How do the Top Companies Screen Developers?

Mike Townsend

Hiring is hard. But more specifically, screening technical talent is the crux of the problem. After working with hundreds of companies, we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t, here are the patterns. 

The best companies utilize a combination of proof of work (where Github is one good source of samples) and proof of stake models. Proof of stake is to validate a person's abilities through a reputational review process such as contacting past employers, co-workers, and speaking to them in detail about their responsibilities during their last job. If you’re on a call with a past employer, it’s best to ask a combination of open and closed ended questions. If the ex-employer didn’t have a good experience with the candidate, then the call is over, great. If the ex-employer has nothing but good things to say, then you need to ask “alternative questions”, such as “Does the candidate prefer working deep in the details or are they a high level thinker?”. Really try to parse out their personality type and work style.

Proof of work is to assign coding quizzes to the candidates (where in Otter Labs we use togglehire), which will quickly show you what the output of that candidate’s work looks like. The challenge here is whether to build your own quiz or to buy one. We’ve noticed that the in-demand companies tend to make their own quizzes in-house, while most companies use a combination of live coding assessments and stock take-home quizzes. It’s difficult to build your own quiz but after seeing 100’s of them, we can help, just ask.