Happy to answer any questions — though we definitely don’t presume we have all the answers, we’re constantly learning!
We are also hiring remote engineers — https://zapier.com/jobs/. Would lov to talk to anyone in the JS, k8s, and Python community!
Is there any truth to this rumor?
We try to be respectful of people’s situations — EG: it’s never appropriate to contact a current employer without permission. We don’t do that.
By the way I read a little on your job site and Zapier sounds like a great place to work :-)
We definitely do not do that. As mentioned elsewhere in the thread, I'll double check internally and make it super clear that isn't acceptable.
It was a disappointment because I expected better from a YC company's process. Of course, I can't really blame Zapier for passing, as I'm sure there are a great deal of applicants and, since I never talked to anyone, I can't know whether we'd be a good match, technically or culturally. For example, many remote companies, especially those that are primarily staffed with offshore employees, are just trying to pinch pennies and paper over it by talking about the hipness and uniqueness of their remote workforce.
Zapier is a custom Q&A intake application [or, at least the applications I filled out were], so it's irksome to write real answers to those Qs and get nothing back. I'd much rather write an HN post where I can wear my rightly-deserved downvotes and critiques with pride -- then I at least get something for the effort! ;)
So, note well, potential applicants: "would love to talk" seems to mean "would love to have you languish in our HR system after you've taken the time to fill out our bespoke long-form questionnaire". Like I said above, usually it's hard to fault companies too heavily for this, but when the CTO is making a personal appeal on HN, I feel like a counterpoint is warranted.
Hiring in general seems to go very slowly these days. I don't know if everyone is flooded with fake resumes from "bootcamp grads" or what now, but 5 years ago or so, you could normally expect to hear back within a few days if someone was interested. It's a different ball game now. In the last couple weeks I've gotten two replies to applications I sent in around Christmas time -- one "an invitation to interview" from a well-known company (which I ignored), and one a message from another company that they'd closed out my application in their HR platform.
Disclaimer: my experience from memory. Intervals and dates may be fuzzy. Not going to dig up the correspondence.
Half a day??? Talk about dedication :)!
Anyway, Zapier's process appears to have improved from 2 years ago -- they commit to and usually succeed in responding to your application within a week now.
This has been my experience and observation as well. I have regularly gotten responses from recruiters months after I applied for roles and have already taken something something elsewhere.
And curiously the recruiters don't ever bother to even acknowledge that months have passed since I applied. Or bother to ask if I am even still looking.
I am curious if anyone knows what the cause of this is. Is this simply the proliferation of incompetent recruiters? Is it just companies advertisings roles that aren't "actually" hiring for at the moment in order source CVs? Something else?
But as you mentioned this was not always the case. This seems to be recent-ish phenomenon in my observation(last ~3 years.) Not even large fortune 500s move as this glacial pace. What's more baffling is that this phenomenon exists at all in a tight labor market.
We definitely do get a lot of candidates, but that doesn't excuse poor experiences and we truly try to do our best. Hiring truly is an flawed and messy process on both sides.
Generally, we've found it best not to look away from the mistakes we make, and we make our fair share of them! By doing that we hope to not repeat them, or at least repeat them less often.
There are many valid and plausible reasons that they could've chosen not to move forward in the interview process: maybe they got to another hireable candidate before they even seriously considered my application, maybe there is some specific technical need that I clearly don't meet and which I'm not picking up on from the job description, maybe something else.
And I can't see anyone else in the candidate pool either; while I'm good at things, undoubtedly there is a non-trivial quantity of people who are better. Candidates are compared and contrasted against the pool of other applicants; if there is someone else whose qualifications blow mine out of the water, or who is technically comparable but much cheaper, then who can blame Zapier for taking the obviously-superior option? I can't see the other applicants, so I can't know whether or not there was a slam-dunk applicant who made the merely "great" applicants pale in comparison.
Even if I'm highly qualified and there isn't anyone clearly superior in a comparable price range, people often can't quantify a firm rational basis for their specific preferences between candidates (and this becomes even more apparent once you're on the other side of the table).
