Technical Recruiting


The Ultimate Guide to Technical Recruiting

The Karat Team image

The Karat Team

The Ultimate Guide to Technical Recruiting

Nearly every company needs technical employees to help them build products and services, maintain their technology and infrastructure, and make use of their data. Technical recruiting is the process of finding and hiring these people, and technical recruiters are the ones who typically do so. 

While technical recruiting is a necessity if you want to grow the technical functions of your business, running an effective recruiting process makes all the difference in how quickly you scale, the quality and diversity of your hires, and how much you spend on recruiting.  

This guide will help you understand the ins and outs of technical recruiting, the role that technical recruiters play and how they can help your organization, and how you can build a hiring process that delivers results. We’ll also arm you with plenty of tips, tools, and resources so that you’re set up for success.

What Is a Technical Recruiter?

A technical recruiter is responsible for finding and hiring employees for technical roles, such as engineers, data analysts, and product managers. This involves sourcing, screening, setting up interviews, and extending offers to candidates. The responsibilities of technical recruiters may also include onboarding, employee relations, and other human resources (HR) duties, depending on the size of the company. Technical recruiters either work directly for the hiring company or they work at recruitment and staffing agencies that support multiple companies.

Technical recruiters typically have at least two years of experience in the tech industry. While this isn’t a requirement for other types of recruiting roles, it’s necessary for technical recruiters because they need to be able to understand technical terminology and the types of technologies used.

It’s crucial for companies to work with technical recruiters when hiring for technical positions. Their ability to effectively identify and source the right candidates, network and negotiate, manage the hiring funnel, and convince candidates to join is extremely valuable. Having a technical recruiter makes your hiring process run more efficiently and smoothly, while also providing candidates with a great experience that positively reflects on your brand. 

The History and Evolving Role of Technical Recruiters

Although finding qualified candidates for jobs has always been a need throughout history, the modern recruiting industry didn’t form until the 1940s as a result of World War II. As men were drafted for the military, this created a lot of workplace vacancies that needed to be filled and gave birth to recruitment agencies. After the war, recruitment agencies continued to help large companies hire. They also helped returning soldiers find employment

During and after World War II, recruiting was largely paper-based. Jobs were advertised in newspapers, on bulletin boards, and by passing out flyers. Applications were submitted by mail or in-person, and tracking recruitment involved a lot of paper records. 

As phones became increasingly widespread in the second half of the 1900s, the pace of recruiting sped up. Recruiters could now source and interview candidates more quickly. With the popularization of computers and rise of the Internet in the 1980s and 1990s, candidate records could now be stored digitally, recruiters could post jobs online, candidates could search and apply for jobs online too, and recruiting started to happen via email. 

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) were first introduced in the 1970s. They were mostly manual, relying on human recruiters to manage job applications, and they were limited to basic data entry and reporting capabilities. In the 1980s, ATS evolved to have more advanced features like resume parsing, which extracts and analyzes the text in a resume. Recruiters could now quickly sort and analyze large volumes of applications, but these systems were often expensive and difficult to use.  

With the invention of the Internet, applicant tracking systems became more effective at increasing recruiter efficiency. They started integrating with online job boards and utilized advanced algorithms to help recruiters quickly go through thousands of applications and prioritize the most qualified candidates by matching keywords in a job description to keywords in a resume. “The algorithms could use specific criteria such as job experience, educational qualifications and other relevant factors to evaluate each candidate’s application and assign them a ranking score.”

The 2010s ushered in the age of cloud technology, which changed how applicant tracking systems were developed and deployed. Cloud computing made technology cheaper, more accessible, and more scalable, so smaller companies could also implement an ATS.

Today, ATS are still used and powerful tools. The focus, though, has shifted to AI-powered recruiting tools that are changing the role of technical recruiters. This includes machine learning algorithms that can analyze resumes and chatbots that can answer candidates’ questions and schedule interviews. AI tools are capable of quickly analyzing large amounts of data, automating manual tasks, and helping identify candidates who may not be actively looking for a new job. As a result, recruiters can go through more applications and easily find the most promising candidates.

In 2022, Salesforce received more than 2 million job applications. Nathalie Scardino, the company’s President and Chief People Officer, says, “[generative AI is] helping us identify top talent that we may have missed otherwise.” 

With the routine, manual parts of the recruiting process now being automated, recruiters have more time to spend on the candidate experience. They’re able to work with candidates more closely throughout the process and help them put their best foot forward. AI isn’t necessarily replacing recruiters, but it’s changing their roles to focus more on the personal, human aspects of recruiting. 

Terms to Know

Whether you’re an aspiring technical recruiter or a company that’s looking to hire one, it’s important to know the terminology that’s used in technical recruiting. Here are the key terms that you should know.

Hiring Pipeline

The hiring pipeline, also known as a recruiting pipeline or candidate pipeline, refers to the stages that make up the hiring process. It helps companies and recruiters visualize their hiring process, measure its effectiveness, and track candidates as they progress.


