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I took a job at Amazon, only to leave after 10 months (benadam.me)
704 points by benadam11 13 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 666 comments





Hey congrats on making it 10 months!

"Urgent to not block progress, but also ironic that they are asking a person who has no clue what they are doing to deliver critical work"

Friend of mine started a role there (this was 4-5 years ago) and was fired (sorry... more or less asked to leave, being told he could keep his signing bonus if he just left) within about six weeks because he wasn't immediately delivering on some insane amounts of work. Truly, he recapped it for me, the expectations were absolutely incredible and I'd consider him a hard worker who has found a ton of success in his current role.

I bag on Amazon a lot on here (which if I were to review with my therapist is likely because I had an absolutely HORRENDOUS experience in an interview loop with them my first step out of college that still makes me nervous in interviews, even 15 years later). But living in Seattle, a notable chunk of my social circle works there. I'd say a few enjoy the scale of things they get to work on or perhaps the brand name, but overall none of them ever talk about liking the work environment/balance/culture.

One friend, at a director level, just quit on a whim because he came back from parental leave and his direct reports had all been put on a PIP while he was out. He told his VP to fuck off, left, and is now on sabbatical. I've never seen him so happy.


> I bag on Amazon a lot on here (which if I were to review with my therapist is likely because I had an absolutely HORRENDOUS experience in an interview loop with them my first step out of college that still makes me nervous in interviews, even 15 years later).

Hey, I had a similar experience with Google! It was my first technical interview for my first job out of college. The interviewer laughed at my code, and then after going through the logic said "Wow I can't believe this actually works."

Personal grievances aside, I've come to think that the Leetcode interview style has morphed from a "let's see how you handle problems at scale" test into an ego-driven hazing ritual. My biggest gripe is that Leetcode is systematically favoring candidates who have months of free time to memorize arbitrary logic puzzles. It makes me sad for the less privileged candidates who might be working a job while also trying to break into the IT field.


> "My biggest gripe is that Leetcode is systematically favoring candidates who have months of free time to memorize arbitrary logic puzzles. It makes me sad for the less privileged candidates who might be working a job while also trying to break into the IT field."

I told google that this style of interviewing is discriminatory, especially towards people with families, or other commitments. Never got another call for an interview since ^_^


> I told google that this style of interviewing is discriminatory, especially towards people with families

But this is exactly the point, to be discriminatory while using a valid excuse for doing so.


I told one that I am a human being, not a circus animal here to do tricks, and if they want me to do live coding, they'd have to pay me for my time.

Same result as you: The recruiters stopped bothering me.


Actually, that's not a half bad idea. If phone interview is passed, on-site time should be paid since the market is too hot. I wasted about 5 hours with Google (I did get an offer after the interview) but it was horrible experience (2019). Maybe if I was paid for that time I could at least justify this incredible time-waste. For example, companies do pay for people to fly-in for onsite interviews, so they do have budget for that.

UPD: I have provided negative feedback to my recruiter and they still reaching out to me. Really doubt companies ever act on any of candidate feedbacks since candidates are not employee (I know my previous company didn't, asking for feedback was just a "wanna look good in your eyes" question).


> "If phone interview is passed, on-site time should be paid since the market is too hot."

And what happens later when the market is not so hot? I was around for both the dot com bust and 2008 recession. The current hot market should not be taken for granted; it isn't going to last forever.


I bailed on a Google interview loop after the recruiter literally told me that they'd, "like to bring you in and put you through your paces". I'm no one's trained pony.

I'm not a huge fan of coding tests, but as a hiring manager, we do them during my team's interviews.

I'm not looking for a leetcoder. But I've had to reject candidates who otherwise seemed really strong, but then it turns out that they completely struggled with every aspect of a simple python question.


I've probably been involved with 500 interviews at this point, primarily as a technical screener. If a candidate is applying for a job that requires working with code in some capacity, it would be foolish not to test and quantify those skills. Someone that muddles through but has fun and learns something during a tough interview is more likely to progress through the pipeline than an "expert" with a chip on their shoulder. I've witnessed a handful of "highly experienced" candidates make it to the onsite interview stage and then epically botch it purely with their attitude when asked to actually solve a problem within a set of constraints (isn't that what engineering is?) In almost all those cases, there were subtle red flags the resume or earlier round of interviews, and the interview question was intentionally designed to dig into those flags.

The difference is that a candidate with a good attitude and growth potential is usually worth hiring even if they're not a fit for the role they applied for, and so the hiring manager will get creative trying to make something work.

Perhaps some of the well known tech companies don't put the same level of care into their interview pipelines, and then folk become jaded and irrational? Does anyone remember that Office episode where Ray Romano interviews for the manager position and talks about how all his old coworkers are jerks while eating a sandwich out of his briefcase?


What's an example of a 'simple python question that someone failed?' And was it something that truly showed incompetance?

In my experience, it turns out to be some dark corner of the language, or a keyword that's not in common use today. Examples are: 'void' in JavaScript and 'boxing' in C#


the best part is that when you're done with the on-site you get a survey with a question like "do you think google's making the world a better place?" hah

personally I think they do make some pretty cool things here and there but they do have very pretentious vibe all throughout

the phase of technology that they own/owned is nearing end soon anyway


> do you think google's making the world a better place?

Silicon Valley, season 1 episode 1: "But most importantly we're making the world a better place. Through constructing elegant hierarchies for maximum code reuse and extensibility."

Mike Judge is a genius.


> Mike Judge is a genius.

He really is. Any one of his properties would prove that by itself. Having such keen insights into disparate facets of humanity tells me that he just gets humans on a level not many other people do. Hopefully that doesn’t sound too flowery and pretentious.


I think he nails satire and weirdness of humans well, similar to apatow, but I think he falls flat on the more emotional or positive aspects of humanity.

Not to say he’s not a master of his craft, and king of the hill especially had tender moments, but maybe that’s just not what he’s interested in


> I think he nails satire and weirdness of humans well, similar to apatow, but I think he falls flat on the more emotional or positive aspects of humanity.

That's a fair criticism. Much of his work comes off as deeply cynical.


He makes comedy, not drama?

When I last saw geto boys live, willie d introduced the set by saying "we know why y'all are here, that's why this is the office space tour. and you know mike judge is the greatest satirist of this generation, watch silicon valley sundays on hbo" and then they went into "still" and bushwick bill beat up a printer on stage with a baseball bat. it was transcendent.

When Amazon reached out to me I told them happy to talk to them, but I don't do coding tests. No response since then. I think it was a friends recommendation though, so in hindsight, maybe I should have at least listened.

I wouldn't feel bad. Friends don't tell friends to work at Amazon. :P

That depends what they know. As this article describes, Amazon is like a federation of mini-companies. So the right team is Great.

why do you want to work for Amazon and Google when there are so many great companies that would appreciate you every day (and pay you more)

No. There are companies where you can have a life, but they are boring. And there are companies that pay you more, but there’s always a catch. In my long resume consisting of Startups to SV Giants, not one company paid you a lot to do less work.

I’ve heard it described as: “You can work on interesting problems, have a great work-life balance, or get paid really well, but you can only select two.”

I don't care about interesting problems. I want to get paid really well and have a great work-life balance.

But I don't think those jobs exist unless you're already an expert in something and can get by on the expertise that you already have. Please prove me wrong!


My take is that any desirable combination probably takes some up-front work, sacrifice, and luck.

For your example combination, I've known entrepreneurs who've met that mark, but it took some initial risk taking and sacrifice. The work isn't sexy by most SV measures but they make extremely good money and one in particular takes months off every year to travel in Europe while in his 30s. I wouldn't call them an 'expert', they just found a niche that other people didn't find interesting enough to pursue.

Likewise, for other combinations (say 'interesting work + high pay') you may have to put in early work for a PhD where you aren't getting paid well initially. For other combinations ('work-life-balance + interesting work') I've known people who essentially worked for free in order to network and prove themselves until they were offered one of those positions.

I guess the point I'm making is that those desirable combinations don't naturally just fall into the laps of most of us but are the product of deliberate and conscience up-front work that can't necessarily be templated out.


The consultant side can do all three, but it’s a tough balancing act. You need the right niche, the right connections, great technical skills, and great social skills.

Or work for an agency. :)

*As a contractor

I don't think most civil servants qualify for the high pay portion (at least by comparison to SV pay scales), as their pay is capped. And work as a contractor brings about a host of other issues


Maybe it's just me but finding a job that has great work-life balance and pays well is hard.

“Pays well” is probably relative. You can certainly find them in lower cost-of-living areas by the local standard but it’s pretty hard to find SV-type pay

I would like "interesting problems" + "great work-life balance". Any recommendations on places these days? Don't seem to exist anymore, sadly.

Government. Academia. Speaking from experience. :). You won't get rich, but you won't starve either. And your pension might not be a complete disaster.

Just to pile on late, I would add to this. To meet the "interesting" part, you may be able to extend it to a National Laboratory, which is a bit quasi-government.

The academia route certainly exists, but the glut of of PhDs compared to available positions combined with the amount of complaining I've heard from non-tenured professors would make me a bit hesitant to advocate this route as a general recommendation. But there are other staff positions that might better fit that bill


Seconded (I’m in academia, my wife is in government).

CERN ;)

Totally my life. I keep the middle one fixed, and then see-saw on the other two!

Who is paying more than Amazon and Google right now? Investment banks, maybe?

Haha, investment banks do not pay SWEs well at all (outside of certain rare elite niche roles anyways).

You'll be lucky to make half the compensation a FAANG engineer makes at a typical investment bank while always being treated as a second class cost center employee.

Amongst the FAANG companies, my understanding for compensation is:

Netflix, Facebook > Google > Apple, Amazon

...adding in the MULA companies, believe Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb are towards the upper end of the spectrum while Microsoft is towards the lower. Correct me if I'm wrong.


https://levels.fyi/2021

Also my impression is that Amazon’s effective comp is significantly below the headline number because they heavily backload RSUs and they burn out or fire so many people in the first couple years.


usually the signing bonus they offer for years 1 and 2 makes up for the backloaded RSU schedule... at least that's mostly how my offer worked circa 2019

Quants: Citadel and Jane Street.

GL getting in. The interviews are arguably harder than that of FAANG.

I have never had the luck (I guess) to run across a company that is both great to work at and pays well.

If they're great to work at, they don't have to pay top dollar to attract and (more importantly) retain people.

I would argue most* FAANG and similar companies are some of the best companies to work at as a SWE, in addition to paying well.

No company is perfect, not even FAANG. However despite their many warts, I would argue they are still better than working at most other companies outside of the Silicon Valley tech sector where the vast majority of SWEs are employed.

* Of course, there are exceptions. Amazon seems to be particularly notorious.


Google and amazon pay pretty well. Please list a few companies that treat you better and pay more.

(and pay you more).

No.


