How to Stick Out from the Crowd in the Uber Engineering Interview Process
Let’s face it—when you’re exploring job opportunities, it can be hard to stick out from the crowd. At Uber, we’re set to receive over a million job applications through the next year. The funnel narrows dramatically as we select for phone screens all the way through an in-person office interview, even for engineering where the industry demand for software engineers currently exceeds the supply. Much like the extremely competitive admissions in other arenas such as educational institutions, how we approach the hiring process can appear to be an enigma and even acquire its own set of mystiques. Here’s one of our technical recruiting leads at Uber, who’s on the front lines of evaluating engineering candidates, to offer Technical Recruiting’s perspective on engineering hiring.
What teams have you supported in your time at Uber?
I have worked across most teams in our Engineering, Product, and Design orgs. Specifically, I’ve worked closely with our infrastructure, product engineering, real-time systems, and data science teams.
What jumps out when you’re reviewing applications?
I really like to see words and phrases that demonstrated how much candidates owned in their prior roles: “led Android development efforts on the Rider Experience Program”, “brought the trip tray on the Uber Android App into existence”, instead of listing a more general contribution or team affiliation without any context for someone outside that environment (“on Team REX”). What really gets me excited is when someone speaks to the specifics.
What do you often see instead?
People are too vague. I think part of that comes from the implicit context that people have about their roles—they’re not used to succinctly describing what they do. Sometimes I only learn about something that speaks to a great fit coincidentally during phone screens, and so I can only imagine there are plenty of opportunities that are missed.
What do you look for in terms of the tone?
Being proud of the work that they’ve done. When I ask: “what are you most proud of?” I expect them to give me an answer. You can tell when someone is going through the motions versus being really passionate. I really like it when they care about something that’s unique.
The Uber platform started operating in June 2010. How has the general software engineering hiring market changed since our inception?
The reality is that as a software engineering candidate, you’re most likely getting noticed now on LinkedIn, before a resume. LinkedIn has been around for much longer than just the past few years, of course, but it’s since become the default tool for sourcing. So if you’re interested in getting contacted, have your LinkedIn be a short version of your resume. Successful candidates on LinkedIn, Github, Stack Overflow are telling their story through the work they’ve done.
What does a technical recruiter look for in the phone screen?
Are they a collaborator? Again, going back to passion, are they actually committed to their work, or are they clocking in and clocking out? I can get a gauge on whether they’re interested in Uber, and whether they’re into the challenges of our business. When I’m recruiting technical recruiters, do they understand the challenges of scaling to 10,000 people and beyond? For technical candidates, can they break down what they’ve done and explain it, and also see how their work fits into the bigger picture?
What do candidates need to understand about Uber’s business?
We’re creating a global platform where marketplaces and services for transportation, delivery, and logistics exist. That problem is a big one to solve. And it’s our job as a company to simplify it as much as possible.
Our engineers need to understand all of the subtle details of the problem to be able to make it a seamless experience. For infrastructure, it can be from a perspective of: how do you enable lots of concurrent rides without degrading each and every experience? For a mobile developer, it’s understanding how a ride works to create a project for a product that works as seamlessly on a brand new operating system as it does on mobile platforms which have been around for several years.
What is the biggest misconception about your role from candidates you’re trying to hire?
We have the candidate’s best interest in mind and aren’t working off of a script. My job is to bring in incredible technical talent who are excited about working here. It doesn’t benefit candidates nor the business to force a fit. I want to build amazing teams who love to work together, not commoditize candidates and fill headcount quotas.
You’ve been a recruiter at many other places. What’s the biggest advantage Uber has compared to other technology companies?
I’m really excited about the promise of our engineering teams. We’re building features and a technology platform that physically moves people and things around the world. The systems we are building are completely unique to our business and we are still on the ground floor building them. We had about 400 people at the start of 2014 at Uber; at the start of 2015, we had over 2,000 employees. In October 2015 we reached 5,000.
We have one of the largest mission-critical, real-time systems in the world and will continue to scale that globally. It’s amazing to think that an engineer could come and work from San Francisco to help move people in over 300 cities and over 60 countries simultaneously. This reach and scale will only increase over time. So we’re still at the stage where the larger you get, the more impact you’ll have. This isn’t true at a lot of big companies in a mature market.
If I want to get hired as an engineer at Uber, do you have any tips?
Show me your work—the best engineers are the ones who’ve built something and are proud of it. Passion goes really far here. If you’ve been a primary contributor to a growing business, we want to hear about it because the work you’d do here will be similar. We expect our engineers to be able to stay on their toes and work through challenges they haven’t tackled before. Also, expect to be asked if you’ve used Uber; we love hiring people who love to use our product.
Photo Credit: “Cape Buffalo Herd” by Conor Myhrvold, Botswana.