It’s always strange to hear the disconnect between what a company preaches and what they practice. I can’t begin to count the number of calls I’ve had with recruiters pitching me on a unique work culture that values creativity and unconventional thinking only to have it end with their conventional hiring process laid out: nothing more than cargo-culted whiteboard interviews copied lock, stock, and barrel from one of the tech companies goliaths.
Some companies are trying to change it up, and I deeply appreciate their effort. But while the pitch plastered on their careers page is deliberate and fine-tuned, I’m not sure the hiring process receives the same attention. How else to account for the discrepancy between a company that says they “value work/life balance” but present the application with an unpaid take-home programming assignment that takes up hours of time, though pitched to only take “maybe an hour at most.”
Look, I’m not saying that any of these methods are inherently bad, but they need to make sense. They need to be relevant. My ability to be able to compress a corpus into a trie on a whiteboard is probably not the greatest test of my aptitude if the nature of the job is modernizing a basic CRUD app. That sort of test makes sense, however, if the job is centered around building a cutting edge natural language processing app - but it probably isn’t.
If the job is a standard web app, some brief pair programming on a real-world example would be more appropriate instead. Maybe we can talk about my past experience building these sort of things previously and drill into what were some of the challenges there. I would be happy to discuss what I particularly liked about a solution we ended up on for some of the trickier models we had to deal with for a past project. By all means, let me do and talk about what I am getting paid to do, not some academic questions that have no bearing.
These complaints aren’t new. If you browse Hacker News or any of the software-related subreddits you’ll notice the topic comes up time and time again. Is the community at large able to determine the One True Answer to these hiring shenanigans? No, but I think a general feeling for the wrong answers is emerging.
I refer to answers like “well, everyone else does it this way, so we should too,” or “that’s how we did it at our last company.” Such answers betray a lack of clear vision of what it is exactly that the company values, what it believes in, what it aims to accomplish. It makes all those qualitative company values seem empty, because they are not backed by practice, by fact.
Hiring processes shouldn’t be incidental and arbitrary. They are the processes that determine the literal makeup of the company. The process of the company should be aligned with the values of the company, there are no two ways about it. Only then can you ensure, partly, that those values are lived and breathed instead of just parroted at meetings with higher-ups. It gives them a life beyond the careers page pitch.
Applicants, like myself, are beginning to look less at the perks of a company, or its prestige, and more at the hiring process itself. I think that we have already hit peak-whiteboard and that the next step (in the right direction, no less) is towards processes that are thought-out, and are aligned with what the company does and what the company values. I know, personally, that given a choice between standard fare and something more realistic, like a interview that involes modifying the actual codebase in the company, I would definitely choose the latter.
That's why we are building a platform that provides a unified view into the hiring processes across multiple companies. We think it will make finding pontential companies to apply to easier for engineers everywhere, and will also allow companies that have thought about their hiring process deeply to stand out, as they should.