Senior Engineer in search of work. How I passed 20 interviews with HR and what I think about it

Original author: Włodzimierz Rożkow
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The preface for Habr's readers is an article about finding a job in the development market in Ukraine (which is mainly about outsourcing to foreign customers), so some things may seem strange (LinkedIn, interviews with customers, mandatory requirement of spoken English, discussion of salary in dollars) or irrelevant for the Russian Federation. Nevertheless, the article was a great success on local resources, and readers asked me to translate it into Russian.

With this article I want to start a cycle of stories about how I have been interviewing for about 20 different companies for different positions for several months. There will be my thoughts on the labor market, the hiring process, tips, as well as some of the most interesting stories. The cycle will consist of several parts - HR interviews, technical interviews, final interviews. So, the first part.

A little bit about yourself. I program from school age, for money I work 10-something years. He worked as an administrator, programmer, team leader, RM th, line manager. He performed the duties of SRE / DevOps, architect, HR, office manager, enikeyschik.

He worked in a bloody enterprise, in a startup, in outsourcing. Mainly engaged in form-building and circles, dealt with Java and backend. Over the past few years, I moved to the full stack of Java, Ruby / RoR, Python, Node.js.

At the interviews, I positioned myself as a Senior and above developer, so everything written below would be relevant for this level and above. In other positions experience may differ.

In total, I passed about 20 interviews with recruiters: half of which were from agencies and half were full-time recruiters / HR companies. So, I can say that I have some statistics.

LinkedIn Offers

Like any person who has a good profile on LinkedIn, I get a lot of job offers literally every week (and sometimes daily). I always answer recruiters. Usually it came down to "Thank you, not interesting." However, from time to time I was breaking through into long ranks about why I would not go to work for this company or why this particular job didn’t suit me. Nevertheless, as time went on, the sentences became more and more interesting, so it occurred to me to respond positively to absolutely all the proposals (even irrelevant), to try to pass the interview to the end, and then think about what to do next. The only condition I set for myself was a fairly high level of compensation ($ 5k net) that would automatically reject any middle-vacancy.

Stage zero. Interview with a recruiter

The first contact, as a rule, was with an employee of a recruiting company. Very rarely did HR go directly to me from companies. Usually there is no point in talking with a recruiter about a project or a job - he knows the same thing about her that you can read in the Job Description. Therefore, in my opinion, you need to quickly go through this stage, and for this you need to keep in mind the following:

1. Have a prepared CV
2. Be able to quickly tell about your experience
3. Explain clearly why you are looking for work
4. Clearly state what you are looking for
5. Immediately announce your salary expectations
6. Report when you can start work if you receive an offer
7. Be ready to take an English proficiency test
8. Be ready for a video call
9. If the social package is important for you, the location of the office, or other things - have a checklist at hand, which you then voice to the recruiter
10. Clearly answer the question: “If you have two sentences on hand, which of the two will you choose?”

Let's go through the points .


Materials on how to make a CV, a whole bunch. I advise you to have a link to PDF, in order not to transfer files in instant messengers or by mail, but it is even better to have a CV in your LinkedIn profile. You can see my LinkedIn as an example. I always answered the recruiters “Instead of CV, print my profile, everything is there” and it suited everyone. Recruiters often convert CV into internal formats, so you should not try for them - just keep your LinkedIn profile in good condition.

Story about yourself

Prepare a short story about your experience so that the recruiter will ask stupid questions: “Did you work with AWS and Docker?”. Quickly and briefly, for example, "5 years of Java development, 2 years with AWS, there is DevOps knowledge and was a team leader of three people." It is advisable to re-read the vacancy before the conversation in order to immediately say: “Yes, I come up, because I worked with this and this one here”.


It is necessary to explain the reason for the job search as short and clear as possible (even if this is not very true or you do not want to disclose the reasons for dismissal). My favorite option: “The project is over, there is no other good one now, I am looking for a new one”. This is a typical situation for the Ukrainian outsource, so it automatically cuts the question “What does not suit you at the current place of work?” And others. Personally, after such a response, no one asked me about the details, and this reduced the total communication time. It is necessary to avoid answers that may cause additional questions. For example, "I am looking for a job, because the project is incompetent leadership." It should be said shortly and clearly: “There are no projects, new ones have not yet started, I am looking at new opportunities.”

