Tech companies have long been lauded for their advanced hiring techniques, particularly those of industry leaders. Commonly abbreviated to FAANG, the giants of the tech industry are Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google, along with the well-established Microsoft. These companies are responsible for some of the most cutting edge technologies on the market. Driven by their inherent competitive nature, many are on a perpetual quest to seek out and land up-and-coming talent. To this end, they have developed an exhaustive procedure for evaluating potential hires.
To understand how this process has changed during the pandemic, it’s important to know how it operated before the outbreak. The evaluation process may vary depending on the company, but most will involve several stages with increasing degrees of intensity. After resume submission, candidates can expect a phone screening or an online assessment. During these sessions, candidates may be given leadership problems (it’s a must for Amazon interviews) as well as programming or design problems, to work through. In some cases, the candidate may use a website shared with the recruiter or assessor to show their work and explain their thought process when solving these hypothetical problems. For example, those applying to Google may be expected to write code on a shared Google Doc.
If the candidate progresses, the next stage will be onsite interviews. This entails a full day of extensive interviews, at Amazon they call it ‘The Loop’. These are often between 5 to 10 individual interviews separated by breaks, each with a different interviewer. During these interviews whiteboarding is commonplace, candidates use a whiteboard to explain their answers to questions or technical puzzles, writing their proposed code by hand. These questions are meant to give recruiters insight on how candidates approach problems and how well they fit the position. All totaled, this process may take 1 to 3 months to complete before an offer is extended.
As you can see, many companies used a combination of remote and in-person techniques when evaluating candidates. Early on in the outbreak some companies, like Amazon, were averse to canceling the onsite interview stage. However, amidst the pandemic all eventually resorted to virtual means such as video calls to conduct their interviews. Various websites are being used to facilitate the key component of technical interviews, the controversial whiteboarding. Although it may seem like an archaic medium for such tech driven companies, whiteboarding is often used to confirm a candidate’s abilities and evaluate their capacity to work under pressure. This has mostly been circumvented by using a non-compiling text editor shared with the recruiter. For system design tasks, projects have even been launched specifically to compensate for the lack of a physical whiteboard, such as CodePair and awwapp.com. More simply, some interviewers (e.g. at Amazon/Google) also allow candidates to use their own physical whiteboard at home or even pen/paper, with the interviewer watching their work through their webcam.
Despite the challenges noted in the interview process, there has also been some great perks from this new virtual arrangement on both sides. Candidates coming from more distant locations can now avoid the hassles and costs of booking a hotel and commuting to the company headquarters, especially given how long the interview process can be. Scheduling between multiple parties is easier and more fluent, with remote meetings offering a more flexible timeframe to work with. The high pressure environment usually experienced while whiteboarding in front of new people has also been eased, with candidates comfortably seated at home in a familiar environment and using their own personal computer or whiteboard. This also benefits recruiters who can evaluate the candidate’s ability to share their thoughts and collaborative potential in a more natural setting.
However, there are certain disadvantages that can’t be easily avoided given the unique circumstances. Candidates don’t have the ability to assess company culture or appropriately adapt themselves to a new culture. For example, having lunch with a recruiter during a day of interviews is a rite of passage in many companies. This allows both parties to get more familiar with each other on a personal level, while also enabling the recruiter to gage a candidate’s intrapersonal skills. Candidates also miss out on the onsite tour of the company campus or headquarters, an important step for when they eventually become onsite employees and are made to navigate it. Certain perks of the position are also highlighted during the tour, which can entice a candidate away from selecting another company’s position before an offer is made.
Nevertheless, many have still applied to these major tech companies during the pandemic. These esteemed positions come with a variety of benefits and incentives that continue to attract talent far and wide. However, one particular benefit seems to be in a precarious position given the nationally implemented travel restrictions. Relocation compensation has been widely offered by many FAANG companies, but relocation itself has not been viable for much of the year. So far, many offers have not been affected and remain comparable to their pre-COVID scope in major companies, although smaller startups have faced some difficulties. But of course, as the pandemic progresses, this may change as estimations about the longevity and impact of the COVID era is adjusted to new information.
With adapted procedures and technology, interviews and talent scouting have continued to take place at a steady pace since the beginning of the pandemic. Although candidates have been receiving offers, some have come with the new condition of a delayed start date. This is likely made to avoid the friction of starting while the company is still adjusting to pandemic measures, but it’s often compensated for in the form of more robust sign-on bonuses. Overall, most companies are operating like usual, just through remote means. Some sectors within the tech industry are booming and hiring more, while others are cutting cost wherever possible, however the FAANG giants have remained stable and will continue to survive.
The lasting effects of this pandemic on FAANG companies are yet to be known. The most obvious impact is that it will likely affect how and where jobs are done. Facebook has been among the first to lean into the remote revolution, committing to making a large portion of their jobs remote in the coming years. It is likely that the tools and strategies adopted to combat the pressures of this pandemic will be utilized more in the future in some respect. Although FAANG recruiters undoubtedly appreciate in-person meetings, the convenience, efficiency, and effectiveness of the remote tools used during these new interview procedures have shown great promise. Accelerated by the pandemic, the remote revolution is slowly but surely taking over the tech industry, with the recruitment process being no exception.