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Interviews and Infants

Christina Gorton on May 24, 2019

We all love to share our wins. It's a lot harder to share our failures. Behind every success there are often a lot of slammed doors that proceeded ...
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O

Well said. Im 45, been coding for around 25 years. Interviewing was the worst part for me, mostly because there were few interviews. I was out of work for 6 months after my last contractor decided to not pay me for a months work. I took countless hours of code testing and then when I passed, the company would say I wasnt a cultural fit. They complained I didnt have 'backend' on my resume. I've been doing DB and Full Stack dev for 20 years. They complained I didnt have 'Frontend' on my resume. For those same resume entries, I did all the graphic and front end design for those positions. After building end to end solutions for 25+ years, its disheartening and downright depressing when recruiters who dont now how to read, just dont see the buzzwords they want on a resume and ignore the experience. I was super depressed, here I am showing 25 years of work and providing callable references, but suddenly I wasnt any good. I wanted to leave this industry badly and Im super afraid of what will happen should I lose the great job that I finally did get. A remote job that pays 6 figures, had no test and was floored by my 25 years of experience. Im happily working remote for the last 5 months. Hang in there, I believe its only going to get worse everytime they release a new JS library and employers further believe that new JS will save their dying biz model!

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Christina Gorton Author

That's so rough. Glad you found something in the end. I've seen that trend where recruiters pass up great people who can obviously learn new tech when needed but won't hire them when they don't have a specific framework on their resume. You would think 25 yrs in tech would count for something 😑 Glad you are working for someone who appreciates that.

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O

It is indeed, thanks for understanding and writing this article. At this new job, the first month as a backend dev I ended up on working on all kinds of front end with Ruby, go figure - because Im a dev, and Ill write whatever code the business needs! My buddy has been going through the same for 8 months and just got a job this week. It even more frustrating when you present them with your personal website, that has a contact form built in React and they make you do a project for employment that is creating a contact form in React! I think the testing has gotten way out of hand. They give some of us logic tests where perhaps we could write code to launch a rocket, but when we get the job, all they have us do is write login screens and do DB calls. If I had this to do over again, I would happily be a server, and I may be after this position!

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Derek D

Definitely tough! I've run into a few instances of this lately. There are so many recruiters out there who don't understand how software works and only hire based off certain buzz words. Getting a seat in front of the actual team is difficult if you aren't an expert in "xyz" but are in "abc". Frustrating, for sure. Whenever I run into a recruiter who actually seems to "get it" I always make sure to comment on how much I value them actually taking the time to understand things fully, as it makes the process so much more enjoyable. Glad you finally found something!

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O

Yes, I also make sure to tell the ones who are in the know how much I appreciate them. In my last couple positions for startups, there was never a seat in front of the team interview. 1 phoner, 1 test, and if you pass that a second phoner and then you come to work. They dont want to even meet you in person anymore. When they do, they pull the cultural card. My buddy actually went through a 6 hour cultural fit test before the employer came back and actually hired him. Questions like what color do you prefer the walls in the office to be should NEVER have any bearing on how well you can code. So what will anyone do when new JS library XXX comes out and a day later theyre looking for senior engineers in XXX to convert their old react sites, because someone told them react wasnt cool anymore and everyone was moving to XXX? We cant be out of jobs for 6 months because of a new language release. Real estate looks like a good option haha. What is your guys way of keeping up?

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Andrei Rusu

Very well written and honest post! These job interviews are dreadful. My favorite part is when they dismiss me with “you’re technically qualified enough but we don’t feel you are a culture fit”. So even if you try your best and develop your skills as best you can, you have enough experience, you are still turned away at the door because you don’t really fit in.

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Christina Gorton Author

I hate the "culture fit reply" I felt like that was one of the reasons I really didn't like the initial getting to know you interviews. When I didn't move on from those I assumed I wasn't a good "culture fit" since they didn't even test my coding ability.

¯_(ツ)_/¯

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Andrei Rusu

I hate it too - with a passion. I hate it how destructive it is, how superficial, unfair, boring and sloppy is. It is also widespread, like the influenza virus. And it does mutate too. I wrote a bit about it here: dev.to/andreirusu_/not-a-cultural-....

One of my recent culture fit rejection was from the Norwegian Refugee Council, believe it or not, which is a humanitarian organization that it’s supposed to help people not make them doubt themeselves.

I am also very skeptical of these initial phone interviews, or when they send you a coding task upfront.

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Derek D • Edited

Maybe we're talking about a different "culture fit", but I'd argue that, finding someone who has similar ideals and beliefs as others on your team is far more important than their technical abilities. You can be the greatest developer on the planet but if you don't mesh well with your coworkers, productivity within the team will suffer.

Now, how they can decide you're a good culture fit or not after a 15 minutes interview, I'm not sure. Seems like a cop out response to me, but I'd rather be rejected for culture fit than technical inabilities. One I can learn and work towards to be stronger at, the other is much harder to change.

