Interview with an HR Lead: I Have Interviewed More Than 500 Developers and Here Is My Advice

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I talked to Tatiana Terekhina, an HR Lead at Soshace with 12 years of experience in recruitment. In this conversation, Tatiana shares her story of becoming an HR Lead, gives valuable tips on improving your developer’s resume, as well as things you should be prepared for during multiple interview stages on your developer hiring journey.

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Hello and thanks for accepting my invitation to share your experience working in the HR department for Soshace. Please, introduce yourself, and share your story.

Hi! My name is Tatiana Terekhina. I graduated from Saint-Petersburg State University in 2006 with a degree in Human Resources. In my more than a 10-year career as a human resources specialist, I had an opportunity to work in different companies, among them was General Motors’s official dealer. I have a lot of experience in hiring top managers in finance, sales, marketing, and construction, as well as sales managers, both corporate and B2C. I have a huge experience in working with the personnel documents as well. I was always interested in the IT industry, and I find it very inspiring to work with web developers. I derive job satisfaction from the ability to work on meaningful projects and I feel the need to keep up with new technologies. Yes, I had a tiny experience in freelance work before joining Soshace but here I have an opportunity to appreciate all the benefits remote work can offer. I spend zero time commuting, spend more time with my family, and work in the pleasant predictable environment.

Please, share your Soshace story: what tests or interviews did you have to pass to get accepted at Soshace? What’s your current role?

I was given a very complicated task on a first interview. I had to read the whole online book on JavaScript in a week. Since the whole IT field was new to me, it was almost impossible to get through recursions, cycles, logic operators, developer’s consoles, and other definitions. But I managed somehow. I started working as a recruiter in September 2017 and was promoted to an HR Lead position a year later. I’m responsible for the whole recruitment process. In 1,5 years Soshace HR department has grown to 8 team members including recruiters, specialists who work with incoming replies and teachers who also conduct final interviews and check candidates’ online tests on different programming languages and frameworks. We’ve improved a lot in planning our work, evaluating results, and standardizing the whole recruitment process to make it transparent and easy to go through. We also try to be up to date with modern recruitment technologies. For example, we use a multifunctional CRM system (as opposed to Excel) as a developer database and a very user-friendly online app for online tests (instead of google forms). We constantly work on improving our recruitment process and making our interview steps more informative and less time-consuming for candidates.

Did you have to learn certain web development basics before starting out?

I did have to learn a lot: I’d spent much more than a single week studying JavaScript basics, differences in frameworks, other languages, and technologies in web development. I had a study plan and daily exams with my manager. I had to understand much more than just a difference between Java and JavaScript to read a developer’s CV correctly. It is also useful to discover the differences between AngularJS and Angular, and why the term “WordPress” doesn’t fit our vacancies.

Please, tell me about the hiring process at Soshace. Where do you fit in the recruitment stages?

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Basically, we have a 3-step interview process. Each candidate can choose whether they want to start with an online test or an interview with a recruiter. An interview usually lasts up to an hour. We ask about the candidate's experience, discuss projects that they’ve worked on during the last 2-3 years. We answer to all the candidate’s questions, describe the vacancy, and the next interview steps in detail. The online test is a programming language quiz with open questions on the developer’s technology. For a front-end developer there would be questions on JavaScript as a language, CSS, and one or several front-end frameworks, Angular, React or Vue (it depends on a candidate’s experience). The third step is the final interview. Final interviews are conducted by technical specialists who are professionals in web development and teaching. Each developer is given two tasks on live coding and time to ask questions. We ask each candidate to prepare a portfolio using our form to be able to evaluate experience better. If we are talking about my role in this process, I can go through all interview stages with a limited number of candidates. As a rule, I evaluate all candidates that pass a final interview. I help recruiters assess candidates' experience, portfolio, or online test results if needed. My role is to make the whole interview process as smooth and coordinated as possible.

Please, share some tips on how a developer can improve his/her CV to get noticed?  

I can point out 4 tips on what I appreciate in a good CV application.

  1. Choose a position you want to apply for

I advise you to write a specific job title at the beginning of your CV. I recommend that you correct this part of your CV before sending it to the next company. Employers and HR managers expect the CV to have a certain goal connected with the vacancy.  

  1. Keep it simple

Take time to read your CV several times and replace all specialized technical terms and abbreviations with simple words. You don’t know who is going to read your resume. It isn’t your goal to teach HR specialists. Your goal is to get a job you want. On the other hand, don’t get too simple. It’s essential when technologies are written in a developer’s CV. You never know what version of Python or what framework a company needs on its current project.

  1. Delete everything that is unimportant

I encourage you to write only the relevant information. If you graduated 10 years ago, it doesn’t really matter what students’ competitions you took part in.

  1. Write a cover letter

Not only it is polite to write a short and focused cover letter, but it also shows your motivation. I don’t mind reading a CV without a cover letter, but it would be a little minus for a candidate. I would prefer to know important things about a candidate from their cover letter.

What tips can you offer to a developer to pass the interview with you? What are some common mistakes that devs make during interviews?

I’ve interviewed more than 500 developers while working at Soshace. What I can advise is just to be open and to listen carefully to the questions asked. It is also important to ask all your questions at the beginning of an interview to be calm and focused on an interview process but not on your doubts and concerns. I can’t remember any significant mistakes. It’s only very disappointing when candidates start to lie or cheat like asking a friend to speak in English instead of themselves. I was lucky, I had just a few interviews like this.

What tips can you give developers who communicate with clients? What do they need to do to pass the interview with a client?

From my point of view, an interview with a client is a little easier since it is a discussion of a particular project. Nevertheless, it is crucial to be prepared for a short 3-4 minute self-presentation. There is always a chance of a question, “Please tell me about yourself”. It is important to listen carefully to a client’s questions so that a client can evaluate you correctly.

One more thing. If you don’t know something, don't be afraid to say that. This is the kind of honesty that’s highly appreciated by our clients. 

What was the most rewarding experience at your job? What was the most difficult thing you had to accomplish?

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The most rewarding thing about working at Soshace is that we are always open to changes and innovations. But once we’ve switched to a new idea, it is a rule to stick to it for at least several months. It is not always about numbers but candidate experience and productivity. A year ago we had more than 20-hour test tasks for candidates who aimed for a developer position. It took sometimes a week for a candidate to do our test task. We also saw that many candidates refused to do it. We converted a test task to a test and as a result, we got much happier candidates. Usually, it takes 1-1.5 hours to take a test, so the time spent on interview stages lessen dramatically. It helps to understand that we don’t stick to poor working rules or instruments.

What is your final advice for developers?

Be yourself and speak freely about your expectations! We’ll do our best to find the best solution. In case you are not ready for remote contract-based work now, we can go back to discussing our opportunities in the future!

What’s your advice for HR managers?

Working in human resources is challenging but rewarding. One can say, what we do is only recruitment, but there are many procedures and instruments that are unknown to other industries and types of business. More than anywhere you have to be a sales manager at heart and be ready to identify needs, work with objections and describe the benefits.

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