Just in general this is extremely rude to do as an interviewer. I remember interviewing at Google a few years ago and the interviewer laughed at me when I asked her if they used Kotlin in the mobile app that they were hiring for. Kotlin was pretty standard at the time in most 3rd party apps and nowadays Google never shuts up about it in their dev talks, but back then I guess it was so unlikely that Google itself would be using the language in its own apps that she thought it was funny. It came across as pretty rude in that interview setting, though she probably was not intending to be so.

When I interview people I try really hard not to do stuff like laughing at a serious question or suggestion from a candidate unless they're obviously trying to be funny.


> When I interview people I try really hard not to do stuff like laughing at a serious question or suggestion from a candidate unless they're obviously trying to be funny.

Anyone who has worked at a big company knows how much terrible legacy cruft runs the world, and it does take an effort to not be jaded during the interview.

I work for a major cloud hosting company and was fighting with the team that owns a resource manager that runs on each node over some "fancy C++11" features I used, and in an interview I had the same day, the doe-eyed new grad candidate asked me:

Candidate: So do you guys have a chance to use C++20 yet for work? I find it pretty neat Me: Well...it's hard to explain C: How about C++17, are you at least on that? Me: ... C: 11? Me: the standard we use is older than you are

The guy eventually joined and at least I have a pal to commiserate with now.


There are several reasons that might be funny. Assuming that funny question = stupid question is going to result in you being offended quite frequently. It's google, the interviewer probably thought it was funny because what you just asked would be logical, but because of insert crazy bureaucratic reason here they can't.

Most interviewers are nice people. Assuming good intent when they laugh is going to be the right assumption most of the time.


I think it's nice to be chatty and relaxed in an interview, but a lot of people would think that laughing at a question crosses a line, unless they let you in on the joke. Like, "Do you use Kotlin?" => "Hahahaha! No. Funny thing is, earlier today we decided to rewrite the next major version in Kotlin!"

I don't take offence easily but honestly if there wasn't an explanation for laughter I would straight up ask "What's so funny?".

Imagine how a Russian candidate would feel, when it's culturally "odd" to smile for no apparent reason?


Asking "what's funny" is a great response. And you are right - hopefully the interviewer would give an explanation for the laughter.

Re the Russian - it sort of depends if the company is mostly Russian or not. If the culture at a company is such that it's offensive to smile/laugh then it would be better for a laugher to join a different company - ie be gated out, no?


Yeah, I worked at Android in google at that time and he probably thought “I wish we could use kotlin”. It was still pretty rude to laugh though, had to be aware many candidates would already be nervous and would find it offensive.

I guess you are clearly correct that some will find it offensive... I think I'd be happy to laugh and offend said people as a mechanism to keep them away. It can be pretty toxic when people assume the worst of others (even if they are nervous)

Ironicly, you describe a very judgmental, insensitive, and quite toxic behaviour.

Edit since I can't reply to your comment: if you lack the emphaty to understand why people may be very reasonably insulted in such cases, you really shouldn't be conducting interviews, IMHO. The irony part is that you actually describe a behaviour that "assumes the worst of others", as you said.


The point of interviewing is to make judgements. There is no irony. This judgement is: people who assume the worst of others are toxic to work with.

What is a good reason to be insulted in the kotlin example, if you are the type of person who assumes good intent of others?

They are in an interview which is not a normal situation. The way they read the situation, the interviewer was laughing at them. It is normal and very very common to be oversensitive and misread things like that during an interview.

The interviewee is not your friend, he/she do not know your brand of humor or internal jokes. Additionally, he/she may have cultural differences.

You talked with someone an hour in an unbalanced stressful job related situation and you really think you know something about their personality? Behavioural researchers think that you can't know much. I wouldn't be so judgmental of people you've just met. You should be more aware of the limitations of the interview platform and stick to what you can deduce. (Which is not, that a person is toxic, because he/she felt laughed at)


> The way they read the situation, the interviewer was laughing at them

This is the problem. There are many situations in a career which aren't "normal" and will make people nervous. Giving presentations. Talking to the CEO. Or the boss's boss. Or the leading expert at X. Being in a meeting with all the execs. Or in a performance review. Meeting with clients/customers/potential customers. If every time a person is nervous they assume ill intent of others at the slightest hint, they are going to be problematic. They don't intend to be problematic, but they are.

The point of a mechanism like that given is that you don't have to make a judgement. It's self selecting. In this specific scenario, the kotlin example interviewer a) laughed b) offended a person and c) probably wasn't even aware they had caused offense and d) kept the person out of the company.

If b) had gone down the other path, the person isn't offended and (all else equal) is still enthused to work at the company.


Trying to weaponize laughter is the most comically toxic thing I've ever heard of. If you did it I'd say good on you for showing your true colors and saving them the hassle of finding out later.

"weaponize laughter" is a clever sounding spin on what was said... however... a weapon is something designed to inflict damage. The comment above is about keeping people out who will inflict damage to an organization. Maybe you could call it.. using laughter as a shield

Between this and your other comment:

> The point of interviewing is to make judgements. There is no irony. This judgement is: people who assume the worst of others are toxic to work with.

Whew.

The saving grace here is you're so cavalier about this sort of borderline paranoia and megalomania.

It tells me you won't hide it well, and the shrewd candidates will run for the hills.


You seem to be assuming bad intent....

It really is helpful, socially, to assume good intent. It avoids unnecessary arguments (/wars). Additionally, if you spend a little time digging in when you have assumed bad intent, you'll almost always find that the person has good intent, there has just been a misunderstanding, or miscommunication, or they face very different incentives or have a different set of underlying assumptions.

As for megalomania - it's likely we live in different locations/and or work in different industries. Where I am, interviewers don't hold the power. Candidates do. Especially candidates who are judged to be good. Good candidates make a judgement call as to where they want to work because they have many options. They exercise said power, negotiate higher salaries, and leave if they don't like the arrangement. And good for them, they have in demand skills and a good attitude.

I understand it isn't like this in all locations/industries.


Why do you think I said they'd run from you?

If I caught a whiff of half what you've said here I'd end the on-site early. My industry is too competitive to put up with this sort of childish antics.


And the gate would be working as intended.

I'm quite certain you have good intent. Maybe you've had truly rude people interview you, they exist. Maybe you have worked with a lot of jerks who were rude. Maybe we just have different definitions of "judge".

The most generous take of my intent is ~ "this person really wants to avoid a dysfunctional work culture".

If you assume good intent, you'll face fewer problems in life. It's one of the few pieces of advice that actually work with few exceptions. If you catch a whiff of something, and it smells like bad intent, maybe forcing yourself to rethink it from another perspective will work.


I assume good intent: that's encountering why someone who'd make people uncomfortable with openly expressed ill-intent is so messed up...

By the way, you should let HR know about your helpful intent to shield the company. They should have a wonderful commendation for you, and some COBRA paperwork to go with it.


> try and make people uncomfortable

This is an example of assuming ill-intent. I didn't say I'd try to make people uncomfortable. Here is what I actually wrote:

>I think I'd be happy to laugh and offend said people as a mechanism to keep them away

An interpretation of this assuming good intent is: "If I find something funny, I'll laugh. If it has the side effect of keeping people out who assume everyone has ill-intent, that's fine. "

An interpretation assuming ill intent is: "i deliberately laugh to see who it upsets".

Most people have read what I said in the generous way. There are a lot of upvotes. Hacker News isn't filled with a-holes who get excited when someone says something awful.


>> "I'd be happy to laugh and offend "

This is the definition of ill-intent.

This is what intentionally making someone uncomfortable looks like.

Glad you learned something today :)


Edit: I just looked at your comment history :( I should have stopped a long time ago. You seem to be stuck in this mode of assuming ill intent/bad faith from everyone.

I got two sentences in and my eyes glazed over...

You might as well save your breath at this point, you'll notice everything I've said was a very simple point, and every reply you've had was a roundabout treatise trying to pivot away from <very simple point>.

That's because what you're doing is defending an indefensible position.

-

If you had just said it was a joke it would have been better for everyone involved... what a way to live life if this is really what you're about.


> It came across as pretty rude in that interview setting, though she probably was not intending to be so.

Right, probably wasn't meant to be rude. Not hard to imagine that she might have had a lunch conversation recently about Kotlin, or just finished reading a long HN thread about it, and that was the laughter.

But in general, yeah, we all need to be mindful in our language. The interviewer is under zero stress/tension during an interview, while the interviewee is on high alert.


> Leetcode is systematically favoring candidates who have months of free time to memorize arbitrary logic puzzles

Finding people who are willing to spend months in order to get the job is one of the biggest reasons companies use leetcode.


I just wish companies that didn't have the applicant pool of a FAANG company understood this. Leetcode for your average dev company is a great way to lose a massive portion of the qualified talent pool. I can guarantee almost every SaaS developer never touches dynamic programming beyond simple memoization, yet its tested so much. You might as well test a French Cuisine Chef on how well his Chinese cooking is.

> You might as well test a French Cuisine Chef on how well his Chinese cooking is.

A way more apt comparison would be evaluating him on his knive sharpening skills.


As someone who has worked in professional kitchens, I can say that any professional chef that isn't comfortable sharpening their own knives isn't there because they love cooking. All of the ones I know take great pride in their knives.

A butcher can sharpen knives very well, but that doesn't mean they'll know how to cook. Same goes for a line cook, while a chef knows how to run a kitchen... sorry for being pedantic, but being good at grinding out Leetcode questions doesn't mean you'll be a good programmer. It'll mean you'll be good at answering Leetcode puzzles.

Not a professional chef but I'm a good cook. I try to bring my own knives when I travel to visit friends just in case someone asks me to cook, because most home kitchens have shit knives that are only good for spreading butter.

This is a dicey proposition when flying: Carry-on is not an option so I have to bring my B-grade knives that I won't miss if the airline loses them.


I got frustrated with terrible knives in a variety of Airbnbs but instead of bringing my own, I bought a portable sharpener. It generally makes even a pretty bad knife into something not so terrible to use for a couple days. And airport security doesn't care, even in carry-on.

Growing up, all my family used were small, cheap paring knives. As an adult I treated myself to a high quality set, and I try to keep them in good shape. It's taken a few years to fix my visiting in-laws' bad habits like running them through the dishwasher or cutting stuff on ceramic plates. At first they thought I was odd for calling them out on such things, but they're starting to come around and realize the quality of life improvement of being able to actually slice things. I'll bring my sharpening stone and oil when visiting them, and put an edge back on whatever random kitchen knives they have. I sharpened my sister-in-law's set and she almost chopped her fingers off cutting through a tomato because she was used to putting muscle into it. A month later she bought a whole new set of knives that have sharpeners built into the block. My mother-in-law now even brings her knives when she visits us just so I can sharpen them sooner!

Right on! I'm at an extended stay hotel right now for skiing/work, and good knives are one of the things I brought to stock the kitchen.

Rando, but question of genuine interest:

What keeps you from having a couple sets of A grade knives? Is it cost, or some other thing?

I'm asking because I have a few tools I LOVE. One is a set of dial calipers and I've had them since the 80's. I can get new ones, and have, but that tool I know well. My measurements are most repetable with it.


