Kathy Mason is an experienced Recruiter at Okta. She’s also responsible for starting their University Recruiting program from scratch after joining the company two years ago. By spearheading this program for junior engineering talent, Kathy gained knowledge of some of the top trends that are impacting tech hiring. For example, the shift to prioritization of skills and abilities over well-written resumes. Or as Kathy describes, “a world without CVs.”
Company culture impacts Okta’s approach to tech hiring
Okta’s approach to tech hiring is rooted in “two things that stand out in the culture of Okta — the first one is transparency.” Every Friday the management team leads a hands-on meeting where they share relevant company news and information. Product Managers are also invited to talk about products in the pipeline — and sometimes customers come in to talk about how they use Okta.
Following the meeting is a Q&A session with the objective of keeping employees up-to-date on the latest company news. Okta has successfully created an environment where people are keen to volunteer and share what they’re doing. Not only does this help them build company-wide trust, but also reinforces that they’re working towards a common goal.
The second pillar of culture at Okta is collaboration.
Kathy was quick to credit her relationship with the engineering team. She doesn’t hesitate to reach out to a Software Engineer or Product Manager, and ask to join a business trip to hold an info session for students or a meet-and-greet to answer questions on-campus. Communication between hiring managers and recruiters helps to set expectations and make requirements clear. It’s easier to identify and understand the needs of various functional teams when projects and responsibilities are highly visible.
What stands out about Okta’s engineering team is a really good interviewing culture that’s led from the SVP level. This means the team always tries to improve their hiring process — which came a long way during the last two years.
Okta grew from testing 3,500 candidates to 6,000 candidates with the help of Codility’s platform which helped reduce manual tasks and increase objective data to base hiring decisions on. There’s also an ongoing need to optimize the hiring process. Last year, the company created their own tests for Java, UI & UX, Mobile. They also hired 29 interns, stating that “it’s amazing how great our interns did this year. They’ve done incredibly well — and one part of identifying such great candidates was screening.“
Okta’s ability to scale their processes is a result of several external factors — let’s look at the top trends that are impacting how they hire.
Top trends that impact how Okta hires
1. Moving away from resumes and towards collaboration
According to Kathy, CVs and resumes are still in use — but this is going to change. Instead of focusing on someone’s past experiences, hiring teams are putting more emphasis on technical screening for real skills and abilities. Not only does this save time and money, but it helps identify the right candidates faster. “We’re changing our process to be test-based where we would purely focus on checking candidates abilities instead of their academic background, which seems to have no correlation with future performance at work.”
The other issue is identifying candidates in an efficient way. “We noticed that resume and university experience doesn’t necessarily reflect the skills and abilities of a candidate.” Kathy learned that many students struggle with creating a CV that fairly represents the scope of their soft and hard skills.
At the start of the University Recruiting program, only recruiters were supporting all efforts. This has since changed and people from the engineering team are more involved than ever. Now you can find Okta holding information sessions and workshops for students that help them learn how to prepare for a technical interview or how to prepare their CV, and further explain how different roles work in a company like Okta.
2. Reducing bias and embracing an inclusive approach
Reducing bias in tech recruiting is something that companies are continuing to become more aware of. Okta is a good example of a company that’s always evolving. They’ve held workshops and trainings about inclusivity to bring awareness to the matter. “[An] interesting study was done. Findings after comparing millions of different resumes found a lot of differences between male and female resumes, they used different words — while male candidates focused more on technical terms, women seemed to be more soft-skills oriented. There are terms in job descriptions that scare women off, like ‘rockstar.’ At Okta we are aware of that and trying to minimize the hiring bias.”
The company is adopting what they call “Testing Blind,” and is running workshops for its employees to ensure that they know how to approach this challenge. “We want to hire people that are best. Codility helps us to identify those who have the necessary skills.”
So what else is in Okta’s 2020 plan?
- Optimization through automation and integration. Kathy is looking forward to more automation in their system, within Greenhouse integration, and to sending emails automatically.
- Continuing to review and revamp the screening process. The team at Okta will replace specified tests with one that’ll test general coding ability among candidates.
- Less time spent with higher quality candidates. The engineering team will save overall time spent on interviews, which means they’ll have more time for their core work.