Remote interviews can be hard, especially if you’ve never done them before. With the COVID-19 crisis, we’re seeing a lot of teams forced to transition to remote interviewing. Luckily, we’ve done hundreds of remote phone screens, and more recently we’ve been doing what we’re calling “remote onsites.” In this post, we'll describe how we and some of our customers leverage Repl.it Multiplayer -- our realtime collaborative development environment -- and other tools to interview candidates remotely.
The Phone Screen
So much rides on programming interviews. When you're first starting as an interviewee, programming interviews can feel like a performance: you either meet or exceed the bar or you don't. That's much pressure! Teams who interview well do everything they can to put folks at ease so both sides can answer the question: are we excited to work together?
At Repl.it, we want to make programming more accessible, which means making it more social, even casual. We introduced Multiplayer mode so that people can collaboratively work together on the same repl with realtime editing and running, which has been a substantial step-up from screen-sharing. Candidates can start coding in their preferred language in just a few seconds, and we can start writing tests right away in the same file. It often feels more like a collaboration session than an interview, which is an excellent sign.
As candidates iterate their way to working code, we get to watch them discover and fix corner cases -- something easily missable in contrived psuedocode interviews. Also, Multiplayer phone screens are great to test hacking and debugging skills. Since Multiplayer works so well for an initial hour-long project, why not use it for the full interview?
Remote onsite: Kick-off
After a candidate passes our phone screen, we move to the onsite. Onsites, despite the name, can be conducted remotely. They mimic a full working day at Repl.it. We make sure to let people know what to expect from the day and what aspects of their work we'll judge them on, which goes a long way in making them comfortable enough to shine.
The first event of the day is an hour-long design session. We start by presenting candidates with a high-level, open-ended prompt. Then we let them drive the design of a system over the hour. At the end, we give them a chance to scope down the project to an MVP they can build in an afternoon, which gives us a good read not only for their design sense but also for their ability to trim a project to its essential components.
We use a collaborative whiteboard website called ExcaliDraw and we highly recommend it.
Remote onsite: Virtual Lunch
During IRL onsites we take out candidates for lunch, which can be a great opportunity to get to know them, and for them to get to know us. This was important to maintain as we moved to remote onsites. After the design session, we let everyone grab lunch and then hop on a Hangouts session to eat and chat.