Technical Interview

Technical interviews assess candidates’ technical and problem-solving skills, and they’re conducted for software engineering roles. They can involve writing code, solving a problem, or discussing your past work. Technical interviews are led by an interviewer who has experience in software engineering, use the same interview questions for each candidate, and conducted in an integrated development environment. 

A “perfect” technical interview answers the question, “What is the likelihood that this candidate would succeed in this role?” This might seem difficult to achieve, but companies can come pretty close by refining the five components of an interview:

  • Interview time: The amount of time that it takes candidates to complete the interview process.
  • Interview relevance: The degree to which the interview is a good proxy for an important task or responsibility of the role. 
  • Interview questions: How effective interview questions are at evaluating real-world situations that the job would entail without requiring much context or time from the candidate and hiring team. 
  • Interview interactions: Every single interaction that the company has with a candidate makes up the interview experience, which should reflect the job and the organization’s culture. 
  • Interview scoring: The ability to measure specific competencies on a consistent scale and then use that information to determine the next step to take with a candidate. 

Technical Interview Question

Interviewers ask candidates technical interview questions to assess their technical skills, knowledge, and experience. Hiring teams and companies develop their own interview questions for every role. In many cases, there isn’t a process for coming up with technical interview questions. However, having a structured process for creating, testing, and scoring interview questions is critical for making interviews fair, predictive, and enjoyable. 

Technical interview questions can take any format. Some ask candidates to do a coding exercise that shows their technical skills and problem-solving abilities. Others are more conceptual, asking candidates to explain something.

There are several best practices for developing technical interview questions:

  • Only ask questions that are related to what the employee would be doing and aligned with the job description.
  • Focus on core competencies, which should be deal-breakers for a candidate to be hired.
  • Make sure your interview questions accurately reflect the level of experience that you expect candidates to have. 
  • Avoid questions that everyone either gets right or wrong, as those questions are too easy or hard and won’t help you identify great candidates.
  • Every question that you ask should have an objective scoring rubric so that everyone on the hiring team can arrive at the same evaluation. 

Integrated Development Environment

An integrated development environment (IDE) is a software application that allows programmers to efficiently write, test, and package software code in a central interface. When asking candidates to write code, it’s important to provide them with an IDE so that interviewers can see how they typically develop and debug code and verify its functionality. 

Each IDE looks different — here’s the IDE that candidates use when interviewing with Karat.

Interview Rubric

An interview rubric is a method or scorecard that’s used to ensure that interviews are fair and inclusive. Technical hiring teams create rubrics to ask candidates similar questions and compare candidates using the same criteria. This reduces bias and increases objectivity.

Each criteria has a competency or rating scale that assesses the candidate’s skills and potential. Every technical hiring team has its own rating scale that clearly defines what they perceive as “good.”

Interview rubrics are unique to each role, and they can be used for evaluating both technical abilities and soft skills. 

While each rubric will depend on your company and role that you’re hiring for, there are three general steps for creating an interview rubric

  1. Identify competencies that are relevant to the job.
  2. List observable candidate actions and results.
  3. Summarize a completed interview rubric into a hiring recommendation.

Programming Languages

Software engineers use programming languages to build software. Codecademy defines programming as “Put simply, programming is giving a set of instructions to a computer to execute,” and “programming languages are the tools we use to write instructions for computers to follow.” Technical recruiters need to know what programming languages are and be familiar with popular programming languages in order to effectively communicate with engineers. 

It’s also important to note that there are some technical languages that are not programming languages. Most notably, HTML is not considered a programming language because it doesn’t contain logic and isn’t capable of running programs. Instead, HTML is considered a markup language that defines how information is structured on the web. 

Although every organization uses different programming languages to build products or services, the popularity of certain programming languages changes over time. In 2023, Stack Overflow found that the most common programming languages that professional developers use are JavaScript, SQL, Python, TypeScript, Bash, Java, C#, C++, PHP, and C. Karat supports testing for these programming languages and many more. 


JavaScript is used to execute interactive, dynamic, and animated elements on webpages. For example, drop-down menus, content that updates in real-time, animations, and pop-ups. 


SQL, or Structured Query Language, is used to store and process information in a relational database. Relational databases store information in rows and columns that represent “different data attributes and the various relationships between the data values.” SQL works well with other programming languages, and engineers use it to “store, update, remove, search, and retrieve information” from databases. 


Python has a wide range of applications, including software development, data science, automation, and machine learning. Not only is it versatile, but it’s also easy to read, understand, and learn because its syntax is similar to English. 


TypeScript builds on JavaScript, giving developers “better tooling at any scale.” One of the challenges with JavaScript is that it becomes more complicated as more code is written and reused. TypeScript resolves this and makes it easier to identify errors and catch bugs before running their code. 


Bash is both a programming language and an application that’s used in Linux and macOS to control a computer’s operating system. Bash is widely used because many programming languages use Bash to pass information to and from the computer’s operating system. 


