Part XIX of a multipart series. Start at the beginning with Part I.
As we eased into 2012 and we continued to build up our teams at TWLER.com, the IT leadership decided that they needed to get their integrators more information on the architecture and technology we were pursuing. We were rapidly hiring software engineers to staff up to 50 people over the next couple months, which meant we were sourcing engineers wherever we could find them. Over the course of a few weeks, I proceeded to have 2+ hour meetings with all the major IT integrators, C* G*, I**, A*, T*T*, W*P* and a few others. I gave my TWLER.com architecture presentation to each of the integration teams. At this point I’d probably given this presentation a hundred times. The integrators had sent their top technical architects and salespeople to these meetings. They would have been better off without the salespeople waylaying the conversation, but the tech people tried to tone them down.
Having worked with most of the major integrators in the past, I wanted only a few things: experienced engineers and continuity. That is, I didn’t want a whole team of fresh out of college engineers that I would have to train up on engineering, we just didn’t have time for extensive training. (A few years later we started an internship and college hiring program to give new graduates a great experience at TWLER.) Secondly, I wanted the engineers to stay long enough to be effective, like a year or two.
Probably a third of the candidates that were sent to interview were good enough to join the team. However, during the interview process I made it clear that I expected them to stay one year, and they were expected to code 100% of their billable hours.
Given these simple criteria, the individual consultants that came through self selected out of the project. The technical folks thought the project would be a great experience, but they were all in career building mode in their firms. My project would set them back a year against their peers, as they would only account for their own billable hours.
After about two months of interviews, our IT team finally got angry. They decided to sit in on one of the interviews to determine why we either kept rejecting candidates, or the ones we liked declined to show up. I thought that was a great idea, and said they should get one of the integrators to send their best candidate to the interview.
So we scheduled an interview with T*T* later that week, I was sent a resume of a lead engineer that looked good. When the day arrived and the interview was about to start, I met one of our IT Senior Directors at the interview room. The candidate was escorted in by the T*T* representative and we started introductions. It turned out the candidate wasn’t the person from the resume.
Well, that was a surprise and the TWLER Senior Director was ticked. But I said, give me this new person’s resume and let’s do the interview. So we all sat down with the new person they had sent in as their “best candidate” and started into the questions. This all turned out rather badly because the new candidate had no web background and rather limited technology skills. The interview consisted of repeated failures to answer junior level easy software engineering questions. Like, “what are the four basic SQL commands?” It was an unmitigated disaster.
Afterwards, I reiterated that this was why we interviewed everyone that applied, it wasn’t the normal practice, but if I’m paying a high hourly rate for an engineer, than I want to make sure they’re good at engineering.
Over the course of the next few months this continued to be a good practice. We had video interviews where the candidates refused to turn on their video feeds and you could hear someone else typing in the background and feeding the candidate answers. We had more instances of random people showing up for an interview whose resumes were never screened. We had good interviews where we wanted the candidate, and someone else showed up for the first day of work! When engineers are hard to find, all sorts of shenanigans begin to happen.
Goto Part XX