I bought my A-grade knives from a knifesmith in Kyoto. They're expensive and very difficult to replace. Nobody gets to touch those except me.

My B-grade knives are Shuns, which are still much better than 90% of the knives in a typical American kitchen but a bit more tolerant of abuse and available everywhere.


Oh, got it. Very special knives!

Thanks, that makes great sense.


Im not a professional cook, but i do cook most all my meals.

I make my own knives.


name checks out.

I think a more apt comparison would be to tell a classically trained English speaking chef to write out obscure recipes in French

The HN Law of Analogical Accuracy: for each attempt at an analogy, an attempt at a more accurate yet more abstract analogy exists in a reply.

If it continues long enough, so we eventually reach a point where the original situation is used as the analogy?

Hilarious. "... Okay, but this is more like if instead of on a cruise ship in Borneo, the monkey is a guy at an engineering interview who only has JavaScript on his resume, and the recruiter is making him implement linked lists in C."

It actually happened already, right down below:

> It'd be a bit like 'someone else has set up a software development environment for you, now write some code' I suppose.


It just goes round in circles for eternity; the never-ending search for the Aptest of Comparisons.

Err, no. Being able to sharpen one’s own knives is a basic skill that every professional chef learns early. Having a sharp knife isn’t an ego-driven showoff move, it’s critically important.

As someone who knows nothing about being a professional chef, it surprises me to discover that a professional chef wouldn't be very comfortable sharpening knives!

I would not trust somebody who calls themselves a professional chef if they couldn't sharpen a knife.

And if they couldn't sharpen a knife? Would you still trust them to cook a 5 course dinner?

Sure. Just like I trust race car drivers to drive even though they don't know how to fix the car. As long as they understand the basics of how the car parts interact, they'll be just fine driving it.

Good race car drivers actually know how car works and I bet can fix many things. Race car drivers take the car to the limit and understanding how car works is competitive advantage - they can help mechanics tune the car, can diagnose problems that show up only at high speed, understand pro/cons of different suspesions and how they work, etc.

On the other hand typical Uber driver does not need to know anything about the car other than what pedals are for and you turn the wheel to steer. If he tries to take the car to the limit, he probably gets 1 star rating from scared passenger. No need to know how car works.

You decide whether Google engineers are more like race car drivers or Uber drivers.


But they probably don't have a MSc like lot of F1 mechanics do.

But in practice, a good one probably won't let anyone else sharpen their knives, nevermind be unable to do it.

It'd be a bit like 'someone else has set up a software development environment for you, now write some code' I suppose.


I've never used Leetcode, but it keeps coming up here. I've been interviewer a lot lately and I keep trying to find ways to filter out the candidates that care more about interview prep than solving real problems.

Is this a nonstandard perspective?


I’ve been doing technical interviews for decades and have gotten good feedback from candidates about my technique. I have a small number of questions that are nearly impossible to have prepared for - one for instance is finding the median in a large dataset using map reduce. The question is open enough there’s a lot of solutions that are expensive, a lot that are dead ends, and one that’s pretty clever. The key is I let them investigate different possible solutions and give them guidance as they butt against expensive or impractical solutions and guide them to the answers I’ve heard over the years that work best. Because I ask the same questions over and over again I can tell how people treat the problem and try to solve it. But since it’s not a typical interview question no one is prepared to answer it off the cuff. Ultimately my goal is to assess whether the candidate can understand the problem, understand dead ends when I point it out, understand how to pivot to another approach, and understand how to interpret hints in a positive direction. IMO these are the important skills for a professional problem solver working in a team.

I wouldn’t use automated screening tools. These tools select for irrelevant criteria in my opinion, and are mostly useful if as an interviewer you’re too lazy or too incompetent to formulate your own questions that tell you whether a person can solve problems and interact well in a group problem solving situation. But I’m an oldster so YMMV.


I’ve experienced interviews that could be described this way. Nearly impossible problems where the interviewer hints at the right (or preferred) solution and I’m stuck doing a guessing game that’s highly unrepresentative of real life software engineering (since no one in actual work drops hints while holding back their knowledge unless they’re jerks). It’s a terrible experience.

I assume you do a much better job given your positive feedback, but it’s not something that every potential interviewer will replicate well if they try to follow your description.


I completely agree and see red flags in how the parent describes their interview technique.

Interview questions with one solution "that’s pretty clever" are IMO, bad. Even cliche "easy" fizzbuzz. Ok...so you know modulo.

Rationing out hints towards that "one weird trick" sounds slightly like a cat toying with a struggling mouse.


It's typical experience for a competition.

I think it's pretty common at small to mid sized companies + startups. Your more "trendy" companies and your F500 companies do the type of Leetcode interview you hear everyone on HN complain about.

It typically looks like a 15 minute phone interview with HR, followed by a lengthy Leetcode/ take home exam (that's auto graded, no humans), a computer form where you input your school, GPA, and courses taken (seriously). All of this info gets turned into a number and then HR takes a sample of the top X and hands it to the hiring manager: "Here are the 'viable' candidates".

The hiring manager then has to (basically) interview the candidate themselves. Ensure they actually have the skills for the position, determine their interest in the role, etc. So this is probably what you're doing right now. Just imagine someone filtered a bunch of your resumes first.

Take with a grain of salt, but I have heard of some folks explicitly getting permission to do hiring outside of HR at said large companies. The kids they get out of undergrad and through HR's Leetcode process are apparently complete garbage. Don't understand C, pointers, memory, or Linux at all. Don't even know what files are.


> Take with a grain of salt, but I have heard of some folks explicitly getting permission to do hiring outside of HR at said large companies. The kids they get out of undergrad and through HR's Leetcode process are apparently complete garbage. Don't understand C, pointers, memory, or Linux at all. Don't even know what files are.

I've done a lot of interviews, and I just accept that I need to explain what a byte is to the candidates. You'd think people with a programming background would know what they are, but it's not a hard concept, so whatever. I don't really care if they know how to open a file or what a byte is, I want to know if they can describe their output, and then write code that does what they said. And if they can write a loop with a loop in it without going off the rails. Bonus points if they can communicate reasonably throughout. You can teach someone how to use files, and unless you're a C shop, most people don't need to use that much C that they can't learn it when it comes up, if they need to. But it's hard to teach 'make a spec, follow the spec you made' and if you have to teach a programmer how to do nested loops, they aren't a programmer yet. (which is maybe fine, if you're interviewing someone who's only programming adjacent or something)


to get around to the algorithmic portion of the interview process (filling out your GPA and hoping for a recruiter call), try reaching out to the recruiters directly. they only go to that pool when their existing leads runs dry, and they'd often love the opportunity to add some self motivated candidates.

How I got my job is I searched linkedIn for <company name> + recruiter and just added all of them. That alone generated lots of recruiter calls. This was 2018, not sure if things have changed


Don't even know what files are

Which is of course exactly what these companies should expect if their idea of candidate "preparation" consists of sitting in front of a webform and being asked to type in functions, one after another.

Like a rat in a cage.


The stuff tested by a coding interview won't get to staff level or beyond. Cross functional understanding, product or technology insights, strategic thinking, etc. are necessary.

Lots of people who come up through the ranks only know how to do coding interviews - coding is what they do in their job, it was the interview they passed and it is what they know in depth. These are also the people confused about why their careers stall.

I never used coding for interviews at Google - even for junior engineers I wanted to see if they understood issues beyond their fingertips. Of course there was always a coding interview or two, so that base was covered.


> I never used coding for interviews at Google

Can you explain? AFAIK Google has a set criteria for engineering interviews. 2-3 coding, 1 design, 1 something else. AFAIK if you get asked to do a coding interview you have to ask coding questions. The people who review your interview would not find it acceptable to not do it.


> Can you explain? AFAIK Google has a set criteria for engineering interviews. 2-3 coding, 1 design, 1 something else.

From the parent comment I guess they were the ones doing the design or ‘something else’ interview, with the coding interview or two being covered by someone else.


I think Leetcode is a pretty decent way to filter for people who work hard and have at least decent critical thinking skills. I guess FAANGs have concluded 1. it's easier to test for those qualities than it is to test for engineering skills 2. those are the qualities that make a good developer.

Leetcode is more about learning pattern recognition of the problem category than it is critical thinking.

What started off as "write a binary search" has turned into a massive gate-keeping process to try to select candidates who fit a profile. I'm not sure what that profile is, but I know I don't fit it. I grinded Leetcode for 2 months and failed Google, Facebook, and Amazon. I thought there was some luck involved and decided not to put any more time into it. But, I don't fault others who do.

I do think the large pay increases the candidate pool, so there has to be some form of testing. I just don't think as a senior developer, it assesses my skills.


Pattern recognition is critical thinking.

I don’t think it’s problems represent the problems we solve in the real world at all.

That's not the point though. Leetcode can't figure out if you're able to do the work today. I think FAANG believes it can figure out whether they'll be able to train you to do the work.

I view it as a way to apply a somewhat relevant filter to a large pool of candidates. It's something coding related with simple appeals such as scalability which makes every engineer quiver at the knees.

Candidates are taught by peers and previous experience what to expect in interviews. It wouldn't take more than 1 or 2 failed leetcode interviews for me to start spending significant time on 'em.

I don't know if it's fair to say the candidates care more about prep than solving real problems if they're just reacting to what at least some employers are expecting.


It depends on what kind of people you're trying to hire.

If you want button-pushers who will keep their heads down and do exactly what they're told, even if it doesn't make sense or is detrimental to the company, then leetcode is a good way to find those people.

If you want actual human beings who are able to think abstractly, critically, and contribute to the team and help the company grow, then look for people who have been working long enough to know that leetcode is a dead end.


> If you want actual human beings who are able to think abstractly, critically, and contribute to the team and help the company grow, then look for people who have been working long enough to know that leetcode is a dead end.

I am very against Leetcode style interviews. I promise every candidate interviewed by the org I lead that they won't be asked academic CS trivia.

But, I don't think what you said here is accurate.

If it were true, these other companies where all the critical thinkers have been flocking to would have displaced the FAANGs.

There are good reasons to dislike Leetcode, but your comment reads like sour grapes to me.


Well, he did say:

> ego-driven hazing ritual

:-)


The worst "Biggest Swingin' Dick on Campus" ego-fest I have ever experienced was working at the F in FAANG...

--

Such a den of.... you can fill in the rest...

I know someone who was literally fired for being "too social" -- and all they did was participate in the stupid parties that were had like "Build you're departments happy hour bar, here is $400 for alcohol to stock it up!!"


I had a few FAANG+M people join my (reserve) unit in the army doing cyber and 6-shop stuff who thought they were hot shit. Some actually were, but the mentality was universal regardless of ability.

I look back fondly on the internal wiki pages documenting all the available "bar space" in the Facebook Seattle office.

Finding hard workers isn't easy. Leetcode is not a bad way to do it. It's not a great way, but it works and more importantly it scales well to the organization level.

I agree, but for many people a six figure job writing code is life changing. So they are willing to study for it.