What exactly are you looking for

Depending on the vacancy where you are going, it is advisable to say exactly what is written there, again, to avoid additional questions and to let the recruiter understand that you are serious. A bad answer: “I am looking for a high salary” (even if this is indeed the case) will raise unnecessary questions for you. Good answer: “I am looking for a project on which I could expand and deepen my knowledge and skills. For example, I see that you need Java with which I worked a lot, and Machine Learning, which I know about, but with which I did not have the opportunity to work in practice. ” You need to make it clear to the recruiter that you are suitable for the vacancy and you are really interested in it (even if in fact it is not), again, to reduce the time for communication.

Salary expectations

Immediately call the number, be sure to net, to avoid misunderstandings in the future. For example, "from $ 4000 net". Negotiation of a salary is a separate topic. I will add only that I did not need to discuss it, because I knew exactly how much I was standing. In your case, the recruiter may ask, “How much can you lower the bar?”, Etc. To this answer: "Let us pass those. interview and there will be seen. "
In the first few interviews, I voiced the amount, but did not indicate whether it is net or gross. The recruiter asked me again, and I was a little confused because I initially set the bar high and did not expect to be ready to hire me with this money. Therefore, I replied, "Yes, I do not care :)". This gave the recruiter a reason for manipulation. At the following interviews, I always said the net amount, so that no one had any additional questions.

How long does it take to go

Recruiters always ask for it. Therefore, have an answer, preferably fixed, for example, "1 month", "2 weeks" and so on. Why you should not answer "2-4 weeks", I think, it is clear. Another axis for manipulation, for example, "Well, you said 2 weeks, we have a project here and now you are failing." Answer: "2 weeks under the contract," and that's it.


About language, I think, it is clear. You need to have a more or less adequate level of conversational and be ready to answer one of the questions in a telephone mode: “Tell me about your last project”, “Tell me what you do in your free time, what hobbies do you have”, “Tell me why you We chose this technology ”and so on. I advise you to prepare a speech and practice in front of a mirror or acquaintances. Questions may be different, but these three are the most popular (the first one is generally leading with a significant margin). The recruiters themselves do not speak English very well. An additional advantage of this exercise will also be the fact that you will have ready answers to similar questions from customer representatives or foreign engineers with whom you will deal further.
One of the recruiters decided to stand out from the gray mass and asked me to answer the question "What was the biggest failure in your life?". Instead of answering such stupid questions, I told her about the file at work. If a recruiter crosses borders or you feel uncomfortable, just offer to tell about something else.

Video call

He was demanded from me absolutely everywhere. Therefore, firstly, you need to have a good microphone, which does not fonit, does not crack and works normally. Secondly, a normal webcam, so that you can be clearly seen. Thirdly, a good Internet to transmit all this. Well, if you have a gaming headset and a FaceTime HD camera. If not, find somewhere, cost a penny, and the quality of communication rises to the heights. Again, this will minimize technical problems such as “you are hard of hearing and visible, please repeat” and reduce the time for communication.

Practically on all video calls, my microphone and camera were better than those of my interlocutors, and their bad sound made me very upset.
One of the conversations I had with VP of Engineering was a tough Israeli startup. He used a bluetooth headset that gave a very muffled and unintelligible sound. I had to guess half the words from the context of what I was able to make out. It was very difficult, because I could not say to him: “Replace, please, the microphone, you can not hear,” but I somehow managed.
One of the recruiters with whom I talked, very lisping. A microphone effect was superimposed on top (the sound was distorted and muffled), so it was difficult for me to understand it, however, unfortunately, I could not do anything with it again :). Sometimes I wanted to laugh, sometimes to cry. Well at least that we spoke in Russian.

Important conditions for you

If there are criteria important to you, you should definitely report them. For me, the social package (insurance, etc.), the location of the office, the ability to work remotely, anything else was not important, so I said: “There are no questions, the social package is not interesting, let's move on”. For you, any of the above may be important, so talk about it. A recruiter may not always answer such questions, but it’s good if you are immediately ready to say that you are interested, and not think about it later when you are asked to ask questions.

The answer to the question about two chairs

This is just another type of projective question “what are you looking for”, so keep with you a ready answer, for example, “I want to work where the team is going from scratch” or “Where the office is closer to home”. I first answered that “there are no two identical offers”, which gave rise to a bunch of subsequent questions. Now I understand that it is better to focus on one thing. This question has nothing to do with reality, because all companies are sooooo different and there are many factors.

