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How to build a software developer talent pipeline

Sharon Florentine | May 12, 2014
Hiring developers is a lot like sales: You must build and engage a pipeline of qualified candidates to accelerate time-to-hire. Some hiring companies are using voluntary coding challenges to do just that.

When was the last time you bought a product or a service as a result of a cold-call from a salesperson? In the digital age, it's far easier to make a sale when potential customers are already familiar with and engaged with your company and the products and services you offer. The same goes for hiring software developers.

Building a sales pipeline of potential customers can help ensure greater success in closing deals and driving new business, and the same goes when you're looking to hire elite software developers and programmers, says Vivek Ravisankar, founder and CEO of HackerRank.

"Hiring developers is a lot like sales in that you have to build a pipeline to close 'deals,'" Ravisankar says. "Sure, you can go to a recruiter right now and have them do 'cold calls' to developers, but what you don't know is are they decent? Do their values and talent align with your company? Are they invested in your company's success as well as their own? That's hard to discern," he says.

How to Measure Developer Aptitude and Attitude
Dan Pollack, senior vice president at Modis, an IT staffing and recruiting services firm, say aptitude and attitude are two of the most difficult attributes to screen when hiring developers, especially when balancing the need to move quickly when hiring.

"Companies have to move quickly to avoid losing candidates in the hiring life cycle. The general rule of thumb is for every week past the fourth week, 20 percent of the initial candidate pool will have accepted another position," Pollack says.

Because developers often have numerous offers on the table, you have to move quickly and aggressively to secure top developer talent, he says. "We are not talking in terms of months or weeks — it's more like days and hours," says Pollack, if companies want to bring elite developer talent on board.

You can use online technical tests in the beginning of the qualification process to determine if a candidate should be brought onsite for an interview, says Pollack, and many companies already have developers fix broken code or "whiteboard out" a solution to a problem, in real time, with the interview team, he says.

However, an online test and whiteboarding alone cannot determine a developers abilities, and many times, the best developers won't respond to cold calls from recruiters or hiring managers, especially if they're not familiar with your company.

"The best and truest test is to have a developer candidate sit with a current developer at the company and work alongside this person for two to four hours," says Pollack.

"In this type of peer partnering scenario they are solving problems together, and the candidate can walk the company's developer through the steps they would take if employed to tackle the current challenges the company is facing. Essentially it is the equivalent to a real-time, live, developer role play," he says.


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