Knowing What Matters, Part II (Case)

Please Note: This case follows a part 1: Knowing What Matters, Part I and assumes familiarity with its contents.

The Customer Discovery Process

In Knowing What Matters, Part I, Andrew identified the need for a more systematic approach to exploring his startup concept, Enable Quiz. Currently, he’s focused on customer discovery around the problem/job of technical recruiting, specifically the process whereby HR managers screen candidates for an open position.

He’s gone out and done a series of interviews with both HR managers and the functional managers the collaborate with when those managers have an open position they want to fill. Now he wants to synthesize what he’s learned so he can focus his next steps.

What do you think about the transcripts? Are there parts you would have skipped? Gone into more depth?
What do you think Andrew learned vs. still needs to learn?

What might the hiring manager and the functional manager look like as personas?
What problem scenarios exist for them? What metrics would you use? What alternatives are in place today?
Based on the personas you create from the transcripts, how well understood are these personas? How about the problem scenarios? Where did you notice important consistencies vs. inconsistencies?
What are some traits you noticed that you think might (or might not) suggest that a certain type of customer would be a good early market? Early adopter? Is there a difference?

Exhibit A- Working with Personas & Problem Scenarios

  • personas
  • PS/JTBD

Exhibit B- Interview Guides

The two sections that follow describe the interview guides that Andrew used for the HR manager and the functional managers they collaborate with when making a new hire. The functional manager is the person who will manage the new hire and created the job description for the team member they need. The HR manager collaborates with them by sourcing candidates, doing initial screening, and helping with the final decision.

Interview guides are not the same thing as questionnaires. The goal here isn’t to create statistically valid or even specifically comparable data. The idea is to get at what’s truly important to the subject, why, and how they actually behave. In the transcripts that follow, you won’t see the guide followed question by question, and this is good practice. As an interviewer, you have to apply judgement toward getting the right information from your subject and managing the time and energy both you and the subject have available. Sometimes this means asking the same basic question a few different ways over the course of the interview, and sometimes it means skipping whole sections of your interview guide in order to focus on a thread of conversation that particularly useful.

HR Manager- Interview Guide

SCREENING QUESTION
How many open positions have you filled in the last three months? [Should be >1 if extenuating circumstances but probably >5]

PERSONA HYPOTHESIS

Question Format Example Questions (Enable Quiz)
Tell me about [yourself in the role of the persona]? Tell me about being an HR manager?
How did you choose that line of work? Why?
What do you most, least like about the job?
What are the hardest, easiest parts of the job?
I’ve heard [x]- does that apply to you?
Tell me about [your area of interest]? Do you do screen new candidates? If not, who?
Can you tell me about the last time?
Who else was involved? What was it like?
Tell me your thoughts about [area]? How do things work now vs. how would they ideally work?
What do you see in [area]? Where do you learn what’s new? What others do?
Who do you think is doing it right?
How do you feel about [area]? What motivates you? What parts of it are most rewarding? Why?
What about least motivating, least rewarding?
What do you do in [area]? Would you show me your interview guide?
Example notes?
What the vetting process was like on the last few candidates?

PROBLEM HYPOTHESIS

Question Format Example Questions (Enable Quiz)
What are the top [5] hardest things about [area of interest]? What are the top 5 most difficult things about making good tech hires? Why?
How do you currently [operate in area of interest- if you don’t have that yet]? OR Here’s what I got on [x]- is that right? How do you currently screen for technical skill sets?Who does what?How does that work?
What’s [difficult, annoying] about [area of interest]? What’s difficult about screening technical candidates?How do you validate they have the right skill set?
How are the actual outcomes? Examples?
What are the top 5 things you want to do better this year in [general area of interest]? What are the top 5 things you want to do better in technical recruiting and hiring?
Why is/isn’t [your specific area of interest on that list]? Why is/isn’t screening for technical candidates on that list?