Taking into account all of the above, my first response to the recruiter’s invitation on LinkedIn was the following:

1. The vacancy is interesting
2. The RFP is from $ X000 net
3. English - Upper-Intermediate
4. CV copy-paste from LinkedIn-profile
5. Go to 1 month
6. Skype - xxx. Dial, talk.

Then we smoothly moved to Skype and agreed on the time of the video call.

If everything went well, you made up the impression of an adequate person, then there will be a firm "I will pass the information to the company, and we will agree on the next stage."

Never for the first acquaintance I was invited to the office. Interviews lasted from 15 minutes to 1 hour (for managerial positions). I think that acquaintance in the office is now an exception rather than a common practice. In total, I had about 20 such dialogues with HR and recruiters.

Typical imperfections of interviews with recruiters

In fact, recruiters don't read your LinkedIn profile and resume.

Or read on the diagonal. You just need to come to terms with this. If your profile contains more than one technology, then you will receive suggestions for each of them separately. Recruiters do not have time to read profiles. Their main weapon is to maximize the number of candidates, and then maybe someone will respond and be able to unleash it.
A recruiter writes to me: “There is a job vacancy for the tmlid, let's work for us”. I respond positively, call up, I talk a little about myself, she - about the vacancy. OK, go ahead. We turn to a technical interview, a video call with the developers, and then they tell me: “We have a front-end job. What is your experience with front-end? ” I even told the first minute something about the fact that yes, I know JS, I more or less imagine how the modern front works. And then they say, “Well, the thing is, we have a clean front here. What do you think about it?". Then, naturally, I answer: "Guys, it seems there is a small misunderstanding, happy."
The recruiter did not even apologize.
Often, recruiters say that candidates don’t update their LinkedIn profile, so they don’t read it - you should always clarify the details in the dialogue.

As a result, irrelevant vacancies are often sent. For example, when I worked as a manager and in LinkedIn I had written “manager” who I wasn’t offered to work with anyone :) Often I frankly chatted with such narrow-minded recruiters, advised them to read the profile carefully before writing nonsense to me. However, in the end, I became disillusioned with people and began to take it for granted.

Ignoring candidates

Yes, yes, this is the corporate "We will call you back." Despite the fact that hiring a candidate is a direct profit for a recruiter, they often allow themselves to disappear for several days.

According to my observations, staff recruiters of companies sin with this much more often than recruiters from agencies. Only one time I received a response the next day, and he was from a recruiter from a market leader ( Epor, Luxoft, SoftServe, GlobalLogic, Ciklum - the name of the largest companies in Ukraine ).
Writes me a recruiter from the company. We call up Skype on the same day, and I pass a zero check. Then she says: "I will send your resume to the customer, they will give a test and will be seen later." After that, it disappears for a week. At the end of the next week, she writes: “Oh, such a week was just a blockage, I haven’t been answered yet, and in general, I have a two-week vacation. Well, will you wait? " I answer in the affirmative: "Ok, let's have a good holiday."

Then she goes on vacation for two weeks and returns at a specified time: “Oh, you know, you are too expensive for us,” although everything was fine with her before. I answer: “Ok, let me those. I’ll go through the interview and I’ll think there. ” She disappears for another couple of days and returns with the words: "I told the client that you are ready to bargain, and they agreed to give you a test."

Give a test with a deadline after 4 days. I spent the first two days on the phono, on the third day I was pinged by a recruiter, I am going with my strength and successfully fulfilling it. A few more days, I wait until their developer has free time to talk. In the end, after the interview they refuse me, because I did not pass on those. skills From the first contact to failure, 1 month and 2 days passed.
For other recruiters, it was also normal to disappear for a few days.

Irrelevant questions, or questions about technical expertise

For some reason, a recruiter often considers it his duty to find out the candidate's motivation. It doesn't matter that in the next stage you will be asked the same questions. However, they are often not satisfied with the short answer, but begin to ask what and how. Using the tips above, you can reduce the number of such questions.

Also, recruiters can ask something from the technical side, for example: “Have you ever had experience building a CI / CD from scratch?”, Although they often have no idea what it is.
One of the companies was looking for an engineer who can build the process for this very CI / CD and the recruiter asked me: “What is the difference between Delivery and Deployment?”.
You need to understand that they are non-technical people and find out what the purpose of their question. If they want to make sure that you meet the requirements of a vacancy - say so: “It’s written here, I worked with it”. No need to make fun of them or agri. Try to explain with human language that, for example, “I did not work with Azure, but I have experience with AWS, and these are very similar things. So show my CV to your techies, and let them decide. ”

I will not give advice to recruiters on how to do their work, because everything works for them (if you want advice, write to the PM or comment). As a candidate, I can only ask to be as punctual as possible, to respond to the candidate at the appointed time. Even if you could not get the necessary information, tell me when you can get it. Do not disappear for a few days and so on. Form the right expectations.

