Finding a new job during a global pandemic

If you’re reading the title of this post and thinking to yourself “A pandemic? That’s so 2020!” — then congrats, you’ve made it, humanity!

Alas, as I’m writing this in late 2020, most of the world’s developers (and, pretty much, everyone else who can) are still staying away from their companies' offices and working from home in an attempt to flatten the curve of COVID19 infections.

If you were to ask everyone in the world to give 2020 a Yelp review then… let’s just say this year won’t top any charts. A large number of businesses had to shut down, people lost their jobs, and in general, it has just been a very stressful year for pretty much everyone. As for me, I have been in a fairly fortunate position to be able to switch to remote work and stay in the safety of my home. But, back in August of this year I decided to spice things up a bit, so I started looking for a new job. Because what better time to do that than at the cusp of the next potential economic recession?

Leaving my current company — 3D Hubs — after 4.5 amazing years has been no easy decision. But, when it’s time for a new challenge, you just need to grit your teeth and get out of that nice and warm comfort zone of yours. That’s where most of the growth opportunities lie.

So, what can I say about my experience so far, and how this global lockdown made it different?

Let’s remember how a typical job interview may have looked like before the pandemic:

  1. First, you have to try to and schedule the time for interviewing in your (already busy) calendar
  2. Drive to the prospective employer’s office on the designated day(-s)
  3. Endure one, two, three or more hours of interviews
  4. Come back to work, exhausted
  5. Carry on with your work
  6. Repeat for every company you’re interviewing with

And what was different this time around?

The good

No change of location

Being able to switch from working for one company to interviewing at another by opening a new tab in your browser is pretty neat, I must say. And not having to drive/cycle across the city to do that saves a decent chunk of time too.

Easier to schedule

It is much easier to squeeze in one hour of interviewing into your calendar compared to one hour of interviewing plus two more hours it takes to get to the designated location and back.

Less intimidating

As in introvert, I found interviewing from home more a lot comfortable and less stressful than in an unfamiliar location.

More spread out interviews

Most companies realise that making a candidate drive to their office for four or five separate interviewing sessions is not great. So what they often did was to cluster all of the (3-4-5-6) interviews into a single day. Needless to say, that is quite a meat grinder to put someone through, as convenient as it is. This time around, I had an average of one interview per day (per company), which is a lot more manageable. On the other hand, while having a more relaxed interviewing schedule is nice, it does have its downsides. It is definitely less efficient than the “clustered interviewing” approach, because having all/most of your interviews in one day usually also meant that the company was often able to give you their verdict within the same day, or the next one. Which brings me to the first of…

The bad

Slower process

This will probably improve once companies learn and improve their remote hiring processes. But, in my experience so far, it took an overage of 3.5 weeks from the first interview to receiving an offer, which is more than I would have preferred to wait.

The technology

The year was 2020, SpaceX rocket boosters were routinely flying into space and then guiding themselves back down to Earth to land on floating drone ships and get reused wait to be picked up and used again.

“What did you say? You’re breaking up” “Can you see my screen?” “Joe, you’re muted”

Unfortunately, having ubiquitous, stable internet access and reliable videoconferencing tools is something we still haven’t achieved after all these years. Of course, all of those things are way better than they used to be and getting better by day. But at this point, online meetings are still a source of daily pain and frustration.

The Vibe

Personally, one of the best ways to feel what working at a company X would be like, has always been to spend a few hours at their office while you’re visiting for interviews. While you can probably still get most of it by talking to your interviewers, you don’t get as full of a picture. Besides, how do I see what kind of snacks there are at the office?! :D

Conclusion

Personally, I actually prefer this new way of interviewing to the old one. Even considering all the downsides, I think has been a mostly positive experience, and we should probably keep at least some aspects of it — like the option to interview remotely — even if/when we return to our “normal” life.