Functional Manager- Interview Guide

SCREENING QUESTION
As a manager, how many new hires have you made in the last six months? [Should be >1]

PERSONA HYPOTHESIS

Question Format Example Questions (Enable Quiz)
Tell me about [yourself in the role of the persona]? What’s it like managing an engineering team?
How did you choose to go into management? Why?
What do you most, least like about the job?
What are the hardest, easiest parts of the job?
I’ve heard [x]- does that apply to you?
Tell me about [your area of interest]? How do you decide when you need someone new on the team?
How do you decide what you need?
What’s the process typically like?
What’s it like writing the job description?
How long does it take?
How do you decide which candidates to interview?
Can you tell me about the last time?
Who else was involved? What was it like?
Tell me your thoughts about [area]? How do things work now vs. how would they ideally work?
How did you make your last decision on a candidate?
What do you see in [area]? Where do you learn what’s new? What others do in the area of acquiring the right talent?
Who do you think is doing it right?
How do you feel about [area]? What’s it like bringing on new talent?
What parts of that process are most rewarding?
What parts are least rewarding?
What would it be like in your perfect world?
What do you do in [area]? How many new candidates did you hire last year?
Other than just increasing the size of your dev. pipeline, were there particular new skills you were looking for in those hires?

PROBLEM HYPOTHESIS

Question Format Example Questions (Enable Quiz)
What are the top [5] hardest things about [area of interest]? What are the top 5 most difficult things about making good hires? Why?
How do you currently [operate in area of interest- if you don’t have that yet]? OR Here’s what I got on [x]- is that right? How do you currently screen for technical skill sets?
Who does what?
How does that work?
What’s [difficult, annoying] about [area of interest]? What’s difficult about screening technical candidates?
How do you validate they have the right skill set?
How are the actual outcomes? Examples?
What are the top 5 things you want to do better this year in [general area of interest]? What are the top 5 things you want to do better in technical recruiting and hiring?
Why is/isn’t [your specific area of interest on that list]? Why is/isn’t screening for technical candidates on that list?

Exhibit C- Interview Transcripts

Please Note: These are based on real interviews and interactions but any resemblance they have to real personas is purely coincidental.

Richard- HR Manager (Recruiting) at Mid-Sized Software Company X

SCREENING QUESTION (recorded from prior email exchange)
How many open positions have you filled in the last three months?
Five, with two in the works.

PERSONA HYPOTHESIS
Tell me about being an HR manager?
What can I say? I can’t complain. I started out in development and I took this job because it was less stressful for me and it gave me more flexibility. Originally that was to work on some side projects, startup ideas, but I’ve stayed with this because now that we have kids it lets me spend more time with them and deal with school pickup, etc. My wife is a consultant and she’s on the road a lot and one of us needed to stay flexible.

Is that the kind of answer you were looking for?

Yes, thanks.
What do you most, least like about the job?
Oh, gosh. The most I would say is working with developers, but not as a developer myself! I still enjoying staying up on what’s hot, how the job is changing, stuff like that. And I guess I just like talking with developers. It also makes the job easier for me- the dev’s are a little cautious about recruiters and most of them don’t have a dev. background, so once they find out I have that history it makes the conversation easier. I mean, you probably know- it’s kind of a sellers market right now for engineers. We use an agency for some of it but basically we’re actively soliciting the talent we want a lot of the time. I could go on…
Well, that’s really helpful. What about the part you least like?
I mean, kind of regarding that whole seller’s market thing, whenever we’re in a situation with a candidate where we’re continuing to have to sell the job hard because we’re having trouble finding people and it’s just not clear if all that selling is going to pay off, that can be…I mean, not great. I’m not loving that.
Anything else?
I’m not trying to blame them, they’re super busy, but anytime there’s what I would consider an avoidable mistake a screwup on what we wanted/what the job is that wastes my time and the candidates time, that’s not great.
‘Them’ in this case- is the hiring managers?
Right, yup, sorry. Again, I know they’re doing the best they can. They’re on deadlines, it’s hard to make the time to get their situation better by making the hires they need. Basically, a lot of time they’re dashing off this job description in the 10-15 minutes they have between meetings.
Would you tell me about a specific example?
Sure. Around two months ago we had a posting out for a full stack developer and that’s what we sourced candidates against. Again, lots of work in this market. We brought in a few candidates, did the interviews and then the hiring manager shows up in my office kind of embarrassed and tells me really they need a database engineer- a specialist basically where we’d been interviewing these generalists. And I was basically like ‘No, no one we’ve had in is going to want that job, even if they were a fit. They like doing full stack development. It is what it is, but I have to re-post it.’

