Confessions of a FAANG hiring manager

Mar 8, 2019 195 Comments

I’ve read a lot of posts recently about confounding or failed interviews at top tech firms. As someone who regularly serves as an HM (direct and indirect) at one of the most selective, I’ve also been bogged down by a flood of them in the past 2 Qs. I want to shed some light from the other side.

First of all, because our brand stamp is so strong (for now), HR is a wasteland, nowhere more so than Recruiting (I’ve known exceptions but this is the rule). The standard at which they work is incomprehensibly low. In fact, on my team, doing 95% of the job ourselves is the only way to make the process run smoother and faster. This includes fixing the 5% they inevitably fuck up.

Contrast that with most other teams’ needlessly high performance standards and top down expectations. We are the poster child for getting a rocket scientist to do data entry (this is a real case, not a metaphor). And instead of a headhunter, an intern sourced him for us (again, recounting a real situation here). Now do you get a sense of why hiring is the way it is here?

This also contributes to why employee experience varies so wildly from team to team, geo to geo. Finding a good fit is critical and effortful, but the payoff is well worth it if you do (in terms of both money and personal growth). If you’re qualified and determined enough, it’s not as hard or complicated to ace the interview as people seem to think.

Best advice I’ve seen thus far is simple: “Each interview is learning experience, just focus at learning, results are byproduct.”

That’s it. That’s the mindset you need to have before, during, and after each interview. I glaze over when people describe how “pro-active,” “a team player,” or even “results-oriented” they are (and definitely don’t drone on about how you want to “add value”). All of that can mean a million things, which makes it meaningless.

What does get my attention is someone who’s 100% present in the conversation or on the task at hand. I’m not looking for timed monologues, I’m looking for someone who listens to the question being asked and understands what specific thing I’m trying to evaluate. It isn’t hard, but it requires focus and clarity in your thinking and communication.

For example, if I say, “Success in this role requires x and y. Can you share a past experience that demonstrates your capacity for x and y?” Address exactly that. If you don’t understand, ask me to clarify or provide an example. Don’t launch into a speech about something else, even tangential, or answer in a way that requires me to guess which part is supposed to demonstrate x and y.

For cases, I don’t care about the answer or outcome itself (unless it’s preposterous). Mistakes are overlooked if you can recognize where you went wrong and fix it. Again, being present is key because I’m coaching you the whole way. If nerves take hold—pause, deep breath and pay attention to where I’m directing you. Concentrate on solving only the problem posed but be prepared to mentally pivot and sanity check along the way.

It’s astounding how many people fail interviews not because they’re unqualified but because they miss every opportunity the HM gives them to shine. If I invite you to interview, I’ve already determined that you have the raw talents to work here (e.g., education, IQ, experience, etc.). All I’m assessing is if you’re the right fit for my team and how easy you are to manage/lead.

Trust me, I want you to pass with flying colors too and will set you up for that. Interviews are time consuming, and no one wants to spend hours (sometimes months) repeating the same routine with unprepared, disconnected candidates (who, in theory, should more than qualify). But on the other hand, it’s very hard for a major MNC to get rid of duds and no one has HC to waste/risk.

Thus, we do our due diligence when filling FT positions. There can be a staggering series of interviews to complete. Based on ones that go well, you might be considered for various roles. Even the role itself may be reconsidered based on how much potential you demonstrate.

And remember, if you find the process utterly exhausting, then that’s a red flag. The company culture, or that particular team, may be the wrong fit. We’re both putting our best foot forward here, so if I feel drained afterwards, can you imagine what 40+ hours together under pressure would be like?

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TOP 195 Comments
  • LinkedIn tendies
    How much does diversity and inclusion play into your hiring choices? What about ageism and lookism? Are you trained to acknowledge and handle biases such as those? Does anyone take that seriously?
    Mar 8, 2019 15
    • Microsoft huiii
      For me, this is one of the most valuable posts on blind. Thanks to the OP.

      I would have needed this information some time ago. I had many interviews but I didn’t nailed the jobs. The reason was that my answers weren’t to the point enough. I was nervous, had a challenging discussion about things that I’ve never done (why else should I pick this role), in English which is not my native language, have been under stress, etc. You don’t want to look like a fool but exactly this happens when you think about this while interviewing.

      I was actually surprised how HM’s in the US are looking for the exact answer, even though it’s not the best way to address Problem A or B.

      What I really missed in that process were I learned this painfully are two things: A clear feedback and an understanding of my culture. Got always told I have everything for the role but it‘s all about this or that.
      When I reached out to HR I got their real written feedback. Only this helped me to get better, not the BS that I got told. Regarding culture I would have wished a better understanding of how things may work in other geographies on this planet. In Europe Interviews run completely different i.e. And I guess this is also the case in Asia or other parts of the world. So sometimes (as in my case) people are used to their interviewing style in their home countries. For someone who nailed every interview in his origin country this kind of experience is quite painful.

      We spend a lot of efforts on diversity. But no one really think about how to interview a foreign worker appropriately so that he/she feels comfortable and can reach his/her full potential during the interview. I would bet we leave a lot of talents behind us due to that missing piece of diversity. It would have helped me a lot to show my full potential. And of course open and true feedback. It was a 2-3 year journey of painful learning. And i‘m still learning.

