"Besides a test assignment, there are many other ways to determine the proficiency level of an experienced specialist"

An interview with the Team Leader of an international IT company
We continue our series of interviews with developers. Today we have a very unusual guest. The specialist our team's interviewed not only works as a Team
Leader at an international IT company but also knows firsthand that the profession of an IT Recruiter is rather complicated and painstaking.

In an interview with Anton Vityazev, you'll learn not only about what worries modern tech specialists but also be introduced to the unique point of view of a person who is able to see things from a different angle.
  • Anton Vityazev
    Team Leader at an international IT company

— Anton, hi! Thank you for setting aside some time for an interview. Let's start with some general questions. Tell us, how many years have you been working as a Developer? Where did you start? Where did you work?

— After high school, I entered the Faculty of Information Security to a great extent because I was promised that I would work on the real things, like detection of cyberattacks, prevention and removing malware and so on. As a result, it turned out that this is not the case.

The department of "Information Security" is fundamentally different from the department of "Computer Security" and mostly involves paperwork.
At the beginning of the third year, completely disappointed in the prospects of my future speciality, I decided that I needed to make a move in order to do my thing in the future.
At that time, computer security was just such a thing. I understood that in order to deal with computer security, I needed to have a solid background in the tech sphere. It's crucial to understand how programs work, how they are created, where vulnerabilities come from etc.

After studying this issue, I realized that the most in-demand sphere where everything is actively developing, including in terms of computer security, is the Internet. So I decided that Web Development would be a good start to eventually start doing a job I really like. This is how I became a Webmaster. I started to delve into how web programming works. At first, I learned the ropes: HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP.
As I delved deeper into the specifics of Web Programming, I realized that I liked it and, perhaps, even more than Computer Security.
With knowledge that I could always change my profile if desired, I continued to get better at the field of Web Development. 7.5 years have passed since then, and the desire to get back to the original "scenario" hasn't appeared yet :) Regarding my professional growth, I continued to write code in PHP and related languages necessary for standard Web Development. For some time I worked in various web studios, was engaged in website development.
At some point, I realized that the technology stack I worked with had a certain career ceiling and, most likely, I wouldn't be able to deal with really ambitious tasks.
So I switched to a different technology stack, choosing the Node.js platform and the Golang programming language. Ultimately, I focused on Node.js and started using Go for some specific tasks. The switch to a different stack happened while I was working in a studio for mobile applications development.
We tried to create something special that will make a large number of people use the product.
After working there for a while, I started to work for a startup. It was a very interesting and inspiring place since the projects our team was building were very unique. We tried to create something special that will make a large number of people use the product. These were chatbots, VR, AR, blockchain. These technologies are notable for the fact that, despite the narrow focus and manufacturability, this is something that is interesting to many people, even those who are very far from the IT-sphere.

Working for a startup allowed me to significantly improve my skills, as well as master a number of new ones, for example, TypeScript.
I've worked for this startup for the longest time in my entire career history. The reason lies in the fact that the work at this startup has always been diverse, but more importantly, I did what I really liked.
After working at the startup for several years, I decided that I needed to move on, and ideally, find a place where I could take a managing position. Considering that at some point in the startup I got the position of Technical Leader, I decided that this is more than real.

A short period of "wandering" has led me to the place where I work now. It is a large international tech company that develops a large communication service. I take a management position, and at the moment I'm fine with everything :)

— Super! Thanks. Tell me, why did you decide to leave the startup? Did you want to take a managerial position? Or there is another reason?

I wanted to join a community where numerous tech people were much smarter than me.
— This is part of a large set. The main reason why I left lies in the fact that I wanted to develop further. The Technical Leader position I took at the startup meant that there was no longer a person at the project who could teach me something I didn't know. I wanted to join a community where numerous tech people were much smarter than me. This is an obvious key to further development.

— It turns out that one of the reasons why you leave the company is the lack of development. Are there any other reasons why you decide to leave the company?

— These are fairly common reasons. For example, a toxic atmosphere within a company. It's very difficult to revel in development in a company if you constantly feel tension while communicating with colleagues.

— Were there any stories when you left the company after receiving a more attractive offer?

— No, there weren't. I don't consider new offers until I feel like it's time for me to change jobs.

— It turns out that there is nothing that could "bribe" you?

— This is probably a too absolutized statement.

— What is most important to you when considering an offer?

First of all, it's a project. I won't do something that conflicts with my moral principles or affects the psyche :)

It's also important to understand what I'm working for. The product must be useful to people, or at least give pleasure.
This helps to see the result of my work and understand that I take part in creating significant for society products.
Secondly, these are opportunities to growth within the company. It's important to understand that working at the company, I'll improve my technical and, for some time now, managerial expertise.

