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Ask HN: Experience with job hunting on starfighters.io?
59 points by ReadingInBed on Apr 5, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 24 comments
I am curious to hear your experience hiring or getting hired using https://www.starfighters.io.

I'm the third person to finish all the current Stockfighter levels. (I also coded a MineCraft visualizer, a physical hardware stock trading device with an ESP8622 plus cardboard and duct tape, and helped organize PVP games.) I had fun.

When I first finished, the challenges had just launched and the Stockfighter team was busy putting out fires. I think they switched to recruiting mode about a month later.

Patrick of Starfighter sent me an email with an invitation to have a phone call. We talked about the game, then about a job opportunity. If I had been looking for a job, the discussed company sounded great - a distributed team and interesting problems to solve.

I think they spend a week on recruiting, a week on signing up companies, a week on coding the site, and a week on other stuff before cycling back again. This means that it may be awhile from the time you "win" to the time someone gets in touch with you.

Both the players and the hiring companies are high quality. Last time I checked, less than 1% of the people who completed the first level actually finished the last. It seems to be a pretty strong filter.

Pros: Fun game, good hiring companies, great players. Cons: I would not expect to be hired right away if I was needing a job.

So you play the game (proving your talents by finishing) and then start from square one in the companies interview pipeline? I thought the whole point was to solve that problem?

No, the way it worked for me was that I had a short non-technical chat with an internal recruiter and then we went straight to an onsite interview.

That sounds exactly like square one in the interview process...

No, square one would have been several phone screens if they liked my resume at all. So it got me to around square four or five.

Just to be clear, did the on-site interviews consist of additional technical interviews, or just cultural/general interviews?

Technical interviews.

They should also least guarantee no whiteboard coding if you pass the game. That would be worthwhile.

I would love to guarantee things like that. In fact: I'd love to guarantee no whiteboard coding for anyone, because whiteboard coding is stupid.

But we're just a goofy game company right now, not a force of nature.

Generally: if you're not into the CTF stuff for its own sake, because you like doing this kind of thing for fun, we're not asking you to be involved. We hate the idea of being another hoop to jump through.

If you dig CTF stuff and you're looking for a new gig, we're working on trying to be as helpful as possible for your job search. We're still figuring a lot of this stuff out.

> because whiteboard coding is stupid

not so. I've found it's an effective way to not only judge how people think, but also how they communicate and respond to live feedback.

I've been interviewing developers since 1996. Everyone who has ever done a whiteboard interview says this.

Are you interviewing people for some kind of live coding game show? If so: I concede your point.

> live coding game show

like Starfighter?

Huh? I don't follow. We're not hiring people with whiteboard interviews either.

Hey, all. Thanks for asking about this. I can give a pretty simple answer here:

We are still figuring this stuff out. As an actual business, it's early days for us. We have a thingy we send out to candidates who want to consider working with us that goes into this in some detail.

You should play with the Starfighter CTF stuff if you are interested in CTF stuff (or trading, or, any day now, low-level programming and AVR). You should not do our CTF stuff if you're just trying to get a better job. Maybe someday in the future, if we're wildly successful, this will change, but right now the best mental model for us is "we're a goofy game company that does some recruiting on the side".

I have a lot of strong feelings about hiring process, ineffective and inhumane interviews, work sample testing, and recruiting underserved demographics. I've written some of them up. I think I've also given the impression that what we're trying to do with Starfighter is to singlehandedly fix all of that. Nope!

If you're doing large-scale hiring and you want advice on how to structure your process based on our experience doing hiring (for instance, at NCC/Matasano), please feel free to reach out.

To elaborate on Thomas' answer:

I got a head start on working with players to get them jobs. (All of the SF founders do this, in principal.)

I rate my execution on that process at about 3/10 right now. (I'm very good at writing introductions in a way that gets hiring managers excited about candidates; I'm terrrrrrible at follow-through with candidates at present and have been juggling too many balls for the last several months.)

I'm hoping to get better at it, rapidly, and then replace myself with a short shell script, dedicated hiring engineers, or both.

Things are exactly as fluid as Thomas said.

