What is Byteboard?

Byteboard is Google’s answer to the problem of assessing software engineers and the technical interview.

Basically, you outsource your technical assessments to Google.

Byteboard provides a platform for a project-based, identity blind ‘interview’ that is designed to assess real-world skills away from the typical high-pressure environment of a traditional technical interview.

Byteboard then assesses the results (with real people – experienced Google engineers) and provides a consistent, objective assessment that companies can use to decide which candidates should continue through the recruitment process.

Why would you use Byteboard?

If you hire a lot of software engineers, you will be familiar with the problems around technical recruiting. The first thing is that your recruiters aren’t technical experts.

If you are lucky they are recruiting experts, but if they knew how to code in Python or Ruby or C++ they probably wouldn’t be on a desk on your hiring team.

They might know there’s a difference between Java and Javascript and that C# isn’t a typo for C++, but they are hardly going to be in a position to assess whether a candidate has the coding chops to help deliver your company’s overdue killer app before the VC funding runs out.

While the recruiting team might be able to identify the right keywords on a CV and maybe do some basic pre-screening on a telephone interview, you need real technical people to conduct an interview at a fairly early stage. Otherwise, everyone is wasting time on unsuitable candidates.

So here are the problems with your current Software Engineer hiring process:

If you have Software Engineers sitting around with time on their hands to construct and conduct meaningful technical interviews – and write up objective assessments afterward, you probably wouldn’t need to be hiring more Software Engineers. Taking Software Engineers away from their jobs to get involved in the hiring process is costing you time and productivity.

If you are a Software Engineer working on decent projects, the last thing you want to do is sit in on technical interviews. Apart from anything else, you’ll have to remind yourself of all those theoretical questions you probably got asked at your last technical interview (but are completely irrelevant to the jobs you are working on) – and you almost certainly haven’t had any training in interviewing or unconscious bias.

And what happens if the candidate clearly knows a lot more than the Software Engineers doing the interview?

For the hiring company, the costs of conducting technical interviews are significant – and the results are often pretty poor.

For a company hiring more than a handful of Software Engineers a year, you can absolutely see the attraction of handing the assessment process over to Google and working with only the best candidates to try to persuade them to join your organisation.

Google reckons the ByteBoard process is better for the candidate as well.

Candidates typically spend many hours preparing for technical interviews and often report that they don’t feel that they had the opportunity to show off their skills to best advantage.

The technical interview can often be high pressured, with lots of technical questions being fired at candidates by in house engineers who don’t want to be there and who mostly won’t want the candidate to appear smarter than they are!

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How Does Byteboard Work?

Byteboard aims to solve these problems by providing a project-based interview that assesses for practical engineering skills that will actually be used on the job.

Candidates get to work through a real-world problem in a real-world coding environment in their own time rather than going through theoretical tests in a potentially stressful traditional interview.

The Byteboard interview assesses not just technical skills like design and coding, but also problem solving, growth mindset and interpersonal interaction.

Byteboard provides an identity blind evaluation using experienced Google software engineers trained to objectively review the interview.

The hiring company is provided with a skills profile for each candidate identifying strengths and weaknesses.

What is the ROI for Byteboard?

As any HR manager or CHRO will tell you, it can be difficult to nail down ROI figures for improvements to the hiring process, but here are some factors to consider:

  • Hiring Software Engineers is an expensive business. Good hires can make a huge positive difference while bad hires will be at best very costly mistake.
  • Google has more experience hiring Software Engineers than pretty much anyone else, so you can almost guarantee that Byteboard assessments will be way better than whatever you are doing at the moment.
  • If you are hiring Software Engineers, that means the ones you already have are pretty busy delivering revenue-generating projects. Add the cost of their time and lost productivity into the mix.
  • Eliminating poor candidates at an early stage means you can spend more time nurturing and wooing those potential stars that can make a real difference to your business.
  • The anonymised process gives you access to quality candidates that wouldn’t have made it through your traditional processes.

Google claims that early users of Byteboard for offsite-pre screens have seen a 2x improvement in onsite-to-offer rates, which suggests that at least half the time currently spent on offsite technical interviews is wasted. 

What does Byteboard mean for the Recruiting industry?

Google already has a considerable presence in the recruitment sector with its Search for Jobs and Cloud Talent Solutions. Although it recently announced the decision to close its applicant tracking system for G Suite – Hire, that doesn’t mean Google has lost interest in the recruiting sector.

With the addition of the Byteboard assessment tools, Google is adding to its recruiting/TA portfolio, but at this stage this is very much a niche product and isn’t likely to have a major impact on the sector as a whole.

While Google is serious about targeting the sector, Byteboard emerged from an internal project at Google’s Area 120 – their workshop for experimental projects. Hiring Software Engineers is something that Google knows a lot about and it knows the problems – for hiring companies and candidates – inside out.

It makes sense for Google to get involved in assessments for Software Engineers, but whether this process is transferrable to other areas is anyone’s guess. There’s no doubt that Google has the financial and marketing muscle to push into the wider assessment market, but that would depend on the success of Byteboard and frankly, how much Google reckons it could make.

Google has made an impression in the recruitment sector, but perhaps not as much as some imagine. Search for Jobs is showcasing jobs from job boards and agency sites as well as directly from employer career sites. Many of the clients for Cloud Talent solutions are job boards, and Google Hire had the obvious limitation that it only worked with G Suite. Byteboard is very much a niche product for now, but one worth keeping an eye on.

If I was on the in house hiring team at a growing tech company looking for Software Engineers, I’d be getting in touch with Byteboard right now. If I was working in technical recruiting at an agency right now, I don’t think I’d be too concerned just yet.

But if I was working for a company that provided assessment services for Software Engineers, I might be tempted to head over to LinkedIn and adjust that ‘open to opportunities’ setting


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