Hiring Engineers @ Volusion

As you probably know, we’ve been making big changes. As we continue to evolve the company culture, it’s clear we also need to evolve our hiring processes and transparency, particularly for engineering teams.

I’ve been spending a lot of time digging into how other companies source, screen, interview and find an ideal match for their engineering organization. Some of these learnings are shared via phone calls, some over email/text and some are publicly available. I’ve actually gone through at least a dozen public examples, and the main aspect that stands out across all of them is the desire to make hiring better.

This post is a combination of many processes and structures that have worked for others, geared in a way that works for us at Volusion. If you have any feedback on something you’ve done in the past that’s returned great results, please share them with us at hiring@volusion.com.

First Step

A large majority of engineering candidates are usually sourced through Indeed Prime, LinkedIn, our careers page, or a referral (employee, former colleague or partner). We use Greenhouse as our applicant tracking system, so all roads lead there regardless of how someone finds Volusion.

Here’s what we look for (these are also outlined in our culture code):

  • Humble — Have humility and be respectful.
  • Effective — Get shit done.
  • Adaptable — Willing to fill any role, anytime.
  • Transparent — Open and honest to self and others.
  • Founder — Think big, go fast and always solve for the customer.

Here’s what we don’t look for:

  • Past Companies or School — It’s nice to have gone to a well-known school, or perhaps worked at a well-known company. We don’t give bonus points for either.
  • Have a Friend at Volusion — It’s great to work with people you know, especially if you’ve gotten to know them outside work. While we love the idea of helping new friendships form at Volusion, we don’t weigh this factor any higher than if you don’t know anyone. This is not the same as an employee referral, aka, “I worked with Shannon for 3 years and highly recommend her for our engineering department.”
  • Open Source Contributor — We totally support open source, and love how it’s helped so many individuals and companies. But hiring an open-source contributor that wrote a major open source project doesn’t mean they will thrive at Volusion. I’ve made this mistake before, just because someone is an avid open-source contributor doesn’t mean we are a good fit for one another.
  • Specific Technologies — We need problem solvers, and engineers that are willing to learn new things to solve new problems. By focusing on technologies used explicitly (E.g. — Node.js, React, Swift, etc.) we are limiting ourselves, and potential candidates, from growing and learning.

All potentially qualified candidates will be reviewed by our recruiting team alongside at least one engineering lead. We move to the next step if we have a maybe or yes from the LinkedIn/CV/Resume scan above.

Screening

The most important thing we look for in this step is if the candidate actually wants to be at Volusion. Sometimes that’s a hard thing to gauge, and occasionally, it’s super-clear in the candidates cover letter from the previous step. Regardless, our recruiting team will get on a 30 minute call with anyone in this step. We borrowed some of the concepts below from the way Intercom handles phone versus email screens.

We then send the candidate a few questions and an exercise to learn more about the way they think, their passion, their source of motivation and problem-solving abilities. We provide a full week (7 days), but believe it will take less than 4 hours to finish and submit back. As with any real-world project, candidates can submit it anytime sooner; potential bonus points.

  1. What’s the most amazing thing you ever built (work or personal)? Tell us what it was, why it was the most amazing thing ever, and what you learned.
  2. What are some blogs/podcasts/blogs/projects you follow? Tell us why we should do the same.
  3. What could we do better at Volusion? It can be a feature/enhancement, a process, something on our website, or anything that caught your attention.

Along with those questions, we will also send a technical exercise to get a better understanding of a candidate’s ability to be autonomous, think critically, solve problems, write production-quality and maintainable code. We will also create a Slack channel for each candidate where they can ask questions along the way.

We feel this is such an important part of the process as it tells us more than a live whiteboard session or live (screen-share) coding exercise. It also allows for creativity and expression of that creativity, which is often overlooked by most companies for engineering competency. Most important, it helps us find founders that can start and finish something and take pride in crafstmanship.

  1. Write a webtask, Lambda, App Engine or mobile app using native code or react native that leverages this data in a unique way. For example, you may choose to graph the coordinates to Google Maps or build an API that searches for a city name and returns rank/population. You can build a gorgeous front-end or just the API.
  2. Unit tests are important, specifically error conditions, invalid input, empty data, etc.
  3. You can choose whatever language you are most comfortable with, or if it’s a new language, please let us know that as well. We will check for code syntax, naming, and code style.
  4. Share your code via Dropbox, Github, or compressed attachment in an email along with the final product (url/app/site).

Once submitted, leaders within our engineering department will evaluate the material submitted and have an internal conversation. During that discussion, they would decide on next steps and whether a candidate should move to the next phase. It might take us 2–3 days to review, as we want to make sure every applicant that’s made it to this phase has been given a fair chance and the time needed to make the right decision.

Phone Call

Up until now, the candidate has likely mostly interacted with the recruiting team at Volusion. An engineering leader will schedule a 1 hour call to talk about answers to the questions above, and walk through the technical exercise. There are two major parts to this:

  1. Demo — The first 25–30 minutes would be used to walk through what was built, ask questions, understand trade-offs made and challenges overcome.
  2. Q+A — Both sides get to ask new questions or build upon what was previously asked during the screening.

We also leave 5–10 minutes for candidate questions, so they can get a feeling for the Volusion culture, challenges, technologies or any other topics.

Once this phone call is complete, the engineering leader will make a decision to move to the next phase, recommend the candidate for another team/department within Volusion, or pass at this time.

Onsite

We recommend that all candidates review our culture code and the Volusion platform (product) before scheduling an onsite interview. Candidates can expect 5–6 hours for an onsite, mainly because we want different accelerators and team members (product managers, designers, engineers and leaders) to meet with them and understand which team they might be best suited for. Of course, we provide lunch and breaks.

We won’t ask candidates to write a bubble sort, write in a specific language, or solve a critical problem in 5 minutes that they’ve never encountered. Those things suck and they create unnecessary stress. We love white boarding and understanding what folks are most passionate about. Candidates can bring a laptop if they wanted to show off personal projects, but we ask that they don’t bring their current company’s codebase or proprietary IP.

Every Volusion team member that a candidate talks with will leave 10 minutes for questions. This is how candidates can make sure we are a right fit as well! After the interview, candidates will receive a survey to understand how we did, and what they liked or thought could be improved about our process.

Within 24–48 hours, all the interviewers, the CTO and a few other leaders meet to gauge fitness and share feedback. We do a thumbs-up, thumbs-middle and thumbs-down and use Greenhouse to track more detailed feedback, which gets shared in the same meeting. We will make a decision to move forward, and even recommend the right team should we decide to move forward. Candidates that weren't a good fit for one of our accelerators might be a fit somewhere else within the organization, so we talk through that as well.

Want to work at Volusion? Here’s where you apply.