The hiring process should be thought of as a funnel with multiple stages. The higher up the funnel, the cheaper the stage is for your company.
Companies might have different sets of stages but the cost factor still increases as you move down the funnel. At any point, the cost of a candidate dropping out of the funnel prior to joining the team will be more expensive as they move downward.
The technical screen is the most critical stage of the interview process when hiring a software engineer because it’s the stage that will filter out the most candidates — saving your company from investing more in the costlier phases when it doesn’t make sense.
The hiring process will fill the top of the funnel with a lot of people who look great on paper, are excited about the role and can probably talk about the technical skills in a convincing way. But the technical screen will be the first time their skills are pressure tested, so this will likely be the biggest drop-off point in your recruiting funnel.
Technical screens are so important because this phase is the gatekeeper to the most expensive phase — the onsite interview. Misreading their skills at this point can cost a lot of time and energy for your team as well as the candidate.
This is the first time you’re spending an hour of an interviewing engineer’s time and asking the candidate to do the same. The technical screen is where the rubber meets the road and their skills are tested beyond just what their resume says and what they can talk about on the phone.
The technical screen is typically done remotely because the commitment between company and candidate is still pretty casual. The interview really goes both ways; you want to make sure they're a good fit for the role and they're still validating whether or not they'd actually like to be on your team.
The subtlety of this means that this session needs to be part sales and part assessment. Can they do the job? If so, can you keep them excited about the opportunity? The assessment itself will speak volumes about you as an employer and the things you value. Make sure this time spent reflects your company adequately.