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 randomly copy/pasting bits and pieces from past experiences and 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.

Using this process we’ve hired a few hundred great engineers who have helped build and maintain our plethora of products and retention and engagement have been consistently higher than industry averages. Scaling a process like this, though, has been a tough challenge and we need help.

As a next step in our scaling efforts, we’re looking for a few full-time engineers to join our Developer Experience team and work together with our current hiring group of engineers and recruiters. Here’s what the day-to-day work would look like:

  • Participating in every stage of the hiring process – conducting interviews, reviewing coding tests, working closely with applicants who reached the trial stage.
  • 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 the same amount of signal, are easier to evaluate, and are more fun for applicants.
  • Onboarding engineers into 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 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, operational data from the hiring process.

This position might be a good fit if you:

  • Are an experienced software engineer who has worked on large-scale projects in medium-sized or big teams. If your previous organizations had an explicit engineering ladder, you may have been a senior or staff/principal engineer.
  • Have experience leading technical projects – scoping, agreeing on architecture, designing for scalability and performance.
  • Are comfortable using PHP and JavaScript. These are the two languages we mostly use at Automattic – you should either be familiar with them already or the idea of using them on a daily basis and learning them deeply should not be a blocker for you.
  • Are highly collaborative and you love participating in code reviews and discussions about architecture, or design.
  • Have some experience in engineering hiring – interviewing, making decisions.
  • Experience or at least strong interest in the people side of engineering – teaching, onboarding, mentoring.
  • Are interested in reasoning from first principles. While easier in the world of technology, we’d like to bring it to making fairer decisions about people.

Extra credit:

  • People management experience.
  • Experience in designing hiring processes for engineers.
  • Interest or experience in programs designed to help underrepresented people enter the tech field.
  • Data analysis and statistics skills or interest.

Here are some areas in which you can grow and have further impact in the future at the company:

  • 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.
  • 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.

Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion at Automattic

We’re improving diversity 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. DEI 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.

Curious who works in engineering at Automattic? Meet our JavaScript Engineers – Lena and Riad!


What to Expect

We know applying to jobs can be stressful and we want to ease the stress by giving clear expectations up front about what to expect from 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. 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!

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All Jobs Require

  • Great communication skills. We’re a distributed team, so frequent and clear written communication is a must.
  • Self-driven work ethic. You need to be a self-starter who loves taking initiative and seeing things through to completion.
  • Curiosity and the desire to learn. Our business is changing and growing fast, who knows what will be the skills of tomorrow? Flexibility is key.
  • Ability to Travel. We value those rare occasions when we meet our colleagues in person. Normally, we require 2–3 non-consecutive weeks of travel per year, usually by plane. Currently, company travel is limited, and travellers must be vaccinated. All travel is optional for now. We’re continuing to explore new, remote ways to stay connected.