loading...
Cover image for Interviews and Infants

Interviews and Infants

coffeecraftcode profile image Christina Gorton Updated on ・5 min read

We all love to share our wins. It's a lot harder to share our failures. Behind every success there are often a lot of slammed doors that proceeded it. I'm writing this to help me process what I recently went through and maybe encourage others who are on the job hunt.

This thread on Twitter spurred me to write this.

Last year I accepted a contract job 2 days before I found out I was pregnant with our 4th kid. It was a great job and paid well but I was completely freaked out when I found out because I just gave up a job that was a little more secure and had benefits.

I let my new employer know pretty early on that I was pregnant and talked about what would happen when I was due. Knowing it was a contract job I figured they would let me go before I had my daughter.

They actually assured me over and over that I could take a little time off and come back and work.

Fast forward two weeks after I had my daughter. I wrote to let them know I was ready to come back. They didn't respond. I was kicked off their team slack and company email. A day later I emailed my manager from my personal email and only then I was told they no longer needed me to work for them.
Cue pitty party

Actually I didn't have time for that. My family and I had recently moved to Costa Rica and I just had our 4th kid. We couldn't afford for me to have a pitty party. (Though I totally cried because ... post-partem hormones are rough.)
Luckily I spent the last 3 years building a network on Twitter. I put out a tweet looking for new opportunities.

Found out while on maternity leave that I no longer have a job.

So, looking for new opportunities. Remote work preferred. I have 2 years of remote front-end experience. HTML, CSS, SVG, GreenSock, JavaScript, and Vue. Always willing to learn new things. RT's appreciated.

— Christina Gorton (@coffeecraftcode ) February 26, 2019

I was suddenly flooded with a lot of opportunities. And really appreciated it.

At that point I started writing my resume and cover letters for each position I was interested in.

I probably should have vetted the jobs a little better. Applying for, interviewing with, and hearing "we are going with another candidate" over and over is exhausting.

There were several interviews where I had to hold my newborn ( probably vetted out a lot of companies that way ).

While I did talk to a lot of great companies I started to see a pattern with many of them.

Get to know you

This was probably my least favorite part of the process. Even more than the code challenges.
Probably because I was pretty sleep deprived and trying to keep it all together while caring for a newborn and three other children.
It honestly just seemed like a big waste of time. After spending a good amount of time on my resume and cover letter, plus providing links to all of the places a company could learn more about me, I still had to set up these 10 to 15 minute initial interviews. Where they usually asked me the same things I already said in my cover letter. This is when I was usually holding a sleeping baby and I am sure the first impression I gave a lot of these companies wasn't so great. (Was totally holding my baby when I interviewed with current employer and they were cool with it, thanks y'all)

But I think the same could be said for the companies interviewing me. When I had to repeat all of the things I had already written in whatever application I filled out and/or my cover letter to a company that already didn't seem super interested I was usually happy to end the call quickly.

Ghosting or hitting the friend zone

The other really negative aspect was talking to companies who seemed really interested in you, and some that even made it seem like you were likely to get an offer only to ghost you.

When talking about it with my sister-in-law recently we compared it to a prospective love interest. The person (prospective employer) keeps you hanging on with hope that they will commit until one day you get a text (email) saying they just want to be friends("we are going with another candidate but will keep you on file")

That's if you get an email at all.

And then you go through a little heartache period. Like you have just been dumped. It might sound ridiculous but it's true. You put a lot of work in to the whole process and in the end you are left with nothing. So how do you keep going on?

That's definitely something I kept asking myself.

Keeping it together when everything is falling apart.

I did keep trying to find the positives while I was interviewing.

Some Positives

I learned a lot about myself.
I learned what skills I still needed to develop to be a better candidate.
I realized after a few interviews that teaching was a direction I wanted to go (and ultimately ended up at).
And I also learned what kinds of companies I wouldn't want to work with.

Overall it was exhausting. Granted a lot of that could be due to the fact that I literally just had a baby.

But this is something I have been seeing a lot from developers. A compliant that "hiring is broken". The time commitment that goes into all of it is crazy. Especially for anyone who has any sort of life outside of their job.

The whole interviewing process can just be so disheartening. You know what you can do as a developer but you quickly start doubting yourself when you are passed over for jobs again and again.

All in all I think I got around 20 rejections. That can easily tear you down.

I love sharing my wins. I love encouraging everyone to keep going. It's something I have been trying to do since I started in tech. It was something that helped me through post-partum depression after having my other kids.

Sharing the losses are a lot harder. But I think it's important to talk about. Life isn't all wins. Most people who have something good going for them have gone through a hell of a lot of bad before they got there.