Again, I’ve been there, I get why this stuff happens, but that doesn’t make it less of a bummer, frankly.
Got it- thanks.
What are the hardest, easiest parts of the job?
Hardest…basically, the stuff I mentioned. If you think of my job function, basically a job description is the input and a new hire is the output. I turn job descriptions into employees! [laughs] But easier said than done. Good job descriptions matter a lot, at least up to kind of a basic sufficiency level, and then in this market it’s just a lot of identifying and selling the candidates. In a weaker job market, it’s easier, but then people in my role get laid off or at least we’re not getting big bonuses- so it’s not like I welcome that.
Do you do screen new candidates? If not, who?
Yup, that’s me. I screen them, then it’s usually the hiring manager, and then the candidates the manager thinks are really a good fit, usually they’ll interview or at least talk with some of the other people on that team.
How do things work now vs. how would they ideally work?
I mean, in development you’re always trying to look at the way you’re working and try to make it better- that’s what agile’s about, if you’re familiar with that. What’s the equivalent in HR or recruiting? We don’t really do anything like that now. There’s a certain infrastructure in place and that’s sometimes updated, but honestly it’s kind of anachronistic- a lot of filling out forms, stuff like that. In my area, it’s kind of the wild west- everyone just does their thing however they see fit. As an individual, I sometimes like the freedom, but, yeah, sometimes I’m asking myself- are we getting better at this? If this part of the operation is important, how are we making it better? You know what I mean?
Sure, gotcha.
Where do you learn what’s new? What others do?
I mean, in this business you can’t not pay attention to what the Google’s and the Facebooks are doing, particularly around attracting talent. Especially with your top talent, explicitly or implicitly, that’s who we’re going to be compared against. They kind of set the standard.
Who do you think is doing it right?
Those guys that I mentioned, they run a good recruiting operation, for sure. I would say there are things we do well- we’re able to present make some pretty compelling offers with equity. With the Google’s, the Facebook’s I think you can of have to ask how much more upside there really is for someone getting options at today’s prices, but, hey, they seem to just keep going up.
What do you think makes for a good recruiting operation?
Well, a good company makes recruiting easy and the reverse is also true. We’re not huge but we have a good reputation and that helps. In terms of the recruiting itself, nice clear job descriptions with a little personality help. Knowing what to look for in a candidate is important for figuring out who we might be able to get in for an interview and potentially see through to a mutual fit.
What motivates you? What parts of it are most rewarding? Why?
Definitely getting a hire made and then finding out after what I call the ‘magical six month mark’ that they’re liking the job and a good fit with the team.
What about least motivating, least rewarding?
Basically the reverse of that- when a hire doesn’t work out, quits, gets a better offer, whatever, and we’re re-recruiting three months later with kind of like some of our mojo gone. Also, the thing I mentioned about the messed up job descriptions.
Would you show me your interview guide?
Sure- I mean, I wouldn’t really call it a full blown interview in the real sense. Sure, it’s an interview but I’m just covering the basics here as you can see.
Example notes?
Um, I mean, let me see if I can pull up something without any name on it. Give me a minute here.…Here are a few. I mean, there’s not a lot. For my end, it’s kind of like pass or no pass on a few pretty clear cut basics. A lot of the action is with the hiring manager and they’re team and sorry but I don’t have that handy.
No problem- thanks for what you showed me.

