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How to vet tech candidates (especially when hiring remotely): best practices in 2021

Vetting tech candidates is an integral part of the hiring process, as it helps you to evaluate the candidate’s skills even before the interview and decide if you can proceed further. After you look at their software engineer resume, you can vet them through a variety of platforms. However, a vetting procedure can take quite a lot of time and money, especially if a company does it by using only its internal resources. In this article, we have collected the best practices, including the tools, methods, and companies that can help you in vetting developers.

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Automated vetting tools: online assessment software

Using an online coding interview tool can take the unnecessary hassle out of the process, especially if you’re vetting remote developers. These tools generate tests according to the candidate’s tech stack and experience. The results of these tests will help you decide if the candidate is a good fit for your team.

But which is the best way to check a candidate’s programming knowledge on a real-time basis? According to our research, here are the top coding assessment test platforms:

Codility

Codility is an online tech skills assessment platform, which consists of the following vetting test products:

  •       CodeCheck: a screening tool for evaluation of real-life development skills, fundamental programming skills, and technical knowledge.
  •       CodeLive: an online room to collaborate and code with the candidates in real-time tech interviews.

Tech giants such as Amazon, Microsoft, Intel, PayPal, and others use Codility when vetting tech candidates.

HackerRank

This tech interview platform helps its clients to spot and hire developers with the right skills through coding tests. Among their customers are PayPal, Atlassian, LinkedIn, and many more. HackerRank offers the following products:

  •       CodeScreen: allows employers to evaluate developer skills by inviting candidates to participate in coding assessments online.
  •       CodePair: makes it possible to evaluate the candidate’s problem-solving and communication skills with real-time online pair programming.
  •       Projects: the candidate should complete a real-life project so the employer can assess their project-based skills.
  •       Insights: an AI-powered solution that can help you track the progress of your candidates during the vetting test.

HackerRank also allows the developers to apply for open positions of companies that use HackerRank to screen their candidates. Besides, they can participate in the challenges that these companies offer.

CodeSignal

This assessment platform offers the following products:

  •       Certify: proctored coding assessments for software engineer certification that allow the recruiters to make objective hiring decisions.
  •       Test: custom coding tests tailored to the skills that you need for your open position.
  •       Interview: live video interviews in an advanced collaborative coding environment with the use of custom or pre-defined tests.

CodeSignal is trusted by Uber, Lenovo, Affinity, Quora, and other companies.

ChallengeRocket

This startup has developed a unique AI technology that can assess the candidates without human intervention and connect the top tech talent with companies. ChallengeRocket has the following products:

  •       Code challenge: a solution that automatically generates the vetting test content and evaluates the results.
  •       Creative challenge: an advanced version of code challenges that helps employers to discover hidden talent and promote innovative ideas.
  •       Run a hackathon: an online hackathon builder that can also be used as a recruitment tool.

IBM, Nvidia, and ING belong to the clients of ChallengeRocket.

CodinGame

This gamified online assessment software verifies the coding skills of your candidates with hands-on challenges. The platform allows you to rank and screen candidates at the beginning of your hiring process, so you can filter out only developers who meet your standards. The customers of CodinGame that trust the platform to test the skills of their candidates are Facebook, Adobe, Bank of America, Deloitte, Nintendo, and others.

Qualified

Created by CodeWars, a software engineer community, Qualified gives its clients access to the tech skills assessment tools based on real-world coding samples. The platform supports a wide range of programming languages and technologies, allowing you to check the completed assignments line by line. Qualified’s skills test is trusted by such companies as Apple, Accenture, Domino’s, and many others.

Coderbyte

Coderbyte is an online assessment platform that you can use to create and customize the test challenges and projects for vetting developers. It is possible both to select the ready-made tests from the Coderbyte library and optimize the existing internal tests. After each test, you get detailed reports with code solutions and even video recordings of the candidates taking the test. Coderbyte is trusted by Nokia, AngelList, HBO, and others.

CoderPad

CoderPad is an easy-to-use coding environment that is compatible with any kind of code and supports over 30 languages and technologies. It is possible to open a video call with the candidate right from the CoderPad browser tab. The environment records every interview so you can review the code almost in real-time. CoderPad’s coding tests for interviews are used by AirBnB, Quora, Dropbox, and other known companies.