These candidates aren't exactly spending their lives to get hired at your place because they think you are special.

They just don't take their day jobs seriously enough and spend most of their time on LC, when you hire them, they leave in a few months because that is what they are good at.


Interestingly, my partner just went through the interview process at both Amazon and Google. The Amazon process was horrendous, with an insulting “good cop/bad cop” series of interviews. It was a relief when they decided not to move forward as the process was enough to know they’d be horrible to work for. The Google process was great, productive, and generated excitement about working for them. In the end they offered the job but couldn’t make the compensation quite work. But they walked away on good terms.

My personal experience was almost the exact opposite (granted, this was in 2020, and things might have changed since then). Both companies asked leetcode-style questions and behavioral questions.

The Amazon interviewers were engaged, excited when talking about their work, and seemed like they were rooting for me to succeed.

Google interviewers were condescending and looked like they were unhappy to be part of the interview process and were just going through the motions because they were forced to. I had a lot of self-doubt after being treated like crap by the Google interview and decided to never do that to myself again.


I'm pretty confident it's just luck of the draw. At both companies, giving interviews is an expectation for promotion, so many interviewers don't particularly want to be there and some are bad at hiding that fact.

Yeah, there is always a subjective factor involved in these interviews. You are just screwed if you meet an interviewer that doesn't like you personally for some reason and acts hostile.

Or maybe they are putting on an act to seem hostile to push your buttons.


> My biggest gripe is that Leetcode is systematically favoring candidates who have months of free time to memorize arbitrary logic puzzles.

For me, leetcode is basically just what is taught at university level. So they're hiring people based on if they know stuff they would learn and forget from university.

The thing is, it's not about having free time, it's about being so dedicated to getting the job that you'll spend ages learning things you would never do during your day job and if you did do them during your day job you would be considered a cowboy because there are predefined libraries that are optimised to do those things.

For me, the main reason I don't want to work for FAANG is they have a reputation for long hours and that the hardest thing at the companies is the interview process.


So when it gets to the part of the interview where they ask you if you have questions for them: "When and where has anyone here ever needed to use this code for this job? I want to meet that team". Silence and crickets would be the appropriate response, but you'll receive a word salad avalanche instead.

Why would they? The point of the question is to see your thinking / problem solving process.

It's like asking why you should write a resume when you won't resumes as part of your job. It serves a similar purpose of trying to get to know who you are.


If they are judging your response as pass/fail vs partial credit for showing work, then you're screwed. I'd be doubtful that partial credit is given as showing your critical thinking ability is present.

> For me, the main reason I don't want to work for FAANG is they have a reputation for long hours

I thought working at Google or Facebook was supposed to be a pretty chill "rest and vest" situation, esp at the former (?)


My understanding (at least where Google is concerned) is that it's a jungle situation and there's a lot of team-hopping and connection-making until you find a place to land for awhile. That may be where R&V comes into the picture, maybe some people are able to negotiate a less stressful First Act, and possibly most likely, maybe my understanding is out of date.

Remember, with the kinds of education people have at these companies coupled with the amounts of money they are receiving, "the bullied become the bullies" is a serious occupational hazard.


> My understanding (at least where Google is concerned) is that it's a jungle situation and there's a lot of team-hopping and connection-making until you find a place to land for awhile.

I think this is only true if you want to work on something interesting. If you're willing to work in some obscure corner of ad infrastructure or Google Surveys or something and you're not trying to get promoted, you can stick around for a long time at Google and not get much done. At a big organization like Google the pace is pretty slow even if you are trying to get some work accomplished, so that provides cover for those who aren't as effective.


>I think this is only true if you want to work on something interesting.

Ha ha, fair enough!


YMMV. From what I hear from my Googler friends, It's all about the team/manager/project you land.

Usually a good manager can spot pitfall projects from a mile away and put you on a good path to a promotion. But only being good is not enough, you have to work on the right projects, have the right results and the right visibility. If those variables are not there you may go through a downward spiral that ends up in a PIP.


My experience is that it can be pretty chill if you're happy with your level, but if you're going for a promo you need to work super hard

You are misinformed if you think Facebook is a rest and vest company. Google and Microsoft maybe.

Anecdotally, LC interviews are hardest when you're mid-career and get easier over time. As the main difference between a junior engineer and a mid/senior engineer is whether they can work autonomously, and an engineer with 3 years of experience rarely has good datapoints for invention/difficult projects. The only way companies have found to differentiate a strong hire from a no hire is by asking harder leetcode questions and expecting perfection.

As you get to more senior levels it seems like companies still expect you to do passably well on those questions - but make their decision based on other data-points such as impact/past projects etc.


> The interviewer laughed at my code, and then after going through the logic said "Wow I can't believe this actually works."

OK, not professional, and fair grounds for deciding you don't want to work there (interviews are as much for you to evaluate the employer as they are for the employer to evaluate you) but.... have a bit of a thicker skin. Carrying something like that for 15 years instead of immediately dismissing it as the commentary of an asshole is just no way to go through life.


If it were just 1 or 2 assholes, years apart, it would bounce off your skin.

But the integral of having to deal with these assholes over the years (both in the hiring process, and when you start to actually work there) -- meanwhile having a real life to be responsible for (family, kids) -- can start to wear you down, after a while.


I had a similar experience in a college physics class. I was reviewing my solution to a problem (maybe angular momentum?) with the TA, and they said, “I know you got the right answer, but I don’t see how I can give you credit for this when I don’t understand your solution.”

And I replied, “Is it even remotely possible I came up with the correct answer by chance?” They agreed not. “Then why should it be my problem that you can’t understand my method?”

In retrospect I was an ass, but I got credit and passed the class, so…


Seems pretty reasonable to me.

> It makes me sad for the less privileged candidates who might be working a job while also trying to break into the IT field.

Very good point. I didn't really think about it much before. It is even difficult for candidates who are in IT field but not in FAANG type companies.


Now imagine if instead of coding exercises we had the interview process from other industries that weighs degree and past experience more heavily in the absence of any other sort of testing. What would it look like to break in then? Completing a BS in your spare time?

EDIT: Most ideas I've seen about replacement for live coding - like take home projects or contract-to-hire - are not really any more friendly to people with busy schedules anyway.


The craziest part of tech interviews for me is the way its just accepted that you do it this way regardless of how long someone has been in the industry.

If companies were grilling people new to the career trying to figure out if they could FizzBuzz their way out of wet paper bag (I realize some can't) it would be one thing. Without a track record you don't have much to go on, but the fact that you can work in the industry for decades, ship well-received products people have heard of, have a long list of references willing to verify that you were instrumental in shipping those products, and a lot of companies still expect you to jump through "reverse this string in place" type code puzzles seems kinda bonkers to me... but a lot of the industry just accepts that This Is The Way.

You can bypass this with direct personal connections of course, but its weird to me that so many companies put effectively 0 weight into prior easy to verify accomplishments if the people looking to hire don't know the person on a personal level.


I don't think that FizzBuzz/similar gotcha-type questions like that are useful, especially since most of them are all over interview prep sites, so I don't use them. But I've definitely interviewed people with impressive-looking resumes who straightforwardly didn't seem to be able to code; they couldn't respond to simple questions ("You mentioned you used Language Y in this project; what do you like and dislike about that language?") or were clearly bullshitting their responses. I've felt insulted at times when I get FizzBuzz in an interview, but I kinda get it.

All that said, this is a systematic issue that gets blamed on individual interviewers when the blame should fall on the company. I'm a decade into my career, worked at companies of all sizes, and I've never had or heard of anyone getting trained in interviewing. Outside of informal efforts with coworkers, I've never had a job provide me with a rubric for what I should be interviewing for (shit, I usually find out I'm interviewing someone day-of or day-before). If companies gave a damn about interviewing, I think the process wouldn't be so slapdash, and fewer interviewers would fall back on crap like FizzBuzz.


I've done a fair amount of startup interviewing, and my biggest takeaway was that I had no ability to discern if someone's resume on its own was fluff or real. And often, there seemed to be an inverse correlation between how impressive someone sounded and their actual technical abilities. It's possible I'm just missing some techniques or judgement but I don't think so.

My experience is that generally you can't bypass leetcode interviews via networking.

At most, you might be allowed to skip the phone screen. Or you might be given slightly more leeway in getting the solution.

There are exceptions of course. One close friend/ex-colleague has an uncanny ability to network himself into a coding job at various NYC hedge funds. These being hedge funds, they all pay at least above average (we're not talking about Citadel or Jane Street here), but the downside is that he has to be very unpicky about what the role exactly entails. So this can lead him to very unsexy jobs like shuffling XML feed files back and forth or doing MS Access/Excel VBA stuff, etc. But he can snap his fingers, make a few phone calls to executives and managers he knows at multiple mid tier hedge funds, and start working in a matter of days.


Only for those that are stuck getting a job as soon as possible and cannot afford to say no.

Otherwise there are plenty of companies that haven't fall into leetcode cargo cult.


Is “reverse this string in place” really a puzzle to you? Seems like a straightforward and realistic (for low level programmers) exercise.

Or how impressive their GitHub is.

Or another mostly (rightfully so IMO) choice you see here. Set a low bar to hiring but have a probationary period after which you fire a notable percentage.


I agree with your second sentence. Your first is much less of a thing for people like me. Sure, an impressive github is...impressive. However, I have never posted anything publicly to github, so my existence would look sparse which is also the same description for my social profile. I just don't use github for side hustle type of projects.

I have a decent amount of commits to my Github, but it's to 98% private projects. Things that may become products someday. Don't have a whole lot to show potential employers. My day jobs have always been private or onprem repos.

Yeah probationary period would be great for companies, maybe better for people trying to break into industry (unless they can't fired and can't get their old job back), and not so good for most people already in the industry.

From looking at job postings, there's no shortage of jobs for people already in the industry, and a proportionally much lower number of positions for entry-level. Every company has open positions for seniors, but no one wants to train them up.

I think this is mainly a side effect of the kind of work being performed at companies has leaned over the decades towards an increasingly bimodal skills distribution, and the entry level work's sophistication is eroding from advances in automation and continuous improvement feedback loops.

For example, I see at all of my clients entry level help desk positions to do things like help with provisioning a new employee's Wintel laptop, answer internal software packaging problems, intake VPN trouble reports, that sort of activity. But not nearly as much as when I entered the industry, because so much has been automated away or folded into centralized management systems, and the trend continues with advances in desktop engineering. On the other hand, I see an explosion of demand for the desktop engineering team positions.

This is being reflected in many other IT areas as far as I can tell. There is a constant push these days at all my clients to automate all repetitive work, and a much bigger appetite from leadership to automate entry level work even when the ROI payoff is longer than 1-4 fiscal quarters than when I started. The push isn't due to direct labor savings though: it is to drive down variance of configurations exposed to the more senior and expensive roles, so the real high-payoff automation can really shine, and they can reduce business-as-usual work hours remediating the impact from those variances.


