Hamtips, or why I still run the Technical Phone Screen as the Hiring Manager

By Alexey Komissarouk | Published: October 6, 2021; Last updated: May 1, 2023

Hey, Aline (founder of interviewing.io) here. This is the fourth post in our Guest Author series.

In this post, our Guest Author, Alexey Komissarouk, talks about how advantageous it is to have hiring managers (rather than individual members of the team) conduct the first technical screen, effectively combining the technical interview and the hiring manager sell call. At interviewing.io, where the first interaction an engineering candidate will have with a company is always with another engineer (and often with a hiring manager), we’re strong advocates of this approach. Why? Because selling matters at every stage of the process — in this market, interviews aren’t just for vetting anymore — and hiring managers can sell in a way that a peer cannot. And because hiring managers are going to be among the best-calibrated interviewers, which means that they’ll save the rest of the team time downstream.

Author avatar
Alexey Komissarouk

Alexey Komissarouk is a growth engineering leader. He is currently Head of Growth Engineering at MasterClass. Before that, he spent 2016-2020 at Opendoor, first as an early engineer, then as an Engineering Manager. Between 2013 and 2016, he built out a product engineering consulting company, helping clients such as Dropbox, Pebble, Boomerang, and Binti grow and expand lines of business through a combination of product management and engineering. In his other lives, Alexey co-founded a boutique work+travel company, Hacker Paradise. Since the company’s inception in 2015, they’ve run trips to over a dozen locations and been joined by more than 800 alumni.

Caveat: Yes, yes, almost everything about the interviewing / recruiting process is broken. Sometimes though, you just have to play the hand you’re dealt and settle for minor improvements.

The 75-minute HMTPS is my proposed minor improvement.

Cartoon: where do you see yourself in five years?

Hat tip to The Oatmeal

What is the HMTPS?

It stands for “Hiring Manager Technical Phone Screen.” Since you asked, I’ve been pronouncing it “ham-tips.” It’s the call a candidate will have after their RPS (Recruiter Phone Screen), but before their onsite.

This combines two calls: the Technical Phone Screen (TPS), which is a coding exercise that usually happens before the onsite, and the HMS call, which is a call with the Hiring Manager (your would-be manager) that can be done before an onsite, or after, or not at all.

Instead of leaving the HMS call to languish, I combine them into one – the HMTPS. It takes 75 minutes.

Why combine the two interviews?

An ideal interview loop has as few steps as possible, and gets to a decision ASAP. By combining these two steps you shorten the intro-to-offer by ~1 week and reduce candidate dropoff by 5-10%.

It’s also a lot less work for recruiters playing scheduling battleship.1

Finally, Hiring Managers will, on average, be better at selling working at the company – it’s kind of their job.

Why 75 minutes?

We’re combining a 30-minute call and a 60-minute call, and combining the 15-minute Q&A at the end of each into one, like so:

Chart: Consolidating pre-onsite interviews to improve hiring velocity

I’m also more comfortable shortening the ~50 minute technical question into 30 minutes because (a) I’m pretty calibrated on my question, having run it 200+ times at this point, and so can get most of the signal I’m looking for within the first 30 minutes.

I’ve tried doing this call in 60 minutes and it ends up feeling pretty rushed; not to say somebody else couldn’t pull that off, but I’ve appreciated the bit of space. Also, since most candidates don’t schedule in 15-minute increments, we can always go a little long (up to the 90 minute mark) if we need to.

Why is this good for the hiring manager?

First, it’s easier to schedule (usually towards the end of the day). Second, it usually gives me enough time with the candidate so that I end up being pretty confident about how they’ll do both at the job and on the onsite. I haven’t quantified this yet, but anecdotally I have been surprised by onsite interviewer feedback much more rarely when I do this.

Why is this good for the candidate?

It’s one fewer hoop to jump through. Also, whether or not they get along with me as their future manager – both technically and interpersonally – can, and should, be a pretty strong determinant as to whether they should continue with the process. This gives a more accurate and realistic signal, since we are both coding together and talking about work.

When is this a bad idea?

This makes the Hiring Manager a bit of a bottleneck in interviewing; once a company gets to the point where you are interviewing for titles like “Senior Software Engineer, Team TBD” you have to round robin TPS-es to the rest of your Phone Screen Team.

Also, as the HM I likely have some unreasonable biases (Golang engineers, I’m looking at you), and making me the bottleneck in interviewing exacerbates those. That said, the HM’s bias is going to be applied sooner or later in the interview process, and my take is that between the more effective selling and the time savings (both for the HMTPS and downstream), the benefits outlined are worth it.



  1. Tuesday at 4? You sunk my Grooming Session!"

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