We’re building out our engineering team here at incident.io HQ and one of the things candidates usually ask very early on is what to expect from the process. This is understandable, given they vary hugely from company to company.
In our case, the process isn’t even a secret and you shouldn’t have to apply to find out what it is. If you're considering applying to join the team, or you're in the process already and wondering what comes next, this post is for you!
The process itself is pretty simple:
In this post, I'll go over each interview and explain why we do it, who you’ll speak to and how it works. I'll also share some tips on how best to prepare.
We iterate on all our interviews in response to how effective the team feel they are and the feedback we receive from candidates afterwards — this is a snapshot as of February 2022.
This is primarily a chance to say hello, get to know each other, and discuss any initial questions you might have about the product, team or interview process itself. It’s also a chance to discuss expectations around timelines, location, visas and salary up front.
This call will be with one of the founding team, and for engineering roles, that's usually me. We also partner with a small number of carefully chosen agencies, so it’s possible that if they've reached out to you on our behalf, you may also have a quick call with them first.
This interview is 20 - 30 minutes long, and done remotely over a Zoom call.
Think about whether you want to work at a small, fast-growing startup . If you’re not sure, what questions could you ask us that would help you make that decision? We care a lot about making this a fantastic place to work, but there’s a lot of ambiguity, the company will change frequently and we move very fast. It’s not for everyone!
If you want to learn more about us and the role before we chat, make sure you’ve re-read the job description. If you have time, other things to explore include our blog posts, changelog, roadmap, documentation, Slack community and of course, the product itself! Is this a team you’d want to be a part of, and a product you’d be excited to build?
If all goes well, we’re going to spend a lot of time working together!
While we (obviously) care about your ability to solve problems, write code and design more complex systems, we think companies often focus far too hard on these topics at the expense of discussing everything else that goes into being a great product engineer, and part of a high performing team.
This interview is another “get to know you” style conversation and we like to do it early. It’s a chance for us to learn more about the way you think and how you like to design, build and ship products (and vice-versa).
This interview is often with either the CTO (me) or CPO (Chris) and we’re usually joined by someone from the engineering team.
This interview is 1 hour long, and is done remotely over a Zoom call.
We’d much rather have a great conversation than test your on-the-spot recall, so we send you the questions we’ll ask in advance. If you’re already wondering what they might be, why wait. Here they are, exactly as we ask them:
A lot has been written on the various approaches to interviewing engineers using “coding challenges” in one form or another. I’ve used or been through many of them before myself, examples include:
There are probably many more, and some companies may even choose not to do anything at all. I think it’s fair to say that whichever approach you take, they all come with tradeoffs.
At incident.io, we’re a very small team early in our journey. We work collaboratively, under tight (self-imposed) constraints, perhaps with code we haven’t touched before (or at least haven’t touched in a while). We have an interview which we feel tests for that, amongst other things.
This interview will usually be with two members of the engineering team (often myself and one other).
This interview is 1 hour long, and usually done remotely over a Zoom call.
We’ve designed this interview to be representative of the kind of work we do here. We’ve taken a very small self-contained utility we wrote for ourselves to solve an actual, real world problem, added a test suite, then removed two features and introduced a bug which breaks the tests. We’ll ask you to get the tests passing again and implement one of the two features.
The interview will go something like this:
We spend a lot of time writing code to solve problems, but the work often starts way before then. As a team, a lot of what we do is working together to think through how we’d build a new feature or product in the first place.
This interview is designed to replicate a discussion where we talk through a potential product idea, think through the technical implications and design the system we’d have to build to power it.
This is also a chance to discuss a lot of very interesting problems you encounter when building applications for the web. If you haven’t done a lot of work with web applications and distributed systems, you might find this slightly harder than some of the other interviews, but don’t worry, we’ll guide you through it!
Similar to the coding challenge, this interview will usually be with two members of the engineering team.
This interview is 1 hour long, and usually done on-site in our office.
It will go a little like this:
We've already covered a lot of what we're looking for in the interview process by this point, but it’s all been quite focussed on product and engineering.
There’s a lot more to the team we're building here at incident.io and this is a chance to have more of a two way conversation, to dig into whether this is somewhere you'd really love to work.
Up until this point, you’ll have met a small number of the incident.io team, most of them either founders or engineers. However, we have all sorts of amazing people you’ll get to work with if you come here. This is your chance to meet some more of them!
You'll likely be speaking with two people you’ve not met already, often the founders and/or someone from operations, customer success or sales.
We have a few questions and topics we’d like to cover and we’ll use those as a guide, but we’re expecting you to come with questions of your own, so don’t hold back. This interview is a great chance for you to ask us about the things that matter to you.
A few topics we might cover include:
As with any startup, our success is going to be built on hiring great people.
Interviews are clearly a key part of that, so we care deeply about our process and we spend a lot of time on it. It's also important that interviews work both ways, and there's time for candidates to evaluate us. We know our process isn't perfect at either (and probably never will be) but it's working for us, and we'll keep iterating!
Our hope is that by sharing this kind of information openly, we can demystify the process and make it a little more accessible to the people we want to hire.
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Image credit: Sigmund