Acing your interview with Snowplow

16 February 2018  •  Miriam de Medwe

We know interviewing can be tricky, we’ve all been there, so we thought it would be great to put together a useful guide outlining some of the key things we’ll be looking for when we speak to you.

Pre-screen

This stage will be an initial 30-40 minute call with our Talent Acquisition Manager and is a chance for you to learn more about Snowplow, and for us to get a clearer understanding of what you’re ideally looking for. You should:

  1. Demonstrate a clear understanding of the role and the specific attributes you can bring to Snowplow.
  2. Show us that you’ve done your research, you understand what we do and that you would like to work with us specifically, not just any company.
  3. Illustrate that you’re driven, smart and excited about what you do. Passion is contagious and we love what we do here so don’t be afraid to let us know just how interested you are in a certain topic.
  4. Ask questions - we love people who are inquisitive!
  5. Be yourself. We’re a unique bunch and the culture fit is as important to us as your technical skill set.

Technical test (if applicable)

the dreaded technical test

We don’t just hire for technical roles, nor is technical ability the only thing we look for. However, if you’re interviewing for a role that will require you to have a certain level of understanding about a language or framework, we’ll send you a test to do in between your telephone and onsite/video interview. Do:

  1. Try your best. This is a chance for you to showcase your skills and while we understand that having to do a technical test (sometimes multiple for different companies) can be challenging to fit around your usual schedule, it’s a really important part of the process and will form part of your onsite/video interview.
  2. Explain your thinking. While your solution might not have been the one we were looking for, understanding your problem solving process can often be as telling (if not more so) of your level of ability. We deal with complex, sophisticated technology and demonstrating the ability to learn is important.

It may not be completely right but if we can understand what you were trying to do or where you may have gone slightly off-course then we can chat about this in the interview. Mistakes are welcome here, that’s how we learn!

Onsite/video interview

A huge part of our culture here at Snowplow is flexibility. We give you the opportunity to work from anywhere in the world and currently have employees in Germany, Spain, France, Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Ukraine, Russia, Canada, USA and in the UK.

This part of the interview process therefore can either be an onsite interview or a video call (we don’t expect you to travel halfway across the planet if you’re going to be working remotely!). Whichever way we decide to conduct the interview however, this part will take around two hours and will be split into a technical/role specific interview and a culture fit segment.

  • In the technical/role specific interview, we’ll be assessing your ability to actually do the role and will go over any tests you’ve worked on. If you don’t understand a question, stay calm and just ask us to explain it in a different way or let us know that you don’t understand. It’s better to be honest than to pretend to know something!
  • For the culture fit part, be really honest and explain how you would react in a certain situation/how it would make you feel. A company’s culture is unique and you need to make sure that our culture aligns with how you work best.
  • Come prepared with plenty of questions. The interview is just as much a chance for you to figure out if we’re right for you, as it is for us to determine if you’re going to be a good fit for us.
  • Again, be yourself. This was important in the ‘Pre-screen’ portion but it can’t be stressed enough! We have a diverse range of personalities and interests; all are very much accepted and appreciated.

Executive Interview (Onsite/Video/Telephone)

This interview will be conducted by one of our Co-Founders (Alex or Yali depending on the team you’ll be joining) and will last between 30-40 minutes. The format can change but this is an important part of the process and gives you a chance to hear the vision of Snowplow from a founder. They’ll be looking at your overall fit for the team/company. The most important thing is to demonstrate that you’re smart, driven and excited about adding real value.

A few things about coming in to see us

  • What should I wear? We’re a relaxed office and most of us wear jeans/t-shirts but we want you to feel at ease (as much as you can in an interview) so wear whatever you feel comfortable in.
  • How do I find the office? We can be a little tricky to find. Our address is The Roma Building, 32-38 Scrutton Street, London, EC2A 4RQ and we’re the last building on the right hand side. If you get lost, give us a call and we’ll direct you!
  • What do I do once I get there? When you get here, ring the buzzer and you’ll find yourself in a small waiting area. Let them know you’re here to see Snowplow and we’ll come down to meet you.

Practical interviewing tips

ace your interviews

How should you prepare for an interview with a tech or software company when you’re in a non-technical role?

