Triplebyte, a startup that helps other startups find engineers, went through the elite startup bootcamp Y Combinator in the winter of 2015. To its founder, Harjeet Taggar--who goes by Harj--it all seemed quite familiar.

That's because he'd not only gone through Y Combinator in the past (this was back in 2007, with the company Auctomatic, which made ecommerce software), he also became a partner in the organization, helping advise smaller startups, in 2010. It's a little of the professor becoming the undergrad--but for Taggar, he said joining the incubator for three months "was a really great forcing function" for buckling down and getting their idea ready to launch.  He and his co-founders decided they'd abandon everything else in their lives for those three months, and work exclusively on Triplebyte.

 inline image

The experience also provided all of Triplebyte's first clients. While today Taggar's company works with more than 100 companies--including the likes of Airbnb, Dropbox, and Uber--the majority of its clients are still Y Combinator companies. (Hey, it worked for Stripe, which initially became known as "Y Combinator's payment company.")

Here's how Triplebyte works: It simplifies tech-talent hiring for companies by doing the initial screening of candidates. It gives them skill exams. And then it matches the best candidates with your company. You could think of it as OK Cupid for engineering talent.

But screening for talent isn't so simple. After interviewing more than 1,000 skilled tech workers, mostly developers, Triplebyte has discovered something interesting: There's not a simple spectrum of tech talent, from, say, a person who barely comprehends Javascript, to a senior, full-stack developer.

"We thought this would work like, there's a spectrum of being 'not very skilled' versus 'exceptional'--and our job would be to decide where do we draw the line on 'great,'" Taggar said.

Instead, Taggar and his colleagues found that "we could have the same engineer go to four different companies. Two will think they are the best engineer on the planet; two will find them underwhelming." 

Given this, Taggar says Triplebyte has learned to match technical candidates with companies based not on a talent spectrum--but rather on a complex matrix of qualities they possess.

Are you thinking personality? Nope, that's not it.

"No, we don't screen for culture fit or personality. These are incredibly personal things--they are so important to companies and specific," Taggar says. "We are just experts in figuring out someone's technical ability."

Triplebyte mapped what it has called "the engineer genome." It determined that there are seven criteria that comprise the "engineer genome," and that every company cares about each of the criteria. (Although, of course, some care more about certain criteria than others.) Triplebyte tracked data from the more than 1,000 interviews with engineers it has conducted, plus data from the subsequent interviews at tech companies they completed.

Taggar shared some of his research-results exclusively with that reveals what some of Triplebyte's clients are looking for in new recruits:

The self-driving car startup, which was recently acquired by General Motors for $1 billion, tends to care heavily about what Triplebyte has dubbed "Applied Problem Solving" in relation to more software specific criteria such as code quality, or architecture skill. This means that if you're an engineer whose strength is raw problem solving (rather than building actual software), Cruise might be a strong match.

The cloud-storage company values most highly the traits Triplebyte has put under its categories of "Architecture Skill" and "Algorithmic Knowledge." You'll be a stronger match with Dropbox if your strengths are in computer science and software-problem-solving specifically, rather than general problem solving.

The company formerly known as ZenPayroll is a recent entrant to the Unicorn club. And Triplebyte has found that it weighs the criteria "Low-Level Systems Understanding" less than the average of other companies and more heavily weighs "Technical Communication." The company's interview process, according to Triplebyte, is very practical. It allows candidates to use their own laptops to build actual features, "rather than probing into their understanding of how a computer works," Taggar says.

Stripe (and similar infrastructure companies)
?Triplebyte found that its criteria are reflective of the products companies are building. For example, two of its categories, "Technical Communication" and "Architecture Skill" are both found in more precise, detail-oriented thinkers.  These types of engineers tend to move more slowly through solving problems, especially during technical interviews (and particularly compared to engineers whose strengths are "Applied Problem Solving"), but they make fewer mistakes, according to Triplebyte. Taggar says: "We've found infrastructure companies in particular  favor these kinds of engineers. Which makes sense when you're moving billions of dollars across the Internet, versus. building a photo-sharing app."