I started at Automattic on November 20, 2019, and it’s an incredible place to work. I’m constantly impressed by my coworkers kindness, intelligence, and compassion. If you’re looking for a rewarding remote job that you can work from anywhere in the world, definitely apply.
I’m still overjoyed and amazed I was hired. While going through the hiring process, I devoured the blog posts from people describing their journeys. Here’s my contribution to the catalog. I hope it helps someone.
Before applying, I would recommend reading through the Automattic creed to see if it aligns with you. I think most companies have a creed to pay lip service to.
That’s not Automattic. The creed really is embodied in an amazing way. It sounds cliché, but it’s true.
End of September, 2019
I was contacted by a third-party recruiter about applying. I believe this may have been an experimental program, and is not the normal process.
It was the first time that I was contacted by a recruiter who:
- was kind and supportive
- really wanted the job to be a good fit for me
- had a good job offer
I had actually applied to Automattic a few years ago for a Product Designer role, but did not get past the application step. They were still incredibly kind and encouraging in their rejection. I was shocked and excited to be contacted by a recruiter asking me to apply this time around.
I sent my resume in, and they passed it along to the hiring team. Within two days, I heard back that they wanted me to fill out their application questionnaire.
End of September, 2019
I received a questionnaire that helped them and me evaluate if working at Automattic would be a good fit. Automattic has a very unique and wonderful way of working. It’s definitely not for everyone, but it’s something to be discussed and aware of very early on.
I don’t remember this part taking too long or being too intense.
Update June 2021: Automattic is removing the interview from the engineering hiring process. Candidates are moved directly to the Code Test.
Early October, 2019
Within a week, I heard back that I was being advanced to the Slack Interview. The interview is entirely text based.
A Text-Based Aside
The entire hiring process is text based. Seriously.
Never once did I hear someone’s voice or do a video call. Until my first paycheck arrived, a part of me still believed it was all too good to be true, and it was just an elaborate prank. 😂
They invited me to a slack channel, and I was free to ask questions and talk with the hiring team. They told me how they do what they call “async communication.” You can ask a question, and you may not get an answer for awhile, as the person may be in a totally different part of the world. For example, the hiring team for my trial process was distributed in Europe, Eastern Europe, Oceania, and the US.
Slack Interview – Continued
I really enjoyed the slack interview. It was by far the most enjoyable interview I had ever done. The person I chatted with helped me feel comfortable and confident. They knew what they were talking about and used plenty of emoji responses to keep things light.
The interview felt more like hanging out and talking with someone you met at a conference about what you do, what processes you use and why, etc. It was friendly and, dare I say, fun.
By the end of our 1.5 hour chat, they told me I was moving on to the next stage. No waiting required.
Note: I don’t think a fast answer like this is always the case. Just because you’re not told an answer at the end of the interview doesn’t mean you’re not moving on.
The Code Test
Early October, 2019
It’s getting real now. You can talk the talk, but can you… uh… walk the… code? Well, you know what I mean.
Within a couple days, they sent me the Code Test. It was a github repo with details on the project and what needed fixing. They said to not spend more than 4-6 hours on the test, but, I did spend a little more than that. 😬
The impression I got behind the intention of the 4-6 hour limit isn’t to see how fast you can code or to make you crack under pressure. It’s out of respect for your time. They really don’t want to waste your time or their own.
It was hard. I doubted myself. I put too much pressure on myself. I freaked out. I took a break. I figured part of it out. Repeat.
Within a day or two of submitting my code test, I got a detailed, kind response about things I did well and things I could improve. The intention behind the message was clearly to help me learn. Fortunately, I was being moved on to the Trial phase.
The Trial: Hot Take
Mid October, 2019
The trial phase is a fixed-rate, paid trial at $25/hour and is intended to last around 40 hours. This is a big commitment, and a controversial one if you read around a bit on forums from people debating the hiring process at Automattic. I think it has changed over the years, so here’s my take after having gone through it:
- The $25 rate is clearly low for a US-based web developer. It’s not supposed to be a living wage and has no impact on your future salary. It is nice that they believe you are a good enough candidate that they are willing to pay you to continue interviewing with them.
- It’s not an attempt to get reduced-rate work. You get one of a few standardized trial projects that are not intended to be used in production.
- It’s supposed to mimic the way Automattic works to see if you’ll enjoy working there.
You’re allowed to do the trial project spread out over as many weeks/months as you’d like. Just communicate what your schedule is going to be. I decided to do it within two weeks so I could get it out of the way and find out sooner.
The Trial: How it Happened
Note: I had originally started as more of a back-end developer during the hiring process, but decided to move to a front-end developer role. I was worried they would make me start the process over. Fortunately, they just said “No problem!” and switched me to a front-end trial.
When you get to the trial phase, they add you to a few slack channels with everyone else on Trial. You are now officially a Trialmattician. This channel is kind of like a
#watercooler channel for others on trial. It was incredibly useful and comforting to chat with others going through the same, difficult thing as you.
The hiring team makes it clear that you are not competing with anyone else on trial. They have a high hiring capacity, so it’s not about accessing a limited amount of positions, but finding the right people who will thrive at Automattic.
My trial project was another WordPress plugin, but this time it was React-based. I had never worked with React and told them this ahead of time. They weren’t worried about my lack of React knowledge.
My impression of the trial wasn’t to evaluate how good of a React developer I was (hint: I wasn’t), but to evaluate (among other things):
- Documentation and showing work
- Detailing my thought process
- General coding style and knowledge
- Ability to work in an async, distributed way
- How you adapt to a new, unique codebase
Since I committed to doing the trial fairly quickly, I went faster than they could really provide feedback (this was also due to my trial lead traveling during the first part of my trial). I believe the process is supposed to be more like the day-to-day of working at Automattic where you have code reviews from teammates coming in within a day of submitting a PR (pull request).
The trial pushed me in a similar way as the Code Test. I doubted myself. I tried to move quickly but just wound up missing silly mistakes. Taking a breath and moving carefully and considerately was by far the best thing I did.
Overall, it was extremely tough for me. I’m very glad to be done with it. 😅
When my trial lead felt like they had seen enough to make a decision, they recommended me to be hired. 🎉
The Matt Chat
Early November, 2019
This is still called the Matt Chat even though I talked with someone from HR. The chat involved talking about my trial process, how I felt about it, the good, the bad, etc. I was impressed with how much they wanted to hear my feedback so that they could improve the hiring process. Overall, I remember really enjoying the chat.
At Automattic, they really care. A lot. They want this to be the best it can be for the candidates putting the time in. Even though it’s not always perfect, it’s filled with good intention and compassion.
We talked a little about a potential start date and expected salary, and that evening I received and accepted my offer.
- Every step along the way, I thought I would get rejected, but I didn’t. Hang in there! The hiring team does not pass people through out of kindness (even though they are very kind). They move people on through the hiring process because they believe they will succeed.
- Imposter syndrome is real, but you’re there because you deserve it. Believe in yourself like they believe in you.
- Have a support system. Be prepared to get together with a close friend (or two or three) and just talk about what you’re going through. I’m so thankful for my friends’ encouragement and being willing to listen as I got everything out of my head.
If you’re considering applying, do it! The process is very difficult, but the reward is so, so worth it. If you’ve already applied, know I’m rooting for you!
Leave a comment if you have any questions, and if it’s something I can/am allowed to answer, I’m more than happy to help. 🙂