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Creating an Effective Developer Interview Process

Lesson 5 of 16

Pooled Hiring And Bar Raisers

Gayle Laakmann McDowell

Creating an Effective Developer Interview Process

Gayle Laakmann McDowell

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Lesson Info

5. Pooled Hiring And Bar Raisers

Lesson Info

Pooled Hiring And Bar Raisers

you kind of a hiring process. And there is this question of should we hire for the team or higher for the company? So some companies Facebook is a good example of this. This large 18 based, company based hiring. So when you apply, you're not applying necessarily to be a software engineer on news. Feed your plan to be a saw frontier Facebook, and then you get higher, even your go to the hiring process. You don't necessarily meet with anybody on your team because there is no team to find. Yes, and some companies do the same ways of Facebook. Its you know who go in and you get offer just Facebook, the whole generally speaking. And then you go into a six week boot camp training process. But then matches Utd. That's a very, very company based hiring. Then there's also the standard team based hiring where you apply for a role on that specific team. So I want talk about kind of differences between this and when you might want to think about how to whether you want to hire thinking more holist...

ically about the company versus hiring for that team specifically, so one thing just to be aware, if again. These are downsides, not Don't ever do this. But if you give a team power to make decisions for themselves, they might just decide to use that power. Shocking, I know, but they might go on off. An actress are doing their own thing. They might say, We want to do this. I don't care what your hiring processes we want to do this This happens a ton. Two very, very different extremes you gonna find? Company teams were just doing their slightly different flair to like, you know, doing some crazy thing. That's totally, totally. So you want to be aware of that. So the nice thing about a pulled hiring process is very consistent. So pulled hiring process is either in two different ways you can. You can do kind of the Facebook model where you're truly hiring just for the company. There's no matching of team to another thing, which is like, Well, we have an interview team. Ah, who does all the interviewers interviews. But we you still know here interviewing for this sense of this team. Eso this You view those two models of hiring of pulled hiring, but in any case it's pulled, its candids are interviewing across the company. The nice thing is, it's very consistent. So you have a group of people and you don't have teams getting their own say and what they want to do. You cut this, create this very efficient process, very consistent process. And when the really really nice things about that is that you can actually make changes, you actually have the power to say we want to do this thing because there's interview team who is responsible for actually going off and doing that thing versus trying to negotiate with managers to change with the doing, so it allows you to create, actually, to make a lot of improvements to the process. That air could be much more difficult. When teams get and managers get their own site. That's actually really, really big value out. The problem, though, is that when you do full hiring, it's not match the team. This team needs the skill, and you're not assessing that. You're not assessing that. Actually, couldn't you could use there is one case where um a this actually company I was helping out their acquisition. There was a guy I was doing mock interviews with who the rest of companies actually very strong, Uh, from intelligence standpoint, very strong coders. There's one guy who was clearly intellectually a pretty major. Step down from the team was very weird, because usually teams are kind of clustered. Governs Guy was clearly a step down. Uh, very, very, very obviously a good coder. He could write very correct, detailed code, but he just really, really, really struggled when it came to thinking about stuff. Sounds really mean, but and I kind of this conference with the CEO with, like, delicately being like, So what's the deal with this guy? Like, how is he solving the kinds of problems that the rest your company's solving? There's a There's a gap there on the CEO's easily. No, you're right. I mean, he's not. He's not a very smart guy. Um, but not all of our work is hard. We have a lot of work that's like doing really boring things like parsing an RSS feed and its detailed, and it's boring and you doesn't You don't have to be super bright. You just usual follow something a procedure very, very detailed. And he's great at that one thing and you know, yeah, that's your He's good at that thing. And that's absolutely what I actually unified was, yes, he is great at writing very detailed, correct code. He's just not someone I'd ever trust you joined now from, but that's what the company needed. And so that's why he was hired for You can't throw somebody like that into Facebook because you don't you don't get matched up that precisely. And so that's when the dances that pulls hiring is that you have a hard time saying We really just need this one thing. So your you know, we need this language, whatever. It also dis empowers managers managers aren't getting hiring decisions, and that's unfortunate. And they could get frustrated. That it can also can be discouraging from candidates, especially when it's not communicated the right way. So when I was at Google, Google was very much company based. Hiring was no matching to a team, happened, uh, kind of right as you joined the company, and I don't think it was communicated Super world. The candidates don't think they know the coming did a great job selling in the cannons and cancer really fresh air by this because they were like, Well, I I wanted you. Yes, maybe Google, but not I don't want to work in ads. I want to work on your Gmail, whatever. It is very discouraging for people and that that's something that a company really has to deal with. If they are doing pulled hiring, they're not getting, too. They don't necessarily know what team they'll be on. They don't necessarily get to meet with their team, and that's that's unfortunate. Now there's ways you can communicate that better. You can have them meet. You do lunch with team members, at least after they haven't offer things like that. You can just these in certain ways. It's, I think, a lot about the messaging, But it will be disempowering four managers and discouraging for the candidates. It's really not honestly feasible for most companies to do pulled hiring for the most part, particularly not use have different, very civic skill sets you need. But as a companies grow it a new, it's one of things I say, like it's great if you can do it. If you can pull it off, it could be a great thing, but it's not practical for most companies, is Dio until they get to be much larger. But it's a really good compromise, which is bar raisers. This is Amazon's term for it, but you can. I've seen different companies doing different, different ways. A lot of them actually