From my subjective experience, the most professional recruiters are full-time specialists of market leaders. I think that due to the volume of hiring, their process is clearly established and formalized to the smallest detail. They ask a minimum of questions, as quickly as possible, all agree and bring you to the technical interview. Working with them is a pleasure.

Somewhere in the middle - recruiters from agencies.

The least professional are full-time recruiters from small and medium-sized companies.
As a rule, recruiters are competent enough to send you an invitation by mail with an ICS attachment so that it is automatically added to the calendar. However, several times I was not sent a formal invitation to the post office (I had to be reminded), and were sent several times, but without an attachment for the calendar. And once sent, but without specifying how to get to the office and without a phone number.

I came on time and at that moment I realized that I don’t have a recruiter’s contact phone number, the 3G in the building doesn’t work and the guards do not know that they have a company with this name (it was a business center). Before the turnstiles, I caught some guys obviously of a programmer’s type and asked them to pass to the reception desk about what the candidate expects. The guys with the task for some reason did not cope, so I had to sit on the guard in parallel. In the end, they found in their directory the right number, called back at the reception, received confirmation and missed me. It all cost me 10 minutes late.

About communications

Usually, recruiters after the first contact in the mail or LinkedIn ask for your Skype (or other instant messenger). Of all those with whom I dealt, only one recruiter continued to communicate by mail, despite my proposal to go on Skype. Two offered telegrams. We assume that the default method of communication is still Skype.

As for the video, the conversation with the recruiter almost always passed on Skype. All technical interviews were conducted using Zoom, and there were several Hangouts. In principle, everything works, as a rule, without problems.

As for the phones. In my opinion, in the modern world where there are instant messengers, mail and a bunch of asynchronous communication methods, the phone becomes an emergency communication device, and talking to a recruiter or specifying the time of the next stage is clearly not an emergency. Personally, I really do not like calls to the phone from random people, because, as a rule, they will be inopportune. Of all the recruiters, only regular market leader recruiters called the phone (there were two of them). We simply agreed with the first one, but the second one offered to hold an interview on the spot. I always go with a headset (and this was just during my trip to the state structure), so I agreed, and we decided everything in 20 minutes, including and test english.

Stage one. HR interviews

I share the stages of interviewing a recruiter and an HR company, despite the fact that they often merge into one if you are approached directly from the company. Here all the previous points are important, as well as:

1. Convince HR that you are in compliance with the vacancy.
2. Show interest in the vacancy
3. Maintain an informational and motivational speech about the company
4. Have prepared questions about the vacancy and the process of going through all stages of hiring.

First you need to prove that it is you who fit the job. Here again, you need to briefly describe your experience, set out the motivation. As a rule, HR is more picky about it, so you need a reinforced alibi. The recommendations are the same as in the previous step.

Next, you need to show that you are looking for nothing horrible. It's very easy to do this - before the interview you are looking for all the information about the company. If this is a product, read about the product; if it is an outsource, see the profile, what projects and customers they have. Maybe employees of this company are speakers at conferences, maybe there are well-known companies among their customers and clients. It is good when you come prepared and already show your knowledge about the product or say, “Oh, you have a product that many people use here, and I’m just looking for this because I worked in the enterprise for a long time and I got tired of it”.

Many HR for some reason consider it necessary to tell in detail the history of the company, the founders, about what they do and how cool it is. It looks sometimes miserable, sometimes inappropriate, but you need to be persistent and listen to the end. Also, it is very likely that they will tell you that they have very high requirements for candidates, only the best developers work for them, there are cookies and coffee in the office, and in general everything is cool and interesting.
At one of these interviews, HR talked for a long time about projects, companies, focused on the fact that they have their own products that make a profit. She told that they have a flexible schedule, sometimes you can work remotely. And the highlight of the program was unlimited paid holidays. We leave the question behind the scenes whether it really works, but it seemed to me that, at a minimum, a company that can afford it does not save on employees. We said goodbye, and the very next day, this HR writes me: “Unfortunately, the requested RFP is higher than our plugs, so we cannot offer you anything.” I don’t know if it was true or not, but it seemed to me rather amusing, considering that she knew the expected salary before we started the conversation.
HR always wait for questions and tense up if you don’t ask them. So keep on hand the top three default questions that they will be competent to answer. Good questions that show your interest, for example, “Who finances the company?” (If it is a startup), “How many people are in teams”, “Are there any plans to launch new projects or products?”, “How much have you grown in the last X months? " and so on. Of course, the questions depend on the type of company and its activities. It is also important to make it clear that you are planning to stay for a long time, and expect that the company is interested in long-term cooperation and provides career opportunities. HR love it.

