Answer: Because tech hiring is STILL broken!
For all its reputation as the world’s greatest problem solver (well, mostly!), hiring still remains a tough nut to crack for the tech industry. Remember the creator of ‘Homebrew’ getting rejected from Google over a trivial whiteboard problem? It’s a problem broken on both ends, companies worry about finding the right developers and the ‘developers’ worry about finding the right companies. We believe this problem is especially pronounced for the particular subsets of both candidates (recent college graduates and early talent) and companies (startups, even well-funded ones). In both cases, they resort to a variety of hiring tools from campus placement drives to recruiting consultants.
It doesn’t have to be this hard, especially with Devfolio involved. 😁
Earlier this year, we were called to interview with Y Combinator. The most important thing we learned through the process was something that seems trivial but is still surprisingly uncommon - talking to your users. The Devfolio team has been fortunate enough to be closely connected with both the developer community and startups through the increasing number of university hackathons being hosted on Devfolio and multiple editions of Devfolio official hackathons personally organized by us over the years. This has led us to have some interesting conversations and insights which came in handy while we built Devfolio. Here’s what we learned.
The Great Indian Tech Hiring Disconnect
While definitions of what exactly classifies as a startup may vary, there are certain characteristics startups have been come to be known by. They are either in a state of or poised for runaway growth, have typically smaller team sizes than more ‘established’ businesses, constantly need to innovate to stand out from the competition, and are often faced with situations where solutions are not obvious straight away. Every employee of a startup is an essential cog than keeps the engine running. This makes their mindset, skillset, and culture requirements very different from those of more stable businesses. An incoming tech recruit can’t expect to get in based on purely technical or academic chops; real world building, collaboration, and ability to deliver quickly are just as important to make meaningful contributions.
It’s not a stretch to say that most student developers in India start their programming journey, not for the joy of it but to secure their future by landing a well-paying job at the end of their college. While there is nothing wrong with this as such, it means they end up focusing entirely on competitive programming even though when they don't like it much. Few end up with their dream jobs through campus placement, and the rest have to settle for mediocre companies that are invariably service-based (particularly true for Tier II and Tier III colleges) with limited growth opportunities. Most of them realize pretty late the outsized impact of their first job can have on the rest of their careers. Student developers aspiring to work at startups are also, in most cases, unaware of which is the right startup for them. In the end, they are left with neither the skills nor viable channels to identify and apply to the right set of startups.
Current channels for startups and developers to currently discover each other are woefully inadequate.
- Given the limited resources in terms of time, effort, and available staff startups can afford, they can visit only a limited set of colleges for campus placement. This leads them to choose to visit mostly only top tier colleges, basing the probability of finding good developers on the reputation of the college. On-campus, they end up competing for student attention with a large number of companies offering equally attractive salary packages missing out on the chance to talk about their long-term goals which are essential for finding the right kind of people to work with.
- Because of lack of effective metrics to evaluate candidates, startups tend to fall back on the evaluation platforms, which are mainly built to identify coders with competitive programming skills rather than the builders/makers/hackers they need. Running online hiring challenges also does not help as it’s hard to effectively design the challenges right and then equally hard to engage the right audience.
- Job Portals/Boards and career pages on websites are channels that perhaps generate leads with the highest noise-to-signal ratio for startups. Since just about anybody on the internet can apply, there are no checks on the quality for incoming applications. The response rate for candidates is predictably low, and candidates never get to hear the feedback they can use to improve themselves. Startups need to rely on email content, profile links, resume, or anything else a candidate shares for an initial evaluation. It’s virtually impossible to determine the actual skill level of the candidates by going through the information shared by them.
- Hiring consultants are also an option that startups, and candidates resort to, for discovery. They are able to tap into extremely limited candidate pools, which are mostly confined to nearby geographic locations. Even after the connections with prospective candidates are made, startups still need to put the candidate through 2-3 rounds of evaluation for which is an unavoidable burden on the HR and engineering team.
Laying the foundation with Devfolio hackathon platform
Seems like yesterday until when Devfolio was just a state-of-the-art end-to-end hackathon management platform!😛
We built the hackathon platform to nurture and grow the hacker culture in India, which considering the response we received, has been successful, way beyond our expectations. Hackathons allow developers to learn new skills, engage with peers and the industry, and showcase their creativity over the course of just a weekend. With the launch of Devfolio, hackers can not only fill the missing gaps in their skills through hackathons but also verify them and get a job at a top tech startup they’d love to work at, all through Devfolio. Our support for hackathons on Devfolio will continue unabated with many more hackathons to be hosted in the coming months.
The first iteration: Devfolio Opportunities
From the time we launched the hackathon platform for the public, we had started getting requests from startups to hire developers from our platform. The ‘Devfolio Opportunities’ program was our first stab at the developer hiring problem.
Developers were shortlisted on the basis of their Devfolio profiles and fellow developer peer review, from among those who had indicated interest in participating in the program. Post a quick phone call by the Devfolio team to understand their inclinations, a curated list of hacker profiles was sent out to the startups, part of the program. Once startups indicated their interest in proceeding with selected candidates, they were connected to take the conversation forward.
While the program was reasonably successful by ‘Beta’ standards, we understood pretty early on that this was not something that could scale. We had managed to significantly aid the discovery process for both startups and the developers but were not adding any further value to the process. Startups still had to make efforts to evaluate the candidates to determine if their skill level matched what they claimed in their profiles. As a result, developers still needed to go through multiple evaluation rounds and bear with an extended hiring process as well.
Devfolio: A much-needed ‘patch’ for Tech Hiring
With Devfolio, we provide a simple way for skilled engineers to get jobs in the top tech startups they'd love to work for, bypassing unnecessary hurdles. They need to give the Devfolio Quiz and verify their skill(s) through an interview with a senior engineer, for life. Once you have verified the skill(s), you'll skip directly to final onsite interviews with startups hiring on Devfolio without the need of technical screening :)
We built the process keeping in mind the key issues we were able to identify in the tech hiring space. Here’s how it goes:
1.) Devfolio Quiz:
The quiz is a series of MCQs based on the skill chosen by the developer. This keeps the application process accessible for candidates as per their convenience yet acts as an effective initial filter for makers and builders from the crowd of potential applicants. Three attempts to clear the quiz are provided with the rest period after they get exhausted, being three months.
2.) Skill verification on Devfolio:
Upon clearing the Devfolio quiz, a developer can book a slot for an interview with the senior engineer. The interview lasting approximately one and a half hours will test the depth of the candidate’s knowledge in the chosen skill (frontend and backend available right now). Clearing the interview verifies the chosen skill on Devfolio vetting the candidate’s abilities. Unsuccessful candidates are provided detailed feedback at this stage to enable them to learn and improve & apply again after three months.
3.) Onsite interview with top startups:
Once their skills have been verified on Devfolio, developers fill a quick matching questionnaire and we match them with the top tech startups. Startups partnering with us are mission-driven startups with fantastic work culture, great workspaces, and trusted names in the industry.
Devfolio is very close to our hearts considering the impact it can have on the lives of million of developers in India. We’re excited to see how the community receives our all-new launch. While we think it’s the best thing to happen to the world since sliced bread, don’t take our word for it, check it out now! 👉 devfolio.co