Aseem Kishore

How we interview engineers at Even

This is a cross-post of a post I wrote at Even. Original post on Even’s blog.

Tech interviewing sucks.

As a candidate, it’s stressful, exhausting, and demoralizing. To do well, you often need to explicitly prepare, which is both tedious and time consuming. It may not even be feasible if you’re a parent or have other obligations outside of work. Interviews themselves can feel arbitrary and confounding. In the worst cases, you may not even know what your interviewers are looking for or whether you’re providing it.

Interviewing isn’t great for companies, either. Sourcing, screening, and interviewing candidates is endless work that takes significant time and energy, not just for the hiring manager but also for the team. Hiring decisions must be made after only hours of interaction, yet can have impact that lasts months or years. It sucks turning good candidates away, and it sucks making the opposite mistake.

How much interviewing sucks at any individual company, though, depends a lot on that company’s process.

At Even, we’ve put a lot of thought, care, and iterations into our own interview process. I’m proud that we now get both meaningful signal and consistent, positive feedback from candidates on their interview experience — even fully remote now — like this note from a candidate earlier this year:

“I was so impressed with the team members whom I met during the interview process. It was clear throughout that the care you are taking in selecting for values and behavior is to good effect. I also appreciated that the technical interviews were both engaging and humane.”

In this post, I’m excited to share the details of our interview process and how we arrived at it. I hope this is helpful to both candidates and other companies.

First, our context and philosophy

We aren’t the first company to write about interviewing. There are a lot of other admirable companies and people who’ve been pushing to make our industry better for a long time. Joel Spolsky, Honeycomb, and Triplebyte are just a few examples I appreciate that have informed our process.

When reading any advice, though — including this post — don’t apply it blindly. Consider the context and how it may differ for you.

Here’s our context:

  1. We’re a fiscally responsible startup. That means we have a small team and limited seats, so our hiring decisions matter a lot.

  2. We have a strong social mission. We’re tackling a large, important problem and demonstrating clear, meaningful impact. This helps us both attract and retain great, mission-aligned engineers more effectively than a company of our size may otherwise.

  3. Our onboarding takes time. We’re not a simple CRUD app. Our domain is complex (we deal with real-world money movement, sensitive financial data at scale, and important security, privacy, and regulatory concerns). Our codebase is large (>500k LOC today). And much of our tech is new (e.g. Go, GraphQL, and React Native). These things take time to learn, but we commit to providing that time. We love investing up front in our engineers like this because we see the compounding dividends this yields. In return, we accept taking a bit more time before deciding that someone isn’t a good match.

Given this context, we’ve found that hiring someone who isn’t a good match is a much worse mistake for us than turning someone away who may have been. This realization has led us to one key decision: We optimize for reducing false positives today.

This decision has ripple effects on other important factors for us. If we want to be selective in our hiring, we need to interview many candidates. To interview many candidates, we need to keep drop-off low throughout our funnel. To keep drop-off low, we need to minimize delays in our process. To minimize delays, we need to spread interviews out across our team. Finally, to have confidence in the assessments we get across our team — as well as to combat unconscious bias and build a diverse team — we need to standardize our interviews as much as reasonably possible.

“If I ran a company, that’s exactly how I would want the interview process formulated. It’s nice to know that with a thorough interview process like this, Even will keep hiring good people, and selfishly, those are the kinds of people I want to work with.”

These factors have played an important role in the decisions we’ve made below.

What we don’t do

For starters, we don’t do…

I won’t dive too deep here. These things are commonly understood to provide noisy signals at best, and we agree.

But we also avoid other things that can be good and that we ourselves have done in the past. This is where our context and philosophy comes into play.

Today, we don’t:

“The interviews were well rounded and very well thought out. The people I met were professional, yet also friendly and approachable. Needless to say, I was impressed, and it left me with a very positive impression of the company.”

Many of the interviews above do provide meaningful signal, so we try to get an approximation of that signal through the other interviews below.

What we do

Today, we:

I’m sure that what we do today isn’t perfect. We have room for improvement in all of these things, and I’m sure that we’ll iterate more.

Even so, I really appreciate where we are today. I have confidence in the signal we get, and I’m comfortable with the tradeoffs we make. Most importantly, I’m grateful that candidates appreciate their experience, too.

“I want to thank you and the entire Even team for making this the best recruiting, interview, and offer experience I have ever encountered. It is very clear that you care deeply about helping your candidates. I greatly enjoyed my time interviewing with the team.”

If you have feedback, send it to me — I’d love to hear it. And if you’d like to join, reach out! Hopefully your own interview experience will be just as positive. ❤️

Most of the credit for our interview process goes to my brilliant colleagues Evan Goldschmidt, Ryan Gomba, Olivia Bishop, and Jenny Molyneaux. Thank you!

Thanks also to the candidates who provided us with the feedback we’ve shown above. All quotes are real, edited only for clarity, and posted with permission.