Sponge Hammer is a small company for now, but we are serious about growing. Part of this journey involved opening roles and performing job interviews for those positions.
I joined video games over 20 years ago, and most of my experience is related to managing programmers and conduct interviews. I have designed questions, tasks and conducted countless in-person and remote interviews. Recently I have seen videos and articles with tips about “getting the job”. I thought I’d share my perspective about it as a decision-maker in the hiring process and a technical person handling interviews.
Sponge Hammer is truly an international group of developers. We currently have people working from the UK, Spain, Hungary, Romania and occasionally Russia. We are fully remote and provide support for some of the largest game companies in our industry. One of the core principles of the company is we are the best at what we do. We hire excellent technical talent but also we encourage everyone to learn and improve their skills.
Last year, when we looked into our internal hiring process, we decided to address some of the things we dislike about interviewing in general. The main ones are poor communication, not setting expectations, unfair process and stress.
We do not use agencies; we handle direct applications only. We designed our process to enable us to hire the best person for a specific role. The application has no protected characteristics attached to it. We try to be as fair and transparent throughout the process as possible. There are a handful of things that we need to consider.
- Does the person have the required experience/ knowledge for the role?
- Can they communicate on the level necessary for constant remote working?
- Do they share similar values to the rest of the team?
- Their location to make sure we can legally work with them.
- The time zone they are in must be similar to the rest of the group.
We are looking into how we can make these less restrictive. But for our current state, these seem to make the most sense.
Do we use agencies?
No. We can manage the selection process internally, and so far, we were fortunate to receive great applications. Unfortunately, even if we make it clear we don’t work with them, some agencies’ methods left a long-lasting negative impression.
It’s hard to keep an open mind when random numbers keep calling me demanding responses for unsolicited emails or connection requests. I never open agency emails with CVs in them. There’s a simple reason for it. We never asked for those. I think it’s rather unprofessional to behave this way.
I am sure there will be a time when we decide to rely on an agency to help us. At that point, we’ll sign the relevant contracts with them and build a relationship that way. In the meantime, I am happy to connect with people who play the long game.
The advert and applications
When we advertise a position, we specify the minimum experience and the location we accept applications from. We do this is because the roles require specific skills, and we need people who can hit the ground running as quickly as possible.
Some of the advice you may hear on the internet is to apply even if you don’t have the experience or are in a different location. From where I am standing, this is terrible advice. You end up wasting our time and setting yourself up for rejection. For example, if we need a C# expert, we will never consider a PHP programmer for the same role. But we still have to read through the CV.
Similarly, when we state we only look for people in a particular geographic region, there’s a reason for it. Our main objective is to keep our teams in similar time zones, but we also need to consider if we can legally work with people from a specific country.
We go through the narrowed down list of applications. Every. Single. One. We double-check the individuals’ experience and details of the responsibilities of previous roles. If we decided not to continue, we let the person know immediately. Let’s not waste time.
The next step is an initial non-technical chat. The goal is to meet the person, understand their motivation, clarify any discrepancies in their CVs. Sometimes we decide not to continue the process. It can be, for example, because of unforeseen issues, residency problems or misunderstandings with regards to the role itself. If we decided not to continue, we let the person know immediately.
The next step is a light technical chat. As I usually run these, I try to keep these as friendly and stress-free as possible. We talk about technical subjects, and I introduce the company and our values. If at this stage the decision is not to continue, we let the person know immediately.
Technical task and in-depth interview
Next is a technical task. We ask each person to design and implement a small application in preparation for an in-depth technical interview. Depending on the role, the applicants receive a specific task description. We ask them to read through, understand, estimate and deliver the project. Once we have received their solution, we schedule a proper hardcore technical discussion. Usually, we have two technical people present on these calls where we use the deliverable as the basis for discussion. The objective is to determine if the technical level of the candidate matches our expectations for the role. After the interview, we spend a long time discussing what we’ve heard, and we consider all technical aspects of the role and cross-reference it with the contents of the interview. If we decide not to continue, we let the person know immediately.
Do not work with us.
At this point, I spend some time with the individual talking about the company, make sure they understand what it means to work the way we do and try to convince them not to work with us. It sounds funny, but in reality, remote work is not for everyone. Also, we need people who share our values. The outcome of this interview is either an offer or a rejection. In both cases, we let the person know immediately.
I gave you an overview of our technical interview process. It has many steps and means quite a bit of investment from us in terms of time and effort, but the results speak for themselves. I can safely say our team is excellent. People feel welcome when they join, they solve interesting problems being part of a group that shares similar values. We are not a family, but we work well together.
Want to find out what it is like working for us or with us? Give me a shout!