PROBLEM HYPOTHESIS
What are the top 5 most difficult things about making good tech hires? Why?
Oh gosh…getting good job descriptions in place is #1 with a bullet. For sure. Maybe #2, #3 as well! [laughs] What else? Like I said, knowing what to look for with a given candidate and a job description, that’s big. Those are probably my top few. You’d probably have to ask one of the hiring managers for a full perspective.
How do you currently screen for technical skill sets? Who does what? How does that work?
I basically just ask them. I don’t grill them or anything- my skills aren’t super current and I’d really rather leave it up to the hiring manager to do what they see fit there.
What’s difficult about screening technical candidates? How do you validate they have the right skill set?
Ah, well, you know…it varies a lot. I mean, some managers kind of have the view that they want a certain set of specific skills in place, ready to go, right tool for the right job, that kind of thing. Obviously, that’s harder on my end. Other managers have the view that if they find someone they like they’ll train them as needed and kind of like being a good engineer is a lot about knowing how to learn new stuff.

If you ask me, there’s a balance but I’m more in the latter camp- hire someone that fits with the team and then invest where you need to to bring the up to speed. But that’s really not for me to say. I mean, in theory in HR we make suggestions about human resources but in practice the dev. managers all have challenging jobs and no one thinks it smart to tell them specifically how to do them- and I get that. I think that makes sense.
How are the actual outcomes? Examples?
I mean, like I said, we have some good ones and some bad ones….just bad in the sense of everyone, us and the candidate, knowing what they want and how to assess the fit. Hey, I’m sorry man but I have a hard stop at half past- phone interview.
No problem- thanks again for your time. This was great.

Nora- Dev. Manager at Mid-Sized Software Company X

SCREENING QUESTION (recorded from prior email exchange)
As a manager, how many new hires have you made in the last six months? 
I’ve made three and I have one we’re hiring for now.

PERSONA HYPOTHESIS
What’s it like managing an engineering team?
What’s it like? It’s great! It’s a disaster! It’s five different things on any given day! [laughs] Like, what do you mean?
Sorry- I mean, what’s on your A-list, for example?
Yeah, sure, no problem. I’m just trying to give you a good answer. Well, I try to keep the team focused and their work patterns as consistent as possible. That doesn’t mean always doing things the same way, but it means following the same process to help us release new features that matter to the company. Making that happen means isolating them from fire drills, meetings, and whatever other random craziness there is. I’m not saying this place is crazy, it’s better than most, but everyplace has distractions. I try to minimize those for the team.
How did you choose to go into management? Why?
Well, I guess, yeah, that would be the other big thing I do and it’s probably actually the more important one: I love to build meatware!
Ha- yeah, meatware- so people?
Yeah, and, of course, that’s just kind of a joke. Making the team successful is pretty much about doing the opposite of how you would engineer a piece of software- rather than giving them rote instructions, my job is to make them better at solving undefined problems however they see fit.
How do you do that?
Good question. I’m always trying to figure out how to do it better myself, but there are certainly a few big things. Getting high quality inputs from the product people, the product managers that’s big. They’re pretty good at it here but sometimes they kind of need a nudge about not dumping a bunch of ambiguity on my team and then not being around to answer questions. If they’ve really done their homework, I can forgive that some, or, deal with it, really. If they haven’t, I can kind of deal with that to, but they need to be around to be the decider about whether a feature should zig or zag when it comes down to that.

Then basically, there’s our internal interfaces with other parts of the system, other teams here. Some are easier than others, but basically I need to make sure that if we’re a knee bone that we know enough about the leg bones to make sure we’re thinking about our part of the system, our interfaces, in the right way. Does that makes sense?
Yup, gotcha. 
Then, last but not least, there’s the team itself. The idea with agile is that the team is self-organizing, in theory at least, and so like I said earlier I’m trying to equip the team to solve undefined problems, including how to keep making our dev. pipeline work better and the team work better amongst themselves. When you lose someone or add someone that part of my workload will kind of ebb and flow.