Codeassess

Created by ExpertRating in 2001, Codeassess is the world’s first service for vetting developers through coding challenges. With the CodeViews feature, you can watch the candidates solve the challenges in real-time. Apart from the skill test, you can also set up virtual online interviews with the candidates. Among the clients are Walmart, Gap, UPS, IKEA, Citrix, and others.

How to vet developer talent without automated tools? (Not quite suitable for remote candidates!)

There are also some alternatives to a vetting procedure that allow you to vet the candidates without specialized testing software. Here are some examples:

Office-Based Tests

If you’re hiring tech talent for a co-located team, your hiring managers may have a phone call to invite them to your office so they can complete a test onsite. Such an office test can demonstrate how a candidate works in their own environment and how they manage their time. However, such tests are suitable only for mid-level candidates.

Invite Another Developer To Interview Candidate

If you feel that you don’t fully understand every aspect of the programming process, it is always better to invite to the technical interview a skilled programmer from your team who can test the new hires and provide you with feedback.

Hackathons

A hackathon is an event where software developers unite to create a new product together. If you are planning to hire a development team, you can schedule such an event in your company office. It will show you how this future team will work together and whether they are a good fit for each other. A hackathon as a vetting method is especially helpful for niche skills such as security or database specialists. It is also possible to run a hackathon online if you are vetting remote developers.

Pair Programming

Pair programming is a perfect way to check the potential candidate’s collaborative skills, especially if your company already practices pair programming among the developers. During the interview, the candidate has to code together with the interviewer on the same computer.

Blind Hiring

The idea behind blind hiring is borrowed from TV shows like “The Voice”. The candidates are vetted anonymously without revealing their identities. This may help to:

  •       eliminate age, racial, educational, gender, or physical ability discrimination;
  •       increase diversity within the team;
  •       remove the recruitment bias.

However, blind hiring is rather suitable for proving that the candidate meets the basic job requirements and not for in-depth technical assessment.

You can do blind hiring both manually and with the help of specialized services. In the case of manual blind hiring, the recruitment manager needs to delete information such as gender, ethnic background, college degree, interests, etc. from the candidate’s CV before sending it over to interviewers. There are also solutions that can help automate this process:

  • Searchlight.ai. Searchlight is a YC startup founded in 2019. Its AI-based service optimizes the process of collecting the candidate’s reference data. As a result, it becomes possible to prepare a complete report about a potential employee based on their references without any reference calls or emails. The software uses the past performance data to ensure a team/skills match for each hire. Additionally, Searchlight makes it possible to hire more diverse teams, as the candidate’s background is not known from the very beginning.
  • Blendoor. This is a mobile job matching app that hides the names and photos of candidates with the purpose to remove the recruitment bias in tech companies.
  • GapJumpers. This service provides assessments and challenges that companies can use to evaluate candidates instead of a classic CV.
  • Project Include. Founded by tech leaders from Slack and Pinterest, the project provides tools to improve diversity and create more inclusive work environments in Silicon Valley.

Vetting practices at YouTeam

YouTeam is a tech talent marketplace that features the profiles of developers who are not freelancers but can be hired remotely on a full-time basis. These developers are employed at offshore tech companies that are YouTeam’s partners. Therefore, YouTeam has two types of vetting procedures – for companies and for candidates.

How we vet software development companies

We at YouTeam vet the companies that apply to become our partners. After the vetting, only one company out of 10 becomes our partner. Currently over 260 Europe- and South America-based companies that operate with 2,000 available resources simultaneously are featured on YouTeam. Here are the acceptance criteria that we use:

  •       over 3 years on the market;
  •       a team of at least 50 employees;
  •       being open to the outstaffing;
  •       proven experience working with the US- or EU-based companies;
  •       readiness to allocate the developers’ time for HackerRank CodeScreen tests;
  •       readiness to submit necessary documents for verification of the entity, identity, and bank accounts.

Our vetting procedure includes meetings with the company representatives as well as audits of the company’s background and previous clients by our legal team.

