Taro Logo
2

What makes a hiring manager want to reject a candidate vs. moving them forward?

Profile picture
Founder at TechIsHiring22 days ago

So I wanted to ask the opinions of hiring managers or anyone who had to hire someone for a technical role.

Could you possibly talk about some of the characteristics of candidates that made not want to move forward with interviewing/hiring them? And if possible, could you also talk about if you'd hire Junior Engineers and if not, why not?

121
6

Discussion

(6 comments)
  • 4
    Profile picture
    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    22 days ago

    Let me answer the inverse question: what made me really want to interview a candidate?

    The strongest signal is if this candidate has already done the exact job at another company and succeeded, e.g. I'm hiring a growth engineer for my B2C startup, and ypi were a growth engineer at a company like Pinterest or Airbnb. Even if you were a junior engineer, I'd almost certainly want to interview since I'd feel like you could bring a lot of the insights of those successful companies into my team.

    So your goal as a candidate is to show that you have extremely relevant experience for the company. It could be through a past company you worked at, a side project, or even a talk you gave.

    If you don't have any of that, then I'd focus on a narrative that shows how much you're willing to learn, and your track record of learning quickly. e.g. show various projects you've built, and show how you went deep into some domain. This is what separates the best Junior Engineers -- do I feel like they went beyond their schoolwork or past work assignments to truly understand their technology choices and the problems they were solving?

  • 5
    Profile picture
    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    22 days ago

    As the 1st Android engineer and lead at Course Hero (now rebranded to Learneo and valued at $3.6 billion), I owned the entire Android engineer hiring pipeline. I went through resumes, edited the job postings after the recruiters wrote the initial ones, and built the entire interview process (and gave the interviews of course).

    So from this perspective, I'll chime in:

    • For junior engineers, I was entirely looking for proof of work as Rahul mentioned. I am hiring Android engineers, so can you do Android?
    • If you're an Android engineer with 0 professional experience, you have no excuse not to have some decent side projects. It is extremely easy to write quality Android apps and publish them. All you need is $25 (one-time fee).
      • An alternative to side projects is open-source. But that's harder for a hiring manager to gauge the impact of unless you wrote the entire repo yourself. It's also less tangible as it's not an app that can be tried.
    • When it comes to measuring if a candidate's portfolio was good enough, I mainly looked at number of users. Production software isn't really production software if nobody's using it. Anything with 0 users is effectively a school/bootcamp/tutorial project, which gives me 0 signal about the candidate's actual skills.
    • You will see this mentality a lot with startup hiring. They need builders (not just LeetCode warriors) and they'll have more time per candidate as their hiring pipelines aren't mega flooded like FAANG's. This means they can actually look over your portfolio.

    You can follow the advice here to build better side projects: [Taro Top 10] Building Impressive Side Projects

    Here's another great discussion about this: "What technologies or stacks should I create a project to add in my resume for entry level software jobs?"

  • 2
    Profile picture
    Team Lead (people manager) at Mistplay
    21 days ago

    Especially at Senior levels people are really good at talking. So the most important thing is to gauge if they were standing around watching this thing get built or did they really have huge personal impact on its design, build, and iteration. This is where asking them to solve a real problem vs tell you about something they solved can help. (I was just reading about this on Taro or LinkedIn) Option 2 is really focus on follow up questions to get more details off the “happy-path” of the story to see how much they thought about their project from different angles.

    Re: junior engineers the same thing applies. I love that you say you’re good at learning, now I’m going to explain a new programming language/concept to you in one minute with an example and then ask you to debug a real code snippet.

  • 2
    Profile picture
    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    20 days ago

    Unfortunately, the process is much less open-ended when it comes to Big Tech. For junior engineers, here's the signal they use (most important -> least important):

    • Your past internships - This is #1 by a wide margin as internships are the only real work experience engineers can get prior to their 1st job. And with Big Tech, they are obviously going to prioritize candidates who have interned at Big Tech before.
    • Quality of your school and GPA - In general, if you go to a top university like Stanford or Waterloo you're probably a fairly talented and hard working individual. While tech is less stringent with degrees than most other industries, it's still overwhelmingly traditional when it comes to the talent pool.
    • Side projects and open source - These are hard for Big Tech to digest as they take time to click into and understand, especially for a non-technical person like a recruiter. Since this is the last-place signal, the only chance you have to make this matter is if you make it overwhelming. I'm talking a side project with 100,000+ users or an open-source GitHub repo that you own with 2,500+ GitHub stars. Go big or go home.

