Lately I have met some amazing people and companies while interviewing for my next engineering job. I’ve had incredible technical conversations, learned about great teams and had deep diversity conversations with smart enthusiastic people. I’ve had companies tailor interviews that worked best for me (ex: let me show them one of my projects as the “take home challenge”). I hope my paths cross again with those individuals who were genuinely good people working at good (and really cool) companies.
I have learned so much about catching red flags and have been on interviews where I cannot believe the responses and the odd ways they made me feel. These are my takeaways and my red flags. Remember that everyone has their own red flags when interviewing. (I’ve changed names).
Me: “Can you tell me about the team structure?”
Them: “There’s about 5 of us on the frontend and a handful of backend guys. Craig, our CTO acts as the lead, but he really is the final decision maker when an argument breaks out.”
*My Red Flag: When I heard “argument” it sounded like it happened a lot, without problem solving or clear communication to understand both sides of the issue.
Them (HR): “How many years of experience with React do you have?”
Me: “ My resume is all up to date, so 2 years. Do you need a copy of my resume?”
Them: “oh no. I have it right here.”
*My Red Flag: They didn’t take the time to read my resume.
Them: “We’re hiring any and all levels to the team!”
2 weeks later: “We’re moving forward with other candidates who have more experience.”
*My Red Flag: They aren’t hiring all levels. Companies should be clear with what they need and who they can support on their team.
Them (HR phone call): “We’ve decided to move on with other candidates with more technical experience. Everyone said you were a perfect culture fit, so let’s revisit this in 6 months.”
*My Red Flag: This might just be me… but I’d rather get a rejection by email then over the phone. And no, I will not revisit this is 6 months, I hope to have a job by then! Also, “culture fit” is silly. Companies should be wanting to add different people and cultures to their company, not hire the same people.
Me: “Tell me about diversity on your team and in the company.”
Them: “uhhh. hmm. I’ve never been asked that question before. We don’t really have any.”
*My Red Flag: I want to work at a diverse company that has values and is working toward a more diverse tech world. This answer led me to believe they never thought about diversity or have immediate plans to improve their company or hiring process. (This company did email me after the interview to explain his answer more in-depth after speaking with the CEO. I think it sparked a conversation internally for them, which is good.)
Me: “Can you talk about diversity on the team and at the company?”
Them: “What do you mean?”
*My Red Flag: Same red flag as above.
Me: “Why are you hiring for this position?”
Them: “We’re desperate.”
*My Red Flag: This made me feel so small. They’re “desperate” so they will talk and interview anyone. And here I was thinking they saw something in me to add to the team.
Me (email to HR, 10:10am EST): “Hi Tom! We had a call scheduled today at 10am EST. I have not got your call yet. Here is my number or let me know if we need to reschedule.”
Them ( same day, 1:05 EST): “Hi Erin. Are you ready for our call?” *He did not realize we schedule the meeting EST. So we rescheduled. Then again, no call. I emailed. He was running late.
*My Red Flag: This is probably an Erin thing, but when you’re late, don’t read the emails efficiently, and have to continuously reschedule, I’m annoyed and your company looks unorganized.
Them: “What compensation range are you looking for?”
Me: “I’m not ready to talk compensation yet. I like to meet and learn more about the team and the skills I can bring first before talking salary.”
Them: “Okay, no problem. If you share a range with us we can both decided if it will be a good fit.”
*My Red Flag: I’ve been told by mentors, blog post, etc, to never bring up a salary number first. Usually, I don’t have a problem with the answer I gave but man oh man. This recruiter kept pushing and I’ve never felt so uncomfortable in a HR call before.
Them: “What other companies are you applying with?”
Me: “I’m applying with all types and sizes, from start ups to bigger companies.”
Them: “Which ones?”
Me: “I don’t feel comfortable sharing that information.”
Them: “If you are applying with the bigger companies like Google, Facebook, etc, we can expedite the process to get you through the interview process faster.”
*My Red Flag: This is the same call as the compensation question above. Again, usually I don’t have a problem sharing but this recruiter kept pushing and making me feel *very* uncomfortable. I know HR doesn’t represent the engineering team, but the red flag here really made me not want to continue on with the interview process.
Them: “You have a typo in one of your GitHub repos.”
Me: (Laughs because I thought it was a joke.) “Oh, oops!”
Them: “Yeah, you have “time” instead of “timer”
*My Red Flag: I don’t want to work for a manager or on a team where this is a big deal. I understand spelling is important, but it’s a random app on my GitHub made for me to mess around with and learn!
I’m continuously learning from all of these interview and experiences. They’ve helped me learn and grow. I’ve learned how to read people, notice the red flags and how to ask the right questions. This industry is a tough one to stay positive in when applying at these… let’s say “interesting company interview processes.”
I especially like those who understand a shift needs to be made in the interview process and who are working on changing it. Veni Kunche’s article, “How to Fix Your Tech Interview to Increase Diversity” hits it on the nose and I really encourage everyone to read it.
I’d love to hear if anyone else has had similar experiences! Or if you have good responses/comebacks, or thoughts overall or hey, hiring! Feel free to each out on Twitter!