At present, the modal conversation with me goes something like "Hey I noticed you did $PICK_A_THING. That impressed me and I read your solution. Do you want to have a chat about the game and about potential job options?" If so, proceed to 30 minute phone call about what you liked/didn't like about the game, about your background and interest, and about what you want in terms of a job. If I have a good option for you, I tell you about it. If you agree it is a good option, I write a three paragraph email to someone who has agreed that they trust my judgment on engineers saying why I think they should interview you.

Again: execution ability on this, not fantastic at present. The biggest issues are followup, followup, and followup, for example if e.g. the company I intro you to doesn't immediately jump on the intro. Aspirationally I should bang down their door; in practice, that ball is a ball I often drop. If you have an interview(s) but the interview(s) doesn't result in an offer, I should aspirationally get in touch with "OK, let's debug that, and let me introduce you to some other options." That ball also one I'm not great at, particularly as I've been traveling for the last week and a half.

We're very very new at this, and we're at least as bad at recruiting as I was at writing stock exchanges before I actually wrote a stock exchange. Hoping to get this nailed down over the course of the next few weeks/months and then scale it out.

I finished the levels during the beta and have the first unique badge (a timing attack no longer possible on the last level). I was looking for a really specific set of job requirements and patrick both 1)was totally willing to accommodate and 2)really on my side during the application process. They got me a great interview at a large, well known company- who didn't end up making an offer, but had a great hiring process.

It was overall great and exactly what it said on the tin.

>They got me a great interview at a large, well known company- who didn't end up making an offer, but had a great hiring process.

Unfortunately I thought that this was exactly the problem starfighters was supposed to solve. I.e. qualified engineers getting dropped mysteriously due to various biases of a company's interview process.

Clearly passing a game doesn't mean hired right?

I finished the levels during beta. I had already been in communication with Patrick via email (giving beta feedback), and after I finished the last level I sent him a note saying that I was actively looking for work.

We had a chat over skype, talked about my experience and what I was looking for. He very quickly lined me up an interview with a very well-known company (well-known, in this case, can be interpreted as "thousands of search results on HN").

I had a 15-minute non-technical phone call with an internal recruiter, and then we scheduled an onsite interview straightaway.

I ended up not getting an offer. Not sure whether that's due to my having an off day, or them picking up on legitimate qualities they didn't want, or merely the tendency towards avoiding false positives at the expense of false negatives.

In any case, I have since found a job I'm very excited about (starting soon), to which I was connected through Triplebyte. Triplebyte's model for recruiting is slightly different from Starfighters and won't appeal to everyone (though they are probably closer to one another than to any other player in their field). Triplebyte does have an advantage in that they got started a bit earlier, and, importantly, have more clients. (Though only YC companies currently, I think.) They used this advantage concretely by lining me up with several interviews at once. I don't think that that's something that Starfighters has done; I think they've been connecting candidates with companies in serial.

I think they've been connecting candidates with companies in serial.

Literally changing on a day-to-day basis as I try things out.

Congratulations on the new adventure! (And pip pip for Triplebyte.)

Thanks, and I hope trying new things goes well!

Triplebyte explicitly states that they don't work with remote engineers. Starfighter could differentiate in this aspect. And well, they should offer bit more than just first contact in case you complete the game.

This comment is tangentially related to the topic.

Thomas and Patrick:

First I want to thank you for trying to address one of the most frustrating part of a developer's career.

As you know very well, after Silicon Valley, it's the finance companies in NYC area who pay top notch developer salaries. Even though I am a competent developer, it was quite a struggle for me to break in to the finance industry (They only wanted to hire people with finance experience). It took me a little while but I was able to break in. Now I am over that hump but I am faced with another problem. I have been working in 'Back office' for hedge funds for several years and would like to transition to 'Front office' and I am faced with the same problem again. I am not able to switch roles because I don't have experience working in the front office. The Stock Fighter CTF is a perfect way to demonstrate the relevant ability to prospective employers. Do you guys have any plan to work with hedge funds/investment banks for your recruiting platform?

The levels are fun but if you're job hunting and that's your primary objective, there are better places to hunt.

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