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Strategies for hiring managers in 2019

2018 turned out to be the year of the talent crunch. With the U.S. jobless rate at its lowest level in nearly 50 years, the talent market is tighter than ever. A new survey commissioned by Textio found that only 8.59% of Americans are actively looking for work, and 2019 is gearing up to repeat the trend.

One specialty that is particularly competitive is engineering. However, despite the crunch, last year Textio doubled in size, hiring dozens of exemplary developers to create new products. So, I figured there might be some good insights buried within our teams on how to battle back the hiring doldrums. I’ve put together a short series of strategies based on their insights on how engineering hiring managers can win the battle for the best talent. Let’s get straight to part one:

Ensure a great candidate experience

Everyone can relate to pre-interview jitters, and no one is at their best when their stomach is flip-flopping. Seeking to empathize with a candidate is not only a basic kindness you can extend, but it will ensure you have more accurate responses. “I like to give a candidate as much space as possible to talk so they don’t get tripped up and become overly self-conscious,” said Engineering Manager Adam Sanderson. “I don’t want them to be second-guessing themselves because then you don’t get the authentic person.”

When you’re interviewing, it’s useful to keep in mind that you have a common goal — you’re both there to determine if it’s a good fit. “I used to be the kind of interviewer who would try to approach the conversation as almost adversarial,” said Olivia Gunton, Engineering Manager, “like they needed to prove to me that they’re smart enough and good enough to be in this role. I’d come in with a skeptical mindset thinking ‘well, we need to be rigorous at this. We need to defend against unqualified people trying to get this job.’

“That mindset does not set up people for a good interview experience. If you approach it instead as, ‘I’m rooting for this person, I really want them to do well,’ then you’re likely to adapt your approach to advance the conversation,” said Gunton. “This often helps me find a way forward that I would not have discovered if I hadn’t stayed open and encouraging of the candidate.”

Engineering Manager Max Winderbaum advanced this idea with his take on aligning with the candidate: “It’s very important for the candidate to feel comfortable, and the more you ‘other’ them and start talking about their ideas as separate from you, the less comfortable they’re going to feel. So whenever possible, I like to talk about where we’re going next, how we can solve this problem so it feels like we are on the same team. Because that’s the question I’m looking to answer — can I partner with them successfully here?”

“I think about it from the perspective of the candidate,” says Director of Engineering Chris Harland. “We’re trying to learn their superpower, what their interests and aptitudes are. When I interview I ask myself, ‘Does Textio have all the things they’ll need to grow?’”

Ensuring a great experience for the candidate is also great way to reinforce your employer brand. Said Gunton, “People will talk to their friends about their experience. Something that makes me really happy is that there are people who we interviewed but did not extend an offer, and they still recommended us to their friends who end up joining our team. The fact that an unsuccessful candidate would still say to somebody, ‘this is a place you should apply, this is a great company,’ after they had a disappointing experience? To me that means we’re doing it right.”

Want more tips to stay on top of your game as a hiring manager? Read part two in the series.

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