19 March 2015 by Karat

How to Hire Engineers Without Going Crazy

At this year’s SXSW conference, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels revealed that many of Amazon’s engineers spend 30-40% of their time on hiring — mostly on technical interviewing. Vogels admitted that this investment level was “very intensive,” even calling it “crazy,” but justified it by saying it was necessary to avoid the even higher cost of a bad hire.

This 30-40% figure may surprise you, especially if you’re not an engineer working at Amazon or another top tech company. But it’s actually in line with industry averages.

Let’s look at how much time a company invests in making a single hire. Imagine we start with 50 candidates who have made it through resume screening. Each of them is phone screened — at Amazon, the better candidates get 2 phone screens. 10 of those candidates advance to onsite interviews, where they are interviewed by 6 engineers for an hour each. Of those candidates, 2 receive offers and 1 accepts.1

That’s a total of roughly 100 hours of interviewing — 40 hours of phone screens (an average of over 45 minutes per candidate) and 60 hours of on-site interviews — just to hire one engineer! And that doesn’t factor in the time for interview preparation, writing feedback, hiring committee meetings, or the cost of disrupting an engineer’s flow.

We agree with Vogels that companies shouldn't lower their hiring bars to hit growth targets. But maintaining a high talent bar shouldn't come at the cost of investing a third of your engineers’ time in hiring. Vogels admits that this time vs. quality trade-off “is the ultimate kind of conundrum.”

At Karat, we strongly believe that when it comes to hiring, deciding between time and quality is a false choice, one that no company should have to make. The key to solving this conundrum is to identify top candidates by partnering with a trusted interviewing company that is completely dedicated to making interviewing as effective as possible. Engineers then only focus on these top candidates (and their day jobs).

Karat augments the interviewing capacity of top engineering teams. The world’s first dedicated interviewing network, Karat’s interviewers are not just seasoned engineers, all of whom have worked at the world’s leading tech companies (including Amazon), they are also interviewing experts. We screen all interviewers for both technical acumen and interviewing skills, and they go through 15-20 hours of training and shadowing before we certify them to interview on our platform.

Because we specialize in technical interviews, we constantly focus on improving the craft. Our model pairs the best human elements related to interviewing, including empathy and the ability to understand a candidate’s thought process, with the power of software and data science to make the process efficient, transparent, and self-improving. We capture the rich information that is generated in every interview, which is often wasted today, and apply analytics to evaluate and continuously refine hiring techniques.

Candidates appreciate the approach, too. Dedicated expert interviewers deliver a better candidate experience, one that treats candidates with respect and professionalism and challenges them with well-designed questions to test their skills.

And what about those engineers? They don’t have to spend a third of their workday on interviewing candidates below the bar. By concentrating their efforts on those candidates most likely to get hired, engineers can focus their time evaluating the criteria that are also critical to long-term success: potential, culture fit, and creativity. And they become better brand ambassadors because they are more excited to interview — and close — higher quality candidates.

And maybe next year, these engineers can join Vogels at SXSW with all their extra time!

  1. This is consistent with figures generated from our customer research over the past year across more than 25 top tech companies, and is actually on the conservative end of estimates.