— Super! Thanks! Let's talk about recruiting processes. What things do you pay attention to when dealing with Recruiters? What do you like?

— Due to the fact that my girlfriend is a Recruiter, I have a slightly subjective opinion about how this work should be carried out because I'm saturated with the atmosphere that exists around her. So I started to pay more attention to how the email is made, and I see that many of them are often non-perfect. Yet I was fostered to see these nuances: it's not something that I pay attention to from the very beginning.

— In this case, maybe it will be easier for you to talk about what scares you off when communicating with a Recruiter? :)

The fewer questions I have after reading the offer, the more favourably I communicate with the Recruiter.
— I can't say what scares me off when Recruiters write something to me. But I don't like it when the job description is not very detailed. I don't like to ask a million guiding questions: I want to understand right off what exactly awaits me. So the fewer questions I have after reading the offer, the more favourably I communicate with the Recruiter.

— Is this the only factor that puts you on your guard during communication, or there are other factors?

— This is a factor that scares me off during primary communication. When communicating with a Recruiter, I become alert when I feel that they don't fully understand the position they are talking about.

If I ask some questions and get a response that I can get more accurate information during the interview, I hardly want to pass an interview: I risk spending two hours in order to hear answers that don't satisfy me.

— How do you feel about familiar emails?

— They don't scare me off. Considering that I'm young and I'm not a snob, it's okay for me to receive this kind of emails :)

— How do you feel about calls without notification then?

— Negatively, because in such stories you always risk to be dealt a bad hand. For example, if a Recruiter calls in the middle of a working day and starts offering a job, the team may think that I'm secretly looking for another job, although this isn't the case at all. A tense atmosphere can be created, the cause of which is the unrefined manners of the Recruiter.

— We've slowly closed in on the channels via which Recruiters contact developers. Tell us, what method of communication is most acceptable for you, and what channels do you consider not adequate enough to communicate with you?

— In fact, I don't care where they write to me :)

— Even via VKontakte?

I understand that it can be difficult to contact a developer at times, and Recruiters resort to desperate measures
— Even via VK :) Moreover, it will be completely logical if the VK Recruiter writes to you via VK :) Apart from calls without prior approval, I'm okay with any sources for communication. In many ways, this is again due to the fact that there is a person near me who is engaged in Recruiting. I understand that it can be difficult to contact a developer at times, and Recruiters resort to desperate measures. I understand the motivation of Recruiters, so I have nothing against it.

— Cool! Thank you! Tell me, please, how many selection stages are acceptable for you?

— I believe that the number of selection stages is variable and directly depends on the company you are interviewing for. If you are interviewing for an "ordinary" company, it's strange a bit if there are many stages.

If you are applying for a job, for example, in a company like Amazon, then I think it's clear why there may be 4-5 selection stages. But still, the company must understand its balance.
If you pass a dream company interview, it doesn't matter how many stages you need to go through to get an offer.
Once, in the days of my fledgeling career, I was interviewed by a company that didn't offer a high salary and the project that the company developed was quite ordinary. Despite this, I had to pass stages of interviews with a variety of tasks (from mathematical and logical to psychological and programming). I passed all the stages but didn't receive an offer. And this is all considering the fact that their product is a simple hotel aggregation service. The company was looking for an ordinary Developer from the market who wasn't required to have specific skills. It wasn't clear to me why they arranged so many unnecessary stages. Such cases scare me off.

But, as I've already said, if you pass a dream company interview, it doesn't matter how many stages you need to go through to get an offer.

— How do you feel about test assignments?

I don't think test assignments are an inappropriate measure, but they are relevant at certain levels of knowledge.
I don't think test assignments are an inappropriate measure, but they are relevant at certain levels of knowledge. The test assignment for a Junior-Middle developer doesn't mean bad manners. Moreover, I believe that test assignments are not only a useful tool for evaluating developer's knowledge, but also help a less experienced developer understand whether he/she can cope with the tasks that he/she will have to solve as an employee of the company.
But if the Developer is an experienced specialist, I believe that there are many other ways, besides a test assignment, to determine the level of their proficiency.

— Super! Thank you. Let's go back to the story about the company where you went through 4 stages of the interview. Did you have a similar experience when you agreed to consider an offer from a company with not very attractive terms? If so, what was your key motivation?

— Probably, I didn't have any stories that fully fit your situation. If we talk about the story about the hotel aggregation service, then at that time the offer was seemed to be very attractive to me.
4 recruiting stages for a Junior-Middle developer are too much.
The fact that they obviously went too far with the number of stages, I already began to understand when I became an experienced specialist. I believe that 4 recruiting stages for a Junior-Middle developer are too much. I don't believe that someone apart from Senior-level specialists or Team Leaders should have such a number of stages, because I don't understand what can take so long to check there.

