18 interviews. 3 countries. 1 job offer. My interview journey in tech.
Back in 2017, after a year of running my own start-up back in Chile and failing plus having worked in the start-up scene for over 4 years, I decided to look for opportunities outside my home country and get some international work experience, ideally in one of the big tech companies.
The process can get quite exhausting and frustrating, and my experience going through it was no exception.
First Steps — Recruiters
I think every person I’ve talked to has had a different experience with the interview process. Some people have a very smooth one, getting an offer right after the first or second interview and some others have to go through a lot to land one of these opportunities. Mine was in the latter group.
I started by reaching out to my good friends that were already working for various tech giants. This was back in late 2016, around Christmas time. Slowly, recruiters started to reach out and was able to schedule the first interview phone screeners for January / February of 2017. I have to say that the key for this process was the referral by other employees, that fast tracked my application quite a lot and put my resume directly on the recruiter’s desk.
Two processes: Engineer and PM!
Yes, I applied as both a Software Engineer and a PM…. let me explain.
I worked for start-ups primarily as an iOS Software Engineer, but over time I expanded my responsibilities to working in Growth, Design, Customer Engagement and Communication. And when I ran my own start-up, my role abruptly switched completely to sales and strategy.
Having worked on so many things in my start-up career allowed me to discover what I felt passionate about, and for me, I really enjoyed dipping my feet in many subjects while driving the creation and release of a product. “Product Management” looked like that, so I wanted to carry forward with my interview process as a PM. However, only about 30% of the interviews I landed were for a PM position. Tech companies can usually fulfill those roles without having to recruit oversees and the demand for PMs is usually less compared to the one for Software Engineers. So, I decided to interview as a Software Engineer as well. I liked working as a SE, but I knew that sooner or later I’d want to switch over to PM.
I had my first couple of phone screener interviews from January through March of 2017. I was on the phone with at least one company per week, from big tech giants like Google, Amazon, Microsoft to “smaller” companies like Spotify, Square, Lyft, Uber, and many others. This was my first time interviewing with companies of this scale, so the entire process was new to me. I had to train, practice and learn. I prepared using standard resources available to everyone: Cracking The PM Interview and The PM Interview. I am not someone who does well on these types of interview tests and quizzes, so I had to practice really hard.
In the span of those 3 months, I had phone screeners with a total of 18 companies. Some of them went well, some of them went horrible. I think I never got used to the phone screener experience, so I was always very nervous. In the end, I managed to move on to the next stage with 7 companies.
Lots of Travel
The toughest part for was yet to come, the on-site interviews.
March was all about scheduling the interviews a few months in advance to prepare for extensive traveling. 7 companies across 3 countries with 2 different career tracks… it sure sounds like a lot.
To do this more efficiently, I batched interviews per continent and also per career track. The first set of interviews were going to be in Europe, Booking.com and Uber in Amsterdam and then a start-up in Berlin. That way my travels would be less exhausting for the whole month I’d spend in the continent. That was my entire month of April.
After I was done with my interviews in Europe, May kicked in and it was time to go across the pond once again, this time to the US. I first had to go all the way to Seattle for my interviews with Microsoft and Amazon, and later fly to NYC for an interview with Shutterstock.
I managed to arrange a remote “on-site” interview with Lyft from Chile before I began this world-wide interview tour, which took the pressure off from having to fly one more time, from Seattle to SF.
I have to admit, it was exciting to fly all over the world interviewing with all these great companies, get to know how they worked, what the culture was like and know more about the exciting work they were doing. But the downside is that it was very exhausting to travel constantly for two months, jumping from one continent to the next. You’re often times jet lagged, tired, sleep deprived and somehow you have to pull yourself together and be in good shape for what sometimes can be grueling interviews.
Feeling frustrated is part of the process
The first month in Europe was challenging but I felt very energized going through the process. It’s a strange feeling because you walk out of a whole day of interviewing feeling like you gave it your best and thinking it went well, but you won’t hear back from the company until a few days have gone by. On top of that, if they say no, it’s likely that the company won’t give you any type of feedback on why they are not moving forward with you.
On my last week in Europe, two out of the three companies I had interviewed with said no. The third one wanted an additional interview with me in NYC (since I was already traveling to the US).
Looking back, I had the tougher set of interviews in the US. These were particularly exhausting, each one of them averaging 5 hrs. I was starting to lose faith as I could no longer tell how well or bad it went after the interview day was over. After my third one, I started to think I would have to return back home with no job offer, and after nearly 5 months spent in the process, that idea didn’t sit well in my head. It was only when I arrived in NY and I was done with all the interviews that I got a call from Microsoft with the good news, 2 weeks after I had the interview with them.
You just have to keep going
Interviews are stressful and exhausting. Sometimes, you’ll think you did great and you won’t hear from the company again. Sometimes you’ll think it didn’t go well and you’ll get called for another round. The bottom line is that while you go through this process it’s best to not think too much about how you did, but rather focus on the next interview and improve how you answer the questions. I think it’s inevitable to feel hopeless at some point of the journey, but persevering is key. Whether it takes 3 interviews or 18 like me, you just have to keep going.
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