Interac’s CTO on how to hire for technical roles

Jeff Henderson says a good hiring process should be frictionless, considerate, and consistent.

Even amidst ongoing threats of a recession, many Canadian tech companies are still hiring. One of them is Interac, the organization that processes over six billion transactions per year for Canadians between debit, Interac e-Transfers, and other digital payment solutions.

“I like to keep my interviews very conversational,” said Henderson. “I want to get to know the individual.”

Simply having open roles and a well-known brand is not enough to attract the right technical talent, however. It’s a challenge Jeff Henderson, CTO of Interac, thinks deeply about as the company looks to fill multiple roles in 2023. Speaking with BetaKit, Henderson explained how he approaches technical hiring from a process perspective and his advice for other CTOs or heads of talent looking to recruit.

Smoother process, better results

Henderson said Interac’s approach to recruiting is dynamic from the start: talent acquisition works as a single team across the whole organization, collaborating cross-functionally to ensure talent needs are met. He also said the talent acquisition team works to ensure the company’s recruiting process accomplishes three goals: to be as frictionless as possible, to be considerate of the candidates, and to be consistent with the types of candidates Interac wants to attract.

One of the challenges in the recruiting process is figuring out how many interviews is the right number. Over time, Henderson said Interac found its “sweet spot” of three to five interviews depending on role needs and seniority. In this highly competitive landscape, Interac’s talent acquisition team has accelerated its process so the candidate journey for a successful candidate to offer is about 10 days.

“Too few means you’re adding risk that you’re not going to properly assess the fit of the individual,” said Henderson. “And too many can be a waste of the candidate’s time as well.”

Henderson added that being considerate of candidates is about showing them they are valued throughout the process. While he said executing on this can be a bit “intangible.” One example Henderson provided was ensuring interviews don’t get rescheduled.

“If your interviews constantly get moved around, you start to question, ‘how committed is the organization? How much of a priority am I really to it?’ Henderson said.

Consistently attracting the right type of candidates requires both diversity and candidate-company fit: Henderson said Interac is committed to diversity and that its HR team works to ensure its talent pools are diverse. This comes both through building inclusive talent funnels and partnering with community organizations to widen its reach.

When it comes to candidate-company fit, Henderson added that he wants to ensure candidates can assess Interac as much as Interac is assessing them. One way Interac works to achieve this is through social media, where the company shares personal vignettes of Interac team members, showcasing both what they do and who they are outside of work. Henderson noted that he likes this approach in general, but also has a personal connection to it: before he took on the CTO role, he was looking at Interac’s social media and read a vignette of a senior technical leader in the company he’s since had the chance to work with.

“It gave me a really good comfort level that, if this is the kind of individual that loves working here and I can relate to that individual, that’s a big step in getting a good comfort,” Henderson said.

Note to CTOs: Technical hires aren’t different

As in all technical hiring, Henderson and the HR team need to assess technical talent. At Interac, there are a few different approaches. For some roles (like development), the first step may include having the candidate send in sample work that is assessed by the Interac technical team. In other technical roles, candidates are given a scenario and need to come up with a technical proposal to solve it. After the assessments, candidates attend a live interview where Interac’s technical leaders ask the candidate about their thought process during the assessment and run through technical problem-solving questions.

After this first stage, a second interview looks at a candidate’s whole resume, basket of experience, and motivations for wanting to join Interac. If the candidate passes these stages, they are invited to take a Birkman Assessment to identify their work personalities.

Despite these steps, Henderson advised anyone recruiting for tech roles to not treat technical hires differently from other employees, noting that all hires need to fit into the culture of the company.

“That can be a mistake because whether you’re recruiting for a technical role or a non-technical role, when you’re recruiting somebody for full-time, you can’t relax—or I guess underestimate—the importance of cultural fit,” said Henderson.

For Interac, culture fit includes understanding the company’s values such as integrity, accountability, and collaboration. But it also means understanding the company’s position as an essential service provider to Canada’s financial ecosystem, a situation that will have its own excitement and pressures.

Valuing culture fit is why candidates who interview with Henderson will find he doesn’t ask only about technical competency. Instead, he also asks questions that reveal whether you would thrive in Interac’s culture.

In particular, he likes to ask what people liked and didn’t like in their previous roles, what they liked or didn’t like about previous work cultures, and what they value in a job or from an employer. These questions, said Henderson, help him understand how someone might fit and contribute overall to Interac as an organization rather than simply assessing if they have good technical skills.

“I like to keep my interviews very conversational,” said Henderson. “I want to get to know the individual.”

Interac is looking to grow and hire more in the near future. But even a robust assessment process doesn’t solve any potential talent shortages. Henderson said in particular there is a smaller pool of cybersecurity talent, which can be challenging. That said, he sees an opportunity for Canada, noting that this talent gap can be filled with skilled workers with work experience from outside of Canada, provided the government can address its own backlog issues and process visa and residency applications.

“It’s a critical area for Canada to make sure that we have that talent pool in [cybersecurity] that anticipates industry complexities,” said Henderson. “And it’s an opportunity for Canada to be a leader in cybersecurity around the world.”

Interac has a number of roles available, learn more about how you can apply today!

Feature image courtesy of Unsplash.

Stefan Palios

Stefan Palios

Stefan is a Nova Scotia-based entrepreneur and writer passionate about the people behind tech. He's interviewed over 200 entrepreneurs on topics like management, scaling, diversity and inclusion, and sharing their personal stories. Follow him on Twitter @stefanpalios.

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