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Andrei Rusu

Well, this study shows that the problem with "cultural fit" is that "cultural preferences of emotion" may lead to hiring biases. That doesn't sounds like equal opportunity employment to me and it could not only be morally wrong, but also illegal.

Besides, this essay suggests that "hiring the ‘best’ people produces the least creative results". So good luck with that.

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Derek D • Edited

Neither of these studies disproves the merits of hiring based off culture fit, they just make general assumptions of what "culture fit" means.

The first talks about candidates who are calm and collected being at a disadvantage over those who are excited and energetic. This might be true of some industries, but not ALL of them.

As the second article states, hiring for a specific culture fit hinders diversity. I couldn't disagree more. Culture fit has nothing to do with diversity and any company hiding being "culture fit" as an excuse not to hire a diverse workforce is one you don't want to work at.

Cultural fit, for me, is far more than just how you answer some whacky question aimed to see how "creative" you can be. I want to know that you're passionate about your work and take pride in it. I want to know that you're open to trying new things and aren't just going to come to work to collect a paycheck. I want to know that you can take direction but also offer feedback if you see something wrong. I want to know that you have some interests outside of work and you're not going to burn out in 6 months. Above all else, I want to know that you can communicate within a team with conviction, without sounding arrogant.

If that's not you, that's totally fine. There are plenty of jobs out there for you in corporate and government settings. I've hired people before purely based on skill and how well they can solve complex problems and it rarely works out. While I will still test candidates based on their technical skills, unless you're hiring into a senior-level role, technical ability is usually further down the list than most others. If you can't impress during the interview, it's not the company's fault you did't get hired.

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Andrei Rusu • Edited

Sure, you can disagree with the academic sources I have mentioned without offering any source as an argument, other than your own opinion. But you do realize that you cannot hire or not hire people based on your evaluation of how likely are they to burn out in 6 months.

Anxiety and depression are recognized disabilities and are protected unde equal opportunity employment laws, so it's not only morally wrong but it’s also illegal. I am not even going to ask what you will do when someone shows up to the interview and they already experience anxiety. How likely will it be that they will be a cultural fit? Let’s be realistic.

It’s not enough that candidates have to prepare and develop their technical skills, you are suggesting that now they also have to ask themselves questions like “will I fit the culture?”. Is that an anxiety reducing mechanism or is that something designed to protect the company and its precious “culture”?

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Derek D

Sure, you can disagree with the academic sources I have mentioned without offering any source as an argument, other than your own opinion.

I didn't offer any sources because I don't disagree with what they're saying. I just think they're defining "culture fit" differently than I do, so their points are mostly irrelevant to my comments. I'm very sure there are plenty of companies that hide behind "culture fit" as an excuse to discriminate against candidates. This is not what I'm talking about.

If one candidate is clearly more skilled than the other, assuming she or he is not an arrogant know-it-all (if you think hiring that guy just because he's the most "skilled" is the right move, then you've clearly not working on teams with people like that...), of course, they should be the one to get hired. However, if there are several, equally qualified, candidates, of course their soft skills should be the deciding factor - what else do they have to offer?

I think the disparity here is you're talking about "culture fit" as someone who can answer what color they'd most like their office to be painted, or some other crazy "personality" question. I'm talking about soft skills. Your ability to effectively communicate with the people you'll be working with. This isn't just saying the right words, it's HOW you say them.

But you do realize that you cannot hire or not hire people based on your evaluation of how likely are they to burn out in 6 months.

Anxiety and depression are recognized disabilities and are protected unde equal opportunity employment laws, so it's not only morally wrong but it’s also illegal. I am not even going to ask what you will do when someone shows up to the interview and they already experience anxiety. How likely will it be that they will be a cultural fit? Let’s be realistic.

Maybe "burn out" is the wrong way to say it. I'm talking about retention. I'm not talking about mental health and anxiety. My mother has clinical depression, both of her brothers are bipolar and her family has a long history of depression. I've experienced it myself, too.

I'm talking about candidates being actually interested in the products you build. If you're building an educational platform to help kids in the classroom learn, of course you're looking for people that feel like the work they'd be doing means something. If you're just in it for the pay check, maybe that particular job isn't right for you.

It’s not enough that candidates have to prepare and develop their technical skills, you are suggesting that now they also have to ask themselves questions like “will I fit the culture?”. Is that an anxiety reducing mechanism or is that something designed to protect the company and its precious “culture”?

Nope, I'm saying that candidates shouldn't just apply to every job they're qualified for, because they check off a few boxes on the job description. If employers have the right to reject you because of "culture fit", so should you. Do your research on the company and understand what they actually do. So many candidates now days don't even include a cover letter, and if they do, they're generic copy and paste pieces with "Dear XXX" filled in. If you're not going to take the time to make yourself standout, one of the other 30 applicants is going to get the job.

