A Q&A With Target: Hiring For An Engineering Mindset

Alicia Henderson, a Director of Technology at Target and Megan Grimm, a Director of Talent Acquisition at Target, discuss how to support unique and diverse talent pathways into technology. This Q&A is a preview of what Alicia and Megan will discuss at TechTalent 2021 on March 4, 2021.


Q: Let’s start with technology at Target. Can you share a little about Target’s technology team and approach?

A: Every time a guest enters a Target store or clicks on our website, they’re experiencing the impact of Target’s investments in technology and innovation. Our technology team is comprised of over 4,000 of the brightest minds in engineering, data science, and cybersecurity committed to making Target America’s easiest, safest, and most joyful place to shop.

We employ a DevOps mentality and leverage open source software to adapt and develop best-in-class technology. We build an infrastructure using advanced technologies to create differentiated retail experiences – and we do so with a focus on diversity and inclusion, experimentation, continuous learning, and open source contributions. 


Q:You mentioned “the brightest minds” – tell us more about what Target looks for when hiring entry-level technologists?

A: There is no one size fits all approach to hiring entry level technology talent. A successful foundation in technology can come in many forms and from different places, so we look holistically at a candidate’s familiarity with and education in technology fundamentals. We also seek out a deep passion for learning and collaboration so that new hires contribute and add to Target’s continuous learning and inclusive culture.


Q: How has Target recalibrated its interview and hiring practices to support unique talent pathways?

A: We start at the very beginning, before the interview process begins, to understand the situation and needs of each candidate. We risk losing out if we don’t meet talent where they are in their professional journey. For example, have they ever done a technical interview before? If not, how can we help prepare them for what to expect?

Following a technical screen, we explore a candidate’s curiosity and desire to learn as well as their inclination to collaborate and problem solve with others. We adapt our expectation of answers based on what we know about a candidate’s experience leading up to the interview process. Examples of topics we dive into include proudest technology accomplishment and learnings from a previous project’s roadblocks or miscommunication.


Q: How does Target seek out and retain a diverse technology team?

A: You will hear our CIO Mike McNamara at TechTalent 2021 speak to culture and how incredibly important it is that Target reflects all of the guests and communities we serve. Dimensions of difference help uncover areas for improvement and make our business better.

Our technology team partners with organizations including HackBright and Dream Corps, and institutions like Metro State, to expand our local hiring sources. We also run our own internal development programs, such as our Emerging Engineering Program (EEP) – one year of customized support for entry-level talent with less traditional education experience – and the Engineering Manager Immersion Program (eMIP) – one year of on-the-job leadership training for underrepresented talent in management roles.


Q: Can you share some learnings from these programs?

A: EEP and eMIP are the results of several years learning from and partnering with technology team members – we needed additive opportunities for camaraderie, on-the-job experiences, and classroom training. EEP and eMIP are cohort-style programs for groups of talent to learn and develop together, deepening Target’s diverse and inclusive culture. With the Emerging Engineering Program specifically, many participants are individuals from less traditional educational backgrounds and underrepresented groups of technology talent.

Our first (virtual) EEP cohort of 20 engineers will conclude in April. We heard rave reviews from participants and mentors alike, and have hired another class of 27 emerging engineers that began in January. While we certainly hope all these team members stay with Target for a very long time, this type of program is for the benefit of the future tech workforce at large.


Learn more & register for TechTalent 2021!