      Only persistence and self reflection helped me to overcome frustration and land my new role, before leaving the company that i‘m actually being proud to work for.
      Mar 9, 2019
    • Microsoft HtIB24
      @MOVSD
      >Source from places other than LinkedIn.
      Such as...? On the employee side of the table, I get bombarded by low quality recruiters to the point of frustration. The noise to signal ratio on the inbox and voicemail I have hooked up to my resume makes it barely worth to even looking at. LinkedIn avoids this problem (mostly). Where else should I be to get good signal recruiters?
      Mar 9, 2019
  • FactSet r/TIFU
    Such a refreshing take on the other side of the table for the hiring process. Thanks for this post. It really alleviates a lot of concern and uncertainty about interviewing. This definitely is going to instill a new mindset in me personally when interviewing, and I hope others take away valuable insight from this post as well.
    Mar 8, 2019 0
  • Google GnaSkItSlf
    Interesting about Recruiting comment. I got approached a couple of times from Apple "recruiters" and it ended up so disastrous that I removed Apple from my potential employers forever. Once I asked a recruiter about details of job description he approached me for and he set a call with a HM so I can ask my questions. In the call, I wasn't getting any chance at all to ask any questions and I realized halfway through that I'm in a phone interview without knowing. I told the HM that I have not even made my mind if I want to apply for this job let alone do an interview without any preparation... A couple of other times, the recruiters just ghosted me in the middle of scheduling.
    Mar 8, 2019 11
    • H&R Block Uwvf45
      TBH it kinda creeped me out a bit when I learned about it.
      Mar 8, 2019
    • American Express D.BCooper
      I applied twice to Apple and got picked up for both positions through the basic web applications.

      One recruiter was incredibly rude, like you'd think she was a third party headhunter with under 3 months experience. She never would respond, then just finally ghosted me. I'm thinking, you guys get like 500 apps per job here, clearly it isn't a fluke I made it twice? I had to look back and realized where I messed up. I gave salary expectations day 1 and my career aspirations to move up. Should've just said I wanted to be a low paid monkey with no aspirations.

      Facebook was fantastic. They were very honest with my skillset and said I'd be a great fit elsewhere in more of a pure data engineering role instead of data science. I declined because it wasn't really the move, but everyone was on time, recruiters were great, etc. Recruiter said to keep in touch and let me know if I want to apply to something else. That's what candidates remember.
      Mar 11, 2019
  • Counter point: your post comes across as arrogant in a world where corporates treat employees as replaceable cogs and employees treat jobs as stepping stones up the TC ladder.
    And this is certainly a sellers market so cut back those expectations.
    Tbh the whole thing isn't such a big deal. Treat people like people, keep the dead weight off the path of the few actually doing work, and show genuine appreciation of work well done with money and growth opportunities.
    Mar 8, 2019 3
    • Me too.. ! Wish other managers at lyft and elsewhere thought like that.. pity..
      Mar 9, 2019
    • IBM uhYq11
      I want to know where you work so I never work there. 1000x rather work for the OP than you.
      Mar 10, 2019
  • Amazon QUfT36
    tl dr
    Mar 8, 2019 6
    • Amazon miner49er
      May help some, but post was too preachy and entitied.
      Mar 8, 2019
    • Lol we have a support for ex-Teslans
      Mar 8, 2019
  • LinkedIn howd
    You've "read a lot of posts" and no TC???
    Mar 8, 2019 0
  • Groupon grpbye
    I have interviewed at FB, apple and amzn and can say confidently that apple is a complete shitshow. FB and Amazon have great recruitment teams and processes. I would give apple a wide berth, if you can't get recruitment right your company is doomed, hope Tim Apple is paying attention.

    Edit - add Microsoft to the shit show list as well
    Mar 8, 2019 3
    • Groupon grpbye
      LoL good one
      Mar 8, 2019
    • Amazon y67bert1pz
      After having worked for Microsoft and interviewed with Apple I had a revelation. The doors were the same. The desks were the same. The coffee machine was the same. Both were founded around 1975 by founders who were at worst frenemies. Company culture is exactly like human personality: It's generational. The differences between Microsoft and Apple are largely superficial. Otherwise they are extremely similar companies with hyper kool aide dystopian rank and yank cultures that are riding on fumes of past success.
      Mar 9, 2019
  • eBay petta
    Nice.. Tim Apple should be proud of you OP
    Mar 8, 2019 1
    • Is this Mr. President...?
      Mar 9, 2019
  • Microsoft shared_ptr
    This is for non-eng or eng? Cause I miss the part where you ask candidates Leetcode Hard questions...
    Mar 8, 2019 0
  • Microsoft mhhI43
    Tech interviews are inherently broken. I know so many people who get in with flying colors and the code they write is garbage, they are bad team mates and just an overall bad hire.
    But each company goes around pretending their tech interview process is great.
    Mar 8, 2019 9
    • dude, how old are you, 15? let me break it down to you because I see you're lost: your hater group, given a very vocal group on forums and all, is a couple of hundred Ks strong. EA's unique monthly active users (people that play our 'garbage') is in the hundreds of millions. So yeah, I'm ok, don't worry about me or my ethics ;)
      Mar 8, 2019
    • I'm sure your company saves elephants in Africa and is loved worldwide :))
      Mar 8, 2019

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