Our take on how to hire engineers


How_we_hire_engineers

At CloudMagic, we are always looking for great engineers to join our team. We believe in “always be hiring” and “hire slow”. We think if we hire when we have to, it’s tempting to compromise and settle for less than the best. It takes hard work and discipline to always keep screening, interviewing and then selecting only the best.

I thought sharing what we value in a candidate would be a good way to reach out to the kind of people we are looking for. We have designed our hiring process based on a few values that have been working well for us.

Step 1: Starting a conversation from the application form

We pay very less attention to resumes; they talk mostly about irrelevant things like GPA and years of experience. Some candidates think filling resumes with coolest tech buzzwords makes them stand out. That might work for other companies but does not help us one bit.

Instead, here is what we ask when you apply for a job

  • What do you like/dislike about our product? Why?
  • Tell us a little bit about yourself. Why are you looking to join our team? How can you help us? 

I think, if you care about your work you must care about what you are working on. That’s why we assume, you would have tried and played with our product before applying. Great candidates will try to judge the quality of the team by looking at the product. In response to the first question, they will talk about things that are specific to our product. They will construct a thoughtful answer about the “why?” component. Average candidates will respond with “I like what you guys are working on” or “I like your technology stack”.

In response to the second question, we expect candidates to tell us about themselves, which is basically about their accomplishments, what they are proud of, what do they care about and what can they bring to the table.

The free-form nature of these questions is what makes them effective. We assess how the candidates think and communicate, what are some of the things they have created and what do they value. This is like having a conversation with the candidate. In comparison, resumes are like “classified ads”.

Step 2: Code challenge – getting hands on with coding

After we like a candidate’s application, we generally send a small coding challenge over email. The challenge itself would not take more than 2 hours to solve. This is an important step because many candidates, who apply, are afraid of coding!

While sending the answer for the challenge, a candidate will also have to answer a few related questions. This helps us further in understanding their thinking process.

Step 3: Interview rounds for more in-depth conversation

Typically there are three to four rounds of interviews (including a “phone screening” for outstation candidates). During these we try to find out the following:

  • Can you think clearly? 

Part of being able to think clearly is the ability to divide a larger problem into smaller ones and work out a solution. One sample question is: Given a description of a small application, can you figure out the components needed to make the application work?

We also ask general aptitude questions at this point of time.

  • Can you communicate your ideas clearly? 

I can not emphasize enough how important this is. If you can structure your thoughts in a presentable way, you are doing great at this stage. We are not looking for fluency like a native English speaker; but you should be able to express your ideas clearly without frustrating the listener.

  • Technical knowledge 

Here we look for your command on programming, clarity on basic Computer Science concepts and whether you actually care about your craft and skills.

Assuming, you can write code, what we look for here is the thinking approach, readability and modularity of your code. Some of these are difficult to judge in an interview; but we try to find this out by discussing the way you work.

  • Curiosity and continuous improvement 

Did you figure out why things work the way they do? OK, it is not possible for everyone to know everything, but how deep is your understanding about your craft? Did you go beyond the call of duty to learn things?

  • Can you ship? 

Shipping is more than just writing good quality code. We discuss about the things that you have shipped recently. This is by far the most difficult thing to figure out from an interview. Again, we discuss and try to assess the way you work.

That’s it. If you think the above values resonate with you, please apply!

Email is not broken; The solution is triaging


Bill Liao is an Investment Partner with SOSV and the Co-founder of CoderDojo.org , who ardently practices Inbox Zero, despite an incredibly large influx of emails, everyday.

Bill Liao

Motivation is like a well spring. It flows from deep within you and flows strongest when you are in a mindful flow state during your day. Every incomplete thing in your awareness disturbs your flow which then has the knock on effect of reducing / killing your motivation. The key then, to a powerful flow, is to reduce the number of incomplete things in your life. Most people see external causes for the incomplete things in their lives and thus each new incompletion is doubly disempowering.

Email on the surface looks like the ultimate, uncontrollable, external influence. The truth is different. You have a high level of control over your email if you choose to take hold of it.

I have spent years perfecting my email technique and arguably handle more mails, from more sources, than the vast majority of people in the world. As a venture capitalist, I have an entire portfolio of companies, that I communicate with frequently and, to top it all, I have a geographically dispersed family and three global charities, that I work with daily. I have been practicing Inbox Zero for years now, despite the avalanche of daily emails that I handle, without anyone else having access to my inbox.

