How we interview software engineers at LloydsDirect

How we interview software engineers at LloydsDirect

Interviewing can be intimidating. We're publishing this post, which explains how we interview, to help you as a candidate assess whether it’s worth interviewing with us, and to prepare yourself mentally for the conversations. We’d also like to help move the conversation around interviewing forward by sharing our process (and the thinking behind it).

If you’re planning to interview with us, we’d like you to know that no one is here to trip you up or trick you. We look for people with a particular mindset and all we want to find out is what you’re all about and how you could help us grow. For this reason, it’s really important to be honest with us and to be yourself.

We’re also all about improving this process and thinking about your experience. You’re interviewing us as much as we’re interviewing you, and therefore we’ve thought about this process with your time and energy in mind.

Step 0: Applying

From your point of view, your odds of working with us will always go up when you apply for a job here. If this is direct rather than a hiring manager coming to you via LinkedIn or Hired, we will typically ask for a short summary and CV. The summary for us is to give us an idea of what you’re looking for, why you are interested in this role at LloydsDirect, and what you’re excited about. It is not about you proving to us that you have every skill or technology we might have mentioned in the job listing.

When it comes to your CV and what we look for in a candidate, we like people who are passionate about what they’re working on. Bring out what’s unique about you. Talk at length about your favourite project at your last job. If you're from another industry originally, we love hearing from people with different backgrounds. Bring out any transferable skills you have or anything that's brought you to software engineering.

Step 1: The phone screen

The first stage is the phone screen. This is a fairly informal chat with the hiring manager. The purpose of this call is for us to:

  1. understand what you’re looking for
  2. give you a sense of what we're looking for
  3. give you an idea of what it’s like to work at LloydsDirect

At the end of the call, we should both have a pretty good idea of whether it’s worth continuing to further interviews.

This usually takes the form of 15 minutes of the hiring manager explaining who we are and our journey, 10 minutes of questions we have for you and 5 minutes of questions for us. For example, we might ask "If you're working on a brand new codebase, and you've got a ticket to work on, how do you go about working on it? What do you do if you get stuck?"

The 15 minute intro is intended to give you as much context about us as we can, but this is a great opportunity for you to ask whatever you want to know about how we work, what our business model is and what we expect from people working here.

At the end of this call you will be told when we intend to get back to you, usually within 1-3 working days.

Step 2: Panel interviews

If you're successful (well done!), you'll be put through to around 2–3 hours of panel interviewing. We'll schedule all of them on the same day, so that you can get a good picture of who we are and who you'd be working with without the process dragging on. We can be flexible with when this happens in the day, but we generally recommend that this takes place during the working day so that we'll all be able to concentrate best.

Housekeeping

There are three panel sessions, each with two people from LloydsDirect, and each panel will take up to an hour. We try to mix up the panels so that we get a good idea of how you work with different disciplines, and so that you have the opportunity to meet as many different people as possible. Previously, in the office, this would have been more like 45 minutes, but as we’re remote, we feel that an hour gives both sides a bit more time to get settled and make sure there's no audio or video issues. In each stage we will leave at least 5-10 minutes at the end for you to ask any questions.

We will also put in a 5–10 minute break between each session to make sure you’ve got time to get yourself a drink, go to the bathroom or just have a bit of a breather. When in person, this was time that you would have had where interview panellists would swap over, so we mimic this by spacing the calls apart.

The interviews

In the first stage, we’ll talk about your experience and ask you some questions about how you’ve worked in the past. We will be asking you questions based on your CV, so it’s probably a good idea to review it and remind yourself what’s on there.

The second stage is agile and ways of working. This is typically with an individual contributor and a product manager, and we aim for both of those people to be from the team you're going to be in. This interview is mostly to understand whether you'd work well here at LloydsDirect and how it compares to teams you've been in previously.

The third stage is a technical interview. This will be with 2 engineers with experience in a similar area to you, so might emphasise front-end or backend or other areas. Ahead of the interview, we will have asked you to prepare to talk us through some code or a project that you’ve worked on. This can be either a work thing if you're able to talk about work codebases, a side project or something in open source you’ve worked on previously. It doesn't have to be the most technically complicated project, just something that you can talk about and explain. If you don't have anything you can talk to us about, please let your hiring manager know. The intent here is to understand more about your technical skills and how you communicate with other engineers. Our engineers will ask you about why you made the choices you did or if you faced any particular challenges working with the code.

Why we use this format for technical interviews

We find that if you bring in something that you know, this should give you a lot more confidence in your skill, knowledge and understanding of the project, which should enable you to shine a lot more as a candidate.

We don’t believe that whiteboard coding exercises represent a realistic work situation and the pressure of the moment doesn’t help bring out your actual strengths (apart from perhaps your ability to perform under pressure).

“Take home tests” are potentially more representative of actual work, but they feel too time consuming for us to warrant their use, and we understand you are typically working through multiple processes, which compounds the level of effort you need to put in.

We have thought about experimenting with coding exercises where you would be paired with an engineer to improve some code or to find bugs in a simulated codebase. The inherent challenge with this is the difficulty in creating a “simulated codebase” that suits all candidates.

Interviewing tips and requests

  • Please keep your camera on and test out any audio setup you have before joining the call. A large proportion of what we communicate is body language and facial expressions, as well as what was actually said and your tone of voice. We appreciate having a camera pointed directly at each of our faces still cuts out a large chunk of actual body language and can be intimidating, but it's a step closer to interviewing in real life than just going off what each of us is saying and tone of voice alone. In return you can expect interviewers will do the same.

    • Don't panic if your video or audio quality isn't going the way we hoped! Our interviewers will help as best we can and everyone's very understanding that interviewing remotely has its challenges.
  • Make sure you're comfortable and ready to interview. We highly recommend having a glass of water or other beverage of your choice at hand as it's easy to get into the zone of interviewing and forget about your own comfort.
  • Prepare questions in advance and write them down! This not only ensures that you remember to ask your question, it also shows that you are interested in the role. Think about what you know about LloydsDirect and try to imagine what it’s like working here. You will realise what you don’t know and perhaps also that you are making assumptions that might be good to check.
  • Think about how you like to work. Think about what you want out of your next job. This will help you explain what you want and to evaluate if what you hear about LloydsDirect suits you.
  • Be your authentic, best self. We want you to be able to show us your true abilities and personality. We have a common goal here: to figure out if you’d succeed and enjoy working at LloydsDirect. If you’re struggling to answer a question or need some time to think about it, you can say that out loud. Interviews can be nerve racking, take your time and remember to breathe.

Gathering feedback

After the interview, we’ll schedule in a 10 minute catch-up with your hiring manager again. This is purely to make sure that everything went smoothly, check if you have any feedback on our interview process or field any questions that weren’t answered. Previously in the office, this is the walking from the interview room to the door type chat, so this really is intended to be completely informal.

Finally, internally we will do a wash-up call immediately following the process to gather feedback on how everything went. We aim to get back to candidates within 1–3 working days.

...And that’s it! We’re not here to trick you, ask you to reverse a linked list on a whiteboard or spend 5 hours on a take home technical test. If this process sounds good to you, we’d love to hear from you!

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