Freelance Writer, Growth Hacker, Foodie
It’s official. Remote work is here to stay. At Woven (where I work, in the interests of full disclosure) we were not surprised. The signs were there all along. But as COVID-19 forced everyone on that corner, the suddenly remote companies are put in a position where suddenly, they can’t trust their process to work as well as it used to.
Now, every startup and even the big ones like Pinterest, Airbnb, and Uber are jumping in to protect their employees and their companies. For companies that are hiring, they are put in a curious position where they have to define their openings as remote work. In the tech industry, COVID-19 suddenly exposed how precarious their engineering teams are, now that they are shifting to remote. Because engineers need to do more than just code.
Hiring programmers by just looking at the programming skills and without testing for debugging, architecture, and communication often risks leading down a path of credentialism, whiteboard puzzles, and brainteasers.
As Wes Winham, CEO of Woven often laments: current technical assessments and hiring processes are woefully inadequate in finding the best candidate for a specific job.
They are either under-qualified or overqualified because they went through an inadequate testing tool. As the rest of the world is catching up, there is a growing need to highlight what it takes to be a successful engineer in today’s remote landscape. Conversely, what skills companies need to look for in engineers joining their remote team.
At Woven, we have hired a couple of hundred engineers, about a quarter of those have been US remote, Canada remote and International remote. Woven has also been hired in a dozen different cities for many different engineering roles. It has reaffirmed our belief over and over again that software engineers need more than just coding to operate on distributed teams.
We have technical take-home assessments with over 20 curated scenarios across 14 languages and 6 engineering roles. Each has thousands of hours of refinement for companies to choose from. These scenarios feature real engineering work that the candidates would encounter on the job. You won’t get hired because you can write a great code alone. This is where Woven’s strength shines through. Because our assessments are not simply tests that an AI can check, we were able to marry our technical skills assessment with the so-called soft skills.
Woven is the only tech hiring platform that tests for debugging, architecture and communication. We believe in this and it is a core value of the entire platform. Why? It’s because when you’re looking for a team member, you want to get someone who also has the soft skills to figure out solutions when things go wrong. Woven’s real-world scenarios allows companies to see key engineering capabilities like technical communication. How can startups or SMBs replicate this?
Real World Scenarios
Outside of your assessments -whether whiteboards, or quizzes, you can create your own scenarios that have open ended responses. Take the bar higher and go beyond coding. Check for soft skills such as problem solving, adaptability, pressure management, creativity, and teamwork.
It used to be that soft skills are listed under nice to have. These skills have been afterthoughts because working on-site requires different dynamics and you can almost get away with poor communication skills. But more people are beginning to realize the need for soft skills with the rise of remote work. Especially with tech, there is a growing need for engineers that can function independently and in silos. Soft skills like communication and teamwork take greater priority and being able to troubleshoot and keep work moving are essential.
Problem-solving becomes a crucial part of being a remote engineer. Working alone makes this a challenge. A large part of an engineer’s job is assessing a situation, identifying problems and then finding solutions. If you’re working remote, teammates are not easily accessible for questions. In order to keep moving, candidates need to be good at problem-solving on their own.
Engineers will often need to clearly communicate with other members of the team. It’s easier to show something when you’re sitting with each other in the office. Remotely, it can be a challenge. Especially for engineers who were never known for their social skills in the first place, Collaboration online takes intent and focus. Engineers should be able to shoot an email explaining the problem, or handle a Zoom meeting with colleagues to discuss potential resolutions.
When working in tech roles, you will often need to discuss codes or designs with others. The ability to clearly communicate is essential to collaborative work. It is particularly important when working with non-tech, as the engineer must take technical information and convey it clearly to those without advanced technical knowledge. This way, progress and options are understood by everyone involved.
Fortunately, we test for these skills on the Woven hiring platform. And as a startup with a remote hiring platform, we like to put our money where our mouth is, so to speak. We live and breathe remote. With less face time and interview capabilities, it is going to be more important to have more requirements to evaluate tech candidates.
Wes states that at present, industries are slowly moving away from using resumes to identify and hire talent and shifting towards using actual evaluations to hire the right talent. He is confident that this shall not only result in better and more diverse teams but also lead to an evolution of a more varied and accepted form of education and training while driving potential for workers to change their careers more easily as per their skills and interests.
Disclosure: I write occasional articles in my industry to build my portfolio and often mention work that I’m proud of. Currently, I’m affiliated with @woven_teams, a remote hiring platform for engineers. We help you find those Hidden Gems, great-fit engineers whose resumes were on the bubble of being rejected. ⅓ of customer hires are great developers who would have been resume-rejected.This content is part of / inspired by one of our online resources at the Woven blog.