This is when the infamous "culture fit" is broken out. I was once told that I had been passed over because I "wasn't assertive enough" after I spent most of an interview blasting the use of MySQL in a specific industrial application. There's no way that note wasn't intended as passive-aggressive retaliation. :P
Recently I was dismissed from a candidate pool because my answer to "Tell me about a time you resolved a problem with a colleague" hadn't been rehearsed to the satisfaction of the interviewer, who was one of those "I'm technical because I read WIRED and like being nerdy" types. That is just a different preference in technical depth as far as I'm concerned. Technically strong people are going to worry about technical interview content and focus on that rather than their answers to tired cliches.
Sometimes even things that seem trivial or silly can be a bigger impediment in context. For example, my first name is Jeff. I know of at least a couple of gigs that I've lost solely because there were already 3 or more Jeffs involved in the work on a daily basis and they didn't want to make the situation worse! "Jeff" is a somewhat common name but it's not super common -- sometimes I wonder how frequently this happens to Johns or Steves.
tl;dr it's just impossible to know whether a hiring decision is justified or not without having the insider dialogue and insight, and even then, don't expect stellar rationale. As bryanh said elsewhere upthread, hiring is a messy process.
I don't think Async solves the problem you mention -- that is more of a cultural thing. We expect folks to message each-other frequently (preferably in a public room with an @ mention) but set the expectation that you don't need to respond immediately. The public aspect is important as you will often get "drive-by help" from someone else on the team!
I have phone set up to not disturb me with notifications between 10pm and 7am so I wouldn't mind as long as nobody expects a response before next working day morning. Before I could do that I simply did not have company's chat/email on my phone.
My day starts with reviewing any received messages (no matter what channel -- email, chat...) and responding to them. I would find it unprofessional if someone did not. If this wasn't just an occasional oversight, then I would take it up with them.
Yeah...this is why I close down slack when I don't want disruptions. There's no point in a DND if others can do it anyway. It shouldn't be an option. If someone at work has an emergency and needs to get hold of me, they can give me a phone call. Non-verbal communications have a tendency to be abused, but the reality of actually having to have a conversation with the person you're disturbing means only serious calls seem to get made.
It's a much more scalable approach than trying to read the backscroll in Slack, IMO.
It has a few special features, but on the whole it's basically like a company-wide journal.
It does make it harder to hire, but it would be even harder at the other extreme -- if no one applied!
you started the company having already a pool of people you knew and trusted.
What if you don't have that? I'm worried about security aspects, hacking, etc...
How is it possible to start a company with remote hires and still have trust that they won't run away with your code, etc... Especially if the remote hires are in another jurisdiction where legal recourse might be hard or impossible?
If you're really worried, just stick to people in developed countries with a sane legal system. But honestly finding people with great communication and technical skills should be a much more important criteria to the success of your company. You're company is much more likely to die from self inflicted wounds than because someone sold your source code to a competitor.
Are most of your people in the Western hemisphere? I find that with Slack I need to pay close attention to the stream which can be a major distraction. Also it can be kind of a pain going through scrollback if I was asleep for a few hours while others are working.
I never feel like I'm overwhelmed keeping track of things, since everything is so accessible thanks to Async. It frees me up to let Slack kind of drift past when I'm not working.
2. We're globally distributed. I'm in the UK, for instance, but we have folks in the Eastern Hemisphere too. I will admit that most folks are in the US so right now, we do skew towards the Western Hemisphere, but that might not always be the case.
Also, in support, we have a summary channel in Slack where we post the most important things that someone coming online would need to know about. For example, outages, recent issues, policy changes, important messages, etc. all get posted to a specific channel in Slack so you can read them _without_ the noise of chat involved.
My career started only about 5 years ago but over that time each position I've had has either been fully remote or had a remote aspect to it.
