3 tips when hiring technical roles if you don't have a technical background

Here's some helpful advice for technical roles to ensure a better experience for the candidate and your whole team.

3 tips when hiring technical roles if you don't have a technical background

Hiring for technical roles can be overwhelming, especially if you don't have a technical background. Not only is it difficult to accurately gauge their skills when it pertains to very niche concepts, but usually, candidates for technical roles tend to respond to completely different approaches and interview styles compared to GTM roles.

If you're in this position at your company, either because you're looking to move into technical recruiting or because there isn't enough coverage and they need your help, don't worry! There's a lot you can do to get yourself ready to start reaching out with confidence.

1. Sync with a technical colleague to figure out sourcing requirements.

One of the hardest parts is making sure that the top of the funnel has the right talent from the beginning. This means being able to review applications and LinkedIn profiles and accurately determine if a given person is the right fit for the role.

If you're non-technical, the best way to figure out how to accurately assess these candidates is to pair with a technical person that is familiar with the role that you're looking to fill. The obvious choice for this is the hiring manager, but a senior engineer on the same team can also be helpful to talk to.

It's really helpful to book a meeting with this coworker to review some candidate profiles together. Have them talk through what they're looking for in each resume when reading through the candidate's skills and experience. Any keywords that make them seem like a good fit? Any skills that are obviously fluff and should be ignored? You don't need to know what Kubernetes and Redshift are, but you do need to know whether they're relevant for the role you're sourcing for.

After you've gotten a feel for what they're looking for, try swapping places and have them judge your assessment. The goal is to be confident enough to be able to accept or pass on a candidate by yourself. And if you see a skill that you're not familiar with, don't be afraid to ask for help to determine if it's valuable; it's better to weed out obviously unfit candidates early on to save everyone's time.

2. Determine if this role is suitable for a technical assessment.

Another thing you can do to help with the initial stages of the interview is to find out if this job could benefit from some kind of technical test. This can either be a take-home assignment where the candidate will have a set amount of time to complete the challenge or it could be a live coding assessment that is done while on the phone with an interviewer. It might seem like this would always be necessary, but in a lot of cases, it actually depends.

Take-home assignments tend to be most effective for entry-level or intern engineers. This is because, usually, the volume for these roles will be very high as new engineers enter the job market, so anything that can be done to filter out unqualified candidates in the early stages is recommended. It also helps that many of these candidates will have been in school recently, so an assignment won't feel too out of place for them compared to a senior engineer. In many cases, more experienced candidates will be applying to many other companies and will have much less time on their hands, so the chances of them self-selecting out of a process that involves a multi-hour coding challenge will be high.

Live coding assessments are a lot more versatile and can also be used for higher-level roles, but it's easy to have a question that puts candidates off. Most people, especially senior engineers, won't be too happy to do an impractical algorithmic question. When crafting a technical interview question, try to make it as relevant and realistic as possible e.g. let them use Google because they will be able to use Google while on the job (not to mention that being good at Googling is a valuable skill).

While you might not be the one directly creating these questions, recruiting is a partnership between the recruiter and the hiring manager, so it's important to be able to bring the candidate's perspective into the conversation. If there already is a technical assessment in the process, think about if it's helping or hurting the pipeline, and if there isn't one, think about whether adding one could help get more qualified candidates.

3. Be mindful of the candidate's time preferences.

One thing that a lot of talent professionals don't consider when hiring for technical roles is how these candidates prefer to have their interviews scheduled. This is another aspect that shows respect for the applicant's time and allows for a more equitable experience.

For an engineer, uninterrupted focus time is essential for them to be able to get their deep-thinking work done. So to preserve this, they usually prefer meetings scheduled either in the morning or toward the end of their day. Context switching back and forth between coding and meetings can create a significant amount of wasted time, so they try to avoid that as much as possible. For any single interview (e.g. recruiter screens, hiring manager screens, technical assessments, etc.), try to schedule them either early or later in the day rather than in the middle to accommodate this.

In addition to the timing, it's becoming more and more common for candidates to not be able to dedicate an entire day to an onsite (either in-person or virtual). As a result, many companies are allowing for these multi-hour interview blocks to be broken up across multiple days. Asking for a single 3-hour block is more taxing and difficult to fit in compared to two 1.5-hour blocks across two days. Having that flexibility also makes it much easier to actually find a schedule that works for everyone, so it's a win-win for both the interviewers and the candidates.


While it's always daunting to be assessing something you're not fully comfortable with, sometimes, you're put into a position where you have to do that. Hopefully, these tips can help you start thinking like a technical recruiter and being a valuable resource in your company's technical headcount goals.

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