Java is widely used, running on all kinds of devices, including computers, mobile devices, gaming consoles, and medical devices. Its rules and syntax are based on C and C++. One of the biggest benefits of Java is its portability. After writing code for a Java program on one device, you can easily move it to another device. 


C# was created by Microsoft and is primarily used to build applications in the .NET framework, which is Microsoft’s free, open-source platform. Although C# is versatile and can be used to build all sorts of programs, it’s most commonly used for developing Windows applications, games, and websites


C++ was developed in 1983 to be an extension of the C programming language. It can be used for both low-level programming, such as developing operating systems and device drivers, and high-level programming, such as developing computer applications and video games. However, it’s most popularly used for building large software infrastructure and applications that run on limited resources because it allows programmers to run code efficiently. 


PHP is primarily used for making web servers because it can run on any platform, it’s open-source, it’s easy to learn, it syncs with all types of databases, and there’s a supportive online community. Another notable feature of PHP is that it can be embedded in HTML. 


C was originally developed to create the UNIX operating system, but it can now run on a variety of operating systems. Many other programming languages, such as Java, PHP, and JavaScript, are based on C, which means that an engineer who is familiar with C will have an easier time learning other modern programming languages. 

Software Engineering Roles

Front-End Developer

A front-end developer develops the user-facing components of websites and applications, such as how it looks and works. They use HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to create the user interface, the point at which humans interact with technology, and user experience, the overall experience of using a product or service. 

Back-End Developer

A back-end developer builds and maintains everything that users don’t see when interacting with a website or application. This includes servers, databases, and architecture, and their work ensures that software works as intended. Back-end developers are typically familiar with multiple programming tools and languages. 

Full-Stack Developer

A full-stack developer has the ability to do both front-end and back-end development. They’re proficient in the languages and frameworks needed for both, and they’re able to handle all aspects of building a website or application. 

Mobile Developer

A mobile developer specializes in developing applications for mobile devices. Their responsibilities include designing and building mobile apps, testing and debugging, and updating and improving existing apps. Aside from being skilled in the programming languages that are needed for mobile, mobile developers also need to understand mobile operating system guidelines, hardware limitations, and user experience principles

DevOps Engineer

A DevOps engineer uses processes and tools to support the “software development life cycle, from coding and deployment, to maintenance and updates.” DevOps engineers help bridge the gap between development teams and IT operations by ensuring that applications can be constantly updated while the application remains stable and reliable. 

Security Engineer

A security engineer is responsible for building and maintaining security systems to prevent security breaches, cyber attacks, and data leaks or loss. Security engineers can go by different titles, including cybersecurity engineers, information security engineers, and network security engineers. Their tasks and responsibilities usually consist of responding to security incidents, implementing and testing new security features, and performing security assessments.

QA Engineer

A quality assurance (QA) engineer tests and debugs programs to make sure that they work correctly before they’re released to users. To do this, they write manual and automated tests to identify issues, track quality issues and maintain documentation, repeat testing until issues have been fixed, and identify areas of improvement in the testing process. 

Talent Acquisition

Talent acquisition (TA) is the process of identifying, attracting, hiring, and retaining employees. Although talent acquisition and recruiting can be perceived to mean the same thing, the two are different. Recruiting is focused on the short-term goal of filling open roles, while talent acquisition focuses on the long term and is more comprehensive. Talent acquisition responsibilities not only include recruiting, but also establishing and promoting employer branding, developing a talent pipeline, building relationships with people who could be potential candidates, and ensuring the long-term success of the company’s talent. 

Talent Pool

A talent pool is the group of candidates who can potentially fill an open role. It’s typically maintained as a database and can include people who have applied for a job, people who recruiters have identified as being a likely fit, and even internal employees. 

Building a talent pool takes time and effort, but there are many benefits of having a talent pool. By having a database that recruiters can pull from when filling an open position, talent pools can reduce the time and cost it takes to hire. 

How Technical Recruiting Works

The process for technical recruiting typically involves six steps or stages, starting with identifying a need that leads to a job opening and ending with the hiring and onboarding of a new employee. 

The Job Opening

The technical hiring process starts with identifying a need or opportunity for an additional employee, someone who can fill in a gap or help the company accomplish more. The hiring manager creates a job description that summarizes their ideal employee, including the soft and hard skills they would have, and outlines the employee’s responsibilities. 

While the job description might turn out to be an accurate reflection of who they end up hiring, it usually gets refined during the hiring process as interviews reveal what candidates are actually like.


Posting the job description isn’t enough to attract candidates, let alone the right ones. After the job is posted, sourcing begins. Sourcing is the process of finding people who might be the right fit and persuading them to apply. There are a variety of methods for sourcing candidates, including posting ads on job boards, contacting people directly, asking employees for referrals, and partnering with organizations that work with job seekers.

Sourcing creates a pool of candidates that the company thinks they might hire. Once they’ve got a strong candidate pool, companies move on to screening.


The goal of screening is to identify candidates who are most likely to succeed. There are two components of screening technical talent: resume screening and a skill assessment. Both check whether the candidate has the skills and qualifications required. Those who do move on to the interview step.