Stage one and a half. Intro from business people

This stage is often found in outstaff companies and usually goes with the manager or even the VP of Something of the client company. As a rule, this is a foreign company, respectively, the dialogue will be held in English. You will be very carefully told about the product or project, business and so on. For me, as an outsourcing-oriented person, it looks like a waste of time, but you need to endure. During this conversation, they will also find out the motivation, but here you already know how to prepare and what to answer.

If the interview with the manager has not yet been scheduled, then you need to first read everything you can about the company and its competitors and prepare questions. It will convince the interviewer that you are really interested and motivated. I have a consideration that our people are more technologically-oriented, while in the West they expect that you will be more interested in business and product development, and not just coding for money. So do not disappoint your interviewers and prepare well.
That was the above interview with representatives of an Israeli startup. This is a technology company that makes products for developers, so I knew about them before and knew about their competitors. After telling me about the product for a long time, I started asking questions like: “Here I use your competitor X, are you better?”. I gave these opportunities to the vis-a-vis to boast of their product, showed minimal knowledge of the industry where they work, expressed admiration for the amount of data they operate with, wondered what my role would be, what departments they had and so on. As a result, the recruiter gave me the following impression from VP: “He’s the best candidate.” I think that knowledge of the product and the ability to ask the right questions helped me well.
So, do not be lazy to explore the company, its products and competitors. For an interview with foreign customers, this 100% will be a good plus.
One of the recruiters invited me to a serious American startup and focused on the fact that they are very fond of candidates knowing about their product and reading the articles of their CTO. Then she gave me links to his speeches, articles, product slides, and so on. I was still a little bit postebla that, they say, this is a company from the category “to work in our bank is a great honor”
Unfortunately, I did not reach the technical interview for other reasons, which will be further.

Interlude, or Do not be an asshole

From many recruiters I heard stories about toxic candidates who were frankly rude to recruiters, answered incorrectly, did not come to interviews, and so on.

I myself sinned like this: when I didn’t look for a job, I wrote back in LinkedIn or on Skype to recruiters an abstract hip-hop text from my own production. In principle, without a mat or rudeness, but from the outside it looked most likely strange and not very adequate. So, the world is round, so the one to whom you wrote something not very correct yesterday may be your key to good work tomorrow. So, even if you were not treated very well, you should not respond the same. It’s better to just stop talking and forget about it.
The recruiter from the agency wants to hire me at that very serious American startup. The first stage went well, then the date of the technical interview should have been set. A few days later the recruiter wrote to me, “Have you already communicated with this company?”, I answer: “No, I have not communicated”. Then she calls me the name of the HR of this company and sends the question from her: “Has something changed?”. I don’t understand what’s the matter, I’m looking for a dialogue on LinkedIn, I find it and see that it’s not over (hello and all). I pass this information to the recruiter: “Yes, we communicated, but without continuing,” to which she sends me a screenshot of my message from the dialogue with HR on Skype, where I wrote, literally “I don’t like fuck at rock,” and asks: “You have Has something changed in technology preferences? ”(the vacancy was in the Python / Scala developer). Here I remember everything I bring up a story on Skype, read the whole dialogue and blush slowly while reading. Well, you understand, the message about the rock was probably the most innocent of all that I wrote.

I am an absolutely adequate person both at work and in life, but on the Internet, out of old habit, I could afford to do too much without worrying about my reputation. Of course, one should not overestimate the significance of such cases, because as long as there are more jobs than people, organizations will have to hire candidates that are completely beaten off. However, it’s not worth doing anything stupid, and then it will be like with those actors who remember them as sinners twenty years ago.

In the end, I felt a little embarrassed, I asked to convey my sincere apologies and decided not to continue the dialogue with this company, to the deepest regret of the recruiter, who kept convincing me otherwise :)
If everything went well (and most likely it will be so), then you will be invited for a technical interview. I will present my wide experience and ideas on this in the following sections of the material.

I hope that my advice will help you find a dream job or quickly hire a good candidate.

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