If you take anything from this besides me just complaining😬 I hope you keep pushing.
It sucks. It does. I hated interviewing.
You will probably hate interviewing.

But in the end we need a job and that's what we are going to keep working towards. Know that many of the developers you see online are rejected multiple times before they get their current job. You aren't alone in the struggle.

Cry if you need to, eat some ice cream, or exercise(if you are a weirdo who doesn't like comfort food) Do whatever you need to and then keep going. And feel free to reach out to me if you ever need someone to rant to about interviewing or just need some encouragement

Posted on by:

coffeecraftcode profile

Christina Gorton

@coffeecraftcode

Technical Writer, Content Editor, Developer, and Instructor. Courses on Egghead, Design + Code, and Skillshare. https://egghead.io/instructors/christina-gorton

Discussion

markdown guide
 

Well said. Im 45, been coding for around 25 years. Interviewing was the worst part for me, mostly because there were few interviews. I was out of work for 6 months after my last contractor decided to not pay me for a months work. I took countless hours of code testing and then when I passed, the company would say I wasnt a cultural fit. They complained I didnt have 'backend' on my resume. I've been doing DB and Full Stack dev for 20 years. They complained I didnt have 'Frontend' on my resume. For those same resume entries, I did all the graphic and front end design for those positions. After building end to end solutions for 25+ years, its disheartening and downright depressing when recruiters who dont now how to read, just dont see the buzzwords they want on a resume and ignore the experience. I was super depressed, here I am showing 25 years of work and providing callable references, but suddenly I wasnt any good. I wanted to leave this industry badly and Im super afraid of what will happen should I lose the great job that I finally did get. A remote job that pays 6 figures, had no test and was floored by my 25 years of experience. Im happily working remote for the last 5 months. Hang in there, I believe its only going to get worse everytime they release a new JS library and employers further believe that new JS will save their dying biz model!

 

That's so rough. Glad you found something in the end. I've seen that trend where recruiters pass up great people who can obviously learn new tech when needed but won't hire them when they don't have a specific framework on their resume. You would think 25 yrs in tech would count for something 😑 Glad you are working for someone who appreciates that.

 

It is indeed, thanks for understanding and writing this article. At this new job, the first month as a backend dev I ended up on working on all kinds of front end with Ruby, go figure - because Im a dev, and Ill write whatever code the business needs! My buddy has been going through the same for 8 months and just got a job this week. It even more frustrating when you present them with your personal website, that has a contact form built in React and they make you do a project for employment that is creating a contact form in React! I think the testing has gotten way out of hand. They give some of us logic tests where perhaps we could write code to launch a rocket, but when we get the job, all they have us do is write login screens and do DB calls. If I had this to do over again, I would happily be a server, and I may be after this position!

 

Definitely tough! I've run into a few instances of this lately. There are so many recruiters out there who don't understand how software works and only hire based off certain buzz words. Getting a seat in front of the actual team is difficult if you aren't an expert in "xyz" but are in "abc". Frustrating, for sure. Whenever I run into a recruiter who actually seems to "get it" I always make sure to comment on how much I value them actually taking the time to understand things fully, as it makes the process so much more enjoyable. Glad you finally found something!

 

Yes, I also make sure to tell the ones who are in the know how much I appreciate them. In my last couple positions for startups, there was never a seat in front of the team interview. 1 phoner, 1 test, and if you pass that a second phoner and then you come to work. They dont want to even meet you in person anymore. When they do, they pull the cultural card. My buddy actually went through a 6 hour cultural fit test before the employer came back and actually hired him. Questions like what color do you prefer the walls in the office to be should NEVER have any bearing on how well you can code. So what will anyone do when new JS library XXX comes out and a day later theyre looking for senior engineers in XXX to convert their old react sites, because someone told them react wasnt cool anymore and everyone was moving to XXX? We cant be out of jobs for 6 months because of a new language release. Real estate looks like a good option haha. What is your guys way of keeping up?

 

Very well written and honest post! These job interviews are dreadful. My favorite part is when they dismiss me with “you’re technically qualified enough but we don’t feel you are a culture fit”. So even if you try your best and develop your skills as best you can, you have enough experience, you are still turned away at the door because you don’t really fit in.

 

I hate the "culture fit reply" I felt like that was one of the reasons I really didn't like the initial getting to know you interviews. When I didn't move on from those I assumed I wasn't a good "culture fit" since they didn't even test my coding ability.

¯_(ツ)_/¯

 

I hate it too - with a passion. I hate it how destructive it is, how superficial, unfair, boring and sloppy is. It is also widespread, like the influenza virus. And it does mutate too. I wrote a bit about it here: dev.to/andreirusu_/not-a-cultural-....

