Interviewing for Success to Beget Success

Have you ever wondered why some companies suffer from their inability to find good talent, while others almost always seem to get the A+ players? Have you ever wondered why you have elevated to a certain level of success in your career, while others seem to be languishing in the limbo of their stagnating status? Have you ever wondered why successful people absorb successful habits like sponges, while others seem to be everlasting victims of volatile environments like dry sponges in Death Valley?

The simple answer is that successful people are willing to go to great lengths to ensure a likelihood of success. They’re willing to go the extra 26.2 miles, when others believe that marathons are impossible. They’re willing to do what the next guy won’t.

The more complex answer is that successful people build rigorous processes. Successful people know that success is a numbers game, and they’re constantly experimenting with the game to make the outcome tip in their favor more often. To do that, successful people have very high standards. Those rigorous processes are not for the faint of heart, but once those processes are in place, successful people can trust the process to know that success is going to be the most likely outcome. The success mindset is the mindset of a long-term way of being, and not a short-term result.

Interviewing at Integrant

This is why it can be scary hard to interview at Integrant. The software developer interview process we put candidates through is a beast. It can feel like David going up against Goliath.

From our perspective, the painstaking process we’ve developed to bring in great software development talent is absolutely worth the effort. It’s a no-brainer to create such an intense interview process because the process itself weeds out many who don’t have the success mindset. Then, our process takes aim at those who have a mindset for success, but still don’t have the necessary skills. If that wasn’t enough and without prejudice, our process then evaluates language and cultural symbiosis, a difficult but essential criterion. At Integrant, our attitude is that our software programming teams must fit with the culture of our client. We believe that if the programmers individually, and the development teams as a whole, don’t love the clients we serve, then they can’t serve them gladly. And that’s the goal, to serve the clients gladly. Cultural fit is particularly important for clients in the medical device manufacturing space, who make products and develop software for people whose lives depend on them. In order for these clients to thrive, the outsourced software development teams that work with them must thrive as well.

The Candidate’s Experience

From a software developer candidate perspective, the whole process can be scary. For one, it can feel like a mountain to climb. Interviewing and going through the probationary period with us can take six months at a minimum, and can last up to a full six months until the developer has made it. That kind of uncertainty about a candidate’s prospects for future employment can seem like a daunting behemoth. Just sending in the application is like taking the first step on the trail to Base Camp 1 on Mt. Everest. Keep in mind the big picture here… all software developers, no matter where they’re from, are competing against American candidates in a country where software engineering was invented, and it’s not easy to serve the U.S. market. Each candidate desiring employment is going up against forces that can seem stacked against them. The effort, will, determination, grit, moxie, and courage to overcome such forces are seen on rare occasions, and then it can be under intense scrutiny.

On top of that, outsourced software programming teams from Egypt and Jordan are competing with teams from all over the world these days. American companies are outsourcing their full stack development to China, India, Costa Rica, Russia, Korea, and Indonesia. It seems like there is so much competition out there that even the penguins down in Antarctica are waddling into the tech labs of American firms. Many speak English as if it’s their native tongue (I believe you can watch some penguins performing Shakespeare on YouTube), so it’s more important than ever for programmers to not only be skilled at their craft, but highly immersed in the communication dynamics and customs of the clients they serve.

The Interview Process for Software Developers

So, let’s take a closer look at the process that we have implemented at Integrant to ensure success.

Pooling Phase

First, there’s the Pooling Phase. This is where Sara Youssry, our Human Resources Manager, and her team compile a pool of resumes or CVs. That pool of resumes is then screened. Out of 700 resumes that are pooled, we accept 150 of them, and then whittle that stack down to about 50 potential candidates.

Screening Call

Next, there’s the Screening Call. The idea behind the call is to determine which software development candidates are within the salary ranges. Those that are looking for astronomical wages are probably not the right candidates, while those that sell themselves short could subtly indicate a deeper self-esteem issue. The idea here is twofold:

1) We want to eliminate any candidates with potential attitude issues.

2) We want to get to know the person more.

We are looking to determine soft skills the candidate might bring to our team. We want to know if a candidate is intrinsically or extrinsically motivated. Also, we want to know if the candidate tends to be divisive, or if they’re a natural unifier. We want to determine their leadership style. And, more practically, we want to find out if the candidate can communicate in English. The entire interview is conducted in English, so by the end of the call there will be complete confidence in knowing if the candidate is vulnerable to potential communication breakdowns in the future, or if the candidate has complete command of the language.