The best tools that I use are; my Apple Watch, CloudMagic and SaneBox. My email system is Gmail, but without these tools I would be lost. The good folks at CloudMagic have adapted their product to suit this workflow and the SaneBox crew tell me that I am one among the ten people in the world who handles such a huge email volume, maintaining Inbox Zero every night. I am here to tell you that the secret to this motivation of maintaining Inbox Zero is to reduce the clutter and thereby reduce the number of incomplete things in my consciousness and life. The beauty of working on your inbox, as the first access to decluttering, is that, in reality, you actually have a great amount of control over your email and how you use it. A lot has already been written about how to use email so I am not going to cover much of that ground. I just want to share with you a simple trick that has saved millions of lives on the battlefield and which works wonders for Inbox Zero.

Now, as I mentioned, I use Gmail and SaneBox and they both are key to this working. Incidentally, I use Gmail for another reason too, than what I am going to share with you – Gmail has a fantastic search system. That means, I never ever use folders to manually sort emails – I only use automated tags (thanks to SaneBox) and the best Gmail invention ever; Stars! Also, this system works perfectly well with CloudMagic and the Apple Watch as it allows me to scan and review incoming emails, wherever I am, with minimum clicks and maximum discretion. The objective is to plough through all incoming emails, super quickly, and sort them into relevant categories.

In life there is stuff that you need to handle right away, stuff that depends on something else, before you can handle it and stuff you really just don’t need to do anything about (even if you would like to).

If you can clear your inbox to zero, really fast, you free up your consciousness to be able to stay motivated and tackle what needs to be done right away. I discovered that having an empty inbox is literally an easy access to mindfulness and flow. Email is not broken. We just use it the wrong way because we fail to distinguish between the three types of emails and so, we end up with an every increasing pile of badly sorted emails in our inboxes and likewise, our lives and minds get cluttered.

The trick is triage. Yes, literally treat each incoming email as if it were a wounded soldier on the battlefield. You cannot allow them to accumulate, so they need to be dealt with. Those responsible for the extraction of the wounded from a battlefield or their care afterwards divide the wounded into three categories:
Those who are likely to live, regardless of what care they receive;
Those who are likely to die, regardless of what care they receive;
Those for whom immediate care might make a positive difference in outcome.

So, with email too you need to ruthlessly sort each new email into one of the following three categories:

Do – Those emails to which you can make an immediate difference to with an immediate reply – you must answer then and there and then instantly archive. These are the most satisfying emails and often the urgent ones. They include emails that you might delegate to someone else to resolve or those which require a reply at a specific time, in the future. Here SaneBox is invaluable because it allows you to send an email into the future and it also allows you to cc yourself in the future when you delegate.

Archive – Those emails that SaneBox has let slip through that are actually not going to require any further attention are the next best because you can just train SaneBox to filter them and weed them out in the future as they were dead weight anyway and do not really require your action other than to be archived, instead of letting them clutter your inbox and your life.

Star – There are a few rare emails that require more time to process. These are the ones that need the most care, like the ones you need to read or understand a large attachment or to the ones you need to write a carefully crafted or a well researched reply. These are the super important emails as they are the ones that make a real difference. Star them in Gmail and archive them immediately, preferably with CloudMagic on your watch.

That is your triage done!

Configure-your-notification-actions

Hang on a minute, didn’t I just say that the starred ones are the most important emails? Yep! Then why get them out of the inbox straight away?

The answer is that when you do your triage, you do not have time to handle the really important emails. Simply put, you must wait until you can take out the time you need to really engage with these emails. I keep aside one to two hours, at the end of my day, to take care of these and also an hour in the mornings. I wrote this post at such a time when I could focus and make it meaningful. It is a mistake to think that by leaving such an important email in your inbox you will handle it. Actually, what will happen is that, it will get buried in new emails and you will miss out on it, instead.

The important emails must be starred and a special inbox setup is there in Gmail, just for them, so you can see them separately and know exactly how many important things you have to handle, at any given time, on any given day. You see, I have learned over many painful years that there are a small number of super important emails and that getting them right is one of the keys to success and motivation. Finding such emails and handling them in the right way are what your triage is for. Just remember one last rule – never let your starred emails get over 38 because after that they get so uncomfortable that you lose your motivation and they will never get done.

So, there you have it – email triage and stars, your own personal gateway to motivational mindfulness talk about turning lemons into lemonade! :-)