Inside advice: 5 Chicago tech companies share what to expect during your interview

April 5, 2018

At some companies, interviews can play out like a game of cat and mouse, with candidates challenged to meet unspoken technical and cultural expectations.

But that’s not the case everywhere. 

Many Chicago companies prefer to remove the mystery and lay their cards on the table. We spoke to five of them to learn more about their hiring processes.

 

Yello interview process
PHOTO VIA CHRIS MURPHY

Yello’s software is designed to manage every stage of the recruiting process and inject it with a more personal touch. Given that mission, you’d assume Yello’s interview process would be equally as humanizing. According to VP of Talent Acquisition Heather Redisch, that assumption is correct.

 

Can you give a high-level overview of your interview process and how it’s set up?

Yello's software enables the world’s largest brands to humanize the candidate experience. We strive to uphold these same principles during our interview process, by treating every candidate with respect, transparency and incorporating our technology at every possible step. After a recruiter phone screen and conversation with the hiring manager, the candidate is invited to the office. Candidates tour our collaborative, open space and take in our Lake Michigan views before meeting several members of the team. Through every step of the hiring process, the candidate is in touch with a member of the talent acquisition team who is available to answer questions, provide updates and share next steps.

We look for a collaborative mindset, a thoughtful approach to achieving objectives and the ability to take initiative to solve problems.

What's one thing you look for in every interview?

In almost every interview, we ask candidates to describe an important project they worked on. This gives them the opportunity to discuss an initiative they’re proud of and share their expertise. Throughout the conversation, we look for a collaborative mindset, a thoughtful approach to achieving objectives and the ability to take initiative to solve problems.

 

Does your company's culture impact the way you conduct interviews?

One of our core values at Yello is “learn and be curious.” Throughout the interview process, we try to learn as much as we can about candidates by building diverse interview teams. The different perspectives help us gain a deeper understanding of the candidate’s career experience and goals, which helps us hire the best mutual fits.

 

Rocketmiles interview process

Rocketmiles is an online booking platform that partners with hotels around the world to offer airline miles and other reward points to travelers for their stays. As you might expect, and as Director of People Operations Josh Lewis confirmed, all candidates are asked about where they’ve traveled.

 

Can you give a high-level overview of your interview process and how it’s set up?

We like to start off with some basic homework — something the candidate might be asked to do on a day-to-day basis at Rocketmiles. Not only does it give us the opportunity to see how the candidate thinks through issues or projects, but it also gives candidates the opportunity to see what we'd be asking them to do and to more accurately gauge their interest in the role. The hiring team reviews the homework, and, if they are impressed or have more questions, we bring the candidate in. Our process varies by department, with candidates sometimes working through problems and conversations for three hours with us. We want the candidate to meet some of the folks they'd be directly working with, but we also want them to understand our culture and the sense of camaraderie that we pride ourselves on. During the several hours a candidate is in the office, they'll do everything from having a general get-to-know-you conversation to whiteboarding, pair programming, running through hypothetical situations and even talking about where they’ve traveled.

Our foreign language speaking customer loyalty candidates might sit with a native speaker to listen in on customer interactions in real time, while a partnerships and marketing candidate might critique ad placements, dive into data about customer behavior or talk through ideas of how to engage certain customer segments. We do this in-depth process because we invest in our people and want to ensure we are hiring the right candidate for the role. We continually refine our process using feedback from candidates, even unsuccessful ones.

We want the process to feel more like a get-to-know-you meeting and less like an interview.

What's one thing you look for in every interview?

Of course, we ask each applicant about their travel history. Having traveled the globe isn't a job requirement, but we love hearing about the places people have been and what they’ve seen. You can learn a lot about someone by not only their selections for our music library when they join, but also by finding out what interests them outside of work.

 

Does your company's culture impact the way you conduct interviews?

We want the process to feel more like a get-to-know-you meeting and less like an interview. That's why we always ask folks to dress casually. We don't dress up and we wouldn't want candidates to feel uncomfortable about it. We also like to keep things conversational. We learn a lot from candidates and are excited each time we get to meet one. We like to give candidates a tour of our space and talk about our record and book collections. Finally, we offer feedback to unsuccessful candidates to make sure they know their time wasn't wasted.

 

BRD interview process

BRD’s fully decentralized bitcoin wallet app is designed to make buying and selling cryptocurrency both easier and safer. In place of a traditional technical interview, VP of Engineering Adam Zadikoff said candidates are put on a paid trial contract to assess their skills and how they work with the team.

 

Can you give a high-level overview of your interview process and how it’s set up?

Our interview process is unique and heavily driven by our distributed nature. We hold a 30-minute phone screen to give some background on BRD and to get some background on the candidate. We are looking to knock out the basics and figure out if what the candidate wants out of their next job is something we can offer them. We also usually talk about compensation so that we don’t waste a candidate’s time if what we can offer isn’t aligned with what they are seeking.

