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Announcing the interviewing.io Technical Interview Practice Fellowship

Introduction

Aline Lerner

Aline Lerner

Aline is the CEO and founder of interviewing.io.


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Announcing the interviewing.io Technical Interview Practice Fellowship

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I started interviewing.io because I was frustrated with how inefficient and unfair hiring was and how much emphasis employers placed on resumes.

But the problem is bigger than resumes. We’ve come to learn that interview practice matters just as much. The resume gets you in the door, and your interview performance is what gets you the offer. But, even though technical interviews are hard and scary for everyone — many of our users are senior engineers from FAANG who are terrified of getting back out there and code up the kinds of problems they don’t usually see at work while someone breathes down their neck — interview prep isn’t equitably distributed.

This inequity never really sat right with me (that’s why interviewing.io exists), but when we started charging for interview practice post-COVID, it really didn’t sit right with me.

As you may have read, if you follow interviewing.io news, COVID-19 turned our world upside down. In its wake, the pandemic left a deluge of hiring slowdowns and freezes. For a recruiting marketplace, this was an existential worst nightmare — in a matter of weeks, we found ourselves down from 7-figure revenue to literally nothing. Companies didn’t really want or need to pay for hiring anymore, and we were screwed.

Then, we pivoted and started charging our users, who had previously been able to practice on our platform completely for free (albeit with some strings, more on that in a moment). While this pivot was the right thing to do — without it, we would have had to shut down the company, unable to provide any practice at all — charging people, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds, didn’t sit right with us, and in our last post announcing our model, we made the following promises:

  • We’d ALWAYS have a free tier 
  • We’d immediately start working on a fellowship for engineers from underrepresented backgrounds or in a visa crisis/experiencing financial hardship ← That’s what this post is about!
  • We’d find a way to let people defer their payments

We launched with a free tier, and it’s still there and going strong. We’re still working on deferred payments and are in the thick of user research and price modeling.

But, the rest of this post is about the 2nd promise. To wit, I’m so proud to tell you that we’ve officially launched the first (pilot) cohort of the interviewing.io Technical Interview Practice Fellowship. This cohort will be focused on engineers from backgrounds that are underrepresented in tech. We are acutely aware, of course, that our first cohort couldn’t capture everyone who’s underrepresented, that gender and race isn’t enough, and that we need to do more for our users who can’t afford our price tags, regardless of who they are or where they come from.

Our hope is to expand this Fellowship to anyone who needs it.

We’re also working on the much harder problem of how to navigate the visa situation we’re in right now (different than when we wrote the first post, sadly… but especially important to me, given that I’m an immigrant myself).

What is the Fellowship, and why does it exist?

Before we tell you a little bit about the Fellows in our inaugural cohort and what the Fellowship entails, a quick word about why this matters.

In order to get a job as a software engineer, it’s not enough to have a degree in the field from a top school. However you learned your coding skills, you also have to pass a series of rigorous technical interviews, focusing on analytical problem solving, algorithms, and data structures.

This interview style is controversial, in part because it’s not entirely similar to the work software engineers do every day but also because 1) like standardized testing, it’s a learned skill and 2) unlike standardized testing, interview results are not consistent or repeatable — the same candidate can do well in one interview and fail another one in the same day. According to our data, only about 25% of candidates are consistent in their performance from interview to interview, and women quit 7X more often than men after a poor performance.

To account for both of these limitations, the best strategy to maximize your chances of success is to practice a lot so you can 1) get better and 2) accept that the results of a single interview are not the be-all and end-all of your future aptitude as a software engineer and that it’s ok to keep trying.

The main problem created by modern interview techniques is that, despite interview practice being such a critical prerequisite to success in this field, access to practice isn’t equitably distributed. We want to fix this, and we’re well equipped to do so. Based on our data, engineers are twice as likely to pass a real interview after they’ve done 3-5 practice sessions on our platform.

Our Fellows will get these practice sessions completely for free. These will be 1:1 hour-long sessions with senior engineers from a top company who have graciously volunteered their time and expertise. Huge thank you and a big shout-out to them all.