Then I guess there’s all the G&A stuff- budgets, compensation, business planning, stuff like that.
What do you most, least like about the job?
Like I said about the meatware, I like that. I joke about it, but I like it. When the team’s humming along and delivering awesome features and making the codebase better and I’m not doing anything that’s a f*&king great feeling. Pardon my language.
Ha! No problem. I can imagine. What about the least favorite?
Oh my God, the G&A stuff. Totally the G&A stuff. Hate that. Hate it, hate it, hate it.
What are the hardest, easiest parts of the job?
I mean, pretty much those same things, I guess. Let me think- is that true? I mean, not 100%. Not always. Doing a great job managing the team is hard sometimes but I like it so I think of it kind of as being in that easy bucket. Doing G&A stuff is often easy but I hate it so I think about it in that hard bucket. I guess that’s not the answer you wanted?
No, that’s great. Thanks.
I’ve heard it’s hard to make time to recruit new talent- does that apply to you?
Yes, definitely. I didn’t know that’s what you want to talk about. It’s not top of mind for me, but it probably should be. I already told you I hate G&A stuff and I like the people I have. I don’t really like meeting new people. I’m probably kind of a stereotypical engineer that way. Also, we are busy. My job is to help the team do for themselves but when deadlines are tight I’m pretty busy doing what I can to make things happen. So, yeah, I spend less time on recruiting than I probably should. That’s fair …fair to say.
How do you decide when you need someone new on the team?
Well, basically when we have someone to replace, which I try like crazy to avoid. My team right now is nine awesome people and I don’t want to make it any bigger. I’ve been asked, and also I’ve been asked to manage some of the groups, be a manager of managers, and I’m like ‘Nope- don’t want to do it’. Don’t kill the golden goose- you know what I mean?
How do you decide what you need?
Good question. I usually either have an idea of what was working about the person we’re looking and what we need to replace, a, or, b, I have an idea about something I want to try. But I also try to moderate my mastermind/dictator streak and talk with the team about what they think. And that’s good, too- sometimes it forces a pretty useful set of conversations about how individuals on the team want to change what they’re doing.
What’s the process typically like?
Basically, I figure out all that hard stuff and then procrastinate for a week or two before I get it into a job description! [laughs] Terrible, I know! But that’s pretty much the truth. And then I get it to the recruiter and there’s a whole dog and pony show where we (and the poor candidate) have to try to figure each other out.
What’s it like writing the job description?
Boring. Tedious. We should probably do a better job of recycling them here but I also try to make sure I’m taking a fresh look at what we really need.
How long does it take?
You mean the whole process?
Yes.
It varies a lot. After I actually get the job description to HR, anywhere from six weeks to three months; sometimes it’s longer.
How do you decide which candidates to interview?
We have certain baseline standards. I think those are really important. I don’t know how much you’ve been around the software development business but badly written code, or just really even code that’s written that’s out of synch with your team. I start with those standards and from there it depends on whether we’re looking for a particular set of skills or a generalist and finally and very importantly it depends on team fit.
How do things work now vs. how would they ideally work?
Well, the way we do the late stage recruiting on my team I think is pretty good. The early stage process, being ready to go search for candidates, generating the job description, those processes are pretty persistently ad hoc. It’s not high on my list of things to really dig in on and improve, particularly because a lot of that process it outside my area, it’s largely in HR.
How did you make your last decision on a candidate?
It was patchy, but, I know this sounds kind of weird, not that atypical. We were really struggling to bring people in for this web developer position. We had a few folks but I wasn’t super thrilled and I don’t think they frankly were either- that or they just really wanted way more money and equity than we typically offer. Then, out of the blue, someone who used to be on our team sends along a friend and they were great- flew through the recruiting pipeline and they’re happily working on the team.
Where do you learn what’s new? What others do in the area of acquiring the right talent?
I mean, our HR people subscribe to services that help us know where the market’s at for various roles and levels of experience. I kind of have a lot to keep up on just with engineering and software stuff.
Who do you think is doing it right?
Well, I think if you’re an AirBNB or a Google you’re a known quantity. I don’t know exactly what they do around recruiting, but they’re certainly not doing it wrong. Not really for me to say.
What’s it like bringing on new talent?
I mean, it’s sort of like I described. When a new hire works out and is humming along with the team, great. When there’s not a good fit, which hasn’t been for awhile on my team, it honestly kind of sucks for everyone.
What parts of that process are most rewarding?
Of filling open positions? I don’t know. Probably just being done with it.
What parts are least rewarding?
When there’s a miscommunication with HR or an agency they’ve hired about the kind of candidates we need, that’s pretty unrewarding for everyone I’d say.
What would it be like in your perfect world?
The perfect candidate would just walk in the door as whoever we happen to need to backfill is walking out to their next gig! [laughs] I mean, we definitely know as a team when we have the right candidate, or I’ll at least say a highly plausible candidate. You never are 100% on recruiting- not as a manager, not as a new hire. No one.
Other than just increasing the size of your dev. pipeline, were there particular new skills you were looking for in those hires?
Yeah, I mean sometimes we’re looking to bring someone in who can kind of suffuse practical experience in a new technology or tool within the team.
How well does that work? How easy is it to do that with a new hire?
I would say on the scale of all this stuff moderately hard. First, whatever cool new thing we want to know about, probably the rest of the people recruiting this person want, too. Also, we usually aren’t that fluent in this tech. or tool or whatever so we don’t really know exactly what kind questions to ask a candidate about it.