One of my recent culture fit rejection was from the Norwegian Refugee Council, believe it or not, which is a humanitarian organization that it’s supposed to help people not make them doubt themeselves.

I am also very skeptical of these initial phone interviews, or when they send you a coding task upfront.

Maybe we're talking about a different "culture fit", but I'd argue that, finding someone who has similar ideals and beliefs as others on your team is far more important than their technical abilities. You can be the greatest developer on the planet but if you don't mesh well with your coworkers, productivity within the team will suffer.

Now, how they can decide you're a good culture fit or not after a 15 minutes interview, I'm not sure. Seems like a cop out response to me, but I'd rather be rejected for culture fit than technical inabilities. One I can learn and work towards to be stronger at, the other is much harder to change.

Well, this study shows that the problem with "cultural fit" is that "cultural preferences of emotion" may lead to hiring biases. That doesn't sounds like equal opportunity employment to me and it could not only be morally wrong, but also illegal.

Besides, this essay suggests that "hiring the ‘best’ people produces the least creative results". So good luck with that.

Neither of these studies disproves the merits of hiring based off culture fit, they just make general assumptions of what "culture fit" means.

The first talks about candidates who are calm and collected being at a disadvantage over those who are excited and energetic. This might be true of some industries, but not ALL of them.

As the second article states, hiring for a specific culture fit hinders diversity. I couldn't disagree more. Culture fit has nothing to do with diversity and any company hiding being "culture fit" as an excuse not to hire a diverse workforce is one you don't want to work at.

Cultural fit, for me, is far more than just how you answer some whacky question aimed to see how "creative" you can be. I want to know that you're passionate about your work and take pride in it. I want to know that you're open to trying new things and aren't just going to come to work to collect a paycheck. I want to know that you can take direction but also offer feedback if you see something wrong. I want to know that you have some interests outside of work and you're not going to burn out in 6 months. Above all else, I want to know that you can communicate within a team with conviction, without sounding arrogant.

If that's not you, that's totally fine. There are plenty of jobs out there for you in corporate and government settings. I've hired people before purely based on skill and how well they can solve complex problems and it rarely works out. While I will still test candidates based on their technical skills, unless you're hiring into a senior-level role, technical ability is usually further down the list than most others. If you can't impress during the interview, it's not the company's fault you did't get hired.

Sure, you can disagree with the academic sources I have mentioned without offering any source as an argument, other than your own opinion. But you do realize that you cannot hire or not hire people based on your evaluation of how likely are they to burn out in 6 months.

Anxiety and depression are recognized disabilities and are protected unde equal opportunity employment laws, so it's not only morally wrong but it’s also illegal. I am not even going to ask what you will do when someone shows up to the interview and they already experience anxiety. How likely will it be that they will be a cultural fit? Let’s be realistic.

It’s not enough that candidates have to prepare and develop their technical skills, you are suggesting that now they also have to ask themselves questions like “will I fit the culture?”. Is that an anxiety reducing mechanism or is that something designed to protect the company and its precious “culture”?

Sure, you can disagree with the academic sources I have mentioned without offering any source as an argument, other than your own opinion.

I didn't offer any sources because I don't disagree with what they're saying. I just think they're defining "culture fit" differently than I do, so their points are mostly irrelevant to my comments. I'm very sure there are plenty of companies that hide behind "culture fit" as an excuse to discriminate against candidates. This is not what I'm talking about.

If one candidate is clearly more skilled than the other, assuming she or he is not an arrogant know-it-all (if you think hiring that guy just because he's the most "skilled" is the right move, then you've clearly not working on teams with people like that...), of course, they should be the one to get hired. However, if there are several, equally qualified, candidates, of course their soft skills should be the deciding factor - what else do they have to offer?

I think the disparity here is you're talking about "culture fit" as someone who can answer what color they'd most like their office to be painted, or some other crazy "personality" question. I'm talking about soft skills. Your ability to effectively communicate with the people you'll be working with. This isn't just saying the right words, it's HOW you say them.

But you do realize that you cannot hire or not hire people based on your evaluation of how likely are they to burn out in 6 months.

Anxiety and depression are recognized disabilities and are protected unde equal opportunity employment laws, so it's not only morally wrong but it’s also illegal. I am not even going to ask what you will do when someone shows up to the interview and they already experience anxiety. How likely will it be that they will be a cultural fit? Let’s be realistic.

Maybe "burn out" is the wrong way to say it. I'm talking about retention. I'm not talking about mental health and anxiety. My mother has clinical depression, both of her brothers are bipolar and her family has a long history of depression. I've experienced it myself, too.