called bar rates are still some other companies will call my cortex teams like that, and basically it is is it's a compromise between pulled hiring and general retiring. It's basically you have a team of people who are like super trained interviewers. They get the process. They are always pulled in from other teams. So the bar rate alcohol use Amazon's term, which is Bart Razor they are called into. They always so every candid interviews with one bar razor. So one person for this court, and what this does is that it gets a lot of the values of you have this court team people who you can super super train one process. You can keep an eye out of all from all the rest of all the other things going wrong, and they can tell you this team is doing this other thing. They're not following the procedures, and they can go and educate other interviewers and say, You know, that actually wasn't a great question allows you to do in do this in a very flexible or in a way that's much, much easier for most companies to pull off, Uh, and still offers many of the benefits. It just doesn't go quite as extreme to having like a pool hiring mark. So the really great thing, that perspective it also, you know, keeps managers reasonably empowered. But they can still make their own hiring decisions. But the bar razor can also be there to overrule the manager. One thing I've seen happen is a manager does an interview and you know, even the manager's a great interview. It's one data point on the managers like I like this person, but and they kind of end up overruling their own team members and humor, saying, I don't know, and they're kind of offering a hedging little bit, not so confident they dont want to fight their manager, their own manager aggressively on this. Now this person gets hired who maybe shouldn't happen, and then I said. But bar raises the bar razor can be in there and say and really get this perspectives out from the other team members and say no, I'm gonna just say no here if you give them that power, but by razor can be there to overrule that. So offers a lot of the same benefits on the office. That consistency gives you that visibility across the company. But you know what's going on? Let's you actually making those changes and they can train the interviewers as well. So this is something I am actually hugely in favor of. Uh, if you can't pull off, Totally pull tiring. This were really a compromise that I think most companies, particularly some size, can do. You're gonna go down this route, get experience interviewers. That doesn't mean that it has to be somebody who has 10 years, 15 20 years of experience. But you know, somebody should be thrown this bar racer after their 1st 2nd 3rd 5th 10th interview. But somebody has been interviewing for a year or two, has interviewed a few dozen candidates. Yeah, they control to be a bar razor, you know that that so that could be someone who's pretty recently start out of college. There's a lot of value in getting kind of diverse set of perspective. Uh, what I care about much more than actually how much experience somebody has after some minimum amount of people who are nice and empathetic people who will listen to other people who are not dogmatic about This is the way we should interview people who get out those concerns with people For a little more junior, Uh, you want people who, yes, are good listeners but who are also out spoken but not stubborn about stuff and then reasonably smart. I am just saying, really want some who's reasonably technically strong, who can understand the different problems and that kind thing. It doesn't mean that they have to be the best engineer ever. Sometimes companies well go down this bar razor model, and so they'll pick people who are really, really super technically strong her the best engineers. But we're not hiring them, do engineering problems or hiding two interviews, and in fact, you may not want you to pull your best engineers off actual engineering work. You may want to have the engineers. It turns out eso I'd pick people who are great interviewers if they are also fantastic engineers. Great But if they're just good, solid engineers, that's fine. I wouldn't miss it. Pilled up bad engineers out, but they should be at your company anyway. Uh, but you they should be reasonably strongly. Don't have to be super fantastic. You're very, very, very top best actresses. So pick people who are inherently good. Train them really well, you should have a training process above and beyond the normal interview training. Empower them, give them the authority and set that expectation that they are they there and they they absolutely can and should exercise veto power if they didn't feel some of these technical strength of strong or they felt good about the person. But, you know, two of the other employees didn't and the managers trying to hire them. They should have that power to say no, a sign outside of team. So bar raisers should never be doing the bar raising interviews for their own team. They should be. The whole idea is try to get people who don't have to fear challenging their own manager. So a sign outside the team and because if you're signing within the team, the bar raisers there, if that pressure is thinking you really, really need to hire somebody. Nice sidebar razor is that if they're from a different team, they don't have that same pressure. We really need to hire somebody that often. Is that people with people dropping the bar, which has long term consequences. So sign outside the team and then watch out for scaling an exhaustion? I think so. Sometimes companies will pull off, implant this bar rates or system, and it's great. And then the company doubles in size, and they are rates. They're still say number people. And now we have a problem, right? Uh, because now the bar raisers who were doing four hours a week of interviewing now doing 8 10 12 That's problem. So you really, really need to keep close tabs on this and make sure that your bar races are not getting exhausted. A lot of a lot of companies run into this problem. Bar raisers. Oh, cortex team is another name I've heard, I think. Yeah, um, some, you know, I've seen companies called like super interviewers. There's a lot you know you have with their name. I've seen several. I think Amazon coined the term bar razor and then other companies have often taking that process very often with the same name. And are they compensated more because they're doing this? They usually aren't compensated more that, I mean, you could do that. I have no objection to do that. That's very much a company perspective, our company decision. But often there's kind of a certain big acknowledgement that they are taking a bunch of extra time off there off their day. And so you have to set that expectation accordingly in reviews. And you really want bar raisers to ideally be something that people aspire a little bit to be because rather than a you know, interviews are exhausting and it's not fun doing interviews all day, every day, and they shouldn't be doing all day every day. But you want to try to make it something that some people want to do, not just for the money, but because it's like prestigious and celebrate the company

