Posted on: February 19, 2019

In late May 2018, I started to think about looking for a new job. I hadn’t fully committed to leaving, but the thought had crossed my mind. My shields were down. I stumbled across a job posting that looked interesting, so I applied. I got a reply only a couple hours later and had the first phone screen shortly after. Then, I panicked. I realized I couldn’t only interview with one place so I started looking elsewhere.

I spent about a month or so aggressively interviewing with anywhere that would talk to me, without much consideration for the products, people, or the work. I didn’t even take the time to truly consider what I wanted to do. I wasted a lot of time and energy by interviewing everywhere because things had gotten worse at my current job and I thought that I desperately needed to get out. Hell, I almost accepted a job offer at a job that did not feel right because of it.

At the end of June, I realized I was pretty burnt out, despite having recently taken a two week break abroad from all things tech related. I had spent the last year or so working really hard in a stressful environment and I was feeling the toll on my mental health. So, for that and other reasons, I decided to put in my notice at work. I know that this action comes from a huge place of privilege. It was terrifying, but I knew I had some savings that I could fall back on for a couple of months if nothing turned up. I’ve spent years working on my “Fuck Off Fund” just for this. Giving my notice helped put a lot of stress behind me and clear my brain so I could think about what I really wanted in my next role. I made a website that I shared on Twitter in order to get some new leads, as most of my previous interviews and offers didn’t fit in with what I ultimately decided I wanted. It was so much easier searching for a job in public.

Fast forward to the end of July, after about two and a half months of searching and a week and a half after I left my job, I accepted one of my offers. From my experience of interviewing with about ten places, I learned so much. Specifically about how tech interviews are broken and why so many places seem to struggle hiring under-represented minorities.

Getting in the door

I cold applied to three places and only heard back from one of them. Nine companies replied to me because I had an introduction to them. I’m pretty sure it is true that when you apply to a company your application goes into a black box.

The interview process

The general flow was an introduction call or two, a take home test, more calls, and an “onsite” (or a series of more calls for remote companies). I turned down two places after the intro call, I received six take home tests, and two places had no take home test.

One of the take homes I received was in a language I don’t know. I passed on them because realistically, I didn’t have time to teach myself a new language on top of a day job and while interviewing with other places.

For the take homes that I did complete, two of them were time-boxed to about 90 minutes. The other three were incredibly open ended. I spent about 4 hours on one of them and easily 8+ hours on the other two. That’s at least 23 hours on code tests, or, 3 full days of work, unpaid, on top of working 40+ hour weeks.

The 8+ hour ones were the worst, by far. Each app had “extra-credit” options, I didn’t even do those! These companies definitely biased towards folks with more time, and it was pretty obvious in the staffing.

One company forgot that had done a take home test (an 8+ hour one), and sent me another one. I didn’t do it, and didn’t even really plan on replying. They emailed me a couple days later realizing the mistake and invited me to an onsite the following day. I couldn’t take off work with that short notice so I told them I would have to do it the following week. We had scheduled for Tuesday, and when I followed up on Monday evening, I received an automated email that the position had been filled. No apology for my interview being canceled.

For another company, I did four interviews and spent 90 minutes on a take home test. When I followed up about the final steps, they told me the position had closed. Not that they had hired anyone, but that the role was no longer being filled.

My time is valuable, I appreciate companies who recognize that i n their process. Those places clearly did not.

Staying Organized

Interviewing is very hard! There are so many things to keep track of. I used Trello with a few different labels. I added a checklist of each card with each step, and kept the cards open while I was interviewing to take notes. Screencap of Trello board

Receiving offers & negotiation

Hooray, I did it. I slogged through numerous awful interviews and I got a couple of offers. It’s usually pretty clear when you’ll get an offer, someone wants to call you. When they call, never give them a salary number. Hear what they want to give you and say that you’ll think about it. Never accept an offer immediately. Hiring is a game and we all have to play.

When receiving a verbal offer, I thank the person and then wait patiently to receive it by email. I then read over it and write a lot of questions and consider what I’ll negotiate for.

Throughout the interview process I’ve most likely already grilled my interviewers about work/life balance, vacation policies and practices, and other things like that which impact team health. I generally have a good idea about that when I’m considering the offer. Post offer I’ll ask about sick policy, vacation policy, parental leave (even if you don’t need it, asking about it makes them know they need to think about it), professional development, office equipment setup, insurance, benefits, working hours, flexibility, etc. I’ll write these down all in an email, along with negotiating for more money, and possibly a sign on bonus, additional vacation days, whatever I need to feel like this is a fair offer. I like doing this over email because I’m anxious but if you like phones generally you can have them call you, too.

These companies already spent time and energy on you. Don’t hesitate to negotiate, ever, please.

I would love to never have to interview for a new job again, but I’m sure I’ll be here again.