How the Stella Connect engineering team reaches hiring targets and spends 75% less time interviewing

A customer story with Stella Connect

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Case Study in Brief

Challenge

Stella Connect is rapidly expanding its software engineering team in New York City

The software engineering team’s hiring process was failing to reach hiring targets and preventing them from shipping product

Approach

VP of Engineering, Bill Beckler enhanced the hiring process with live technical interviews conducted by Karat

Results

Stella Connect is reaching its hiring targets and has reduced time spent on interviewing by 75%

Losing—and gaining—trust in the interviewing process

“I did tons of hiring pre-Karat, and I always felt like I was great at it,” said Bill Beckler, VP of Engineering at Stella Connect. “You come up with these technical puzzles for candidates and think they are the perfect predictor of success.”

Beckler, who previously led software engineering and machine learning teams at Travelocity and Lastminute.com, joined Stella Connect in early 2018 and began scaling the engineering team.

During the hiring process, he wondered if his gut-feel approach had ever caused him to pass on talented, qualified candidates.

“How many false negatives could I have actually hired?,” he asked himself. “How many people could I have hired but didn’t, because I had so much faith in this pet test?”

Beckler’s process was also time consuming, and it wasn’t reaching Stella Connect’s hiring targets. He needed a more holistic, data-driven approach.

“The reason that we started working with Karat is not the reason we love it today,” said Beckler. “We started because we didn’t trust our technical interviewing process. We couldn’t get consensus on a single candidate as a team. We were also conscious that there were so many ways to get it wrong.”

The high opportunity cost of developer time

“If you’re hiring developers, that means you have too much work for your existing dev team. You don’t want to be spending all your precious developer time interviewing people. But that’s what we were doing—and we couldn’t afford it.”

Beckler said the inability to reach a consensus was also costly.

“Every single time we had an interview, we had this ambiguity that spurred lots of debates about what makes a good developer,” he said.

“This is a good question to ask yourself, but it’s not something you want to be spending half of your team’s time on.”

Before working with Karat, Beckler’s team spent three to four hours interviewing each candidate. Now with Karat’s help, they spend no more than an hour and a half with each candidate. They cut their interview time by 75 percent.1

“Developers are paid well. Whatever they are getting paid, the value to our company is significantly higher, because what they are building the company,” he said. “All the activities you do will end up going nowhere if you can’t stay ahead of the market.”

"The cost of a Karat interview is nothing compared to the value of the time saved."

- Bill Beckler VP of Engineering, Stella Connect

A secret weapon for building software engineering teams

As of August 2019, there are three software engineers for every developer job in New York City. In the notoriously competitive San Francisco Bay Area, there are eight software engineers for every developer job.2 Despite this tight talent market, Stella Connect is reaching its hiring targets and increasing productivity.

“Our company is growing really fast,” said Beckler. “We live off of Karat.”

Soon, half of the Stella Connect engineering team will be the result of Karat interviews.

“It’s like my new secret weapon for my job,” Beckler said. “Karat makes me way more effective.”

Treating candidates like humans

In a business that focuses on measuring and improving customer service, Beckler is creating a culture that values emotions and experiences. The interview and hiring process is a big part of that.

“Interviews are stressful—and the emotions someone experiences during an interview matter a lot,” said Beckler. “We care about the emotions and experiences of our candidates, team members, and customers because they all contribute to what it’s like to use our products.

That’s what motivates us—to build a great product for the people we serve. Job candidates are humans, we want to take into account that fact that there are real emotions that can get in the way of people showcasing their skills.”

1 Stella Connect data, 2 Indeed.com data as of August 2019