— Quite an interesting note. It turns out that there should be fewer steps for Junior and Mid-level specialists than for experienced ones?

— Of course. It's difficult to test the waters when hiring an experienced specialist. It's necessary to check a sufficiently wide range of knowledge, to "dig" both in depth and in breadth in the question of how the specialist understands the subject area. In the case of Junior or Mid-level specialists, it's obvious that the "hole" that will be dug in the process of identifying skills won't require a significant time expenditure.

— Quite an innovative idea. I usually hear that experienced developers want as few stages as possible, because vast experience, code, portfolio proved their competence a long time ago.

— This is all quite subjective. I quite often interviewed people who have worked on a large number of projects, but this doesn't guarantee a wide range of knowledge. They could work in a team where other people were the driving force of progress, and they were just lucky enough to take part in the process. How much they contributed to the projects remains to be seen.

— A very interesting thought. Thank you. Were there any unpleasant cases related to the hiring process in your career story? For example, you didn't receive feedback on the test assignment?

— Of course, there were a lot of stories when I didn't receive feedback. I won't focus on them, since they are familiar to everyone, and there is nothing special about them. I would say, the story is unique when you receive feedback :) Regarding more specific situations, then I had one.

Once I was getting a job at a startup. I went through the first stage of the interview, where I had to talk to the founder. The interview went well and the founder arranged a technical interview with the CTO of the company.

However, when the Recruiter tried to coordinate an interview with the CTO, it became clear that the company's CTO was completely uninterested in communication. He hadn't replied to the Recruiter's messages in the general chat for a long time, but then he answered once that he could conduct an interview from 13:00 to 14:00 the next day.
It was uncomfortable for me to go through the interview in the middle of the working day, so I asked about other free time slots.
There was no answer. I tried to solve the issue through a Recruiter, as I didn't consider it necessary to contact CTO directly. The Recruiter said she would try to reach out to the CTO. I don't know if she tried it or not, but after that, we didn't communicate anymore.

I still have a bad taste in the mouth. There was disrespect for me as an applicant, because I spent a certain amount of time to go through the first stage and agree on the second.

— And if this company writes to you with a job offer, will you consider the offer?

— The company won't write to me, because it's folded up :) But even if it didn't close its doors, my answer is no.

— So your negative experience affects future interaction with companies, despite the fact that the team may have changed several times?

— Yes. I may take the time to talk briefly, but I'll have a biased attitude.

— Thank you so much. How do you think, what mistakes do Recruiters make when communicating with a developer?

  • Competencies
    First, the Recruiter must understand the specifics of the job they offer. The specialist can ask a large number of questions about the opening, and, of course, they expect to hear the answers.
  • Friendliness
    Secondly, the Recruiter should express some friendliness and interest in the specialist. When you feel that you are just the next person being interviewed, then the disposition towards the Recruiter and the offer will be the same.
  • Well-bred speech
    Thirdly, it's grammatically correct speech. I prefer a person to communicate competently, to name technologies as they are called. Illiteracy brings discredit to the Recruiter as a competent professional.

— And, if we compare you " in the past" and you "in the present", did you notice any changes in your priorities at work? If so, which ones?

— In fact, when I was a Junior-level Developer, it was important for me to gain experience, become smarter, more qualified, become a better specialist than I was. The growth of my qualifications didn't change my primary goal in finding a new job.

This still remains the main motivation that makes me make certain decisions. If the question implied whether the money came to the fore at some point in time, my answer is no.

— Great! Thank you very much! A tricky question: name the TOP needs of a modern IT specialist. Please don't add salary and project to the list :)

  • 1
    Colleagues' qualification
    I want to work with people who are no less smart and, ideally, smarter than me.
  • 2
    Growth prospects
    Within the company.
  • 3
    The ability to work in the office
    I am one of those retrogrades who love to work in the office. The atmosphere and team cohesiveness are much better formed during real-life communication than during remote work. It's also an opportunity to share the home and work atmosphere. It seems to me that this has a good effect on psychological health.
  • 4
    This is a very useful thing. I'm not sure if this is a must-have element, but it's much easier to live with VHI than without it. Recently, it has become an attractive term.
  • 5
    Team age
    Regardless of human characteristics, working in a team where the age of people is very different from your own, strongly affects the ability to communicate in terms of common topics.

— Great! Thank you very much! A tricky question: name the TOP needs of a modern IT specialist. Please don't add salary and project to the list :)

— Same to you. It was nice to talk to you too. Thanks for the invitation.

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