PROBLEM HYPOTHESIS
What are the top 5 most difficult things about making good hires? Why?
Well, to summarize, I would say: getting together a job description at all, getting together a good job description that translates for HR, making time to send along all the candidates HR sends over….let me think…what else…I think those are the big ones.
How do you currently screen for technical skill sets?
I mean, I think HR does their best to kind of compare the candidates resume or LinkedIn with the job description. Some of them have more depth on that than others, which is fine. Then I finish what I’d call kind of the first order screening. Then it’s a lot about team fit for them and for us, and we’re investing more time as a team at that point with the candidate and asking them to do the same.
How does that work?
I’d give a 7.4 out of 10! [laughs] I mean, it’s not horrible, it’s not great right now. I’m not trying to blame anyone- I think everyone individually is trying to do a good job. It’s just that there stuff I need to do that’s hard for me to find time for and there’s stuff that I need to do that HR just can’t do even if they have time and…it’s just kind of the tyranny of being busy.
What’s difficult about screening technical candidates?
I’m not the kind of manager that wants to screen them to the nth degree on everything. There’s the baseline which I can get a sense of with a few basic questions- I’m about 85% on that. Then it’s a lot about how adaptable they’re going to be to working with the team and learning about our stuff here.
What are the top 5 things you want to do better in technical recruiting and hiring?
I mean, I don’t know about five but I’d like to increase the time it takes us to go from open job to position filled. Me and everyone else I suppose. That’s more of an outcome I want than I way of doing things I guess. Is that an OK answer ?
Sure, definitely. This has been great. Thanks again for your time. 

Elena- HR Manager (Recruiting) for IT Division at Large Insurer

SCREENING QUESTION (recorded from prior email exchange)
How many open positions have you filled in the last three months?
I have filled eight positions.