The company I now work for had a similar start to zapier but with one key difference: the co-founders were opposed to remote work. However the market forces of hiring the right people pushed this venture to become remote and our team is now scattered across North America and Asia.
I think we're going to continue to see companies moving in this direction and more "remote native" workers like myself come to expect it. Especially after visiting Canggu I don't think the trend is going to reverse itself.
The world has changed and I don't think we're going back.
One of the big challenges I see is for management to avoid over-reliance on metrics. There's a famous quote whose attribution I don't recall that says "what you measure, you optimize" which is a warning. It is exceedingly easy to create perverse incentives and direct efforts toward optimizing a metric that actually hurts your progress toward the actual goal you want to accomplish. These are the places where a real leader can be instrumental.
There are also many organizations that seek to reduce almost every task an employee does to a checklist or standard procedure. That made sense in the manufacturing world. But in mental work of any kind, most problems are going to be novel and, by necessity, so will be the solutions, which requires greater flexibility (and more trust extended to the worker). None of this even touches on the fact that human beings have very different fundamental capacities for mental work than they do for repetitive physical labor. If you attempt to do remote work and start by planning a system to monitor every keystroke and mouse movement to ensure that every action is productive, you'll burn out the most valuable people and those that remain will be working with a severe handicap. So many aspects of work seem ripe for change... maybe those thousands of studies done and ignored for the past few decades will come in handy.
Some of my takeaways:
* Doing a 15 minutes "daily standup" (we use hangouts, audio-only) is really, really useful. Of course, for some people the meeting won't be at the beginning of their day, but it can work all the same. It's the one thing that I would recommend the most: creating cohesion in a remote team is much more challenging than in person, and this helps a lot. Insist on everybody being on time: my teams are very, very flexible, except for this one rule. When somebody has a bad connection, they still participate in a group chat.
* For task management we use Trello (with a kanban-like approach). It's great for asynchronous communication - in one of the two teams, we even use it to communicate with the customer; this only worked after we were able to "educate" the customer about a scrum-like approach. Only try it if you have a very collaborative relationship with the customer.
* When there is the need to share longer specs than those that can fit on trello, we use google docs - the ability to collaborate both with real-time shared editing and with comments and suggestions is very valuable.
* For brainstorming, drawing architectural diagrams, discussing design etc. I find murally a godsent: https://mural.co/
* For quick real-time communication we use chat (again, hangouts). But whenever I see that it takes more than just a few lines to finish talking, I suggest increasing the bandwidth and upgrading to an audio call with screen-sharing. Some people don't like that very much, but we saved hundreds of hours - and a lot of frustration - by doing this.
* If the person you need isn't online right when you need them, we resort to comments on trello or just plain old email.
* Not everybody can work well remotely - it requires A LOT of self-discipline and self-motivation. At the beginning, I hired some people even if I had some doubts about those traits, or I started having those doubts in the first weeks, and tried many different ways to motivate them and get better results. I never succeeded - this could have been my limitation, but grooming devs remotely is objectively much more difficult than doing that in person. So, my suggestion is: when in doubt, don't hire. If you have doubts early on, fire (I don't like doing that, but paid a very heavy toll in terms of stress when I didn't do it).
Shameless plug: I'm currently looking for a career change. If interested, take a look at my profile :)
Feeling teammates as living beings and not just nicks with avatars is critical for an efficient and mentally safe team. Meeting each other in real life is most helpful. Video helps there too. If none is an option, the team lead has a harder challenge.
But one way or another it should became a part of the team communication habit. And newcomers should be asked if they're comfortable with that.
Being able to dress down comfortably is one of the benefits of remote work. I work 90% on slack and not knowing what facial expression someone is making has never hindered dealing with a crunch - my teammates are on point and engaged as it is.
For me the dead air in a crunch time call, the need to split my attention, etc. would just increase the stress.
I think communicating effectively via text as well as comprehending meta cues in received messages may be a learned skill.
How comfortable are we talking? Like shirtless? I don't know of anyone expecting people to be office dressed when working at home. If that's the case, then yeah I fully agree with your point.