Resume Screening

Resume screening is the process of reviewing submitted resumes and looking for candidates who have the right experience and skills for the job. While you can screen resumes manually, this is incredibly time-consuming. Top tech companies, like Netflix, Amazon, and Microsoft, receive more than 50 applicants per day for their job postings.

To manage such high volumes of applications, 90% of Fortune 500 companies use ATS to automate resume screening. ATS scan resumes, score them based on the job description, and rank the application. Three-quarters of applicants are “phased out of consideration” at this stage, including those who may have misunderstood the job description and candidates who applied without the right qualifications.

Although resume screening is an effective way to rapidly narrow down your applicant pool, it can hurt applicants who have non-traditional backgrounds. Resume screening can lead to pedigree bias that disadvantages many underrepresented minorities in tech. A former big tech recruiter explains, “If you didn’t go to a top-CS school or didn’t have a prestigious internship, we’d move on to the next resume without giving it a second look.”

To combat this, companies can do a blind screening where they not only strip the candidate’s demographic information from their resume, but also where they went to school, when they graduated, names of previous employers, their job title or rank, duration of jobs, and association memberships

Another solution is to reduce your reliance on using resumes as the primary way to screen applicants. Johnny Yeo, a Data Scientist at Karat, says, “To truly solve this problem, we need to assess candidates differently early in the hiring process using a method that doesn’t rely on whether a candidate’s background happens to be similar to those we’ve already worked with or met.” Instead, skill assessments can level the playing field by giving applicants a chance to show their skills, expertise, and the fact that they are indeed qualified. 

Skill Assessment

Skill assessments identify candidates who can demonstrate that they have the relevant skills. Francesca Gino, a professor at Harvard Business School, says, “A skill test forces employers to critique the quality of a candidate’s work versus unconsciously judging them based on appearance, gender, age, and even personality.”

Skill assessments can take many forms. For software engineering roles, candidates are usually asked to write code in order to show their programming proficiency. This skill assessment is a quick exercise, rather than a more complex and time-intensive coding challenge that’s used during the interview process.

At the top of the hiring funnel, it’s important for skill assessments to be quick. Code tests, in particular, suffer from high drop-off rates. When recruiting software engineers, companies need a candidate-friendly top-of-the-funnel assessment that candidates can independently access at any time and quickly complete. It also must reliably and accurately evaluate candidates. 

Additional Forms of Screening

Aside from resume screening and skill assessments, there are other ways to screen applicants to narrow them down to those who are most likely to succeed if hired. For example, companies should check whether the candidate can work in the country where the job is or would be willing to relocate. These screenings are straightforward and quickly disqualify candidates who aren’t a match. 


Candidates who pass the screening are then invited to interview. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, interviews were predominantly conducted on-site at the company’s office. Now, many companies hold interviews remotely through video conferencing. Regardless of the location, interviews take a significant amount of time for applicants and the hiring company, so they’re only used for the candidates who seem most likely to succeed. 

Technical interviews usually include a deeper assessment of the candidate’s technical skills and behavioral questions that help the hiring company understand the person’s interpersonal and organizational skills. Engineering is a team sport, and most companies want highly skilled individuals who have both the right technical skills and the ability to work with others. 

The interview process isn’t just a one-way street, where companies gather more information about the candidate. It’s also a chance for candidates to learn more about the company, talk with current employees, and meet potential teammates.

The Offer

When the interview goes well for both the applicant and the hiring company, the process moves forward to the offer. The company is now confident in what the candidate brings to the role and will give the candidate an offer for joining. The candidate needs to decide if the role is right for them. If they have multiple offers, they’ll weigh their options and choose the one that best fits their needs. 

Although the financial component of an offer is important, it’s not the only thing that candidates consider. Qualitative aspects of the role are also important, such as company culture, career growth, and the work they’ll be doing. 

During the offer stage, the recruiter, hiring manager, or other team members may reach out to the candidate to answer questions, address concerns, and show their interest in having the candidate join the company. 


The last step in the hiring process takes place after the offer is accepted and signed. Now the candidate joins the company as a new employee. It’s rare for new team members to start contributing on day one, especially since technical roles are complex. Instead, the first few weeks and months are used to set the new hire up for long-term success. They’ll typically collaborate with the rest of the team to gain the specialized skills and knowledge needed in their role. 

When the new hire finally starts to contribute to the need that first created the job opening, this is when the hiring process is truly considered complete. 

6 Challenges and Opportunities in Technical Recruiting

Companies experience many ups and downs when recruiting technical roles. Many find that hiring is inefficient, especially companies that are quickly growing or those that experience a lot of churn. Others struggle with equitable hiring and interviewing, which prevents them from building diverse teams. By being aware of these challenges, as well as opportunities to improve the recruiting process, companies can make their engineering teams more diverse while also raising their hiring bar. 