Candidates will then have a more in-depth technical conversation with our CTO. If both sides agree to move forward, the candidate will be offered a paid trial contract. They’ll join us for 20 to 30 hours of their time — we work around their schedule — for a small project. This allows the candidate to see BRD from the inside. They get access to our Slack network, Jira, GitLab, email and anything else they need to get the job done. We invite them to standups and other team meetings so they get a true sense of the culture and how we work. We find that these trial contracts are a much stronger indicator of future success at BRD than a typical technical interview. The experience also gets both parties much more excited to work with each other. We can tell quickly who is a good fit and who is not.

We find that paid trial contracts are a much stronger indicator of future success than a typical technical interview.

What's one thing you look for in every interview?

One question we always ask is, “What are you looking for in your next job?” Everyone is looking for something different. Some people are looking to work with a particular technology, for career growth, more money, some culture, some process, and so on. All are valid for the individual, but it helps us understand if BRD is a fit for them based on our culture and needs.

 

Does your company's culture impact the way you conduct interviews?

The entire process is largely driven by our culture and our distributed setup. Getting everyone's schedules lined up is hard and a long day of interviews for one person is tiring. The trial contract spreads this out a bit and speaks to our just get your stuff done culture. We don't care where or when you are working. We care that you can communicate with the team and deliver results. We also expect you to be able to go heads down and get things done when necessary while keeping the team in the loop since we don't work from a central office every day.

 

Trunk Club interview process

Trunk Club offers curated clothing shipments for men and women. Those who prefer to try before they buy can visit one of the company’s seven national brick-and-mortar “Clubhouses.” Trunk Club is in the business of fashion, but tech is what gives its platform an edge. Technical Talent Specialist Christopher Guest said that while tech skills are critical, the company looks for engineering candidates who can add something different to the company’s culture.

 

Can you give a high-level overview of your interview process and how it’s set up?

We have a series of interviews that assess both technical and non-technical competencies, which may vary slightly by role. Regardless of how candidates enter the pipeline, everyone will speak with a tech talent specialist to determine if their background and skill set correlates with one of our open roles. From there, we have a technical assessment, which could be a remote pairing session, phone call or project. We then bring candidates onsite to interview and further asses their technical skills and ability to add value. Candidates also have lunch and meet with members of our technical leadership team. Our interview process is thorough to ensure we are making quality hires who are able to collaborate with our team and add value soon after coming aboard.

We don't want employees to fit into our culture. We want our culture to evolve as we grow and continue to diversify.

What's one thing you look for in every interview?

No matter what role we’re hiring for, we look for candidates who are able to embody our core values, and, more specifically, who are collaborative and curious. Collaboration is key because our tech teams must work together in order to achieve strategic goals. We also look for candidates who are curious about our industry and technology, and who are creative problem solvers.

 

Does your company's culture impact the way you conduct interviews?

Or culture definitely impacts the way we conduct interviews. In fact, one or more of our interviews is solely focused on whether or not a candidate will be able to add value to our team. We need everyone to bring their best and full self to work every day. We don't want employees to “fit” into our culture. We want our culture to evolve as we grow and continue to diversify. Someone who is able to add something different is highly valued, as unique adds make our teams stronger.

 

Vail Systems interview process

Vail Systems helps companies have better conversations with their customers through its telephony software, analytics and suite of cloud-based communication tools. Their tech influences what the team looks for during the interview process. Recruiter and HR generalist Matt Mulcahy said Vail keeps a sharp eye out for candidates with top-notch verbal communication skills.

 

Can you give a high-level overview of your interview process and how it’s set up?

Our process starts with an HR phone screen. The next stage is a more in-depth and technical phone interview conducted by a hiring manager. Depending on the role or how the candidate performs in this phone interview, they may be asked to participate in a CoderPad session where they work through a live programming problem with the hiring manager in the language they are most comfortable with. The hiring manager and other Vail team members create a practice problem on the CoderPad platform and then join a conference call with the candidate. This allows us to see their approach to problem solving. We try not to coach the candidate on what to do, but sometimes a little nudge in the right direction is required.

The final stage of the process is an in-person interview where candidates meet with three to five members of the team. During this interview, there can be any combination of questions from the previous phases. Technical and behavioral questions are asked to determine not only if a candidate has the expertise to perform the tasks required of the role, but also to gauge their motivation and ability to pick up new ideas and concepts independently.

We look for people who can communicate complex technical ideas, concepts and processes.

What's one thing you look for in every interview?

Unlike some companies that stick to one programming language, our technology varies greatly and can be quite niche; this is why it is so important to find candidates who are eager to continue learning. To assess this, we always ask candidates this question: “What skills or technology are you currently working on learning more about or are hoping to get the opportunity to work with in your next position?”

 

Does your company's culture impact the way you conduct interviews?

Since we develop software to enhance conversations and voice interactions that happen over the phone, it should be no surprise that we look for candidates with excellent verbal communication skills. Specifically, we look for people who can communicate complex technical ideas, concepts and processes in a way that anyone, no matter their degree of technical expertise, can understand.

 

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