What stopped me from working for 20+ startups
I interviewed with over 20 startups, these are the reasons I didn’t work for them.
When I decided to become a developer I had already worked for a startup, so I knew my local tech scene well. After bad experiences I knew what to look for, what I wanted in a company, and what would help push me towards the best career. I wasn’t looking to move around, and I wanted to set roots in a solid company. These are a few things that kept me from working for most of the companies I interviewed with:
They don’t hire anyone without a degree
I get it, and there are a lot of companies who have this policy. If that’s what you feel you need in a developer you have the right to expect that. I don’t have a degree, I’m very open about that and I don’t feel that it should hold anyone back in life. But the issue I found was when a company contacts you, or worse you’re in the middle of their interview process, and then it becomes a problem. They tell you they like you, you’d be a great fit, your code looks great, but then discontinue because they just noticed you don’t have a piece of paper.
“When people ask me if I went to film school I tell them, ‘no, I went to films.’” — Quentin Tarantino
“So you have 5+ years experience with Java, right?”
I found once you have the word developer anywhere near your name on the internet people will offer you a job. I made the mistake of assuming that meant they would read my resume, LinkedIn or anything else about me. I lost count of the number of times I was contacted about jobs that I was extremely unqualified for, and saved everyone’s time by opting out of the interview process.
Being belittled in the interview process
This has happened to me in many ways, one of the most obvious was when I was asked “given that you don’t really know what you’re doing, how much are you expecting us to pay you?”. If this is my first conversation with a manager, or in this case company owner, I immediately know they are not someone I want to work for. Being talked down to in any stage of an interview process caused me to withdraw my application. When I started interviewing I was taught to treat every interviewee as if they are our top candidate right off the bat, not just once we realize they are.
“I don’t believe in elitism. I don’t think the audience is this dumb person lower than me. I am the audience.” — Quentin Tarantino
Dodging questions with flashy perks and funding numbers
A surprising amount of companies would tell me almost immediately how much money they had. That’s awesome, you’re proud, you should be. Then when I would start to ask questions about the team, growth, and mentorship I would continue to be told how much money the company had raised.. Oh.
“Okay, that’s great! Now what about your senior developers, have they trained junior developers before?”
“All our developers are friendly and super close, we have lots of fun team outings and Friday beer nights!”
It quickly becomes clear that either they think the amount of money they have in the bank is the most important thing about the company, or they are hiding some other red flags behind it.
“If my answers frighten you then you should cease asking scary questions.” — Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction)
Dropping the ball on follow ups
Interviewing is stressful, you’re usually dealing with a lot of different people and they are too. These things take time, but you only have so much. There were quite a few companies who left me in limbo. I would send a follow up email after a week, get a reply saying everything was great and they will contact me that week. Two weeks go by and another follow up sent on my end, no response for days. Another email saying they will be moving forward soon, or you never hear back at all. This is a painful experience, it would be so much easier to be turned down or told the hiring was put on hold for the position.
They needed someone more experienced
Of course there were also a lot of companies who didn’t hire me because I wasn’t qualified. As someone starting out I was trying hard to fight my mentality of being “inexperienced”. I applied for some positions that I knew I wasn’t completely qualified for, but I figured the companies just wouldn’t call. A few did, and were great companies. I was once told that I was the nicest interview candidate they have ever had, but they really needed someone more experienced. That made me happy, and more confident with the rest of my interviews.
I eventually found an amazing team who understood what it meant to take on a junior, and that it is worth investing in people. After receiving an offer I let every company I was speaking with (even the ones I hadn’t heard back from) know and signed the papers.
“When it comes to getting the best out of them in any given scene or performance, then I’m at their disposal. Because it’s not about getting my way, it’s about making them comfortable and getting the best out of them.” — Quentin Tarantino
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