You still have to decide who gets the probationary period and who doesn't. To figure that out you still have to do interviews and filter. Probationary periods don't solve anything except it makes it easier to fire people before the end is over.

Firing people is not exactly hard in the USA.

It's perhaps not hard but the expectation if you take a new job is that you won't be randomly fired in a few months because you don't meet some unstated high bar.

Every new hire has a probationary period to it. If you go into a new job thinking you'll make it past 6 months automatically, then that's a big assumption. While it shouldn't be hard to just do your job and get past the probation period, it's hard to know if the company didn't just hire a bunch of people to get past a crunch without an intention of keeping them.

Implicitly. But there's a difference between "wow, you're a bad hire" and "you're not an 80%er."

"Does not meet expectations" is always a cop out, but a great catch-all if aren't an 80%er.

I think take-home projects might take the same amount of time as leetcode, when you count studying, but are much less stressful. As long as enough time is given.

This really doesn't fix the problem of breaking into CS, and it's not even practical when there are too many candidates. Leetcode gives a gigantic number of false negatives, but that's a price companies are willing to pay.


I don't agree. I much prefer to spend one hour doing a live coding interview than spending 24h working on a test. It is much more time spent, and therefore more stressful.

If you can ace a 1 hour coding interview without any preparation then more power to you! But many of us have to spend months doing practice problems to perform well in that 1 hour interview. I’ve heard many stories of people doing hundreds of practice problems to pass these kinds of interviews.

I’d much rather dedicate a weekend to solve a take home challenge using technologies I already know than dedicate many months to learn a set of algorithms I would rarely use.


I make a point of never doing "projects" during a recruitment process. The fact is that there are too many good opportunities out there that will not require me two spend a full day or even several days in a week to complete a job application, without compensation. Whenever I hear that there is a "project" to complete, I just tell them that I already have tons of projects to work on and pass the "opportunity".

Depends on how motivated you are to to your current job. On two occasions I've witnessed a fellow developer mentally check themselves out after a round of layoffs, start doing the minimal amount of work necessary, and then spending the rest of their time cracking coding problems. When the next round of layoffs came, they were gone to Amazon and Google.

Where are they now?

Sorry if I was a bit ambiguous. They are at Amazon and Google now. The point is treat your staff well or they might spend their time between tasks prepping for a FAANG interview.

> I've come to think that the Leetcode interview style has morphed from a "let's see how you handle problems at scale" test into an ego-driven hazing ritual.

I'm 48 and I've been a software developer a long time. The technical interview at many companies has been an ego-driven hazing ritual my entire career, well before Leetcode even existed.


Yeah my entire experience could be summed up by saying everyone who sat across the table from me that day (with one exception, one person was super nice), was trying to prove that I was too dumb to work among the likes of them.

This was in 2004 though so maybe that has changed but it certainly stuck with me.


At least you had an interviewer who could speak English and explained the problem. Mine had an interviewer who just typed the problem and his English was so bad that I couldn’t get answers to any follow up questions. He kept saying “ok…ok” as I was explaining the approach and once I finished coding up my approach he said that’s not what he is looking for. I kept asking clarifying questions till the end but never got the answer since his English was incomprehensible. I don’t understand how a person like this can function assuming they have to deal with English speaking team members.

I had the same issue in an Amazon interview in 2020. Couldn’t understand the interviewer’s extremely strong accent so I had to keep asking him to repeat himself. I never really understood the question he was asking. Not the best experience.

But, I did work for Amazon several years before and that was mostly a good experience. So, luck of the draw, depending on which manager/team you get assigned to.


> ...an ego-driven hazing ritual.

Google India (c. late 2000s / early 2010s) used to be notorious for this, so much so that Googlers I knew would rather have their referrals give interviews at Google HQ (MTV), instead (not that it was any better, but rather it wasn't as worse).

One piece of advice I received early on was, interviews aren't meant to be a pissing contest but often are. As an interviewee, accept that and try not to take rejections personally (easier said than done). As an interviewer, know that you're in a position of power, and try not to abuse it (easily done but never said).


> My biggest gripe is that Leetcode is systematically favoring candidates who have months of free time to […]

Wouldn’t this be true of almost any other selective interview process?


Nope. My wife just makes sure she knows where her physical portfolio is (basically just print-outs of old proposals she's worked on), spends a couple hours reading up about the company and maybe rehearsing what answers she might give to some common behavioral questions (the cliche ones, like "What's your biggest weakness" type crap), gets her clothes ready, and makes sure she gets enough sleep. This is the night before, usually.

I've never seen her spend more than a day or two preparing for an interview. And she gets paid near the top of her position, and has worked on dozens of multi-million dollar proposals.

The only reason it takes her a while to find a job is there's not a ton of positions that are willing to pay her what she's worth now (she's gone through job interview processes only to be given an offer half of the bottom of the range she provided multiple times), and she usually has to try to sell them on what she can provide to the team that they weren't even looking for (but should have been). Doesn't always work, obviously. Budgets aren't always there.

Meanwhile I've spend 2+ weeks or more preparing (hours each day) for SV interviews and still failed them. In Facebook's case, I was asked three questions by an HR person and gave the right answer to the third question, just not the term they must have had written down for them on the paper, was told I was wrong, and then got a rejection email. At Zynga I was asked to come up with and speak the code to a permutation algorithm, over the phone, on the spot, without using a computer. At Google, in one of the six interviews, I was asked how to convert a 3D grid of buildings into a 2D skyline with a single line, and I had difficulty figuring out the logic for overlapping buildings in less than 30 minutes using only a whiteboard.

I always spend at least 2-4 weeks refreshing algorithms and technical trivia questions before I even start looking for a job in tech.


OK I'm curious, this is computer graphics crap like z-buffers (I would probably say form a binary space partition tree, color all the polygons one color and a default background as black, rasterize the view, and then trace the outline)?

Or is this some trick?


I didn't figure it out in time and he didn't elaborate, just sat there and watched me flounder, so I don't know for sure. This was way back in 2012 too, so I don't remember the details of what he asked super well.

I was under the impression he was wanting me to figure out how to do it using only the bounds of the rectangles mathematically, and not by changing how it rendered, from what I can remember.


A 3d map of a city is a bunch of polygons. A skyline is a perspective on that 3d model, so you need occlusion/etc. The single line is then a postprocess on that view of the skyline.

Maybe there's some 2.5D cheats like DOOM did since the 3d model is all on one plane.

Agreed, a ridiculous question.

These questions where you either know the algorithms of giants, or are expected to reverse-engineer algorithms that people did research on for months or years... The height of arrogance.


What is your wife’s occupation?

Proposal/Marketing Manager, but she often does things outside of her official job description as well.

No. An interview process can be very selective without really requiring prep beyond studying up on the company somewhat--and maybe not really even that to the degree you're already familiar with the company.

Not a developer (though was an engineer) but I've never studied for an interview beyond maybe spending an evening reading up on a company. But, to be honest, the (few) jobs I've had over the past 20 years or so have always come through knowing people.


Some people use algorithms daily, or went to school for them, and don’t need to study for leetcode. Likewise, some people do architecture or frontend apps all day and don’t need to study for those. No matter what a company asks, some people will find it unreasonable, at the end of the day the charitable interpretation is that the company is choosing interview challenges that they feel are a proxy for the skills needed to succeed.

You're assuming that a company has to interview all candidates the same way regardless of what job they're actually interviewing for. A frequent complaint, voiced all over this thread, is that interviewing like that makes no sense. If the job uses 100-level algos all the time, then sure, let's talk algos (also, kinda weird, but I'm sure there's something out there like this). But if you're bringing me in as an SRE and we spend a bunch of time on LC questions and much less time on my experience with AWS, Terraform, and CI/CD work, the interview is bad for me (because I don't work with low-level algos and probably won't know that stuff, _unless_ I've been grinding LC) and bad for you (because you don't have much signal about whether I can do the SRE stuff).

I’m not assuming that.

I’m just suggesting some companies may want SREs who understand fundamental computer science and are able to apply it to novel problems, perhaps as a proxy for finding candidates who could create their own terraform or quickly learn whatever tool may supplant terraform in the future.

As an analogy, it’s valuable to hire an electrician who knows the whole electric code really well, even though your project may seemingly only require a subset of that knowledge. For example it’s not obvious adding an outlet could require rewiring the whole circuit and upgrading the panel to meet code.

Symmetrically, as you point out, one may find value in hiring a less expensive handyman to do their basic wiring, if you’re confident you just need a dimmer switch installed.


Well, as a contractor/consultant it’s such a waste of time when a company flips the Codility card. I simply walk away, it’s not worth the effort for a 6mo-1yr gig.

Or even people currently in programming jobs doing real world code all day instead of hand jamming some contrived leet code algorithm fiction that will never be allowed to enter production.

More realistic is to talk through a process that can be sporadically described in various 1-3 line code samples that will eventually be put together to form a program for something boring. A good boring example is something like transmit a file from a file system across a network and perform an integrity check. Boring but enough steps to talk through and demonstrate with a couple instructions. Nobody does this. I would hear a discussion on proper use of APIs and step by step walk towards success than see somebody lost writing for loops and conditions.


I would love to know how long the average FANG dev spent on leetcode practice before their interviews. From my small sample of friends who've done stints there, it's far less than "months". I similarly have had - but declined - an offer from one of them with prep measured in "hours" not "days."

Survivor bias alert: These people have all passed the interviews.

I wonder if this is an intended side-effect, namely also filtering out people who would have passed if only they did rote memorization instead of actually mastering the CS fundamentals.


I probably spent a month and a half studying most days for it (including reading my old data structures and algorithms books). It's the first time in my career I actually tried to prepare for a LC-style interview, and tbh it really wasn't bad. I also had a good experience and am still in the position, so YMMV.

How did you get so good? Would love any tips

There is nothing worse than being laughed at in an interview.

> Leetcode is systematically favoring candidates who have months of free time to memorize arbitrary logic puzzles

I agree to some extent but moreso, I think it heavily favours those with a theoretical CS background, which means effectively you are favouring candidates from top colleges in a round about way.


I honestly don't believe it has anything to do with the college level.

No offense, but you study python, learn its basic syntax + "algorithm design" book + 1 practical book about algorithms and data structures and you're good enough for performing good/optimal leetcodes.

Some things you might miss, for example some exercises you can optimize better if you know some algebra/maths, but 90% of that stuff is more or less repetitive. Once you learn the tricks etc, it really becomes repetitive because finally it's just if/else and for loops. (I don't mean to minimize in any way the effort it takes to make such exercises, it's just the feeling I had while doing some and failing a lot of them).

It's always about specializing one or two specific algorithms you have found in the book[s]. Sometimes it requires coming up with very creative ideas - better for loops. :)

For me Leetcodes are not per se bad. I still learnt something from "being forced" to do them which I probably wouldn't have done if i hadn't been forced. What I despise is the fact that companies have lost accountability in hiring. It's hard to interview, so it's better to rely on an "industry standard" - after all Amazon and Google do the same, so why shouldn't we?


right, but it's way easier to get into if you did multiple semesters of it in college. You probably won't even need the textbook, just glance at a few articles on wikipedia/google and it'll all come back.