PERSONA HYPOTHESIS
Tell me about being an HR manager?
Well, I’m in the section of the HR department here that sources candidates for the IT division. We use a variety of vendors to do that in cooperation with our stakeholders in IT.
How did you choose that line of work? Why?
Oh, goodness, that was so long ago! [laughs] I got a degree in business administration and I liked the idea of working with people so I applied for a job and I got it. That was with a different company but I’ve been HR for over 25 years now.  
What do you most, least like about the job?
I do like working with people. That part’s nice. When things get busy that can be a little stressful.
What are the hardest, easiest parts of the job?
I would say the hardest now that I’m doing this work with the IT group is understanding specifically what they want and they don’t want from candidates. We have a form the manager fills out when they have a new job requirement approved, but a lot of the time there are parts missing and to be honest there are parts I don’t really understand- the technical parts are still a little Greek to me. Also, getting candidates has gotten pretty expensive. We’re a large employer in the area but more and more the engineers and graduates from the local colleges want to head to San Francisco or New York.
Do you do screen new candidates? If not, who?
Yes, I do screen them. I match the terms as best I can. I talk to the candidates to try to understand- it’s in everyone’s best interest that we’re on the same page about the requirements of the job. We also check references and some of them are very helpful about understanding the skills part.
Can you tell me about the last time?
Sure. I don’t think I can give you names or specifics like that but I can tell you generally. Will that be all right?
Absolutely. Sure.
And you want to know about the whole process or just the screening?
The whole process, if you don’t mind. 
Well, this was for a .NET developer- that’s a technology they use in the IT group. We weren’t finding a whole lot of candidates- as I mentioned, the job market is very strong right now. We brought in a young man who had just finished an IT degree at the local college and had done some .NET work in his coop. The manager in IT liked the candidate and fortunately he had a girlfriend, or maybe fiancee, I can’t remember, that’s in medical school here locally so he was inclined to stay here locally. I called the references from his coop and they were very good so I passed him along to the functional manager. She pretty much took it from there and once they decided to make him an offer I got involved and facilitated that.
How do things work now vs. how would they ideally work?
I mean, I think they’re pretty good. Gosh, I’m really not sure.
Where do you learn what’s new? What others do?
Oh, well, we have meetings here within the HR department. Sometimes vendors come in and present things.
Who do you think is doing it right?
Doing it right- well, I mean, I don’t think we’re doing it wrong.
Of course, of course. Let’s say…in terms of recruiting engineers, who would you most want to emulate if you were going to emulate someone?
I guess the companies in Silicon Valley are doing pretty well. Those are the ones I hear about from the IT group the most. Microsoft, too, I think they’re up in Washington.
What motivates you? What parts of it are most rewarding? Why?
Vacation! [laughs] I’m kidding, of course. When our stakeholders are happy, I think that’s the most rewarding part. Really, we’re here for them. That’s our job.
What would recruiting be like in your perfect world?
Perfect, well, that’s a good question. I guess the big things would be more candidates and clearer requirements on who fits with what job.
Would you show me your interview guide?
Oh, I don’t really have an interview guide. I just mostly do some initial screening on the resume and then check the references. Those are private, of course.

PROBLEM HYPOTHESIS
What are the top 5 most difficult things about making good tech hires? Why?
I would say number one is making sure we have everything we need on the form that IT submits. Sometimes that takes some back and forth. Then there’s figuring out where and how to source resumes. Sometimes we can just use a job board, which is much more affordable, and sometimes we find we need to bring in an outside recruiter which is much more expensive. Then there’s checking references. The interviewing part I pretty much leave to the IT manager. Then there’s negotiating the job offer. That’s certainly not getting any easier, not in this market. And we have a lot of people here, a lot of equity and consistency issues to consider.
What’s difficult about screening technical candidates? How do you validate they have the right skill set?
Well, as I said I validate as best I can from the job description to the resume- sometimes I’ll go look at their LinkedIn. Then I really do have to leave it to the hiring manager and their team.
How are the actual outcomes? 
I mean, the outcomes are fine! [smiles] We’re bringing in new people.
What are the top 5 things you want to do better in technical recruiting and hiring?
Good question, it is important to have goals. I would say better completion of the form we have the IT managers fill out. Then if we had a better way to source candidates, that’s where we’re spending a lot of time and money right now. That’s two- I think that’s all I’ve got for now.
Why is/isn’t screening for technical candidates on that list?
Oh, well, that’s certainly part of the process. It’s important. As I said, that’s mostly downstream from me with the hiring managers.