I'm talking about candidates being actually interested in the products you build. If you're building an educational platform to help kids in the classroom learn, of course you're looking for people that feel like the work they'd be doing means something. If you're just in it for the pay check, maybe that particular job isn't right for you.

It’s not enough that candidates have to prepare and develop their technical skills, you are suggesting that now they also have to ask themselves questions like “will I fit the culture?”. Is that an anxiety reducing mechanism or is that something designed to protect the company and its precious “culture”?

Nope, I'm saying that candidates shouldn't just apply to every job they're qualified for, because they check off a few boxes on the job description. If employers have the right to reject you because of "culture fit", so should you. Do your research on the company and understand what they actually do. So many candidates now days don't even include a cover letter, and if they do, they're generic copy and paste pieces with "Dear XXX" filled in. If you're not going to take the time to make yourself standout, one of the other 30 applicants is going to get the job.

To be clear: I'm not at all saying this is how Christina went about things. I believe her situation to be a bit more nuanced than that. It's super unfortunate that employers would have rejected her for anything related to her new child and family. I'd have thought it to be AWESOME if a candidate had to do a phone interview holding their child and would be more than accommodating if we had to reschedule because parenting came up. That's some pretty awesome dedication! Anyone strong enough to go through that to get a job is someone I want on my team. Why an employer would find it off putting is beyond me, but I say, good riddance to them, if that's how they want to operate.

I’m sorry to hear about your family’s and your own mental health problems. I hope you didn’t find my comments insensitive. If you did, I apologize.

"Now, how they can decide you're a good culture fit or not after a 15 minutes interview, I'm not sure. Seems like a cop out response to me, but I'd rather be rejected for culture fit than technical inabilities. "

When I was talking about culture fit I think I was thinking more on the lines of this. I don't mind seeing if I fit in to a company. In fact there were several companies where the interviewer and I knew right away I wouldn't be a good fit for reasons like working 50+ hrs a week that wouldn't work for me as a mom of 4. But I do think it is often used as an excuse if they decide to go with someone else. I guess in those situations I'd prefer they just say "we are going with someone else" and hopefully give me some feedback. But it's a business and I understand that the excuse is used sometimes just to save time.

 

I'm always told I'm a great cultural fit, but don't have the technical qualifications they want (I struggle with those one-off quiz-type questions about architecture and systems, so I probably come off as far more ignorant than I actually am when not put on the spot).

 

What happened to you is illegal in some countries, and that companies with that mentality should cease to exist.

I totally agree with "no time for pitty party".

For me job seeking is more like a marathon runner. It's a mental game, not too slow but also not too fast. Keep my head cool and move on if I got rejected.

Thanks very much for sharing this post with us!

 

Really like your analogy with running, except that I don't like running.

For me it's really hard to apply for the next job when the decision of an interview is still open. - The real downside that I'm wasting a lot of time that way.

 

Yeah, I usually try to look at the positives whenever I do get rejected. I think just the number of rejections plus the stress of losing a job right after having a baby made it harder to get over this time around. It worked out in the end though.

 

Thanks for sharing this! I can't imagine what you've been through, considering all the postpartum chaos and 3 older children to take care. I have only one (she's almost 3) and it was already so difficult to go through just ONE whole interviewing process to get hired for my current job!

 

Thanks Christina for sharing your story. From your story, I can tell you are very strong and determined. Going through all of this with a new born is indeed remarkable. I love the fact that you did your interviews with your baby. A good way of eliminating companies that are not family friendly.

The job interview process is broken Interviewing is hard. It's something I dread till today. Largely because I faced a lot of rejections last year. People tend to share only the success and not the rejections they face. I really wish more people will share their rejections too.

 

I was let go from my first-ever remote and contractor engineer job not because of my work but because the company couldn't keep me on anymore. It was very disheartening and I'm still looking for work now. When it comes to applying and searching for jobs I have good days and bad ones. When I receive a rejection email I try to stay positive and say "well, at least they replied back". I know I will find a job again (ideally one I enjoy) and I just have to push through.

Thank you for sharing your story.

 

Thank you so much for posting this!

In conversations with people considering transitioning to tech I always make it a point to tell them how hard the first job search is probably going to be. I feel like a lot of people only paint the positive causing newcomers to feel like there might be something wrong with them when it takes them too long to find that job when the reality is, to continue your dating analogy, "it's not them, it's the companies".

 

Kudos to you for pushing to such hard times. I would imagine myself breaking on such a challenge.
Thanks for sharing, I'll keep it in mind for dire times.

 

I really needed to hear this today. Thank you so much!

 
 

i thought it was <zensational