Challenge: Companies Lack Time and Expertise to Conduct Interviews

Recruiting for technical roles often takes a toll on companies, draining their engineering productivity and producing new hires that fail to meet their expectations. This Interview Gap occurs when companies lack the time and expertise to conduct the interviews needed to achieve their hiring goals. 

Although expertise in technical interviewing is critical for successfully hiring the right candidate, we found that 72% of engineering leaders agree that “very few people at their company know how to conduct interviews” and almost 73% say that “the typical technical interview fails to predict the performance of software engineers.” Also, nearly two-thirds (61%) feel that “interviews are a financial drain on my company.” 

Opportunity: Structure an Efficient and Equitable Hiring Process

From time-consuming code tests to whiteboard tests that assess whether candidates have performance anxiety, rather than their skills, there are plenty of ways that bias and inefficiencies can enter the hiring process. Companies can change this and get better hiring results by intentionally creating a hiring process that’s efficient and equitable. 

An easy starting point is crafting competency-based job descriptions. Use job descriptions to formalize the measurable and inclusive attributes that you’re looking for, and assess whether every attribute is a good or bad competency. Good competencies are clearly defined and can be measured in objective, structured ways. They can be uncovered through project discussions and talking through code reviews. Bad competencies are culturally biased, ones that aren’t relevant to a candidate’s real day-to-day work, and can’t be measured objectively.

Good CompetenciesBad Competencies
Competencies include: 
  • Project discussions
  • Algorithms
  • Code review
Competencies are not:
  • Culturally biased
  • Quickly reading long prompts in a timed test
  • Ability to handle ambiguous situations
  • Being a “rockstar” or “ninja”

Challenge: Bad Candidate Experiences

While you may be focusing on optimizing the hiring process for your goals, you may be neglecting the candidate experience, which is just as important. The top three reasons for a negative candidate experience are:

  • The recruiting process took too long.
  • The candidate’s time was disrespected.
  • The salary didn’t meet the candidate’s expectations.

The 2022 Talent Board Business Impact of Candidate Experience Executive Brief found that although candidate resentment is down by 2% in North America from 2021 to 2022, it’s up in other areas of the world, including EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa), APAC (Asia-Pacific), and Latin America. Talent Board defines candidate resentment as “those candidates who feel they had a very poor experience and will never do anything again with an employer.” 

Bad candidate experiences can impact businesses in many ways. The vast majority (83%) of candidates say that a negative interview experience can change their mind about a role or company they used to like. High drop-off rates can be a signal that there’s room for improvement in your interview process, and they can lead to losing out on great talent. 

Typical Drop-Off Rates

at code challenge
10 – 20%
for each round of phone screens or interviews
5 – 10% 
after technical interview

Candidates that have a bad experience can also cause a ripple effect. Considering that 72% of candidates will share their negative experience with others and 86% of candidates check Glassdoor ratings before they apply, companies can lose far more candidates than only the ones that are in their hiring pipeline. 

Lastly, businesses could even lose revenue. In 2015, Virgin Media upset over 7,500 applicants who were also customers. This caused them to cancel their contracts and sign up with competitors, which was estimated to cost Virgin Media over $6 million in revenue. 

Opportunity: Measure Predictiveness of Hiring Pipeline for Better Results

To run a more efficient hiring process, companies should measure the predictiveness of their entire hiring pipeline. Shannon Hogue, Global Head of Solutions Engineering at Karat, recommends, “If you don’t already have a structured hiring process, a good place to start is by tracking the outcomes at each stage of the process.” 

By mapping out each stage of your recruiting funnel, tracking the number of candidates that make it to each stage, and calculating the conversion rates, you can clearly identify inefficiencies and areas that might be generating false positives or negatives. Particularly low or high conversion rates may indicate that a stage is too difficult or easy or that you’re being overly selective or not selective enough. The goal is to have accurate hiring signals that become increasingly predictive as candidates progress through the hiring funnel. 

Challenge: Referral Bias Can Hamper Diversity

Referrals are the cheapest way to source candidates and they can be a great way to grow your company through its existing network, but “the weight and the bias that a lot of companies give to referrals gets real ugly, real fast,” says Hogue. “If you’re not assessing referrals in the same consistent and structured way as the rest of your pipeline, it’s a problem.” At Karat, it’s not unusual for us to see higher onsite-to-offer ratios go to lower-performing referral candidates compared to other sources.

By favoring referral candidates even when they don’t meet your hiring criteria, this prevents companies from diversifying their teams and lowers the hiring bar. A Payscale report found that referral hiring programs tend to benefit Caucasian men more than other demographics. Women of color are negatively impacted the most, as they’re 35% less likely to receive a referral. 

Opportunity: Create Structured Scoring

Hogue advises, “A structured scoring rubric is the best first thing you can do to start improving your hiring signal.” To make consistent calls when evaluating candidates, you need a structured scoring rubric that forces interviewers and recruiters to make observations, rather than judgements. For example, being able to check off whether a candidate produced a working solution during a paired coding exercise provides a clear hiring signal that’s easy to compare across candidates. 

