The Simple Numbers That Could Change How You Hire Technical Talent (Snyder Cut)

You can’t manage what you don’t measure

A helpful approach to frame and contextualize product and engineering recruiting is to think of the overall process as yet another business funnel. Just like a sales funnel or a customer acquisition funnel or a purchase funnel, engineering recruiting involves a series of steps that leads towards a predefined goal. And at each step, you can analyze the effectiveness of your funnel (or conversion) in generating outcomes.

The Recruiting Funnel

Let’s use the following simple, 4 step technical recruiting funnel to encapsulates the hiring process:

SOURCING: From 64 to 16

Before you can optimize your engineering recruiting funnel, you need qualified candidates to be in the funnel in the first place. And the best way to do that is to not just have a single sourcing strategy, but instead to look far and wide across diverse channels for qualified candidates.


Referrals (candidates who are acquaintances of your employees) is the most common sourcing channel, particularly for startups. It’s not uncommon for 100% of your first dozen or so PMs, designers, and engineers to all be referrals. Over time, you’ll build a more balanced pipeline of candidates through outbound and inbound channels. But along the way, there are ways to invest more in referrals, beyond just creating a referral bonus program as it takes more than just cash incentives to execute a successful referral strategy.


When people think of outbound sourcing (reaching out to product and engineering talent they’d like to recruit), they think of LinkedIn and then usually stop there. LinkedIn is a great starting point, but only that. The key to a strong outbound sourcing program is to boldly cast a wide net.

Recruiting at Tsinghua University in Beijing during our first year at Hulu


It doesn’t matter if you’re a tiny startup or Google, you should make it a goal to have qualified candidates reaching out inbound to you and applying for your jobs proactively. And to do that takes 2 things: good storytelling, and good candidate service.

SCREENING: From 16 to 4

At this point, your sourcing efforts have yielded a strong crop of prospective engineers, product managers, and other technical employees that you are engaging with (about 25% of all the candidates you sourced through referrals, outbound, and inbound channels). The next step in the recruiting funnel is to screen those top 16 engaged candidates and select the right 4 to interview. This vital step between sourcing and interviewing is where I’ve found companies’ hiring processes have the most room for improvement. And it all starts with data.

  • Open positions. What are all the open positions, how long have they been open, where are the job listings posted, etc.
  • Candidate profiles. How many candidates are in the pipeline for your open positions and who are they, what are their backgrounds, how did they enter the pipeline, etc.
  • Engagement history. What are your communications with candidates, how frequently are you communicating with candidates and what’s your response times, etc.
  • Evaluation feedback. What are all the questions being asked during screening and interviewing and what are all the candidate responses, who is asking those questions, etc.
Coding challenge used at Flipboard during the engineering recruiting process
  • Build your own coding challenge. You can use third-party services (and there are a bunch of them) but it’s actually fun to build your own, and even more fun to take your own. At Flipboard, our engineers would come up with challenge questions and then try and solve each other’s both to calibrate difficulty but more importantly for bragging rights. It became a source of team bonding.
  • Keep the challenge really open-ended. The purpose of the coding challenge is to learn about the candidate’s broad technical capabilities and thought process, not to learn about a specific skill. Create a challenge that can be solved with any language in a variety of ways, so it’s accessible and applicable to as many people as possible (both candidates and employees reviewing the solutions). The more general the challenge is, the more efficient and reusable it will be too.
  • Don’t get fancy. You don’t need multiple unique challenges for every type of position that you can then A/B test. That’s not only low ROI, but saps the fun out of the entire exercise. Don’t create more work than you have to.


By the time you get to the interview step in your recruiting funnel, you’re dealing with the very top of your technical candidate pool having gone from 64 sourced candidates to 16 screened candidates to 4 left to interview. Soon, you’ll be welcoming one of these individuals as the newest member of your company, which also means the other 75% of this talented, vetted group won’t be working with you.

  1. Mutually assess fit. You’re asking the candidate questions, and answering the candidate’s questions to probe on their skillset, qualifications, experiences, interest level, and personality to determine if they would meet the needs of the role and be a strong contributor to the company. You’re also getting them excited about joining in preparation of convincing them to accept your potential job offer. This is what most people think of when you bring up the topic of interviewing.
  2. Build internal alignment. Recruiting is a team effort and the team needs to be well aligned on what everyone is looking for in the candidate to make a confident hiring decision. Getting to meet with candidates and discuss feedback afterwards together is the best way to get properly calibrated.
  3. Evangelize your brand. When you interview a candidate, you’re also giving them a behind the scenes look at your company. Candidates are going to tell people about that look (three quarters of candidates will share their interview experience with others) whether it’s good or bad. So after days or even weeks and months engaging with a candidate throughout your recruiting funnel, you will inevitably be creating either a new fan or a new critic of your company, and that can directly impact your business.

HIRING: Roll up your sleeves because it’s worth it

Putting it all together, once you’ve taken the time to understand and measure your recruiting lifecycle — broken down into stages, complete with conversion targets at each stage — you’re now in position to effectively manage it. If you ended up interviewing too many people, your screening process may not be selective enough. Or if you only interviewed 1 person, you may have not sourced enough candidates to begin with. The answers are in the data, which can help guide you towards changing, improving, experimenting, and ultimately succeeding at recruiting.

The Hulu product + eng team watching our first ever Super Bowl ad together (on February 1, 2009)



Current: Co-founder of @cymbalxyz, Co-founder of @GoldHouseCo Ventures. Past: @Meta (via Packagd), GP at @KleinerPerkins, and CTO of @Hulu and @Flipboard.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Eric Feng

Eric Feng


Current: Co-founder of @cymbalxyz, Co-founder of @GoldHouseCo Ventures. Past: @Meta (via Packagd), GP at @KleinerPerkins, and CTO of @Hulu and @Flipboard.