. Our annual survey of tech recruiters and hiring managers shows that the adoption of tech assessment and interview platforms has been rising steadily through the pandemic.
Those companies that use dedicated platforms to hire developers, report a more standardised, objective, and accurate assessment process. The candidate experience is also smoother, and bias-free. The pandemic has made tech companies recognize that skill-fit is an important criterion for hiring - much above traditional signals like resumes and work experience. In a borderless world, the process for hiring skilled talent has to move beyond age-old checkboxes.