Technical Exam

The few that make it through the Screening Call then move on to the Technical Exam. This exam is extremely difficult. The exam takes two hours to complete and is full of advanced-level software programming challenges. It’s designed to not only highlight the candidate’s strengths, but also to expose the candidate’s weaknesses to see how they react and respond to unknowns, pitfalls, red herrings, and uncertainties. So, built into this technical exam is an evaluation of emotional intelligence in coping with failure as an opportunity for learning experiences. Upon completion, the exam is submitted to our Principal Software Engineer, who ranks the exams. The software developers who pass the exam are ushered through to the technical interview. The developers who fail the exams are thanked for their time and given a lovely parting gift basket from Cadbury Chocolates (ok… they don’t get chocolates… but chocolate does sound good right now).

Technical Interview

The technical interview is conducted by the manager of the department, called the Functional Manager. Here, our Functional Manager revisits areas of concern in the candidate’s application as it relates to the technology specifically. So, the Functional Manager is looking for questions on the technical exam that raised a yellow or red flag. The idea here is to shore up any concerns, tie up any loose ends, and solidify confidence that the candidate is ready to be a prime-time player, worthy of employment at Integrant. In addition, the technical interview is the time when the Functional Manager assesses which area of development would be the best fit. Is the candidate best at front-end development, database maintenance, backend deployment, or maybe quality control is this person’s natural fit. Perhaps the candidate is best at writing code from scratch, but weaker at fine-tuning… while another one thrives on improving the code of others but detests writing code from a blank slate. Whatever the case, our Functional Manager assesses the candidate to explore their “technical personality” in more detail.

Final Interview with Director of Operations

Finally, after all that, the candidate interviews with me, Karim Zaki, Director of Projects and Operations. (For very high-level candidates, an interview with our CEO Yousef Awad is also part of the process.) At this point, the candidate has spent a few nights at base camp to acclimate to the weather, ascended to camp 1, and persevered to camp 2 without too much altitude sickness, vertigo, or feeling homesick. Now, in the interview with me, maybe the candidate can see the summit. He’s almost there. The peak is in full view.

But, as any climber knows, the last ascension is the hardest. In my time with the candidate, I am looking to pinpoint specific areas of concern (even more so than the Functional Manager). The focus here is to feel confident in the candidate’s strengths, and to push and prod their weaknesses to really find out how the candidate thinks. Again, I’m looking for how the candidate reacts and responds to questions regarding areas in which the candidate is less seasoned. I want to know if candidates are able to think on their feet, and how they respond to questions in which they don’t know the answer.

Also, I am looking to see how candidates rebounded from weaknesses exposed earlier in the interview process. For instance, I want to see if a candidate is proactive enough to learn the answer to a question that they failed to address adequately in the functional interview. This would show me that the software developer candidate is intrinsically motivated, has a passion for learning and becoming competent in his weaknesses, and highly motivated to become a master of his strengths. It’s this type of internally motivated person that is invaluable.

This entire process can take a few days, or a few weeks, depending on availability, but this process is the insurance that we pay for (it’s a huge expense in real dollars, opportunity cost, and resources) in order to guarantee success. At Integrant, we know that the investment in this extensive interview process pays off tenfold over the long run.

Quality First Attitude

It’s this “Quality First” attitude that drives our process. Winning the client’s trust is at the heart of why we put so much effort into finding great talent. “I’m accountable” is the motto and underlying philosophy behind everything we do. Candidates who apply at Integrant know it because they live it when they go through a process like this. Those that don’t have an “I’m accountable” mindset don’t make it through our interview process. They just don’t. They often eliminate themselves before they are ever eliminated by one of our interviewers.

However, the elite software developers who make it through our interview process are rewarded. Compensation is paid in U.S. dollars, which is a big perk. Those who make it enjoy demanding clients, rewarding technical challenges, a great team environment, and financial security. Providing for family is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. That and the copious amounts of espresso stored in the break room.

In all seriousness, once the candidate transforms to full-time employee, there is a three-month probationary period. That’s pretty standard in most American corporations. However, at Integrant, we go one step further. If, after that three-month probationary period, we’re still not sure the employee is up to snuff, then we will implement ANOTHER three-month probationary period (that’s that extra 26.2 mile thing I mentioned earlier). This is all to ensure clients are only getting the best of the best (kinda like the Top Gun school of software development outsourcing). Hey Maverick, “You can be my wingman anytime.” And that’s the point, we are looking for people who are team players, people who will fill in and complement all the other people on our team seamlessly, people who have each other’s backs at every level and every turn.

As a result, the average retention rate of an Integrant outsourced software programmer is 5 years. That’s what? Triple the U.S. equivalent retention rate? Pretty awesome stuff. But this is challenging work, make no mistake about it. And it’s challenging for the A players. It’s not a place for the “good enough.” We only hire the best, but once the best are hired they are well taken care of. They become family. They help each other get better in their personal and professional lives. They keep each other accountable and focused on becoming masters of technology, service, communication, culture; on becoming laser-focused on problem solving; on becoming experts in their industries and the clients that they serve.

But don’t look at the result and wonder how they got it. Look at the process. A successful process ensures successful results.

 


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