5 tech hiring tips from Nicholas Simon, CTO at Rival Technologies
Partner message from VanHack: From source to success: How Rival hired 5 senior engineers from VanHack.
Like many struggling to source senior tech talent locally, Vancouver-based market research company, Rival Technologies was no different.
Looking to hire experienced engineering talent with a background in mobile apps and marketplace development, Rival was on a mission to grow its headcount, but found it difficult to shake the (local) bushes for qualified senior tech talent ready to step up to the plate.
Presently, Rival is a team of 60, with 35 of those in engineering and product. That team is led by CTO Nick Simon.
In a recent conversation, Nick touched on Rival’s recruitment challenges, and how the Vancouver-based startup was able to source experienced tech talent quickly from successfully hiring five senior engineers via VanHack. Here are some highlights and tips shared from the conversation.
The interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
👉 Can you talk about some of your hiring challenges, and what the hiring process looked like before and after working with VanHack?
Nick Simon: We’ve tried all sorts of things, from working with recruiters, to cold calling and trying to attract talent that way. A couple of years ago, we stumbled across VanHack and it was a game-changer.
When recruiting the traditional way, we’d get a lot of resumes, and often there’d be a lot of back and forth without seeing or talking to any of the candidates.
The opportunity to work with VanHack came up, and we were able to tap into a global tech talent pool that previously wasn’t available to us, or too hard to find.
As a growing company, we’re looking for developer talent quickly. We have products that need to be shipped. We were able to find that talent through VanHack.
👉 Tell us about some types of candidates Rival has hired, tech stack, years of experience, etc...
NS: The majority of candidates we’ve hired have been on the engineering side, both on the front-end and back-end development, and have primarily leaned towards senior leadership roles.
So a lot of the experience we’ve brought in, the candidates have 8-15 years of dev experience. We’re using senior devs to help lead and build the other teams.
💡Tip 1: Invest in senior talent and leverage their deep expertise to build out fundamental architecture and form your dev teams.
👉 What was your experience with the platform, working with the team, the quality of candidates selected, and any thoughts on the process?
NS: The platform itself is pretty easy to use. I would say it’s fairly similar to how you would move tickets through a Jira workflow, so it’s very simple to understand.
With the candidates selected by VanHack, we didn't have to get far through the list to identify a shortlist of candidates that we were very interested in.
It was great working with the team. Of the engineers we hired, we only had to have a couple of conversations, because the VanHack team understood exactly what we needed to build the profiles and brought candidates forward that were definitely going to meet our criteria.
As an engineering and a hiring manager, we didn’t have a ton of back and forth which spoke to the fact that there is a good system and pipeline in place for these types of objectives we’re trying to achieve.
💡Tip 2: Work with your internal stakeholders, and your external partners to outline your hiring objectives, along with the role’s must-haves and nice-to-haves to minimize the back and forth for an overall seamless process.
👉 How are the hires doing and can you tell us about their impact and contributions to the Rival team and product? Any cool features to share?
NS: We’re building a SaaS platform, and really needed to look for engineers who worked on enterprise-grade software. We ended up finding a bunch of folks who worked at larger companies, or bigger SaaS initiatives in the past.
They were able to bring these types of skills to the team. They knew about security posture, and best practices to bring in terms of building enterprise-grade applications and microservices that would continue to allow us to scale and grow.
I think one of the best things about finding senior engineering talent is because they’ve had these experiences for other organizations, they are able to make an impact, as soon as they join.
Most of the senior tech hires have been mentoring other developers frequently. And any task we’ve thrown at them, they’ve been able to pick up right away.
That’s one of the things I really appreciate about the attitude of the developers we’ve found through VanHack. They’re all eager to get their hands dirty, hop into the code, and figure out what needs to be done in order to move the company forward. It’s worked out really well.
In terms of technology and features built, if we go back three-and-a-half years ago, one of our first VanHack hires helped us build a lot of the fundamental architecture for some of our chatbots and the way in which all our interfaces are designed. He played a major role in all that.
Now with some of the more recent hires, they’ve helped with our integration strategy and building out our app marketplace — just tonnes of great work the candidates have been able to do the last few years with us.
👉 You mentioned your early VanHack hire stayed for three-and-a-half years, surpassing the average engineering hire tenure. What tips can you provide for retaining tech talent?
NS: We’ve had developers who have stepped in and have taken on leadership roles.
Our very first hire started as a developer, and within the first six months, moved into a team-lead role and worked with the rest of the team helping them develop their careers because of that experience he had.
He wanted to grab the bull by the horns and make an impact in the organization right away, we’re very grateful for what he brought to the table.
💡Tip 3: Let your hires know there’s room for advancement. Offer career pathing and growth opportunities, whether for a management position or as an individual contributor.
👉 How have your tech hires adapted to Canadian culture, and contributed to a positive culture and better product?
NS: We’re actually quite diverse at Rival Technologies. Each hire feels like another member of our family. Every single person that we’ve brought over has just been super positive and happy to be there. We do a lot of team events, outings, and culture building at Rival.
Recently, we held a barbecue at our offices. Everyone we brought on from VanHack was there participating and having a great time. They’ve quickly adapted to Canadian life here and have made friends with other people on the development team, which has been great!
💡Tip 4: A positive, healthy, and diverse team requires regular team-building activities and outings to ensure your hires feel engaged, welcomed, and integrated into their new team and home country.
👉 Any final takeaways and tips for hiring developers in today’s competitive landscape?
NS: That’s a tricky one, because the landscape is constantly changing.
As a hiring manager, the one thing you’d never want to compromise on is to make sure you’ve got the right person for the right job.
When we interview a potential hire through VanHack, (any potential dev hire, for that matter)we go through a fairly extensive code challenge to make sure that we have the right technical expertise. Sometimes it turns candidates off, but on the VanHack side, we’ve never had anybody turn down the opportunity to take on the code challenges. Most folks have a positive experience from it because it’s related to the actual software we’re building.
💡 Tip 5: Use tests and code challenges to provide candidates with a sneak peek into what it’s like to be a developer at your organization and for an opportunity to show you something that’s related to your business.
Watch the full conversation here:
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