>an ego-driven hazing ritual

Last time I did an interview where this wasn't the case was 1998. Granted I don't really interview anymore.


I've never had an interview like this. Get out of SV if you don't want to play those games.

Except, plenty of wannabe IT departments that want to “hire then best of breed” and start copycatting/aping these gestures. It’s a global Cargo Cult

This was in a mid-sized town. The main guy who was hazing was only mid-level talented, and was very insecure about it. On the other side of the table, I've never seen someone who I considered a high-level talent act that way. They may have tough questions but they certainly aren't pricks about it.

This was a long time ago, I get work through my network now, interviews consist of going to lunch and shooting the shit.


> "let's see how you handle problems at scale" test into an ego-driven hazing ritual

Don't hold it against your colleagues. A lot of this knowledge isn't obvious to anyone and people chiding people for not knowing would be the last to come up with solutions themselves. This is just insecurity and bickering.

Google has been a publicly traded company with a massive scale. If the technical problems aren't interesting to you, I doubt it is worth it to work there. The culture of such companies are always the same. Detached to minimize problems, don't make personal problem a problem of the company. Good colleagues can make you forget this for a while of course.


> The interviewer laughed at my code, and then after going through the logic said "Wow I can't believe this actually works."

It’s fine. I’ve seen code from FAANGs that evoked the same reaction from me.


> The interviewer laughed at my code, and then after going through the logic said "Wow I can't believe this actually works."

Is it possible you had a better solution that the interviewer simply didn't recognize?


This isn't a new interview style. I interviewed with Microsoft in 1997 and encountered the haughtiest person I've ever met.

My biggest gripe is that medical associations are systematically favoring candidates who have years of free time to memorize arbitrary organ names. It makes me sad for the less privileged candidates who might be working a job while also trying to break into the surgeon field.

That interviewer behavior is borderline abusive.

> I've never seen him so happy.

I've shared about how I was forced into early retirement, in 2017. I had tried getting another job, after leaving my company, but no one would even talk to me (I won't go into why).

It absolutely infuriated me. It was humiliating and scary. I decided that I didn't really need to be patronized and insulted anymore, and just gave up.

But I was quite able to stand on my own. I didn't need the money; just the work.

After over four years of working (harder than I ever did, as a corporate shill) for a nonprofit (and learning new stuff), I can't see myself ever going back to the rat race.


> asking a person who has no clue what they are doing to deliver critical work

... as fast as possible, whether it actually works in all cases or not. As Dilbert says "our boss can't judge the quality of our work, but he knows when it's late".


>he came back from parental leave and his direct reports had all been put on a PIP while he was out

Wow. It’s really difficult to imagine a likely scenario where that’s justified.


They had a quota to fill, and they didn't know or didn't like anyone on that team.

Not that that is a justification, but it's almost certainly the reason.


A quota of people who needed to be on PIPs? That's insane.

Just a few months ago it came to light that managers at Amazon hire new people they're planning to fire shortly after, so they don't have to fire people they're attached to in order to meet such a quota.

https://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-tracks-unregretted-at...


Just a few months ago? Wasn't that the case several years ago, or was than MS or one of the other FAANGs?

A few years ago there was a lot of noise about stack ranking at Microsoft, and there was also a lot about people crying at their desks at Amazon several years ago - perhaps you're remembering one of those. I believe the specific "hire to fire" press is pretty recent.

I remember hearing about "hire to fire" at Amazon as far back as 2014, though the claim was that it happened "merely" enough to have a cute name, not that it was endemic.

I think it was perhaps circulating in the professional networks and rumor mills before. I remember hearing about it a few years ago.

That is so fucked up

Keep the blood fresh. The slowest/oldest/worst 10% has to go! Stack ranking is the best!

Almost all casual retail jobs in my area operate like this. It is somewhat stunning when you compare them to national chains not using localized labor practices.

and if a mgr is not there to defend his team...

Imagine getting fired because your manager is on a leave and their manager sees you as free real estate.

Tells a lot about company politics. Often times I'm left wondering how come capitalism still survives.

Actually, writing this down made me think that big companies (like the FAANG mostly are) are quite anti-capitalistic. I'm not sure how to call them, because sure as hell they're not socialist or anything of the sorts, but it's reasonably clear that many of the theoretical capitalistic principles that many of us know in one way or another do not apply to these economic entities.


Maybe more medieval: building up fiefdoms, power, resources, etc

Needs a catchy name, Capitalist Feudalism? Feudal Capitalism?

Corporate Feudalism?

Most companies are authoritarian internally. The people at the top make decisions and push those down to their lieutenants who then enforce those rules on the masses.

They are totalitarian. It really is strange, these corporations theoretically battling in a marketplace, but these large orgs with 15 datacenters and IT departments from six mergers are just thrown together into a big hierarchy and the middle management Machiavellis do knife fights over budget.

These companies could make competing internal IT groups and datacenters competing for projects and services in the company.

But companies don't like free markets and competition, every company strives to establish monopoly control. Likewise, middle management doesn't like competition, it clouds their promotion paths.


Oligarchic. (Internal) Leaders who run successful businesses call the shots for everyone.

You might like Ronald Coase's "The Nature of the Firm". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_the_firm

A business is a socialist command economy embedded in a market economy, which has odd boundary effects at the interfaces.


Thanks, I'll give it a try. I had read about it and about Coase relatively recently but I had skipped the subject, mostly. I think it's a very interesting subject, especially for our field, to be honest I didn't expect for the consolidation at the top to happen so fast (~10-12 years) and at so grand a scale, 9 of the biggest 10 companies by market cap are tech companies (I'm including Tesla here).

Command economies are not necessarily socialist. In particular, businesses really don't fit the definition of socialism.

> Command economies are not necessarily socialist.

One counter-example comes immediately to mind, but mentioning that would cue a whole tedious discussion of "But that is socialism, it's even in the name!" vs "Just because it's in the name doesn't mean it actually is socialism!", so I won't spell it out.

> In particular, businesses really don't fit the definition of socialism.

No, true. As others have mentioned, feudalism ses a better fit.


Capitalism does not imply free (i.e. competitive) market, or the other way around. Capitalism is an economic system in which ownership of the means of production (aka capital, hence the name) is treated the same as any other property, and can thus be accumulated indefinitely. Large corporations monopolizing whole industries is a pinnacle of raw capitalism in that sense, and it's also extremely bad for free market.

Do you mean the fairy tales that rich capitalists have ingrained into the American public consciousness about the unassailable axiomatic good that are "free markets"?

Because actual capitalism is just the means of production being privately owned and operated for profit. It says nothing about how companies operate or what kind of dystopian politics they might have.


Hate to break it to you, but the word you’re looking for is “anti-competitive”. Capitalism is in fact designed to be anti-competitive, so in the absence of laws punishing anti-competitive behavior, capital accrues to those with the largest mass of capital.

Usually performance evaluations are done with managers of a certain level; if there is no manager to represent his/her direct reports, with stacked ranking they all get at the bottom. I personally had a direct report, ~ 10 years ago, with PIP because her previous direct manager was 3 months on paternity leave so she drew the short straw. The person was an average performer, so I fixed the PIP situation and she is still working there.

From what I hear, Amazon is incredibly uneven in org quality, so it is really possible your friend got unlucky. My wife works at Amazon and seems to have a pretty good balance and has good things to say about her work environment, but she is not a SWE (rather a designer). Still, I don't think I would ever work there without a lot of careful research about the group I was going into.

This is what they always say but they never say which orgs are good or bad. When you’re a candidate you are rolling the dice

Perhaps every other org is a good one.

---

"I'm sure I'll take you with pleasure!" the Queen said. "Two pence a week, and jam every other day."

Alice couldn't help laughing, as she said, "I don't want you to hire me – and I don't care for jam."

"It's very good jam," said the Queen.

"Well, I don't want any to-day, at any rate."

"You couldn't have it if you did want it," the Queen said. "The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday – but never jam to-day."

"It must come sometimes to 'jam to-day'," Alice objected.

"No, it can't," said the Queen. "It's jam every other day: to-day isn't any other day, you know."

"I don't understand you," said Alice. "It's dreadfully confusing!"


This is perfect :) . I am as illiterate as one can be, but loved this reference.

It's even cleverer than that - it's also a reference on latin conjugations builtin to the Queen's joke. Carroll was a smart cookie.

You can just search Blind to figure out which orgs are good or bad. I work at Music and it's great.

> When you’re a candidate you are rolling the dice

Ya, and the recruiters always try to get you into what sound like would be the worst orgs (I would guess positions in good orgs are "known" about outside of what the recruiters are trying to fill).


It’s wild. I did more than 4 years across three teams, left, boomeranged, and quit after three months.

You and me both! I made it to the round of in-person interviews when I was pursuing a principal pm role. 5 hours of back to back interviews, expressionless faces, repeated questions and almost zero eye-contact.

I am not certain what they were going for, though I can tell you I left knowing that even if I had gotten an offer, there was no way in hell I'd be accepting. It's obvious there are some very successful (happy?) amazon people (amazonians?) but no thank you, I enjoy living.


10 months in the pit is no joke. I'm on 13 and often wonder how I made it this far.

I have a friend who lasted more than 2 years which amazed me but then his compensation _went_down_ because of Amazon's crazy comp structure works.

I have another friend who was offered a job there and turned them down, then the hiring manager fired back with "Oh c'mon, you just have to last a year here and then you can put Amazon on your resume" which is hilarious and totally fucked up.

"We aren't going to pretend that you will actually like working here but if you suffer for about a year, it's gonna do wonders for attracting future employers"

I often wonder if Amazon wouldn't actually be more successful if they treated their people better. I think there's a strong sentiment of Emperor Bezos' New Clothes and survivorship bias that has Amazon leadership convinced that being evil bastards is the only reason/way the company can be successful.


There's a built in assumption of stock growth in the grant they give you, and after year 2 the bonus dries up so it's your base of 160 + whatever the equity is. Year 2 -> 3 comp drop is not uncommon.

Amazon also has this weird 5%, 15%, 40% & 40% vesting schedule. This tells me most people are not making it past 2 years.

The early years are generally accompanied by huge cash bonuses so it evens out against the back loaded equity.

The difference is that Amazon (unlike the other giants) doesn't have a moat.

Facebook and Google basically have one product that is a money machine which funds everything else. The rest is mostly window dressing.

Amazon does not have the luxury of being able to rest.

I think you will find a similar culture at Netflix, which is also in a competitive market.


Plenty of places are hiring engineers for remote roles now, including my employer. If you're able to carve out some time to look around it might be worth it.

This explains a lot about why Amazon services are like they are.

What does PIP stand for? I haven't run into that acronym before

Performance Improvement Plan. On paper, it's a program where management works with you to improve your weak points so you don't get fired. In practice, it's HR protecting the company by documenting reasons to fire you before they fire you.

