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How We Screen Job Applicants for the Top 3% of Tech Talent: A Case Study

Two exceptional technology experts were recruited and hired despite nontraditional backgrounds. Learn how our hiring process makes that possible.

When you’re searching for software engineers or other tech people to join your team, you probably start by scanning resumes for relevant skills and work experience. That’s an important step, but it’s not enough to ensure that you find the best candidates for the job. 

Unfortunately, many staffing services will send you a stack of resumes without digging deeper into the applicants’ abilities and skill sets.  

This is a case study about two people with non-traditional backgrounds who launched new technology careers thanks to performance-based screening.

At Emergent Staffing, we have a rigorous vetting process. Candidates are first evaluated based on their resume, job application, and relevant work history. The chosen applicants then take an online assessment including a personality test, cognitive testing, a knowledge evaluation, and a coding challenge if applicable.

Those who pass the assessment are screened through interviews that evaluate communication skills, relatability, and applicable knowledge. Finally, all candidates complete a robust, role-based technical challenge and present their solution to our technology leadership team. Only the most impressive candidates make it through this process and are submitted for review to the client company.

Why does our unique vetting process matter? Because the most talented people in the industry aren’t always the ones with the best bullet points on their resume. Just take the two Emergent Software employees below.


From Professional Poker Player to Software Engineer

Jason Paff’s path to becoming a developer started when he was working as an assistant manager at a Party City store. He wasn’t happy with his retail career, but there was one thing that he had enjoyed since the early 2000’s: online poker. He did the math and realized he could make more money as a full-time professional poker player than at his current job.

As a poker player, Jason was all about the stats. He was playing thousands of tournaments per year and keeping track of the games across multiple complicated spreadsheets. He looked into tracking software, but none of it had all of the features he wanted. So he decided to make his own. “How hard could it be?” he thought.

It was very hard.

Jason worked on his full-featured results tracking app, Tournament Life, for two years, putting in 8-hour days on the software and then playing poker in the evening. After releasing it, he shared it on his stream on the Global Poker website. 

Man Playing Poker With Laptop Nearby

Deciding to pursue a tech career

One day a software engineer showed up on Jason’s livestream. He looked at Tournament Life and asked Jason questions about the code and how he made it. He was impressed and told Jason that he should pursue being a software engineer.

Jason looked into bootcamps that would help him learn the necessary skills to get hired. Three weeks later, he won a poker tournament that gave him the funds for the bootcamp and he took it as a sign that it was time to make the leap.

Acing the Emergent Staffing assessment and challenge

Jason was determined to get a job where he would be doing interesting work on a variety of projects, but he was concerned that his untraditional resume might be overlooked at tech companies. Fortunately, his excellent performance on Emergent’s online assessment (including culture fit, cognitive tests, and a short challenge) won him a phone screen, despite his unusual resume and background. He was selected to move on to the coding challenge. He aced that as well, which led to a technical interview where he impressed the director of software development and senior software architect.

He was offered a job at Emergent Software.

Excelling at his new role as a software engineer

Jason may not have been a traditional software development candidate, but he has excelled in his first year on the job. His boss, Vice President of Operations Chris Lefstad, says:

“Jason has an insatiable hunger for knowledge, an amazing drive to deliver for his teammates, and a desire to master the craft of software development in quick order. He quickly became a key asset to his project team after joining Emergent and continues to impress both peers and clients today. He’s been a great addition to the team.”

From Museum interpreter to QA analyst


Sarajane Cedrone has bachelor’s degrees in creative writing and history and a master’s degree in public history. She didn’t expect to end up in a technical role – in fact, she had only ever taken one computer science course. Her education led her to work in the museum field, starting with small house museums and culminating in her dream job at an art museum.

Sarajane was passionate about the work and found it rewarding. But working in visitor services, she had to be at the museum on weekends and nights and it was hard to achieve a work good work/life balance.

The things Sarajane had always liked best about her job were helping people and solving problems. Although she didn’t have a tech background, she enjoyed managing the museum’s website. She was interested in finding a career that reflected those interests and skills. 

She decided to apply for a job at Emergent Software based on the recommendation of a friend.

Woman Sitting In Art Museum

Outshining the competition on the QA challenge

Sarajane scored high on Emergent’s analyst assessment, including culture fit and cognitive tests. She knew that she would have to pass a technical interview and a QA challenge, so she spent a few weeks preparing by browsing Codeacademy and YouTube to learn everything she could.

She ended up finding more defects in the QA challenge than any of the other 100+ people who have taken the test. She got the job.

Excelling in her new role as a QA analyst

In her first six months at Emergent Software, Sarajane has continued to impress.

Project Manager Megan Stilley says:

"Sarajane was able to jump right in and help us tackle our QA queue, she gets along well with the team and has been a fantastic communicator! She’s been a big help and I look forward to working with her on future projects."

Fill your team with top tech talent

At Emergent Staffing, we use our unmatched vetting process to ensure that we only hire the top 3% of tech talent. 

We can work with you to find the most skilled people in the industry to join your company as direct hires or short-term contractors. People like Jason and Sarajane, who may or may not have a traditional tech background, will definitely be an asset to your team.