How we vet software developer candidates

In addition to companies, we vet candidates employed at those companies as well. We’ve designed a multi-level screening process that is first run by our partners and then by us. The screening includes the interview process, test tasks, and code reviews. Our managers handpick each and every candidate that is suggested to the clients. To test the skills of the candidates, we use HackerRank for Work.

Another step of choosing either to vet the software developer candidate or not is to find out if they have some of the most important skills needed for being able to work on projects and have an understanding of how to present them.

Here are some of the key skills we will be focusing on when looking to hire software developer candidates.

Top Skills Expected From Developers

Flexible problem solving – Taking an agile approach to software development is essential in today’s market, as you have to anticipate issues and be working on various solutions before they even arise. It’s also vital to recognize the need to collaborate with other specialists to solve problems. Problem-solving skill can be advanced if the developer has well increased some other skills such as:

Communication skills – For a developer, especially the one who has remote work this skill is one of the essential ones as they have to know how to properly and efficiently communicate in different situations with team members, managers and users.

Creative thinking – To be brief, this kind of skill is one of the essentials as it helps to find new ways of solving tasks, can create a unique and impressive product, which will help in attracting new customers and keeping business in top rankings.

Focus on analysis – It’s no longer enough to develop a piece of code or a digital product, put it out into the world and reap the financial rewards. The most successful app development companies continue to invest time and money into their releases, so developers should know the value of collecting and interpreting big data as well as user feedback on a one-to-one level. Aggregate user data can be even more powerful than specific user feedback for developers in terms of taking a start-up to the next level. To have this skill advanced there is a need to have some other sub-skills included, among them:

  • Time-management – Crucial part of planning the project includes time management, especially if the developer works remotely, as to how the time on the project will be managed depends on when the project will be finished and whether all the headlines are met. 
  • Emotional Intelligence – One of the skills companies want to see in their developers is not only high IQ but also EQ or Emotional Intelligence. Having this skill advanced developers can work well in stressful situations, be good team members, and can take responsibility if they did something wrong.
  • Self-learning – Having this kind of skill helps a lot as information technology constantly changes and being able to teach yourself all the time helps to be up to date with the new features of the field which brings the developer bonus points during the vetting process.

Advanced coding skills – It goes without saying that the best developers will be more than familiar with the most important coding languages. JavaScript is one of the most sought-after, along with related areas, since it has proven itself as a viable platform for building scalable web and mobile applications. Limited coding experience will be a red flag for start-up employers who can’t afford to hit roadblocks early on.

Understanding beyond one area – Developers need to understand how their core technical work will be presented to end-users, and for what purpose, across multiple platforms and devices. The broader the extent of their technical skills and experience, the better they can support a small team that needs consistency across the board.

Business sense and knowledge – This requirement stretches beyond purely technical concerns, too. A thorough understanding of how the entire business works (or should work) is vitally important, which links back to listening to user feedback as well as other issues such as security. Developers need to grasp the impact their work and their decisions have on their colleagues, their users, and the business as a whole. Identifying this is essential for employers to ensure they’re hiring the best possible candidates to help get their start-up company going.

We also make sure that developers available for hire are able to freely communicate in English, and have a certain mindset, or so-called cultural fit, to easily communicate with people from all countries and backgrounds.

The bottom line

There are several ways to vet tech candidates besides the resume. For example, you can use online assessment software such as Codility, HackerRank, CodeSignal, ChallengeRocket, and others. These solutions can generate tests based on the tech stack, experience, and other project requirements. It is also possible to vet developers without automated tools and coding tests. For example, you can build internal tests and invite the best candidates to your office so they can solve the test tasks on-premises. The tests can also take the form of pair programming, where the job candidate completes a coding challenge together with the interviewer on the same computer. More ways to run a vetting procedure without tools are hackathons and blind hiring.

Vetting tech candidates can be quite expensive. For example, you cannot buy just a couple of tests on HackerRank. You have to pay for the entire package, which includes many more tests that an average company needs. Vetting developers can also be time-consuming if a company wants to build the process from scratch without extra help.

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Written by
Svetlana Shevchuk

Digital Marketing Specialist at YouTeam, a Y Combinator-backed marketplace for building remote dev teams.

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