Creating a Solid Interview Team


Why Your Most Talented Engineers Are Rarely Good Interviewers

We’ve all heard stories about crazy interviews conducted by technical teams. There’s a multitude of books and sites devoted to the subject! Lacking a strategic process, most engineering organizations simply string together their most senior members and proclaim them the hiring team. These days, with top talent at a premium, that’s not good enough.


Speaking from experience

True story. A tech giant with an unbeatable aura needed to ramp up engineering talent amid a competitive market. So, what did it do? It outbid everyone and leveraged its brand against virtual unknowns.  

However, under the recruiting hood things weren’t running smoothly, and potential problems continued to crop up. The hiring teams were disorganized, inconsistent and complacent. And while the company had some of the best engineers working for it, their skills greatly deteriorated when it came time to interview candidates.

When we ran the numbers, we were shocked. The technical “experts” nearly always voted no after candidates were brought in for an onsite; they never liked anyone. To the other extreme, hiring managers nearly always gave the thumbs up, whether out of urgency or desperation.

Ironically, the people on the team who came up through the rank and file without a computer science degree were by far the best, most consistent, and—importantly—the most holistic interviewers.

What did we discover? That the qualities that make someone a top engineer in some ways may hinder their ability to screen and make recommendations on potential hires. Here are 3 reasons why:

  1. Familiarity. People have a tendency to hire people like them. The question becomes, is it because they too are expert engineers or is it simply a shared affinity for Birkenstocks or online video gaming?  This is often seen as a false-positive vote.

  2. Power Trips. Some suffer from the need to prove they’re the “smartest person in the room.” These are the ones on your interview team who work hard to entrap the candidate and show no mercy. They often reject nearly everyone as being “inept,” and ultimately do more harm than good by discouraging potential employees. What’s more, these same candidates who now have a bad taste in their mouth can damage your employer brand by relating their experiences on review sites like Glassdoor.

  3. Complacency. Many engineers aren’t comfortable or don’t enjoy interviewing and recruiting. They would really rather be doing something else, so they go through the motions when it’s their time to participate. This means they are rarely prepared for the interview and haven’t bothered to look at a candidate’s resume until it’s time to meet. Too often they stick to the standard set of questions, and gain little insight into a candidate’s viability as they go through the motions.


As Confuscious said, "Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance."

As the hiring manager, you know your team—that includes their capabilities and shortcomings, both personally and professionally. But you also need to know who and when to include someone during the interview process. Many engineers are brilliant behind a keyboard, but their brilliance ends there when it comes to recruiting new talent.  

Consider going outside your team the next time a position opens, and pursue a more  holistic approach to hiring and assessment. As a Seattle-based recruiting strategy firm with clients nationwide, the HireLabs team successfully partners with all variety of startups to find and connect them with the specialized talent they need to build out their teams, particularly in areas like engineering.


How we can help?

Let your engineering team stick with what it does best, like developing innovative tools and services that will positively impact our future. And let us do what we do best: finding, vetting, and helping you land the best candidates whose technical and professional skills ramp up your company’s success. HireLabs has a vast recruiting network and decades of experience staffing growing tech companies from coast to coast, especially technology startups.

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Please feel free to share your own recruiting stories in the comments below.