Four engineering leaders from Lyft, Intercom, BlaBlaCar, and Uber shared how they attracting the best engineers to their companies during the Plato event hosted on June 29, 2017 in Paris.
As part of the “Engineering Management Talks with Plato“ event, we invited a panel to discuss “Building an Engineering Structure to Attract the Best Talent.” The panel participants included:
- Tasneem Minadakis — Senior Engineering Manager at Uber
- Darragh Curran — VP of Engineering at Intercom
- Luc Vincent — VP of Engineering at Lyft
- Francis Nappez — CTO and Cofounder of BlaBlaCar; also the panel moderator
How does the engineer hiring process work at IT companies?
Staffing is one of an engineering manager’s biggest responsibilities — whether a company is large or small, it’s the engineering manager who oversees the hiring funnel. That funnel may have several stages, including phone screens, hard and soft skill tests, interviews, and even panels. Although small tech startups and large IT giants have different staffing priorities and hire people with diverse backgrounds, their hiring processes are similar, and both consider things like the funnel structure and applicant-to-hire ratio. All of the panelists agreed that only a handful of people out of the hundred or so who go through the funnel are hired.
What are the differences between small and big companies when it comes to attracting quality engineering talent?
Smaller IT companies, such as most new startups, can’t expect top-notch engineers to appear out of the blue and say, “I like your story, and I want to work with you.” That’s exactly why engineering managers need to be proactively finding talent — because this talent probably won’t find them. The panelists shared tips on how to go about finding those individuals.
- Pitch your story to colleagues and friends. Darragh did this back when Intercom was so small that it only had a few employees. Those who already know you will believe in your vision and ideas more, so you’ll be able to get your pitch down pat by the time you’re ready to interview candidates.
- Expand your network. That’s exactly what Luc did. Networking is not only a great way to find new people for your team, it’s also a great way to build relationships with other people and make new personal and professional connections of your own.
- Hire senior staff (if possible). Uber might be one of the most well-known tech companies in the world, but according to Tasmeen, it wasn’t until just a few months ago that top engineers and seniors were approaching their company. She thinks that hiring senior staff is the best way to cope with the challenges of exponential growth. At Uber, when senior engineers have diverse skills and experiences, it’s easier for them to find a position, not to mention that the company is constantly tweaking its hiring procedures to attract even more talent.
How do exemplary tech companies balance between hard and soft skills when hiring engineering staff?
Engineers may appear to some as people of math and measurements, but that’s just on the surface. They’re still humans, but their people skills are required to a greater or lesser extent depending on the company’s values, developmental stage, strategy, and culture. Hard skills remain the core competency, but it should not be the only criterion for hiring an engineer. The panel participants discussed how their companies measure a candidate’s soft skills.
- Luc’s company combines the findings of hard skill tests, which are easy to quantify, with soft skills, which are very abstract and personal. For a software engineer, coding skills are a must, but recruiters should also be weighing if a candidate is overall a good fit for the company.
- Tasneem brought her Microsoft staffing experiences to Uber, and while her former employer emphasized strong coding skills, Uber does not make any compromises between hard and soft skill sets. Since Uber is rapidly expanding, it can afford to hire talent that is top in both hard and soft skills.
- Intercom puts it into a context of a team. Each candidate is put into a team of in-house engineers who have already worked on a problem to see how well the candidate interacts with the team. This lets recruiters learn a candidate’s capabilities in all skills relevant to the company in vivo, where the existing engineers are a part of the ad-hoc recruiting team.
While candidates pitch their skills and experience to the company, there’s something the company needs to pitch to them: its culture
Pitching the company culture is not just a placeholder standard every company needs to tell. A good “culture pitch” lets all potential applicants know whether that company is a good fit for them or not, and filters out applicants who do not align with the company’s values and plans.
In small companies, the founders may be the main drivers of the company culture. The culture is something that must be nurtured from the very beginning of the company, and consists of beliefs in the company’s founder(s) in its promising future states.
Tasmeen mentioned that Uber has developed a unique culture where a close bond between the company and the employee is a must. All employees should love the story of Uber and proudly contribute to the company’s well-being.
Consider hiring freelance talent
Freelancing is one of the fastest growing trends in the economy. It has arisen from the information technology, which remains a core industry and the leading freelance work market. Despite the fact that engineering remains associated with long-term commitment and persistent company-employee relations, freelancers are still a viable solution for many project-based company efforts.
Check out the full video of the panel discussion below. And if you’d like to watch more of the presentations from the event, be sure to visit our YouTube channel!