After each session, Fellows will get actionable feedback that will help them in their upcoming job search, and we will be helping Fellows connect with top companies as well.

Note: We’d like to be able to offer even more support – and are actively seeking more partners to do so. Please see the How you can help section below if you or your organization would like to get involved!

Why now?

The world seems to be in a place, now more than ever, to have the conversation about race, gender, socioeconomic, and other kinds of equity, in hiring. This is our small part of that conversation.

Who are the Fellows?

After opening up our application process, we close to 1,000 submissions in a week, and (though it was really, really hard) we culled those down to 56 Fellows.

Our first cohort is:

  • 82% Black, Latinx, and/or Indigenous
  • 53% women
  • 55% senior (4+ years of experience) & 45% junior (0-3 years of experience)

Here are some of their (anonymized) stories. There were a lot of stories like these.

My goal is to keep pressing as well as to share and give to underrepresented communities because the journey in tech can be isolating. Often I am the only one. It is critical that there are more people that look like me that are engineers *and* ascend the leadership ladder.

My parents immigrated from [redacted] to The Bronx without a formal education. I’m the first individual in my household to graduate from college and I’m the only Software Engineer in my family. I grew up in a poor neighborhood where many individuals had limited economic and educational opportunity. I aim to make the path to become a Software Engineer easier for those who were in my situation.

My journey to becoming a software engineer almost never happened. Throughout my undergraduate studies I was faced with having to drop out multiple times, due to the immigration status of my parents…. I was tasked with assisting in my family’s living situation and paying for school. I worked full time and started my own construction company in order to take care of my family and studies. It was always tough having to work 8-10 hours a day and then going to class or doing homework… Becoming a software engineer was always a goal of mine, and realizing that goal was well worth the struggle, given the struggle my parents went through to bring us here in the first place.

I spent 5 years in public education working directly with marginalized communities in the struggle for equity. My journey through software engineering is a continuation of this spirit of advocacy and changemaking. Software engineering is a tool to be put at the service of advocacy.

What can I do to help?

There are a number of ways you can help and get involved!

Help sponsor future Fellowship cohorts & create scholarships for underrepresented engineers!

Every Fellow in this first cohort represents at least 100X who are not. We have the tech to scale the hell out of this program, and all we need is backing and resources from people or organizations who recognize there’s a need (donations are tax-deductible). Please email fellowship-sponsors@interviewing.io if you’d like to get involved or want more information.

Hire through us!

Despite mounting evidence that resumes are poor predictors of aptitude, companies were obsessed with where people had gone to school and worked previously. On interviewing.io, software engineers, no matter where they come from or where they’re starting, can book anonymous mock interviews with senior interviewers from top companies. We use data from these interviews to identify top performers much more reliably than a resume, and fast-track them to real job interviews with employers on our platform through the same anonymous, fair process. Because we use data, not resumes, our candidates end up getting hired consistently by companies like Facebook, Uber, Twitch, Lyft, Dropbox, and many others, and 40% of the hires we’ve made to date have been candidates from non-traditional backgrounds. Many of our candidates have literally been rejected based on their resumes by the same employer who later hired them when they came through our anonymous platform (one notable candidate was rejected 3 times from a top-tier public company based on his resume before he got hired at that same company through our anonymous interview format).

Please email sales@interviewing.io to get rolling.

Buy an individual practice session for someone who can’t afford it

If you know individual engineers who need interview practice but can’t afford it, use our handy interview gifting feature. Interviews are $100 each. They’re not cheap, but we have to price them that way to pay for interviewer time (interviewers are senior FAANG engineers) and cover our costs. Sadly that means practice interviews are not affordable to everyone. Even if you can’t get involved to help us fund interviews at scale, if you know someone who needs practice but can’t afford it, you can buy them an anonymous mock interview or two individually. It’s the best gift you can give to an engineer who’s starting their job search.

Aline Lerner

Aline Lerner

Aline is the CEO and founder of interviewing.io.

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