Structured scoring rubrics make it clear to hiring managers, recruiters, and interviewers which competencies matter, and they create an objective scale for assessing those competencies. When interviewers fill out a scoring rubric, they also objectively confront their biases because each evaluation is based on rigorous definitions that you can audit and defend. This levels the playing field for all candidates and gives you a stronger hiring signal. 

Current Tech Hiring Trends

The tech hiring landscape is constantly shifting with advancements in recruiting tools, growing demand for new technical skills, and economic changes. As we look at what’s to come in 2024, here are the hiring trends that companies and technical recruiters need to be aware of. 

Top Performing Engineering Leaders Stand Out With Several Traits

Top performing engineering leaders, who are very satisfied with the job performance of their company’s software engineering hires and very confident that their company will meet their U.S. software engineer hiring targets for 2023, have a few traits that separate them from lower performing engineering leaders. Their practices highlight several best practices and trends that companies should consider if they want to attract the best engineering talent.

They Cast a Wider Net and Advance More Candidates

Engineering leaders who provide candidates with more opportunities to advance tend to see better results. Top performing leaders move 63% of candidates who recruiters screen to the first-round technical interview, while lower performing leaders only advance 50% of candidates. The gap typically stems from over-screening candidates from non-traditional backgrounds. By placing an emphasis on candidate resumes, education, and prior employment experience, this leads to pedigree bias and negatively impacts a company’s ability to find the best candidates, as well as their DEI efforts. 

They Move Fast Without Sacrificing a Personal Touch

Lack of time is one of the biggest obstacles in the hiring process. The majority of engineering leaders find it challenging to reach their hiring targets while also delivering product features (83%) and believe that interviewing takes away from coding time (69%). 

The average time it takes from posting a job to filling the role is 26 days. Top performing engineering leaders are able to cut this down to an average of 17 days, while lower performing leaders take an average of 31 days. This may be because top performing leaders are more likely to use a structured process for interviewing software engineers (91% vs. 81% for lower performers), which can help expedite the process or make it more effective. 

Candidates also expect a speedy hiring process. The U.S. market average to complete the Karat process in the first five months of 2023 is 5 days, which is 31% faster than the same time in 2022 (7.2 days). By moving quickly, companies not only meet candidates’ expectations, but also increase their hiring efficiency (they interview fewer candidates per hire). Our interview data shows that candidates who schedule interviews early typically score better, receive offers more often, and close at higher rates. 

However, it’s important to note that moving faster doesn’t mean becoming more automated. The hiring process should still feel human, and this isn’t lost on top performing leaders. In fact, they continue to heavily prioritize engaging interviewers who have a genuine interest in the interviewing process (53% vs. 39% for lower performers). While incorporating AI into the hiring process is on top performers’ radars, it’s a lower priority compared to improving training for interviewers, standardizing/centralizing the company’s hiring process, managing a high volume of direct applicants, and investing in DEI.

They Look Outside of the U.S. for Engineering Talent

Only 45% of lower performing engineering leaders plan to hire full-time or contract software engineering in India, compared to 57% of top performing leaders. India is increasingly becoming part of a strategy to improve candidate quality. In our latest rankings of the top cities for hiring software engineers, six of the top 20 cities are in India. 

They Focus on Equitable Hiring

Year over year, we’ve found that DEI programs have a positive impact on overall hiring outcomes. Top performing leaders are almost twice as likely to strongly agree that DEI is a priority at their organization compared to lower performers (62% vs. 32%). They’re also more than twice as likely to have the internal resources needed to diversify their teams (64% vs. 29% for lower performers), and they find it easier to identify and hire people from diverse backgrounds. 

They Track Overall Hiring Metrics

Although almost all engineering leaders take steps to evaluate the effectiveness of their hiring process, top performers are more likely to rely on overall hiring metrics (47% vs. 34% for lower performing peers). They’re also more likely to match interview performance to on-the-job performance (41% vs. 28% of lower performers). 

Moving From Sourcing and Referrals to Job Matching and Testing

Over the last three years, engineering leaders are reducing their use of sourcing agencies and sourcing tools like LinkedIn Recruiter. Referrals, which has been seen as one of the best ways to source candidates, also seems to be losing effectiveness. 

While 42% of engineering leaders say that referrals is a primary resource for hiring, it skews heavily to non-digital companies and lower performing engineering leaders who are less than very satisfied with the job performance of their company’s software engineering hires and/or less than very confident that their company will meet their 2023 U.S. software engineer hiring target. These companies also tend to be less satisfied with the performance of their hires, which suggests that there may be stronger candidates outside of their referral networks.

Referral hiring also often produces candidate pools that reflect the backgrounds of a company’s existing employees. “Many in the industry are quick to reject candidates based on their pedigree—what companies they worked for or what schools they went to—but all this does is reinforce the same profile of candidates that are already being hired,” said Larry Quinlan, former CIO of Deloitte. To increase diversity, companies have to go beyond referrals. 

