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The Ultimate Guide to onboarding Software Engineers

Candidate experience doesn’t stop at signing the contract.

It’s Monday. You’re back at work after a nice weekend, feeling excited as the new engineer is joining your team today! She arrives, gets her laptop and first coffee, you have a nice chat about the weekend, then the question hits you: “So, what’s my first task?”. You don’t really have an answer to this – it’ll take time for her to be able to actually deliver tasks, there’s so much to learn for that, the stack, coding standards, that quirky legacy codebase, the flaky tests, the deployment system, how you do code reviews, wait, then there’s the release train, too… sigh! It’s fine, you think, she’ll figure it out, right? Right? “Well, wait for the engineers to arrive and they’ll figure something out” – you answer, then you excuse yourself, a meeting is starting in 5 minutes and you need to be there.

A week passes and you have your first check-in with her. She seems… nervous and confused. She doesn’t feel she’s learned much and she feels very insecure. She must be unfit for the role, eventually, as she clearly should be delivering tickets by this time, right? It’s only a matter of time to get fired in the probation period. These are some of the thoughts going through her mind. Or, if she’s experienced, she might think “What a crap place. It was a mistake signing that contract. Well at least I can leave within 2 weeks”.

If you’re in a bigger or more mature company, there’s a good chance HR figured out at least some of the onboarding. They typically enroll new hires in a training program or orientation to help them get acquainted with the company, its departments, policies, and the basic outline of the position. As important as it is, this doesn’t include engineering onboarding, team-level rules of the game, architecture, coding standards, etc. – that needs to happen within the function.

As an engineering manager, I had messed this up more times than I’m comfortable admitting. I didn’t provide a structure, subject matter, and mental support to new joiners which resulted in a very bumpy ride for some of them. There was one engineer leaving clearly because of this.

Even companies that solved the hiring side of “hypergrowth” get bitten by the lack of proper onboarding.

Candidate experience doesn’t stop at signing the contract.

Full Article: Csaba Okrona
Mar 24, 2022