Class Description

In this workshop led by Gayle Laakmann McDowell, former Google software engineer, interviewer and the author of the bestselling book Cracking the Coding Interview, you'll be hands-on, covering all the specifics you'll need to know about coding interviews. It will start with an overview of the hiring process and dive into more detail about types of interview questions (behavioral, knowledge, algorithms/coding, and design). You will learn how to create a hiring process that is efficient, sets a high and consistent bar, and attracts strong candidates.

Although sections of the workshop will be highly technical, non-technical people are encouraged to attend. You will learn:

  • Differences between assessing senior candidates and junior candidates
  • The goals and limitations of technology-specific questions
  • Selecting and asking appropriate algorithm questions
  • Mechanisms to evaluate coding skills, including whiteboards, laptops and code assessment tools
This class is your comprehensive guide to hiring the right developer for your company. 

In Partnership with Greylock Partners 



What an awesome opportunity to learn from one of the best on the topic! This course has value for anyone who's looking to hire or work with technical talent! I've attended tons of talent conferences and this course succinctly and tactically address how to effectively interview engineers. Highly recommended.

Kevin Scott

Terrific class with unique eye opening content. This class applies for any Dev. hiring team, whether startups or large, established companies. I recommend this training tool to anyone wanting to help others improve their own interviewing skill set and build dynamic hiring processes / plans.


This class was exactly as billed - I received in depth knowledge of how to create great developer interviews. Gayle was very organized and presented her info in a dynamic, inter-active environment. It was really great to be part of the studio audience.