This is a real story, and it’s not only about Google. I’m getting emails from recruiters at Amazon, Facebook, and smaller Silicon Valley startups. They find me somehow, most likely through this blog, my books, or my GitHub account. They always start with “We’re so impressed by your profile” and finish with “Let’s schedule an interview.” I always reply with the same text, and they always disappear, only to come back in a few months under a different name. Let me explain my reasons; maybe you will do the same and we can change this situation in the industry.
Disclaimer: I do realize that these are multi-billion-dollar companies, the best in the industry, and I’m nothing compared to them. I do realize that their recruiters don’t care about my answers—they simply click “delete” and move on. I also realize that they will never see this post, and this article probably won’t change anything. However, I have to write it.
This is what I’m sending back to them:
Thanks for your email. I’m very interested indeed. I have nothing against an interview. However, there is one condition: I have to be interviewed by the person I will be working for. By my future direct manager.
The recruiter who gets this reply never gets back to me.
Why do I send this?
Well, because I learned my lesson two years ago, when Amazon tried to recruit me. I got an email from the company that said they were so impressed by my profile and couldn’t wait to start working with me. They needed me, nobody else. I was naive, and the message did flatter me.
They paid for my ticket to fly there and a night in a 5-star hotel. I was impressed.
We scheduled an interview in the head office in Seattle. They paid for my ticket to fly there and a night in a 5-star hotel. I was impressed. They definitely were interested. So was I.
What happened at the interview was, most probably, very close to what Max Howell experienced with Google: some programmers who didn’t know a thing about my profile asked me to invent some algorithms on a white board for almost four hours. Did I manage? I don’t think so. Did they make me an offer? No.
What did I learn?
That it was a waste of time. For both sides.
Their bureaucratic machine is designed to process hundreds of candidates a month. In order to fish and attract them, there is an army of
monkeys recruiters sending warm emails to people like me. They have to screen candidates somehow, and they are too lazy to make this process effective and creative. They just send them through random programmers who are supposed to ask as complex questions as possible.
I’m not saying that people who pass their tests are not good programmers. I’m also not saying that I’m a good programmer—let’s face it, I didn’t pass the test. I do believe this filtering system is rather good. My point is that it contradicts the original email I got from the recruiter.
If she would have started her email with “We’re looking for an algorithm expert,” we would never have gotten any further and would not have wasted our time. Clearly, I’m not an expert in algorithms. There is no point in giving me binary-tree-traversing questions; I don’t know those answers and will never be interested in learning them. I’m trying to be an expert in something else, like object-oriented design, for example.
There is no point in giving me binary-tree-traversing questions; I don’t know those answers and will never be interested in learning them.
There was a clear mismatch between my profile and the expectations of the interviewers. I don’t blame them, and I don’t blame her. They all were just
slaves employees. I blame myself for not setting this all straight at the very beginning.
I should have told her that I didn’t want to be interviewed by some programmers, because I would most certainly fail. There was no need to try. I wanted to be interviewed by the person who really needed me: my future boss. That person will understand my profile and won’t ask pointless questions about algorithms, simply because he or she will know what my duties will be and what kind of problems I will be capable of solving, if they hired me.
Unfortunately, as I keep observing from two years of bouncing such emails back to recruiters, they can’t change anything. They have to provide formal and standard screening for everybody, beginning with those same warm and flattering initial promises.
I’m sorry, recruiters, no more standard interviews for me.
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