15 Ways How to Hire Great Engineers

If you want to build and maintain a successful business, it’s essential to learn how to hire great engineers.

I’m talking about those rockstar 10x engineers, the ones who can revolutionize your business from the moment they walk through the door. Yeah, they’re rare, but they’re out there.

You see, top-notch engineers aren’t as common as you’d think. Unlike the medical field, where the weak are weeded out, engineering is a mixed bag. You never know what you’re going to get.

That’s why you need to learn the art of attracting and hiring brilliant engineers.

#1 Widen your candidate pool

Don’t just hunt in your own backyard. Chances are, you won’t find the crème de la crème of engineers in your city alone, especially if it’s a small one.

Think bigger! Search across the entire state, or even all 50 states. Heck, take advantage of globalization and remote work to find top talent in every corner of the world. Trust me, loads of small businesses are doing it these days.

For medium to large companies, the quest for talent is like a never-ending game. I’m not saying you should keep hiring non-stop, but keep your ear to the ground. You never know when you’ll stumble upon an amazing engineer.

#2 Highlight your company’s mission

spacex falcon heavy landing
SpaceX Falcon Heavy Landing (Photo Credit: SpaceX)

Got an out-of-this-world mission like sending humans to Mars? Shout it from the rooftops! Make it the star of your job ads, website, and job fairs. Engineers will be itching to join the cause.

By doing so, you’ll reel in engineers with a burning passion for Mars. And with passion comes a whole lotta talent.

So, you’ve found a 10x engineer, now what?…

During the interview, paint a vivid picture of how they’ll fit into your mission. Discuss the impact they’ll make on your company, because, hey, you’re selling them on their future!

Take Elon Musk for example. He lured in the brightest minds when he founded SpaceX, despite being the new kid on the block in the cutthroat aerospace industry. Engineers were stoked about making humans a multi-planetary species.

#3 Understand and deliver what 10x engineers want

Top engineering talent has a wishlist:

  1. Respect: they want their work to be valued
  2. Challenges: they’re hungry for cutting-edge, world-changing projects
  3. Opportunities: they need clear career progression
  4. Community and peers: they crave a team of brilliant minds to collaborate with
  5. Pay and benefits: they expect competitive compensation packages
  6. Work scope: they want transparency in their work scope

During interviews, tick off these 6 boxes to pique the interest of elite engineers.

#4 Go for personal referrals

Hunting down the best candidates can be a piece of cake when you tap into your personal network. I mean, who’s got your back better than your own pals, right? Not only will this save you heaps of time, but you’ll also have access to pre-vetted candidates.

Now, hold up: there’s a catch. Some folks might just refer their buddies and workmates, which could end up skewing opinions. That’s why it’s crucial to never skip the interview stage, even if you’re dealing with a top-shelf referral.

Picture it like the wild beginnings of PayPal. To score an interview, you had to be in the loop with the founders’ inner circle. This nifty trick helped weed out any potential misfits.

#5 List your specific job requirements

Sometimes, engineers might brush off basic job requirements they don’t meet, thinking they’ll just learn on the fly. But, sadly, that’s not always how it pans out. To dodge this bullet, spice up your job requirements by adding extra details and listing specific skillsets with real-life examples.

For instance, instead of a bland “experience with AI,” crank it up to “experience with scientific computing libraries like numpy, pandas, or scikit-learn for autonomous car AI data infrastructure work.” Sure, it sounds a bit daunting, but it helps sift through unqualified applicants.

#6 Craft an engaging interview process

engineering job interview

Cook up a captivating and well-structured interview process for each candidate.

Use this three-step approach to scoop up valuable intel on every candidate:

  1. Written at-home assignment
  2. Phone interview
  3. Face-to-face interview

Let’s dive into each step!

Step #1: Written at-home assignment

Get a sneak peek into the candidate’s work style by asking relevant job questions. Toss in a couple of technical queries related to the job. Keep it challenging, but not too time-consuming. The candidate should show off their thought process.

Yeah, they might cheat, but you’ll sniff out any inconsistencies later in the interview process. Revisiting their answers will reveal who’s spewing bullshit.

Step #2: Phone interview

This is where you get a feel for the candidate’s personality to see if they’ll vibe with your crew. Dive deeper into the technical questions from Step #1, probing why they made certain choices and uncovering potential weak spots in their solutions.

While I mentioned just one phone chat, sometimes a second call might be needed. You don’t want to squander time on a bad match during the face-to-face interview.

Step #3: Face-to-face interview

Meeting in person is crucial, as hidden qualities can surface. For example, someone might claim they’re a great leader, but in person, they come across as shy and quiet.

Now’s your chance to put their technical skills to the test. Remember the technical questions from Step #1? Tweak one a bit and ask the candidate to crack it. They shouldn’t have any excuses since they’ve already tackled the original problem. This clever trick is inspired by Elon Musk’s make-or-break interview question.

#7 Create a structured setup for assessing candidates in interviews

Craft a scorecard to objectively evaluate candidates, particularly during phone interviews. Assessing candidates in real-time prevents forgetting important details that could sway your decision.

List the ideal qualities for your perfect candidate, and assign a ranking system from 1 to 5 for each quality. Just remember to apply your grading system consistently.

#8 What to look out for in the interview grading process

We’ve discussed developing a structured assessment system in Tip #7. But what should you include in this grading system to find exceptional engineers?