Preparing for an interview for a non-technical role at a software company can be really daunting (believe me, I’ve been there!). The most important thing is to do lots of research, even before your first interview with the company. Make sure you understand whether the company’s ever gone through any funding rounds, when it was founded, who the founders are and what it is that the company actually does (this can be harder to figure out than people think but just do your best!). It’s also important to remember that your interviewers know you’re not from a technical background so they’re not about to ask you to sit down and code a line of Java. Be yourself, be passionate and show that you’re excited about the prospect of learning about all the interesting tech the company has to offer.

How important is company culture when researching a new role? Does it factor in differently for startups?

Choosing the right company culture for you is absolutely crucial in ensuring your continued success and happiness with an organisation, and I think it does factor in differently for startups. While all companies (small or large) have their own values and ways of working, startups tend to have more unique cultures that are defined by far fewer people, so picking the culture that suits you becomes even more important. As an example, I have two colleagues who are equally as driven and passionate as each other but one flourishes in a clearly-defined, stable environment whereas the other thrives in an ambiguous, ever-changing role. One is neither better or worse, they’re just different, and it’s vital that they end up in environments that encourage their individual ways of working.

My tips for picking the right company culture for you are:

  • Ask multiple individuals within an organisation what the culture is like throughout the interview process
  • Come prepared with lots of questions. The interview process is as much your time to figure out if the company is right for you, as it’s a chance for them to check your suitability for a role
  • Observe the environment during your interview. How do people interact with each other? Are people engaged in their work? Sometimes you can actually feel a buzz when you walk into an office!

I’ve never been on a technical interview before, how should I prepare?

Before going to any interview, technical or otherwise, one thing I will always suggest is to read the job description more than once. I know this may seem obvious but really make sure that you understand what it is the company’s looking for, both in terms of experience and soft skills. Some tips specifically for prepping for a tech interview are:

  • If you have done a tech test prior to your interview and had to Google how to do certain tasks (which is absolutely fine, no one knows how to do everything), just make sure you then actually learn how/why you did what you did. It’s likely that an interviewer will delve deeper into your answers and your knowledge surrounding that specific question so it can get pretty uncomfortable if it becomes evident you just copied and pasted the answer.

  • Research the company’s tech stack, competitors and where they sit in the market Understand your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the tech they’re asking you to know and if possible, start improving in some of the areas you know you’re weaker (this will really impress any interviewer)

  • Don’t oversell your abilities. Often, companies are much more interested in how quickly you’re able to learn than the things you’re already able to do Think about what it is about the particular company/tech stack/project that is making you excited about potentially working there. Companies want to know that you’re interested in a certain opportunity, not just any opportunity that comes your way.

Are there any good tips for brainstorming questions to ask my interviewer?

I think a good place to start is with yourself and what it is that’s really important to you in a new role/company. Do you value transparency? A sense of ownership? Flexibility? An innovative tech stack? Progression opportunities? Start there, and then ask your interviewer to demonstrate how the company incorporates those things. If they are unable to think of examples or the answers they give don’t seem genuine, then you know that this may not be right place for you. Remember that you only have a limited amount of time with this person before choosing to spend Monday-Friday with them for potentially years to come so make that time count!

What makes interviewing at Snowplow unique?

You get to interview with me. Just kidding! There are a few things that make interviewing with Snowplow very unique, here are a few:

  • Interviews are never cheesy, overly salesy or impersonal. We genuinely want to get to know you and will try, as much as possible, to make it feel like a two-way conversation, not an interrogation
  • You can ask as many questions at all of the stages (and in between) as you can think of and all will be met with a thoughtful, genuine answer (even if it means highlighting one of our weaknesses)
  • We’re a very geographically distributed company so sometimes you can be doing a remote interview with a Snowplower in Canada, Spain and the UK all at the same time (pretty cool)
  • We value honesty, transparency and individuality so just be yourself! It’s important that we get to see the real you throughout the interview process because that’s who we want to be hiring

How do I join Snowplow?

Take a look at our Careers page to see the roles we’re currently looking to fill and apply if one of them ignites your passion or you think would be a good fit! If you don’t see any openings that align with your skills, we’re always on the lookout for smart people to join our team so contact us to get a conversation started.

interview success

Good luck and we look forward to meeting you!