YourMechanic’s engineering team is crucial to the company’s efficiency and overall success. Our engineers are constantly striving to figure out how to reduce costs and increase benefits to build a better customer experience. The ability to logically resolve technical problems is the key skill we look for in our engineers and our approach to finding problem solvers reflects our departure from the status quo.
The usual approach
Typically, a company’s search for a new engineer is conducted by a HR person who has been given a template and keywords to match with submitted resumes. The usual process begins with an initial phone call that is largely behavioral, followed by an onsite interview that can last an entire day. Standard questions that can easily be prepared for ahead of time and generic puzzle tests are part of this "normal" interview technique.
How our approach is different
At YourMechanic, the number one quality we look for in a candidate is evidence that she takes the time and effort to understand what’s happening under the hood. Simply put, we care more about the approach to the problem than the experience. Many of our engineers come from a systems background because they tend to understand the underlying architecture behind what's done and the decisions made. We strive to maintain a culture that's open to new methods; for example, if there are two ways to approach a problem and one is new and unexplored, we'll go with the new way (all other things equal, of course).
The screening process
If a candidate’s resume has enough indications that he’s tackled tough problems, the first phase involves asking him to write a program to answer a difficult question. The candidate works on this problem at home and is given the freedom of choosing the language and algorithm. This process simulates a real working environment at YourMechanic - engineers are given problems every day and expected to figure them out with little to no guidance. The completed problem gives us a good idea of a candidate’s thought process and we can gauge his technical expertise, attention to detail, and ability to take feedback.
After a candidate has successfully completed the “homework” portion of the process, he is invited into the office for an in-person interview (or a Skype call if he’s out of the area). Interviews are used to get a sense of the candidate from a one-on-one perspective - we don’t have panels of YourMechanic engineers sit in the room together with the candidate; rather, a maximum of two are selected to talk to the candidate individually.
Lesson learned: we used to do panel interviews but found that they could be intimidating and aren't representative of our real work environment.
What the engineering team looks for in a candidate
The questions asked in the one-on-one interviews vary widely but are always unique. We don’t ask the standard puzzle questions that candidates either know or don’t know, as this isn’t a good gauge of skill. We don’t care about syntax or core structure - we care most about the process of arriving at the solution and the efficiency of the algorithm.
We usually have three or four interviews onsite per job candidate and we get back to the candidate the following day. We know someone is a good match for the YourMechanic team if they’ve demonstrated logical reasoning and the ability to handle difficult problems. We don’t ask easy questions but a strong candidate can answer our questions with some effort.
The engineering team at YourMechanic is different. We don’t have specialties - no one works only on the app or only on the website - and everyone works on all projects. We don't believe in constraining an engineer to any one area of the codebase. Each engineer states a preference for projects every quarter. We've found that having all engineers be familiar with multiple areas of our system helps them design their module more effectively. And if a project is siloed enough, the engineer is free to choose the language and framework as well.
YourMechanic is incredibly fast paced with continuous direct feedback. It’s not for everyone but for those who enjoy working in this environment it’s ideal.