To be clear: I'm not at all saying this is how Christina went about things. I believe her situation to be a bit more nuanced than that. It's super unfortunate that employers would have rejected her for anything related to her new child and family. I'd have thought it to be AWESOME if a candidate had to do a phone interview holding their child and would be more than accommodating if we had to reschedule because parenting came up. That's some pretty awesome dedication! Anyone strong enough to go through that to get a job is someone I want on my team. Why an employer would find it off putting is beyond me, but I say, good riddance to them, if that's how they want to operate.

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Andrei Rusu

I’m sorry to hear about your family’s and your own mental health problems. I hope you didn’t find my comments insensitive. If you did, I apologize.

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Christina Gorton Author

"Now, how they can decide you're a good culture fit or not after a 15 minutes interview, I'm not sure. Seems like a cop out response to me, but I'd rather be rejected for culture fit than technical inabilities. "

When I was talking about culture fit I think I was thinking more on the lines of this. I don't mind seeing if I fit in to a company. In fact there were several companies where the interviewer and I knew right away I wouldn't be a good fit for reasons like working 50+ hrs a week that wouldn't work for me as a mom of 4. But I do think it is often used as an excuse if they decide to go with someone else. I guess in those situations I'd prefer they just say "we are going with someone else" and hopefully give me some feedback. But it's a business and I understand that the excuse is used sometimes just to save time.

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Rachel Soderberg

I'm always told I'm a great cultural fit, but don't have the technical qualifications they want (I struggle with those one-off quiz-type questions about architecture and systems, so I probably come off as far more ignorant than I actually am when not put on the spot).

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Florian Rand

What happened to you is illegal in some countries, and that companies with that mentality should cease to exist.

I totally agree with "no time for pitty party".

For me job seeking is more like a marathon runner. It's a mental game, not too slow but also not too fast. Keep my head cool and move on if I got rejected.

Thanks very much for sharing this post with us!

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Martin Huter

Really like your analogy with running, except that I don't like running.

For me it's really hard to apply for the next job when the decision of an interview is still open. - The real downside that I'm wasting a lot of time that way.

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Christina Gorton Author

Yeah, I usually try to look at the positives whenever I do get rejected. I think just the number of rejections plus the stress of losing a job right after having a baby made it harder to get over this time around. It worked out in the end though.

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Erika Heidi

Thanks for sharing this! I can't imagine what you've been through, considering all the postpartum chaos and 3 older children to take care. I have only one (she's almost 3) and it was already so difficult to go through just ONE whole interviewing process to get hired for my current job!

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Dana Ottaviani

I was let go from my first-ever remote and contractor engineer job not because of my work but because the company couldn't keep me on anymore. It was very disheartening and I'm still looking for work now. When it comes to applying and searching for jobs I have good days and bad ones. When I receive a rejection email I try to stay positive and say "well, at least they replied back". I know I will find a job again (ideally one I enjoy) and I just have to push through.

Thank you for sharing your story.

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Annie Taylor Chen

Thank you for sharing this. I feel you. It's particularly hard when it's already stressful after having baby (with all the hormones and tiredness). What the company did to you was not ok, they should at least have the decency to tell you honestly that due to covid or other financial reason, they couldn't work with you any more.

This is one of the reasons, as a child-free-by-choice woman, I support paid parental leave (480 days in Sweden, supported by taxpayers, I think it's available in most Nordic countries). I don't want to see my fellow women not getting support (homely or professionally) just because they have to carry the baby. :)

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Christina Gorton Author

Thanks for the support Annie. This actually happened over a year and a half ago before Covid. This was a previous employer :) I left my last employer who worked with me while I was transitioning out of my role before finding my new role at DEV.

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Annie Taylor Chen

Ah... no matter what reason, I think they should just let you know. I don't like ghosting. Maybe they don't have the courage to "break the bad news". But I am glad you moved on.

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Sarah Chima

Thanks Christina for sharing your story. From your story, I can tell you are very strong and determined. Going through all of this with a new born is indeed remarkable. I love the fact that you did your interviews with your baby. A good way of eliminating companies that are not family friendly.

The job interview process is broken Interviewing is hard. It's something I dread till today. Largely because I faced a lot of rejections last year. People tend to share only the success and not the rejections they face. I really wish more people will share their rejections too.

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Yechiel Kalmenson • Edited

Thank you so much for posting this!

In conversations with people considering transitioning to tech I always make it a point to tell them how hard the first job search is probably going to be. I feel like a lot of people only paint the positive causing newcomers to feel like there might be something wrong with them when it takes them too long to find that job when the reality is, to continue your dating analogy, "it's not them, it's the companies".

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Hannah Olukoye

I really needed to hear this today. Thank you so much!

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Christina Gorton Author

Glad it helped 🤗

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Martin Huter

Kudos to you for pushing to such hard times. I would imagine myself breaking on such a challenge.
Thanks for sharing, I'll keep it in mind for dire times.

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warpig

i thought it was <zensational

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Christina Gorton Author

Losing a job while on maternity leave and then interviewing while having a newborn. Hence the title, infants and interviews.