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The Real Interview Questions

06.08.2012 | Posted by zack

Forbes.com recently published an article with a catchy headline that stated recruiters agree the interview process boils down to three questions:

  1. Can you do the job?

  2. Will you love the job?

  3. Can we tolerate working with you?

A lot of people have been weighing in on this article and most agree that it really is that simple. As the Head of Recruitment for Sumo Logic, I strongly believe that we have constructed an interview process for technical positions that answers to each of these questions, implicitly and explicitly.

  1. Can You Do The Job?

Here at Sumo, technology is a key differentiator for us. Engineers here view coding as an art form. Clean, elegant code is the best way to prove to us in an interview that you can do the job. Raw intelligence and horsepower is necessary but not sufficient. We look for candidates that can perceive the larger context of decisions and trade-offs inherent in full system design.

Communication skills are essential in every job. If you can’t explain the projects you have been working on in your current and previous job, it is difficult for an interviewer to understand your contributions and value of the project. It is key for an engineer to be able to explain his previous projects during our interview process.

Emotional Intelligence (EI) has been a term I have been hearing more and more over the last few years with regards to key hires. EI is the “ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups.” Hiring managers have been taking into account a candidate’s ability to be empathetic to their colleagues around them as candidates with a high EI tend to have a higher chance of fitting in with the culture and being a positive addition for our team.

In addition to performance in the interview, we like to see a track record of success. Success in previous role with relevant domain experience is one way to show this. An excellent academic record or great open source projects are a few others. We ensure that we draw on multiple data points to hire the best candidate, reduce attrition and not exclude candidates that do not have the “typical” background.

  1. Will You Love The Job?

We give equity to our employees and this gives you the ability to own a portion of the company. We want to keep ownership of the company exclusive to people who know that Sumo Logic is going to be a wildly successful company and willing to work hard to get it there. From employees to board members, we want our whole team to be striving for a multi-billion dollar exit.

We currently run what some would describe as a EverybodyOps agile development process. We use a rotating PagerDuty scheme with a primary and secondary on call for a week long rotation. We use a a few tools, including Sumo Logic, to monitor and troubleshoot the service. This has been an opt-in system and every engineer that has joined our team has opted in. 

  1. Can We Tolerate Working With You

Once you hang around the Sumo office long enough, you will realize that you could be in danger of being attacked by a Panda wielding a foam bat, Angry Birds, or flying stuffed squirrels while a public address system connected to our continuous integration server will intermittently alert you of who most recently broke the build (and on-demand funny .wav files). You will find people playing board games during lunch and video games and table tennis after.

We enjoy each other’s company and encourage one another to excel. In between the breakout sessions of fun, the team has been known to be dedicated to their work.  We believe in allowing flexible work hours… no one monitors you as long as your work is getting done although- it is still relatively common to walk into the office and see a few people burning the midnight oil.      

We work hard because we love our jobs and we are comfortable in our environment. Every day, lunch is catered. This means, we have to want to sit down next to you at lunch. Individuality is encouraged as we have a bit of a zany culture and we love to include everyone that joins the team (read: inducted into the Sumo family) to join us in our unofficial impromptu events like movie night, wine tasting, coffee breaks, and going to see concerts.

Our Hiring Process:

At Sumo Logic, our hiring process starts with an informational phone call with me. I help answer any questions about the role, organization etc. that I can.

When we are bringing a candidate on-site for an interview, we typically pair up two engineers at a time. This allows the interviewers to get multiple data points on each question and ease gaps in the in conversation.  We have multiple rounds of the pair interview to gain multiple data points and allow each interviewer the voice their opinion. The hiring manager makes the final decision but the team’s feedback is heavily considered.

When an engineer interviews, the questions are most commonly “here’s an input, here’s an output, write the function”. As you go through the process, you will also be asked open ended design, allowing the engineer to dig in as deep as they would like. We also ask about testing and full system design.

Of course, once we have answered the questions with three concrete Yes’s, the process flips as noted by commenter Beth Harte on the article. The candidate must evaluate us and answer three questions about the company:

  1. Will you allow me to do my job? (Trust in letting someone do their job once hired)
  2. Will you love that I love doing my job? (Respect that there is more to a job than a paycheck)
  3. Can I tolerate working for you? (Corporate culture affects both parties)

Looking for a job:

If you are a candidate that is looking for a job, your personal and professional networks are always going to be your best option. Many companies, including Sumo Logic, have an internal employee referral program and the best hires often come from that program. As a candidate, if you have any connection with a company, their customers or vendors, I suggest you leverage them to get your foot in the door.

Other options you can try to get your foot in the door are attending the company sponsored meetups or listen to talks given by employees and network with them at those events. Companies appreciate when a candidate shows genuine interest in the product, market, and technical challenges they are solving.

If you are working with a contingency recruiter, you’re simply going to have to prove yourself to be best candidate in the pool during the interview process.  Recruiters make typically 20% – 25% of a candidate’s base salary, which associates you to a $20k+ price tag the day you start working. If you’re that candidate, you don’t need to be merely as good as the rest of the candidate pool, but a cut above the rest.

Similarly, if you would like to work at Sumo Logic, we would love to hear from you. We have our jobs posted and I read every application that comes in. Feel free to send me an email directly at zack@sumologic.com.

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