Consider these technical questions:

  • Are the candidate’s technical responses detailed, covering both theory and real-world execution?
  • When discussing solutions, do candidates thoroughly explain the original problem, indicating their experience leading similar projects?
  • Do candidates consider all factors in their design, such as future outlook, cost, timeline, and construction feasibility?
  • Do candidates demonstrate creativity in their answers, a crucial component in engineering?

Additionally, seek out these essential qualities for a stellar engineer:

  • Independence: Focused problem solvers who don’t need hand-holding.
  • Communication: Strong verbal and written skills, especially for customer-facing roles.
  • Ownership: Accountability for mistakes and eagerness to learn from failures.
  • Curiosity: An insatiable thirst for knowledge, fostering innovative solutions.
  • Detail-oriented: Recognizing that overlooking details can lead to engineering disasters.
  • Persistence: The ability to push through challenges.
  • Empathy: Understanding and respecting diverse skill sets, avoiding toxic behaviors, and isn’t an asshole.

#9 Foster an incredible company culture

Creating a dynamic and thriving work culture is a game-changer. It not only lures in top engineers but could even tempt them to take a pay cut to join your team when you lack the funds.

I’ve found that company culture is a huge deal for almost every engineer. After all, we spend the majority of our waking hours on the job.

For insights into work culture, explore the 15 excellent culture qualities Elon Musk swears by. Bring them to life in your workplace and show them off to potential candidates.

#10 Look for cultural fit in candidates

Discovering candidates who truly vibe with your company culture is absolutely essential, especially for smaller businesses where each team member leaves a distinct fingerprint on the organization’s identity.

Kick off the process by sizing up a candidate’s character traits to ensure they’ll blend seamlessly with your squad. You’ll want someone who’s easygoing, respectful, and a genuine team player. Next, dive into a candid chat about your company’s culture and lay out your expectations – honesty is key!

Keep in mind, nobody likes unexpected surprises. Showcase your true colors and let your company’s personality shine bright. Watch for how candidates react – you’ll know if they’re digging your style or if they’re just not feeling it.

Take a page out of Elon Musk’s book – at Tesla and SpaceX, he’s completely upfront about the demanding work hours. That way, candidates know the score from the get-go.

#11 Build an awesome company reputation

simple apple iphone design

If your company’s rep is a bit of a downer, you can kiss attracting top talent goodbye. Nobody wants to gamble their reputation by working for a sketchy organization when they could be strutting their skills at a highly respected company.

Apple is a prime example – engineers are head over heels to work there, thanks to its stellar reputation in the tech world and the undeniable quality of its products.

So, roll up your sleeves and focus on creating a company with rock-solid values and sky-high ethics.

#12 Hire stellar engineers non-stop

Top talent craves being around other top talent. It’s a chance to learn more and tackle problems more efficiently.

Everyone in your company should either be a master in a particular domain or have the potential to become one.

Just as important, bring on board people with amazing personalities. That way, you’ll build an ‘A’ team of engineers that others are eager to join.

#13 Money talks 

With the cost of living soaring, it’s no shocker that money makes the world go round for those who want to enjoy modern life. A generous compensation package is a surefire way to catch the eye of 10x engineers.

In your compensation package, consider offering:

  • Competitive salary
  • Health benefits
  • Fully vested 401(k) plan
  • Stock options
  • Annual bonuses

If you’re a small business, you can’t go toe-to-toe with big companies on compensation. Instead, you’ll need to play to your strengths.

For instance, engineers at smaller companies typically specialize less, meaning their work is more diverse, with greater autonomy and less red tape. Many engineers would consider this a dream come true. So, make that your unique selling point.

#14 Awesome perks

google campus mountain view california
Google campus in Mountain View (Photo Credit: Noah_Loverbear)

While money is essential, job perks can also be a major draw. For instance, these perks can enhance work-life balance:

  • Flexible hours
  • Option to work remotely
  • Free food
  • On-site gym
  • Pre-paid legal services
  • Daycare

Google, for example, attracts top talent with perks like:

  • Volunteer time off at $10 per hour
  • On-site car wash and detailing
  • On-site free laundry
  • Phone bill reimbursement at $70 per month
  • Campus bikes
  • On-site clinic
  • On-site gym
  • Free lunch 5 days per week
  • On-site massage

#15 Hire fast and don’t play games

Once you spot a 10x engineer, don’t hesitate – hire them ASAP. Don’t risk waiting for weeks on end.

Top-notch engineers are a rare breed, and if you don’t snatch them up, your competitor will. Plus, a swift hiring process demonstrates your keen interest in them.

Equally vital, be upfront about salary and benefits. Don’t engage in a tug-of-war over pay and perks.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting you rush the interview screening process. Not at all. Instead, once you’ve interviewed all candidates and found the perfect fit, quickly hire them.

“How to hire great engineers?” wrap up

Learning the ropes of hiring top-notch engineers can be the secret sauce to your business’s success – no joke!

Imagine this: your business has only a few million bucks in its pocket. That means you’ve got a tight budget for hiring engineers. Now, if you bring on the wrong crew, your dream product might never see the light of day. It’s a fact – all thriving engineering companies ride high on the backs of fantastic engineers.

What’s your go-to strategy for hiring ace engineers? What pitfalls should a company steer clear of?


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