My biggest hiring secret: text interviews

I built a kick-ass team of 6 developers in little over 6 weeks, by myself, doing all the hiring and without using any recruiters. When I tell people how I did it there’s one aspect of my hiring process that raises the most eyebrows: text interviews.

When someones profile looks promising (CV, GitHub, cover letter) I send them a text message over Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, Signal, etc asking them if they are free for 10 minutes. I don’t even book a time, it’s a short informal text conversation. The goal is to evaluate how good they are at maintaining that type of communication which is important for all development teams and essential for distributed ones. These are some of the questions I ask:

  • How did you learn to code?
  • How did you learn programming language X?
  • What do you want to learn next?
  • What are the pros/cons of distributed companies?
  • Can you tell more about project X?
  • In your application you said X, what did you mean? Can you clarify?
  • Do you have any questions for me?

The sad reality is that a lot of people don’t pass this stage and only a few pass it with flying colors. This makes it a good filter to put at the very beginning.

But there’s another reason why this is a good first filter: I can hold several text conversations at the same time. I can probably interview about 4 people at the same time this way. Or, I can interview 1 or 2 as I keep on doing other work, reading documents, addressing questions, etc making it not only of high efficacy but also highly efficient.

I didn’t invent this, I was inspired by how Automattic hires according to The Year Without Pants. If you have any questions feel free to just ask in the comments and if you need any help hiring developers, don’t hesitate to contact me, but know that I’m not a recruiter.

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