    Remember: This is not a checklist. A lot of people get into Big Tech without prior internships or a fancy degree. And just because you have a fancy degree doesn't mean you're smart. But these quirkier cases of non-traditional candidates breaking into Big Tech are the exception, not the norm, especially in this market.

    On top of the prior signals, there are the table stakes:

    • You have work authorization - You are a citizen, have a visa, or have a green card equivalent.
    • You are local (or can become local) - Big Tech is pushing RTO very hard, and this isn't likely to change. Almost all junior engineer job postings are in-person. And to be 100% honest, I agree with this (in spirit). Junior engineers who work remotely are incredibly likely to end up as low performers as it's hard for them to get the support they need.

    If you don't have these, it will be near impossible to even get an interview.

    Again, there are exceptions, but they're extremely rare. Supporting an engineer's visa situation takes a lot of company resources on top of the very competitive compensation package they're giving. Big Tech will only do this for legitimately super star candidates.

    You might be looking at this and thinking "Wow, Big Tech hiring is extremely elitist", and you would be completely right. When you're a slammed FAANG recruiter with literally 1,000+ resumes to go through, you need to do quick pattern matching against things like university caliber and prior internships in order to filter out candidates efficiently enough. That's just how it is.

    If you want to avoid all this BS, apply to startups, grow like crazy there, and you can come back to the Big Tech hiring world later on if you want as a mid-level or senior engineer. At that point, credentials like college diploma are almost meaningless. Check these out:

  • 1
    Profile picture
    Team Lead (people manager) at Mistplay
    20 days ago

    Small follow up question though @Alex - what if I’m a new grad and I’ve already landed the interview with whatever resume I had. (Re-reading the question I realize it is more about what you were mentioning but it think this is also interesting and related).

    What are you looking for in our 1 hour conversation that would make you want to give a thumbs up or down vs the next new grad you speak with? Is it still just my internships and GPA or something you can discern by talking with me?

  • 1
    Profile picture
    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    20 days ago

    What are you looking for in our 1 hour conversation that would make you want to give a thumbs up or down vs the next new grad you speak with? Is it still just my internships and GPA or something you can discern by talking with me?

    Once you're in the interview, the playing field is equal and I would judge you similar to everyone else who's made it before me. It doesn't matter if you have an Ivy League degree or 5 prior FAANG internships - Everyone's the same.

    For junior engineers, I am mostly looking for raw coding ability. In other words: Can you write high-quality code quickly?

    However, this looked different across Meta and Course Hero as I gave 2 very different interviews with these companies:

    • At Meta, I gave the infamous Data Structures and Algorithms round, and I was looking for the signals I break down here: Meta Software Engineer Interview Question Breakdown: Finding Unique Integers
    • At Course Hero, I had them build an Android app from scratch. At a startup, specific technical skill is very important, so I looked at many factors:
      • Coding speed - Can they finish the problem? I had candidates write an app that displays a list of courses. This is table stakes Android UI work that even a junior engineer should know how to do. If they have built just a few decent side projects, this should be easy.
      • Their proficiency with Android Studio - Do they know hotkeys? Are they familiar with the debugger, log window, and layout explorer?
      • Core best practices - This was before the days of Jetpack Compose, so I was making sure they built out the list UI properly with a RecyclerView (or ListView with view recycling) that has an adapter as a separate class for modularization. The ViewHolder and data model should be separate entities as well.
      • Understanding of Android - Do they know what Activities and Intents are? Do they understand how view recycling works underneath the hood and why it's important? Do they know how views are laid out and which attributes mutate which properties?