It's rare (not unheard of, but rare) to work your way out of a PIP. In general, if you get put on a PIP, I would immediately start doing some soul-searching as to why I might be on the PIP and how I can improve AND I would start looking immediately for a new job.


I’ve only worked in the public sector and have only had to PIP people a few times. It’s almost always a sign that you need to get out. I’ve only done it when I’m at wits end with a person. They all ended up quitting before we got to the 90 days but yeah as said it’s basically a CYA move. Likely the people are low performing enough by some measure you can fire them but it’s sort of a last chance thing. And it documents where they need to improve and what they need to do, so all that is good for the employee if they want to improve (and I do believe nobody wants to do a bad job).

I have a good friend who manages a fairly large group at a (mostly) government subcontractor. Their description is similar. A PIP comes after someone has been completely unresponsive to requests of various kinds, isn't doing good (if any) work, etc. My sense is that a PIP, in this case, is a reluctant last resort after months of this--and hardly ever works.

> and hardly ever works.

Technically, there are two desirable outcomes to a PIP:

1) the employee improves and no longer needs to be on a PIP (rare)

2) the company successfully fires the employee and doesn't get sued because they covered their ass with a PIP

From HR's perspective (and the manager's), it is indeed the reluctant last resort, but it's essentially a win/win for the company. Either the employee improves, or they can fire them while minimizing legal risk.

In other words, it fulfills its intent quite nicely. It just doesn't always end positively for the employee. So I guess in that sense, it depends on which way you look at it.


I had a friend who was put on a PIP at a smallish company. Company had 200+ people, but this satellite office in a different state had about... 8-10, and was run more or less by a single guy. He put my friend on a PIP - which was just... strange, because they'd sort of built up that office on their own initially just the 2 of them, then it grew a bit more. He PIPs he, then leaves a couple weeks later, and no one had any idea how to handle this dangling PIP. IIRC the company just erased it, and she was there for another couple of years after that, with no issues (other than bad pay and shrinking office size).

I got on a (non-Amazon) PIP once for not turning up on many Mondays to many times, and would have passed it (all I had to do was turn up every day I was scheduled to work for a month) but failed because I didn't turn up on NYE (mate convinced me to "stay for one" at Scala) one day before my PIP was supposedly over in the new year (totally my fault).

I feel it would have been possible to work my way out of it, I think different companies use them in different ways.

Ah well, most of the team got poached by Revolut anyway. I find WFH suits me a lot better because as long as I can go to stand up after a heavy weekend (which is a lot easier if you can do it from home) and then achieve above and beyond the rest of the week, there's a lot less anxiety.


Good advice.

No matter how much you might try to "ace" it and put in your best effort, more than 9 out of 10 times, the person will not come out of it. Anything and everything no matter how minor is likely to be used as supporting evidence. So interpret it as a notice of eviction of sorts where they pay you some months to find a new job.

Yes, there are exceptions. Thing is do you want to try your luck with HR?


It is the full force of the company saying “we don’t perceive you as being performant anymore”. Even on the individual level changing someone’s perceptions takes double or triple the effort to establish them in the first place.

Soul searching is easy. The only people who put up with that shit are people who don't feel good enough, so they are begging their master like a dog to please, please like them!!

The cure? Don't allow corporations to set your value, specially not mad and crazy corporations like amazon and space penis.


Some people are genuinely hired above their level or have been coasting so long the don't realize they are coasting, and so there are legitimate uses for PIPs. That being said, I hear it's a perverse shadow of that at companies like Amazon that use quotas to go looking for reasons to fire people.

In my experience, some people can be really oblivious. I've seen past situations where a company didn't have a formal PIP process, but it was blatantly obvious to everyone concerned--except apparently the person themselves--that they just couldn't do the job and were a massive time suck on others and weren't improving in spite of all sorts of attempts to help them. And they were totally shocked when they were fired "out of the blue."

Do you know is there a built-in per year PIP percentage at AWS? Does PIP involve a severance payment?

10%. They will all be offered about ~3 months salary (depends on tenure). Some will stay and try to work through it, some will succeed, some won't and only get ~1 month salary severance now. Amazon is really aiming for 6% actually fired, by first trying to fire 10%.

Because the rational choice is to take the high severance (being handed the PIP means your manager and manager's manager have already made up their minds against you, I've seen a coworker given an impossible task), that means that being an average Amazon engineer will have a 50% chance of being fired by your 5th year.


I have no idea. I don't work at Amazon. Typically in the tech industry, departures tend to have severance included, unless it's for something egregious (eg violence), so I would imagine it does include severance. But again, I don't work for Amazon, so no idea. :)

Performance Improvement Plan. It's basically the company's way of saying "We want to fire you, but don't have a reason on the books, so here you go. In six months, pack your bags and go."

I respect your view and while that may be true on a lot of cases that's not what the company represents a pip to be.

A PIP is a situation where you are told you are not performing at the desired level and needs to improve. In a respectable company being on a pip can be good for you. In my personal case I was not performing well due to personal issues. Getting on a pip saved my job. It gave me the resources and attention to turn the situation around. You get a clearer plan of what you need to do and closer relationship with mentors to help you on the way.

But again if you don't improve you are fired and you have that hanging over your head.


I've put people on PIPs. I genuinely wanted them to do better. They did. Like you said, they are a tool for laser-focusing attention on specific, well-defined issues.

There is no actual ass-covering need to put someone on a PIP. If a company in the U.S. wants to fire you, they generally don't need a reason.

Individual company cultures will, of course, vary. There are a lot of shitty managers out there.


> If a company in the U.S. wants to fire you, they generally don't need a reason.

That's only true if they can prove the reason isn't one of several prohibited reasons (racism, sexism, ageism, etc.). And how do you do that? Have a PIP system in place in which the acceptable reason is documented in detail and all employees are treated consistently.

That's why PIPs are effectively termination at many companies. Even if you survive it will be permanently on your record and your opportunities for advancement will narrow significantly.


> That's only true if they can prove the reason isn't one of several prohibited reasons (racism, sexism, ageism, etc.).

They don't need to prove anything. In employment discrimination cases the burden of proof is on the plaintiff.


It's still a risk. An assertion of discrimination, even without evidence, is going to be a painful court case. After all, "Soandso said he didn't like X people, and then fired me" is impossible to prove or disprove, but it sure can rack up some court time and lawyer fees, with the possibility of a loss in the event of an unsympathetic jury.

But a documented process, that was followed, that set defined goals, and recorded failures, is going to be a much faster and more sure trial.


Wrong. Google “Title VII burden shifting framework.” It will cost you tens of thousands to get a frivolous case dismissed. In wage/hour cases, the burden is almost entirely shifted to the employer.

Also with respect to the attorney fee provisions, in California they are almost entirely one way in practice even the ones that are loser pays in reality.


Right, that has also been my experience (granted, in another country where a company can fire you with no reason if they pay you 3 months severance).

For me as a manager, the PIP allowed me to set up an environment where the developer would be able to perform their job in isolation with specific, measurable and concrete tasks that do not depend on any third party.

I've successfully applied this for some devs that were doing really bad for more than 6 months, and it allowed me to find that the person was in the middle of a lot of shit. Once the developer was isolated and given specific tasks, they showed why we have hired them in the first place.

I also have let go a developer for whom the performance plan was more on the people skills side: This person was just not a team player, and was dragging the team along with him. A PIP allowed us to show him exactly why he ended up not being a match for the company.

And then there was another one who was just lazy... didn't do stuff, and after the 2nd month of the PIP he acknowledged that he was just being lazy, and waited for the PIP time to expire so that we fired him (with 3 months severance).


Legally yes but large companies generally have rules in place that go beyond legal requirements. One of those rules could be “you can’t fire someone for performance reasons without putting them on a PIP first and documenting why it failed”. Middle managers have very little power in bending those rules.

It's not that they need a reason intrinsically, it's that if the person being fired is of a protected class, the company wants to protect against that person suing for discrimination. Those sort of suits are definitely filed without grounds sometimes, and it's expensive to prove it's baseless, so the PIP can be a way to establish cause.

All that said I agree they can be genuine. They also can be ass-covering.


> Individual company cultures will, of course, vary. There are a lot of shitty managers out there.

Which is why I advise anyone who asks me about PIPs who I deem is sufficiently introspective to immediately secure another job and leave if they receive one. The pure game theoretic approach for employees to use is: unless they have overwhelming historical evidence their manager is someone like you, it is safer for them to assume they are in the majority lumped in with sub-optimal management (much less leadership, both activities tough as hell to pull off well), and insta-bail as soon as they can.

The challenge with PIP's is there are no governance controls around their deployment, so they are weaponized for purposes other than their purported staff development role: as budget controls (deliberately hire some people with the intention to PIP them to maintain headcount), as knife fighting, as political machinations, as compensation-busting tool, etc.

There are legitimate employees who need a PIP for the ostensible purpose they were created for. They're more rare in my experience than how many times PIP's are actually used.


> they generally don't need a reason.

This is true as far as it goes, but exceptions to the at-will rule include Title VII claims, so if they have an illusion of a dream of a identity-based claim, you need some documentation.

Since most companies don’t want to pay even the minuscule amount required to get a valid release, this is the alternative.


the key words here are

"what the company represents"

of course they are not going to represent it as, "we are going to fire you".

Good for you to keep the job (if that's what you wanted) but in general it's a legal process companies do to easily fire people.


The one case I have first hand knowledge of someone put on a PIP, they had done some specific things and also clearly weren't interested in their primary job any longer. I'm pretty sure they could have recovered had they found a way to jump into their current (or another) role again. They had been quite respected for a lot of things.

But it was really a time for a parting of the ways at that point.


It's all perspective, and this simplification isn't accurate.

It's "I don't want to fire you, but you need to fix these things. Let's put this in the books so there's no disagreement over whether you're aware, and what you need to do."

In most cases at-will employment means the employer/manager can fire a person, so if that was the only thing going on, it would already be done.


> In most cases at-will employment means the employer/manager can fire a person

For anyone who is a member of at least one protected class (which everyone who has any [or where this is possible, no] race, sex, ethnicity, religion, or national origin unambiguously is for each that apply, and there's some others that are less universal, and that's just under federal law) there is always a risk that that they will file a claim to have been dismissed for that reason, and under the civil preponderance of the evidence standard, if they have any substantial evidence indicating that might be the case the employer needs to overcome it with superior evidence that it is not.

And that is what a PIP is for, to provide the evidence trail supporting that alternative reason. They also serve as notice to people to get out before they are fired, which (unless bungled bad enough to support a constructive termination claim) also avoids wrongful termination liability, because the departure is voluntary. PIPs have nothing to do with performance improvement and everything to do with liability containment.

For actual performance problems that the employer wants to resolve, regular performance reviews and informal counseling that occurs before a PIP is the means to address it.


Worked at a FAANG in one team for 3.5 years (got promoted and had good reviews), transferred to a new team and got PIP'd by new manager and eventually fired within a year of transferring. One of my workmates clearly told me that my chances of getting out of the PIP were next to zero but by then it was too late.

