The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “How do you avoid hiring the wrong people?” is written by Eric Wise, CEO of The Software Guild.
I have many years of experience building and running software development teams. Like many knowledge-working jobs, hiring good software developers is very challenging for a variety of reasons:
- Developers are in high demand, so the pool of available candidates is small.
- Software development is notoriously difficult to evaluate candidate skill in.
- The damage done by a bad hire can be significant.
Many people have heard of the term “10x” developers. It refers to the idea that great developers are 10 times more productive than the others. I won’t debate whether this is true or not, but I can assure you that a poor developer causes what we call “negative work.” This is work that is so shoddy that it needs to be re-done. Not only is this a cost to the bottom line and your project schedule, but it also heaps additional stress on your employees who have to pick up extra slack because of the negative performer.
The best way to find out if a job candidate will be as good as advertised is to actually hire him or her—not full time, but for an audition project. Have the candidate come in for an audition interview with your team and work on a project for an agreed-upon time. I tend to think a day is fine, but it may take more than one day, depending on your project.
Have the candidate work on issues relevant to the business, or, in the case of developers, on current coding projects. During this audition, you should have several team members work with the candidate to evaluate the following:
Technical ability: Are the candidates comfortable with the language and tool sets in the company? If not, do they grasp new concepts quickly?
Communication: Do the candidates ask good questions? Do they express themselves clearly?
Teamwork: How do the candidates respond to suggestions and comments? Do they seem coachable?
Culture: Do they give the impression that they will work well with the team?
You would never hire a wedding band without a demo, and yet it surprises me how many people get hired without showing how well they can perform. Hiring candidates on a trial or temporary basis not only highlights their skills and expertise, but gives your team a real-life situation for evaluation. At the end of the day, the few hundred dollars it costs to audition a candidate more than pays for lowering the risk of a bad hire.