A more inclusive option that top performing engineering leaders are turning to is job matching and testing tools. Adaptive assessments that quickly identify key skills can help organizations rapidly qualify candidates in a way that reduces the bias found in many screening tools. 

Continuous Improvement to Training, DEI, and Managing Volume

Almost all (94%) of engineering leaders feel that it’s at least somewhat important to improve their hiring process. They plan on making a variety of adjustments, with training and DEI being key investments. 

For top performing engineering leaders, managing volume is particularly important. They’re also more likely to move toward using an external interviewing partner to help conduct interviews and establish better relationships with internal recruiting and engineering teams. Karenann Terrell, former Chief Digital and Technology Officer at GSK and former CIO at Walmart, said, “Organizations are seeing a lot of success with assessment technologies and interviewing partners because they multiply the internal capabilities of their own management teams. This is essential in a world where companies are increasingly mindful of costs and efficiencies that keep business growing sustainably during economic volatility.”

The Rise and Perils of AI-Driven Hiring

The last year has seen incredible advancements in and widespread use of AI, and this will continue in 2024. There are plenty of opportunities to use AI to make the hiring process more fair, efficient, and successful. AI is being used to match the best candidates to open positions, predict candidate success to help recruiters make more informed decisions, and conduct the initial screening with candidates. 

Sagnik Nandy, Chief Development Officer and President of Technology at Okta, identifies three things that AI is particularly good at: scaling existing solutions and systems, taking things that follow a pattern and automating it, and personalizing things. “All these three aspects can be leveraged heavily in recruiting,” he says. Using AI, you can do more interviews at scale, conduct interviews across different time zones, further optimize your talent pipeline, and remove biases in the interviewing process. 

Despite AI’s potential, there are mixed feelings about it among recruiting professionals and candidates. Greenhouse reports that 62% of HR professionals believe that AI can help them hire the best candidate, but they’re split when asked about using AI to reduce bias and screen applications. While 37% strongly or somewhat disagree that AI will reduce bias in the hiring process, 28% agree. Almost half (48%) strongly or somewhat agree with using AI to screen job applications, but 33% disagree. 

Meanwhile, a Pew Research Center survey found that 41% of Americans oppose using AI to review job applications, 30% aren’t sure what to think about this issue, and 28% are in favor. However, 71% of respondents oppose using AI to make the final hiring decision. There are a few instances where Americans feel that AI would be beneficial in the hiring process. Almost half (47%) think that AI would do a better job than humans of evaluating all job applicants in the same way. 

With increased adoption of AI, there may also be regulations to ensure that the use of AI is fair and transparent. In July 2023, New York City passed the first law in the U.S. that requires companies to disclose how AI is used in their hiring process. The Automated Employment Decision Tools (AEDT) law also requires employers to annually audit the AI tools that they use in hiring for bias and publish the results on their website. 

Critics of AI have pointed out that it “automates and entrenches existing racial and gender biases. AI systems that evaluate candidates’ facial expressions and language have been shown to prioritize white, male, and abled-bodied candidates.” Regulations like the AEDT could play an important role in mitigating this, so companies should keep an eye out on other states that are considering similar bills.

Ultimately, companies that want to use AI in their hiring process need to balance automation with a human touch. When recruiting is all about interacting and connecting with humans, successfully incorporating AI requires knowing which parts of the recruiting process benefit most from AI versus having a human involved. For example, AI can quickly parse resumes and filter candidates based on defined criteria, but it struggles with gauging cultural alignment.  

5 Tips for Technical Recruiting

To establish and run a successful technical recruiting program, companies and technical recruiters should follow these tips. They’ll help you overcome common technical recruiting challenges and pitfalls and increase your chances of building highly skilled, diverse engineering teams. 

Create Specific, Unbiased Job Descriptions

Job descriptions are usually candidates’ first impressions of your employer brand. Poorly written descriptions can turn high-quality candidates away, decreasing your applicant pool. You can increase your chances of receiving plenty of candidates who are qualified by creating a job description that’s specific and avoids biased language.

Include the day-to-day responsibilities of the role to set clear expectations, and avoid corporate jargon or trendy buzzwords, like “self-starter,” that don’t communicate anything meaningful about the job. Jargon can be a red flag for candidates, causing them to move on to the next job listing. 

The words that you choose to use in job descriptions can affect who decides to apply and who doesn’t. Biased language, particularly gendered wording, can put certain gender identities or demographics from applying. A study found that job ads that use more masculine wording were perceived by women to be less appealing and led women to have a lower sense that they would belong in the position or company. 

Target Tech Hubs and Universities for Effective Sourcing

Although employee referrals are the top sourcing method for 74% of recruiters, this can lead to a lack of candidate diversity. This is because employees are likely to refer people who they know personally, and those people usually share their gender, race, or other characteristics. Instead, targeting tech hubs and university recruiting are two methods that are both effective and help you build a diverse pipeline of candidates.

