Senior Software Engineer (Engineering Hiring)
Evaluating engineers for skills, attitude, and potential for learning and growth is one of the most important, yet hardest jobs in an engineering organization. The complexity of people can’t be measured, averaged, and compared like time to first byte can, unless we want to hide our unconscious biases in the numbers, too.
As the Automattic engineering organization started growing, we went back to first principles instead of copy/pasting from our past hiring experiences or from across the industry. The process we designed reduced bias via text interviews, extra flexibility for applicants, and training for interviewers. A core principle is to test good mutual fit via tasks closer to “production” – closer to the day-to-day work of a developer at Automattic.
During different stages, this principle shows in different ways. At the interview, you are free to use Google or Stack Overflow. The take-home test is an existing codebase, instead of an abstract algorithmic task. Our final “trial” project gives you enough space to show your real programming, architecture, and writing skills. It’s okay if you don’t get everything right the first time – we will give you feedback and you’ll be able to take a breath before you respond and make it right. At the end, we base the team assignment decision mostly on your interests rather than blindly following short-term business needs.
Using this process we’ve hired a few hundred great engineers who have helped build and maintain our plethora of products while retention and engagement have been consistently much higher than industry averages. Scaling this more elaborate process, however, has been a tough challenge and we need help.
As a next step in our efforts, we’re looking for a few full-time engineers to join our Developer Experience team and work on improving the experience of hiring and growing engineers at Automattic. Here’s what the day-to-day work might look like:
- Participating in every stage of the hiring process – conducting interviews, reviewing coding tests, working closely with applicants who reached the trial stage. Being “in the trenches” informs higher-level decisions.
- Improving the hiring process – this can include anything from clarifying rubrics, through updating interview questions or trial tasks, to rethinking whole stages, so that they take less time, give us more signal, are easier to evaluate, and are more fun for applicants.
- Participate in the team assignment process – work with engineering teams on clarifying their needs and talking to successful applicants to determine where they would be the best fit.
- Working closely with our team of program managers on engineering development projects around growth, learning, and performance.
- Onboarding engineers to work on hiring – pair-interviewing, mentoring and coaching them on both the technical and philosophical aspects of hiring.
- If you need to scratch your coding itch, we have a few hiring tools that are mature, but can use the occasional fix, troubleshooting, or an extra feature.
- Consulting our team of recruiters on outreach, application review, and operational data from the hiring process.
This position might be a good fit if you:
- Have experience working on large-scale projects in medium-sized or big teams. If your previous organizations had an explicit engineering ladder (we don't), you may have been a senior or staff/principal engineer.
- Have experience and enjoy engineering hiring – interviewing, making decisions, giving feedback.
- Are interested and have some experience in the people side of engineering – helping teams and individual engineers grow, onboarding, mentoring, performance, scaling processes in a growing engineering organization.
- People management experience.
- Experience in designing hiring processes for engineers.
- Interest or experience in programs designed to help underrepresented people enter the tech field.
The “Extra credit” list includes skills we think would be extra valuable to our team at the moment. We can't cover every possibility – the questions in the application form are a great place to tell us more about your unique skill-set and experiences.
Here are some areas in which you can grow and have further impact in the future at the company:
- People side of engineering – we are growing a team to work on projects like engineering performance at scale, processes for matching engineers to teams and projects, skills matrices, and growth frameworks.
- Owning a stage of the hiring process – experimenting with tasks for deeper testing of core skills and for ease of review, for better applicant experience. Maybe even create a whole new stage in the process :-)
- Owning the overall engineering hiring strategy.
- People management – either within the engineering hiring group or elsewhere in the engineering organization.
- Software engineering – going back to writing code or leading technical projects is also a possible route. We’re supportive of the engineer/manager pendulum.
What to Expect
We know applying to jobs can be stressful and we want to ease the stress by giving clear expectations upfront about our process. We’ve outlined everything you need to know here including all of the steps in the process as well as how we approach hiring.
Please note that we are paying extra attention to your answers to the questions in the application form. They are a significant part of the hiring process, and we will review them just like we would review any other step of the hiring process. We’re always iterating so if you happen to join us in the process, please feel free to offer feedback on what else we can include there!
We’re a distributed company with more than 2000 Automatticians in 96 countries speaking 120+ different languages. We democratize publishing and commerce so anyone with a story can tell it, and anyone with a product can sell it, regardless of income, gender, politics, language, or country.
We believe in Open Source and the vast majority of our work is available under the GPL.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Automattic
We’re improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in the tech industry. At Automattic, we want people to love their work and show respect and empathy to all. We welcome differences and strive to increase participation from traditionally underrepresented groups. Our DEI committee involves Automatticians across the company and drives grassroots change. For example, this group has helped facilitate private online spaces for affiliated Automatticians to gather and helps run a monthly DEI People Lab series for further learning. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is a priority at Automattic, though our dedication influences far more than just Automatticians: We make our products freely available and translate our products into and offer customer support in numerous languages. We require unconscious bias training for our hiring teams and ensure our products are accessible across different bandwidths and devices. Learn more about our dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion and our Employee Resource Groups.