What Interview experiences in Tech could look like
Everybody talks about the harrowing experience job-searching can be. For some, there are more rejections than others but the common ground is, that breakfast, rejection, na everybody go chop am. Why we are talking about it is that, though we had rejections, I personally had more than I’m willing to recall and I in fact still get rejection emails from jobs I applied to a year ago, we also have pretty good stories to tell. A line from my favourite band (AJR) is “A 100 bad days make a 100 good stories, and a 100 good stories make me interesting at parties” and that’s the approach all of us at Techbabble chose to handle our job-search experience. We strongly believe that if more people borrowed that approach, the candidacy experience might altogether become slightly enjoyable - more like a game if you will. [insert new challenge - how many rejections can I get this week from (e.g. fintech companies) - obviously while putting in very very good cover letters]. What we want to do with the next few articles is walk you through our experience as candidates and hopefully help you come away with a few things to get you where you need to be. Enjoy!
Deborah - As a Software Engineer with a Silicon Valley Startup, I want to say I went through the rigorous data structures and algorithm questions and coding interviews, and had to go through months of Leetcode practice, but I didn't. I for sure can say that I was lucky to not have to deal with those tests and leetcodes that I’m yet to find my way around. My first interaction with my current company was a simple email to tell them I liked them, I liked the company and what they stood for, I had some exposure to what they did, the tools they used, not a lot of experience but I was a fast learner and was learning everything I needed to excel at the job. It took three interviews with a top executive, the Head of Software & a senior engineer; in that exact order. The first & last didn’t seem like interviews, the top executive wanted to know my motivation so he asked some background questions about how I've dealt with the time difference in my previous remote role (Company was based in PST, I was in WAT). It lasted 8 minutes (yes I paid attention to every minute). The last one was with a cheerful engineer who told me about the culture, and everything they did. It lasted 30 minutes and I think he did most of the talking. My main interview (the one with my current manager) was an interesting one. We had a chat about my skills, my journey through learning how to code, in the process I learnt he was self-taught as well and that was a great common ground. We chatted about bugs, and regular software engineer babbles. All I remember from that interview was that we had a good laugh. One month later, I had an offer to intern with them and six months after my internship, I joined them!. After working for a bit, I was able to ask my manager why he hired me and he said “I really was just looking for someone excited and willing to learn and you did very fine. I had no worries”.
Daniel - What I remember most about my current job is that after every interview, I was looking forward to the next. I had four interview rounds and might not have minded another four. And most memorably, my last interview ended with me getting an invite to join the team in Portugal two weeks later - even without having received an offer! When I started interviewing for this role, I was a bit sceptical about the company - who they were and what they did. I’ve since found out that nearly everyone that I currently work with felt the same way too. The job posting also required a cleverly written cover letter. The prompt asked specifically that you paint a full picture of who you are and somehow seamlessly fit a random word into the cover letter. I was excited by that challenge and wrote my cover letter 5 or 6 times before I had one that I considered good enough. It should not be hard to see why I was excited to interview for a company that displayed such non-conventional spirit as a first impression. You know the phrase, bring your whole self to work? Well, it was bring your whole self to interview day and even though I did a bit of problem solving and answered some situational questions, I had a feeling that my interviewers were largely fishing for a sense of who I was and what I stood for. And once they were convinced I’d be a cultural fit, I could have the job - everything else be damned.
Ultimately I think the hiring process is very dependent on who’s hiring, especially with less structured companies like startups. But one key thing that stands out is that these companies look for more than technical abilities when hiring, especially for advanced roles in startups. You can get the job done, but you have to get along with the small team. Yes, you can get the job done, are you excited to learn new things with new people doing new things? Are you excited to write a clever letter or approach your candidacy in a different way from others? The truth is these little things tell more about you than you might realise. Gone are the days of needing a reference to confirm or deny that you can work in a team or that you’re a top performer. Now, your potential employer can see, plain as day, whether or not you’re the things you say you are. And in that light, the obvious first approach to candidacy is taking steps to become the best and most interesting version of you. It’s that person that ultimately sells you as a candidate! So read that book, start that course, go on that adventure, and maybe you might spend your own interview casually chatting about tennis like I did! Or not! I’m not your employer, dfkm :D.
In our next letter to you, Samuel and Deji will walk you through their experiences as FAANG/MANGA (whatever it's called these days) candidates, and now employees.