Focusing your sourcing efforts on cities where there’s an established tech industry presence helps you find top-tier talent. For remote companies where employees don’t have to be located in the same city or country as the business, this greatly opens up your talent pool. In 2024, the best cities in the U.S. for recruiting elite engineers include Seattle, San Francisco and the Bay Area, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Los Angeles. Internationally, the best places include Amsterdam, Tokyo, Singapore, Vancouver, and Toronto. 

University recruiting (UR) is useful for finding talented entry-level candidates. The recruitment season usually starts in the fall when schools start, but companies are hiring earlier and earlier. More interviews are being completed by the end of September. Plus, the highest coding scores occur in August and then rapidly decline from there. By the end of the season, the top candidates have already accepted offers and there are fewer candidates left, so companies that want to recruit from universities need to act fast. 

Don’t Base Your Decision Solely Off Code Tests

While code tests can demonstrate a candidate’s skills, they’re not a perfect screening tool. To pass a code test, a candidate’s solution typically needs to be absolutely complete and correct. As a result, the code test becomes a binary pass/fail and these high expectations filter out almost one-third of candidates. Code tests also produce false negatives, which disproportionately impacts underrepresented minorities and women

An incomplete or incorrect result doesn’t mean the candidate can’t code. In hiring processes that start with a live technical interview, 55% of job offers go to candidates who provide an incomplete solution in the code test. In their jobs, software engineers aren’t expected to produce perfect solutions independently. Instead of using coding tests as your primary decision-making tool, focus on understanding the candidate’s problem-solving skills. 

Offer Remote, Flexible Interviews

The COVID-19 pandemic has normalized remote work, and many companies are now holding interviews over video conferencing platforms. This isn’t just convenient, but it’s also more inclusive for candidates who don’t live near the company’s office or can’t afford to travel there for an interview. Remote interviews are also convenient for people who live in different time zones or also have other responsibilities, such as taking care of children or juggling multiple jobs. 

Giving candidates the flexibility to interview at the best time for them makes a huge difference in the candidate experience. It also leads to better hiring outcomes. We see that faster interview processes are not only more responsive to candidate needs, but also drive more effective hiring outcomes. 

Give Candidates the Option to Redo Interviews

Offering candidates the ability to redo their interview actually helps companies hire faster and positively impacts their diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. “People have bad days, and [the redo interview] really helps with false negatives,” says Cat Miller, CTO at Flatiron Health. 

When candidates have a second opportunity, this alleviates the pressure of having to make a perfect first impression. This leads to better performance and it levels the playing field for underrepresented candidates who may have less experience with and exposure to technical interviews. 

Our data shows that Black candidates are 30% more likely to redo their interview, compared to their white counterparts. Also, nearly 60% of Black candidates improve their scores in the redo interview. Redo interviews truly make a difference in helping underrepresented candidates excel, and our clients have seen a 17% increase in overall hiring yield due to offering redos. 

Analyzing Your Technical Recruiting Process

It’s important to constantly analyze and improve your hiring and recruiting process. There are many benefits to doing so, including more efficient hiring, higher quality candidates, and better employer branding.

With so many moving parts in the recruitment process, there are also many hiring metrics that companies can track. We suggest starting with the following:

  • Time to fill: The number of days between when a job is first advertised and when a candidate accepts the offer.
  • Time to hire: The number of days between when a candidate enters your pipeline and when they accept the offer.
  • Technical interview passthrough rate: The percentage of candidates who advance to the next stage after the technical interview.
  • Diversity of talent pool: The demographics of the candidates who are applying for the job and the candidates that are being sourced. 
  • Interview to offer ratio: The number of interviews conducted to the number of job offers extended. 
  • Offer acceptance rate: The percentage of candidates who received an offer and accepted it. 

Begin by establishing benchmark numbers for each of these metrics. Track them for 90 days to establish a clear picture of your current recruiting process, and create reporting that helps you easily track and monitor these metrics going forward. Once you’ve set a benchmark, you can then identify opportunities for improvement, strategize, and set goals. 

Backed by data, you can implement changes to your recruiting process. However, you’re not done yet. Companies need to see how their changes affect their KPIs and adjust accordingly. 

Resources for Technical Recruiters and Hiring Companies

Whether you’re a technical recruiter or a company that’s looking to hire software engineers, Karat provides a number of resources to help you run an efficient and effective hiring process and stay on top of the latest hiring trends. 


With this guide to technical recruiting, you now have the foundational knowledge to successfully recruit top-tier technical talent and build an inclusive, efficient, and effective hiring process. To learn even more about technical recruiting and get additional tips on how to transform your company’s technical hiring process from a burden to a value driver, download our Technical Hiring Guide

What Is a Technical Recruiter?

The History and Evolving Role of Technical Recruiters

Terms to Know

How Technical Recruiting Works

6 Challenges and Opportunities in Technical Recruiting

Current Tech Hiring Trends

5 Tips for Technical Recruiting

Analyzing Your Technical Recruiting Process

Resources for Technical Recruiters and Hiring Companies


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