Best advice I can give someone who gets on a PIP is don't wait or work the process, just make an exit plan and act on it (interview quickly) and own your destiny. Also if you've been a stellar performer and you move to a team where things aren't working out within the first 3 months, transfer quickly (go to HR and claim mental and emotional wellbeing) before your performance reviews get trashed and then it's impossible to transfer.


Wow, so it's basically like you are a new hire when you transfer? Do you mind saying which FAANG or is the experience you had simply norm at all of them?

> Wow, so it's basically like you are a new hire when you transfer? Do you mind saying which FAANG or is the experience you had simply norm at all of them?

The Big G. Your past performance primarily only influences the decision on whether you have a good track record of delivering, but once you transfer you essentially reset the clock with the new team and manager and the expectations might be completely different for whichever reason, it could be personality or org structures etc. I don't know if my experience is the norm at all of them since I haven't worked at all the FAANGs, but as I said it's important to "read the tea leaves" early, and if the new team doesn't feel right make your opinions known early and plan an exit before you come a statistic.


Performance Improvement Plan: "We're trying to fire you but need to do it by the books as to mitigate liability."

I don't understand why people keep saying this. Every state except Montana in the US is "at will": the employer can fire you at any time with no reason. I suppose you could try to prove discrimination because of age or something else, but just like you can walk out and never come back, the employer can ask you to leave and you're done. Companies have no liability if you are fired other than a discrimination lawsuit.

https://work.chron.com/fire-state-mean-20994.html


Legal departments are often fairly conservative. Do you know for a fact that the person you are firing is not a member of a protected class? If they are then they can potentially convince a judge that "fired with no reason" could be code for "fired for being the member of a protected class," at least to the degree that the trial cannot be dismissed.

Once you have reached that point, it's almost moot whether or not the plaintiff will win, as lawsuits are sufficiently headache inducing and expensive that a settlement is likely.

The odds of the above happening might be low, but being made aware of the possibility causes employers to CYA more than you might think in an at-will state.


Everyone is in a protected class. It’s a common misconception that white men etc aren’t. Under employment laws, if you suffer adverse employment actions on the basis of a protected class, even if you are a white cishet thin Protestant male with money and an Ivy League degree you are in protected classes.

Lawyers tell management this and get blamed for the law and courts being the way hey are. “Buy them out with a severance and a release” gets “why should I pay for something I’m allowed to do.” A few months later in house counsel gets screamed at “why is outside counsel charging us $50,000 for this summary judgment case?!”

“Well, I told you that——-“

“This is your fault! Why doesn’t EPLI cover it”

“You said it was too expensive, so we got the one with the high deductible.”

Since the defense bar also lines their pockets with these cases, and scare pieces on their blogs “review your employee handbook now or else!” No one fixes anything.


Also, it's a check against management.

That's also a good point. If the manager for the direct report is racist/sexist/agist/whatever then the CYA becomes even more important for the company.

the employer can fire you at any time with no reason

And in the U. S., anyone can sue anyone at any time with no reason (though there should be some semblance of a reason, or good luck finding counsel to take the case). Maybe you fired me because I'm black, maybe you didn't, but without any documentation of what the real reason was, the company stands a good chance of settling to avoid the time in court.


"And in the U. S., anyone can sue anyone at any time with no reason (though there should be some semblance of a reason, or good luck finding counsel to take the case)."

Judges hate this be careful. If you sue for "not enough ham in your subway sandwich" - I would bring overnight clothes and a toothbrush. Contempt of court is a thing. Judges hate time wasters.


Because some of their employees are in one or more protected classes and if you don't have a legit reason documented it's much harder to defend against a claim of illegal discrimination.

And you can't just gather those reasons for employees in protected classes or that itself is discriminatory treatment of employees.

So you have to make a choice as a large company: PIP systems or set aside more money for legal fees and settlements. Most opt for the former.


Because that’s true. You think it’s free to get even a frivolous case dismissed under discrimination or wage/hour laws? Lol. Google “title VII burden shifting framework.” For companies in SV, i.e. under CA law, it’s easily tens of thousands to dismiss even a frivolous case.

Better documentation means only increasingly bottom feeding plaintiffs lawyers will take the case.


It's also about making it firing "for/with cause" so the employee can't make a successful unemployment claim. The more unemployment claims against a company, the higher unemployment insurance rates/amounts the company has to pay.

Being fired just because you’re bad at your job (as would normally be the case with a PIP) doesn’t make you ineligible for unemployment. Typically you’d have to be fired for gross negligence or doing something outright illegal.

When management starts arbitrarily firing people without the perception that it’s a fair process, absolutely nobody sticks around. The process is for the benefit of retention because of employees perceive they can be dropped on a whim they start to act like it.

The internet is bigger than america, it's a shame I need to remind you.

Remind me again of the location of the corporate headquarters of the company that this portion of the thread is specifically talking about? Need I remind you of context?

If this were true, why are PIPs not universal across virtually every industry? It isn't like fired employees in software would be uniquely litigious.

I've worked on employment litigation in several industries (white and blue collar), they are everywhere.

Defense usually wins if they have good documentation of putting employees on a PIP, even if the reason is obviously dubious*.

Maybe I'm cynical because I've only seen it in a lawsuit context, but if you're put on a PIP, start applying. There's no out.

* like, discrimination, company wants to fire long-term employee because of an injury, company wants to fire an employee for union organizing, etc.


> There's no out.

I'm a manager at Google and have therefore been privy to a bunch of PIPs. I know a bunch of people who have survived them and many of them have later gone on and had successful promos. I've seen exactly one case where everybody involved was resigned to the fact that the PIP would almost certainly fail and that is because the person being fired was a raging asshole. A manager who wrote a PIP designed to be impossible would themselves be given shit performance reviews.


Exactly. A PIP is "I don't want to fire you, but you gotta fix some stuff." Complex environments like Google need to build and retain knowledge. Firing for zero cause is just...well, we have serious things to do, and that's just dumb. I've never seen it.

A PIP isn't just a closed two-way conversation between a report and a manager. In every case I've seen there are multiple eyes on a PIP and revisions to them.


I suspect white collar employees are a lot more likely to sue an employer in general, and PIPs are pretty common across white collar industries. Filing a lawsuit is a lot easier for people who have money in the bank, a flexible schedule, familiarity with the law, and personal connections to lawyers; all attributes that correlate with white collar professionals.

Paid interview preparation (time). Only slightly joking

Replies laid out what it means on paper but what is the employees actual best move? Sounds intentionally impossible to climb out of. Are they given a buyout option to leave or just sit in purgatory for 6 months?

It depends on the manager who constructs the pip and goals.

The manager might lean towards salvaging or maybe documentation. Usually, an honest manager would give some hints as to the nature. Like, maybe it’s best you look at other opportunities kinda nods. Some people are also just bad as reading the crowd and would ignore a written sign that stated “you will be fired.”

I’ve seen bad managers give a junior work that needed a whole team to resolve. I stepped in during reviews and fixed that train wreck. However, on their second chance with simpler work it didn’t turn out much better. At that point we probably soured the engineer. Later we removed the shitty manager. He took off as soon as he received his PIP.

One of my first batch of directs I took over was in the latter group. He made no connection that this could lead to termination. I would love to have heard the conversation with his previous manager. Also, he might have been feigning ignorance for more time. He quite simply just needed direct coaching on interacting with people. He went from the worst engineer to someone I tried to give the highest rankings. My manager wouldn’t have it, but we did compromise.

A lot goes on in the background, but something I never did was bend to statistics. I didn’t care what HR thought was the expected target. Some people are spineless and just rollover. Drives me mad. What are they going to do? Fire me and send me some place else for more money?


It depends on the employee and the organization. If the employee in question really has been under-performing, believes meeting the goals is possible, and wants to stay, then accepting the PIP and trying to succeed is a risky but valid choice.

On the other hand, if the employee in question is fairly certain the PIP conditions can't be satisfied, signing the PIP is a very bad idea. It amounts to written acknowledgement of failing to perform the employee's end of the employment contract and gives the employer justification to fire the employee with cause. If that's the case, declining to sign the PIP and asking about alternative next steps is the way to go. In that case, there's a good chance that the company will offer an exit package in exchange for a general release. One of the upsides of this approach is there's no PIP in the employee file, on the off chance eligibility for re-hire is a concern.


Exactly. Object to the PIP suggestion, and say it is being imposed without proper cause for a discriminatory reason, e.g. to harass and force out an employee over 40. That totally fucks their attempt to gather fake reasons to fire you, their only option is to offer you money to quit. I ran into this at a company where my good work was documented, but I'd accidentally annoyed someone really high up and strings were being pulled to ditch me.

As soon as you get a PIP, get out when you can.

Agreed. I can't see any possible upside for staying.

It's like if someone threatens you with a lawsuit. You don't communicate with them ever again, you tell them to contact you via lawyer and hopefully you never hear from them again.


Performance Improvement Plan- it's basically the precursor to firing that companies do to cover themselves from a lawsuit for wrongful termination

Performance Improvement Plan. Basically, a fancy way for a company to say they tried to help you improve before firing you.

I think it's performance improvement plan, but that's a guess

Performance improvement plan

This, and it's mostly a death sentence. If you're on a PIP the odds you survive it are low, used mostly to manage people into quitting.

"You're fired, but I am just waiting on the paperwork."

I've also had engineering friends that worked for Amazon, none of them had anything positive to say about them. One interesting situation is that one of them worked for Google for several years before moving to Amazon. Less than 2 months later he quit working for Amazon and went back to Google.

I've read articles claiming that Bezos had certain opinions about people being lazy, and that he intentionally structured Amazon to make it almost impossible to get promoted. Basically, people are hired to do a specific job, and they will never be allowed to do any other job or be promoted until they quit from overwork. The exceptionally few people that both deliver the impossible and don't quit over the workload are treated as valuable, but only at the specific job they are currently doing.

From what I've been able to piece together, this was always at least somewhat true, but has gotten much worse the last few years. I think Amazon is likely going to start running dry on willing candidates in their engineering and management teams within a couple of years and we'll see them start to lose market share as a result.


>>Friend of mine started a role there (this was 4-5 years ago) and was fired (sorry... more or less asked to leave, being told he could keep his signing bonus if he just left) within about six weeks because he wasn't immediately delivering on some insane amounts of work.

Its crazy how these FANGs promise the moon, the serious RSU vesting starts only after 1 - 2 years and the average tenure is like 1.5 years.

>>he came back from parental leave and his direct reports had all been put on a PIP while he was out

I've heard this quite a bit at many places, when you go on a longish leave of any kind basically people kind of replace you. When you come back you discover your job is gone, for this reason alone I don't know many people who take these long leaves/vacations.


> within about six weeks because he wasn't immediately delivering on some insane amounts of work

I've heard that, because of the stack ranking, if managers want to keep their current team unchanged, they sometimes hire someone new just so that they can turn around and fire them.


These are one-sided stories recounted by someone with an axe to grind...

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