> For me the dead air in a crunch time call, the need to split my attention, etc. would just increase the stress.
I think there was some confusion about my original statement. I was not talking about being on a video call during crunch time, but that seeing your co-workers on a regular basis helps you know them better and thus have more empathy and understanding when a problem time arises. The point is to build a bond with co-workers similar to when working in a office so that the same work product can be created.
> I think communicating effectively via text as well as comprehending meta cues in received messages may be a learned skill.
I agree, which is why most of my teams communication is over chat and email. My original point was if a meeting is required then it should be video whenever possible. This includes daily stand ups. I have found anecdotally that having regular video chats improves chat and email communication.
In which country in did you find good technical people ?
My own experience:
Ukrainian(Kiev) : very technical, high quality, not so cheap
India(Puna, Delhi) : need lots of hands-on encouragement, difficult to find and retain the good people
I found good and not-so-good technical people in all places; my main not-so-surprising observation is that mostly you get what you pay for, especially nowadays: in five years, the cost of good developers in the Philippines and Poland has gone up a lot. For India I have less experience, but from what I know the costs had gone up even earlier. I suppose that the talent from Ukraine will be almost all well employed very soon :)
It's not something I see done that often, but if your 'remote in similar timezones' it does remove a friction point. We only did it for a day or two as part of getting set up with the new codebase, but I found it fairly effective.
- It helps that everyone is a senior dev on my current project. There's nobody on the team who needs to be handheld through anything. I've pretty much said "Welcome, I see you were able to build the project. Let's automate a Valgrind step in the CI pipeline". And like magic the new guy does a merge request with a Valgrind step soon after.
- Being remote also means you are effectively only looking for senior staff, because you get so many CVs, why would you go for an unproven junior guy? You also tend to think young people are slackers, or someone on your team will. The only time I worked with someone fresh from a bootcamp was because she was inexpensive. Good worker though.
- Tools: Slack, GitLab. They seem so intuitive, never met a dev who needed to be shown how they work. Slack for discussions. GitLab issues for specific issues.
- Culture: wrong personalities are magnified. When you aren't talking to someone in person there's no facial feedback. If someone says something people don't like in person, they often get the feedback from the listeners quickly and are able to change tone. Online, this is not so easy. We had one guy who was being very aggressive in technical discussions, and it annoyed people.
- Tools/Culture: some people are resistant to organising their work through issue tracking and version control. This was a huge problem at an onsite job I had years ago. If it had been remote, it would have been even more of a disaster. Part of the issue is when you write a bug report, you are implying someone has done something wrong. This is a terrible attitude. Along similar lines, if you create a goal like a milestone, you are again setting yourself up for failure if you don't reach it. What kind of people are prone think this way? Strategy quants whose job it is to deliver the magic that can't be found in any published work, and whose work is greatly affected by randomness. Now I'm sure they're not all like that, but the ones I worked with did seem to have rather fragile egos.
- Culture: Not everyone wants to work remote. One guy left because he missed the camaraderie of the office, the on/off of being in or not. Of the people who love remote, a lot have families. Then there's the ones who use it to globetrot. Those two tend to not have an on/off. They're always kinda there, kinda not.
- Culture: Meetings are drop-in, drop-out. In real life some people like being able to call a bunch of people into a room and have them stay there for questioning. I don't think I've ever met anyone who liked that. Online meetings are asynchronous. I might say something, then go to the bathroom without telling anyone, then come right back and catch up. People leave to get their kids, and you don't expect them to be right there. But coding work tends to accommodate that.
1 A proper professional external sound card
2 Pro / Semi Pro microphones no need for condensers etc a Sure SM58 is good enough.
3 for skype its often better to have dedicated skype drone machine and feed your audio into that.
4 a good video camera.
Glassdoor seems to agree: https://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Zapier-Reviews-E1196705.ht...
Note: I have zero affiliation with Zapier, other than being a satisfied customer. Just happened to run across their hiring page today and was impressed.