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Hiring for Engineering Managers — Accountability Mindset

This is the second blog post of a series titled Hiring for Engineering Managers. I plan to write a few posts on this topic since I'm incredibly passionate about how to hire for, and grow software engineering teams.

The core idea behind how I approach hiring for my team is holding myself accountable for filling open headcount. This has been by far the most important thing I've learnt about being a hiring manager. At the end of the day, as the hiring manager, I see myself as fully responsible for finding and hiring people in a reasonable amount of time.

It should go without saying that hiring is definitely a team effort, with lots of moving pieces and important partnerships. And there's definitely situations where a hiring manager might not be at fault for not hiring people quickly enough (for example, if the company refuses to match the market rate compensations). However, in general, the hiring manager should be seen as the accountable person for finding good people and getting them to join the team.

In this article, I'd like to share some examples of how I apply this mindset in my daily and weekly operations as a hiring manager for various open roles.

Sourcing

The larger your pipeline of applicants, the easier it'll be to hire people. There's a really extensive amount of things one can do to fill in this pipeline (I have written about this in the past). I see myself as responsible for both doing this work myself or getting buy-in from the organization to get help with this. Some companies see this as the responsability of recruiters, and some may even have dedicated sourcers. Of course, certain companies hire external agencies to help with sourcing too.

The hiring manager should keep a close eye on how the pipeline is evolvingfor their open roles, and take whatever action is needed to improve it. This could mean taking on some of the things in this definitely-not-exhaustive list:

  • Going on LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. for a few hours a week and reaching out to people. (I spend more or less time on this per week depending on the urgency of the open position).
  • Convincing a Director, VP or C-level executive to hire more recruiters, or get budget approved for working with an external sourcing agency.
  • Working with the recruiters or sourcers to review how they're looking for people, and help pinpoint any issues in this process.
  • Working with external agencies on the process they're using, understanding and reviewing their methods.
  • Debugging the integrations between your applicant tracking system and job boards like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, etc.
  • Working with other teams to make improvements to the website or careers page.
  • Attending conferences, networking, etc.
  • Working with engineeers on various teams to get technical blog posts published to drive inbound candidates.
  • Working with engineers and other engineering managers to get projects open sourced to drive more inbound candidates.

(Don't forget to schedule blocking time on your calendar for these things!)

As an example, one thing I've been doing religiously for the last couple of years is posting on Hacker New's Who Is Hiring thread every month. I have a recurring calendar event so as to never forget to do this. I also keep an internal document that's been shared with other engineering managers so we can figure out which positions to announce every month.

Meeting with candidates

As a hiring manager, you must come across as extremely available to meet with candidates, and be as flexible with your time as you can. Of course, we have other responsibilities to attend to, and should definitely avoid moving 1-1s. Having said that, it's important to get back to candidates very quickly over email to make scheduling calls easier (and use Calendly!).

One example from my own experience is regarding the initial phone screen with candidates. This is a pretty standard opportunity to meet candidates, evaluate compensation expectations from both sides, sell candidates on the role, do a basic assessment of the candidate's goals and explain to them what the interview process will be like going forward. This first meeting is often run by the recruiting team at many companies. However, I've been in a situation before where this was taking longer than I'd like to get scheduled (i.e., a few days). Ever since then, I've just been running this initial call myself. I also monitor new applicants twice a day so I can schedule these as quickly as the day after candidates apply. Hiring velocity is everything to me, since I know that people might get an offer from another company at any point during the process.

So, the conclusion here is that again, nothing is beneath you as a hiring manager — you must do what it takes.

Coordinating interviews for candidates

A key element of great candidate experience is to move as fast as possible. This means that as the hiring manager, you should keep an eye on how fast candidates are getting follow-ups and how quickly interviews are getting scheduled. I recommend spinning up a BI tool like Tableau, connecting it to your applicant tracking system and drawing some charts! If people are not moving fastly enough through the pipeline, you should work with your recruiting team and try to help them. Here are a couple of ideas:

  1. Automate this stuff. With Greenhouse, for example, you can automate sending emails to candidates to request their availability as they move through the process. Set up these automations and save everyone a lot of time!
  2. Help them out! Take on coordination yourself, or split the work.

And how fast is fast enough? Well, I don't have strict SLAs for this stuff but I try to shoot for under 1 business day (24 hours) for candidates to hear back either after applying or completing any step of the process (e.g., interview).

Getting offers approved internally, and getting candidates to sign the offer

The overall offer process definitely warrants its own blog post. I hope to write about this part of the hiring process at length soon in another post in this series.

Once you've decided that you want to hire a candidate, you have to move fast. If you can't get approval for an offer for someone at a specific level or at a specific compensation value, you need to write up a document with your reasoning and meet with the right people to hash things out.

In the ideal world, candidates should receive offers on the day of or the day after they have their last interview. There's a few things I like to do in this step of the process to aid with getting them to sign the offer, but I'll share those in a future blog post.

Conclusion

The point I'm trying to make is that as the hiring manager, you must hold yourself accountable and do what it takes in order to hire people for the open roles on your team.

If you're a manager of managers, you should hold them accountable, while also making sure they have all the resources they need to be successful in this venture. Hiring well requires good tools, great processes, strong recruiting teams, and a lot of time. So, make sure you get your managers as much of those things as you can!

In addition to this, managers of managers need to continuously remind folks about the importance of hiring well, and motivate their teams to prioritize hiring accordingly.