Anika- Dev. Manager in IT Division at Large Insurer

SCREENING QUESTION (recorded from prior email exchange)
As a manager, how many new hires have you made in the last six months?
2

PERSONA HYPOTHESIS
What’s it like managing an engineering team?
Yeah, good.
How did you choose to go into management? Why?
Well, I was here three years and I guess people liked my work. I was asked by our group head to do it and I accepted. Climbing the corporate ladder, I guess! I do miss coding, but I guess that’s just how it goes.
What do you most, least like about the job?
Most I would say is that I get more freedom to make things happen, and kind of I guess facilitate getting them done in the right way. I push my team to do good work. Least I would say is definitely meetings! And forms! I mean, I got into engineer to be an engineer, not a bureaucrat. Sorry if that’s too honest an answer! [laughs]
Not at all! I hear you.
What are the hardest, easiest parts of the job?
The hardest is probably getting requirements from the business side and figuring out how to get them what they want. The easiest? Working with my team is generally easy. They’ve got it together.
I’ve heard it’s hard to make time to do recruiting- does that apply to you?
Sure, definitely. I’m in meetings all day, dealing with deadlines, and then there’s a whole bunch of paperwork just to initiate a new hire- even when I’m backfilling someone who’s left.
How do you decide when you need someone new on the team?
It’s kind of 50/50 between growing the team and backfilling departures.
How do you decide what you need?
Currently, we’re building internal tools and services in .NET, so we’re looking for engineers with that experience.
What’s the process typically like?
I mean, there are a whole bunch of forms I fill out on our internal systems. You want to see them?
Well, tell me about the job description itself. What’s it like writing the job description?
Our work’s been fairly consistent that last couple of years so the description itself I’m usually copying and pasting from something I’ve already done. Not too bad.
How do you decide which candidates to interview?
HR does some preliminary screening but they’re not that dialed in on the technical stuff, so pretty much I do some basic first order screening on whether they have that .NET experience and if they do and HR finds their references are OK I have a call with them. I wish I could say we have a long line of candidates coming through the door but the job market is pretty good and that’s not really the case.
Can you tell me about the last time?
I can tell you in general, I guess. Sure. We had someone leave- moved out of the area. I did all the paperwork, get a req. open, interviewed a few candidates and then finally found someone. We ended up having to use an outside recruiter.
Who else was involved? What was it like?
I mean, just HR from my end. I don’t know who else they dealt with on the headhunting or whatever. It was fine.
How do things work now vs. how would they ideally work?
Oh God, where do I start. I mean, less paperwork would be really nice. More candidates with more experience in our area would be nice.
How did you make your last decision on a candidate?
Just, I mean, they knew the foundation technology we used and seemed good so we brought her in and she’s doing fine.
Where do you learn what’s new? What others do in the area of acquiring the right talent?
I can’t really say I have the time to do that. Maybe I should, but I don’t.
Who do you think is doing it right?
Doing what right?
Recruiting talent.
Google. Facebook. Microsoft. The big guys have it easy.
Other than just increasing the size of your dev. pipeline, were there particular new skills you were looking for in those hires?
There are little additions, new things that are nice, but we’re pretty much able to stay on top of those things.
PROBLEM HYPOTHESIS
What are the top 5 most difficult things about making good hires? Why?
Number one is finding time to do all the paperwork. Number two just finding qualified candidates. Number three finding time to do the interviews in my schedule. Four and five is probably negotiating their package without breaking our standards here and then dealing with the associated paperwork and onboarding.
How do you currently screen for technical skill sets?
I do it- I look at their resume. HR has checked those references. I’ll sometimes ask them a few questions.
What’s difficult about screening technical candidates?
Just finding time, really. I have a hard stop on the hour, by the way. Sorry.
No sweat. I’ll make sure we’re finished well before then.
How are the actual outcomes? Examples?
I mean, outcomes are good. You’re always going to have different strengths and weaknesses on a team. I think that’s just how it is.
What are the top 5 things you want to do better in technical recruiting and hiring?
I mean, it’s not really that much up to me. Most of it is driven by HR. Honestly, keeping the people I have is probably the top thing on my list. Making sure they’re satisfied, getting what they need.
This has been great. Thanks.