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Getting Hired at Automattic

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.

The Creed

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.

Recruitment

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.

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.

Slack Interview

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):

  • Communication
  • 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.

My Advice

  • 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. 🙂

By Jerry Jones

JavaScript Engineer for Automattic, living simply in rural MO.

56 replies on “Getting Hired at Automattic”

> Every step along the way, I thought I would get rejected, but I didn’t.

This! I felt the same way in every step except the initial interview! I would bemoan to my wife about how I did this or that poorly and I don’t expect to move on. Then the next morning or so I’d get the good news.

By the time I made it to the trial, I already knew that this was a company that I definitely wanted to work for!.

Liked by 1 person

> I would bemoan to my wife about how I did this or that poorly and I don’t expect to move on.

So much this. My wife is an absolute saint for putting up with me during this process.

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Big Congratulations on becoming an Automattician..!! 👏👏
I have been in awe of this company’s ethos since I first applied when there was around 500 staff.
Having worked remote for 10 years I knew that aspect would not be difficult, but alas I didn’t get progressed 😕
But it’s great to see you’re always hiring 👍

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Thank you!

Yeah, my first time around I applied I didn’t even get past the first step. There’s always time for growth, reflection, and learning 🙂 Hope you’ve found fulfilling work that you enjoy!

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One of the things that Automattic spends a lot of time, effort, and why not resources, is in the recruiting process, and it pays off. This company is a huge dynamic-puzzle where each one is a piece, and you, Jerry Jones, fit there very well on it.
Congratulations, enjoy it. it’s just starting now!

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> This company is a huge dynamic-puzzle where each one is a piece

So accurate. And so glad to be working with you! I know I’m biased, but I’m pretty sure our team is the best ever in the history of all teams ever 🙌

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Thank you for this article! It’s very insightful to know more about Automattic and the hiring process. Having read several of them, they help a lot to know more about the company when applying!
As for me, I didn’t go beyond the third step of the recruitment process, the one with the text chat interview. Another time maybe 🤞
I appreciated that I was asked for some feedback on the hiring process after they decided not to move forward with my profile, showing that Automattic doesn’t get satisfied with the status quo, including on the hiring process 🙂
On the downside – and I don’t think I am saying that because I would be upset! – I thought that the process lacked a little bit of a human side. That’s just a personal feeling and may not apply to everyone. Just hoping that this comment will close all doors for the future 😉

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> As for me, I didn’t go beyond the third step of the recruitment process, the one with the text chat interview. Another time maybe 🤞

I didn’t get past the first stage when I first applied! I wasn’t ready then. I think that was 3 or 4 years ago, for more context.

> I appreciated that I was asked for some feedback on the hiring process after they decided not to move forward with my profile, showing that Automattic doesn’t get satisfied with the status quo, including on the hiring process 🙂

They really do care. I really think they want everyone who goes through to have a positive experience in the end. However, I can see how difficult this would be in practice.

> I thought that the process lacked a little bit of a human side. That’s just a personal feeling and may not apply to everyone.

I can relate to that from my pieces of my experience, where I was hoping for more interaction. I think they really want honest feedback on how to make it as human and reflective of working at Automattic, and set people up for success. They’re actively making it better and trying their best. There’s always room for improvement, and I think they are regularly making adjustments and improvements to the process.

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Oh, by the way, I am sorry my email address appears as my name in my last comment.
This is because I had to edit the form elements directly in the DOM using my browser’s development tools to add my information.
I had to do this because of a bug on the form when adding a comment without a WordPress account, as shown on this screenshot (tested on Firefox and Chrome): https://misc.s3.fr-par.scw.cloud/jj-blog-comments.png
I did not check if there is an easy fix for it 🙂

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Ooof! That doesn’t look good. Confirmed on my end as well. Looks like it can be fixed via some CSS changes. Thanks for letting me know!

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I’ve read a lot of Automattician blog articles, but never see much in terms of education/background. Would you mind commenting?

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I don’t know enough about other’s education/background, but I don’t think there’s anything standardized. I have no formal development or design education. I’m self-taught. I have a BA in English and MA in Elementary Education (that I never used). My guess is that a non-standard track is not a big surprise at Automattic.

If it helps, I haven’t heard anyone brag about where they’ve worked or where they went to school, etc. That doesn’t seem to be a part of the culture at all, which is great!

I’m still pretty new to Automattic, but on the small team I’m a part of, I think at least half are self-taught. One was even an electrician in a coal mine before becoming a developer!

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Jerry, thank you for sharing your experience. Very helpful! I am thinking about applying for work at Automattic but not sure if I am ready yet. Did you have any professional web development experience prior to Automattic? Are you proficient in PHP and\or WordPress? What skill set would you say they are looking for?

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Hi Luis! I did have over 10 years of experience before getting hired. The first few years were smaller, freelance sites, before moving into more full-time “professional” freelance/contracting roles.

> Are you proficient in PHP and\or WordPress?

Yes, I have a lot of PHP and WordPress experience, but I don’t believe this is required for Automattic. I think there are plenty of devs that don’t have any WordPress experience before joining.

> What skill set would you say they are looking for?

I think they are looking for people who really reflect the creed, rather than a specific skillset: https://automattic.com/creed/
Also, the job descriptions they have for the open positions are really accurate, IMO: https://automattic.com/work-with-us/#open-positions

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It has been really interesting reading this as this is exactly the same time I applied last year and for the same role, a JavaScript Engineer.

I went up to the slack interview chat and given that it was my first time applying I felt really proud of myself. I got a rejection after this, a really kind and encouraging rejection. It was more of a ‘Not now George’ rather than a ‘Never George’ kind of rejection.

I was told to try to add more skills and experiences then try again after 12 months. Am doing this and I will be applying again!

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> I got a rejection after this, a really kind and encouraging rejection. It was more of a ‘Not now George’ rather than a ‘Never George’ kind of rejection.

“Encouraging rejection” is such a perfect way of putting it! That’s the same way I felt when I first applied and didn’t make it through. It’s really impressive how they’re able to let you down in such a way that you come away feeling proud of yourself and motivated. Got my fingers crossed for you next time around! 🤞🙌

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I subscribed to the comments and have been going through all of them… Still great learning from your experience as you reply to the comments.

After reading the last few comments and your responses I have come up with three questions:
1. How long did you take before you re-applied for the position?
2. Which areas did you focus on improving that really helped you succeed in joining Automattic?
3. I see the word “Senior” has been added to the JavaScript Engineer job advert. Does this mean that the expected qualifications and years of experience has changed too?

Will appreciate your responses Jerry! 🙂

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Glad to hear the comments are helpful!

> 1. How long did you take before you re-applied for the position?

I reapplied in three years. I had initially applied for a Product Designer role though. I had been doing both dev and design work at that point, but in that three years I more fully-shifted over to the dev side.

> 2. Which areas did you focus on improving that really helped you succeed in joining Automattic?

I had the opportunity to build a program from scratch that involved using a PHP back-end and vanilla JS front-end that required me to build an observer pattern from scratch. I’m not saying you should go do this, but opportunities to build complex things helped me dive in and learn more advanced topics more deeply. In general, I always tried to do each project a little better than the last, so it was a constantly evolving thing rather than a specific topic or moment.

> 3. I see the word “Senior” has been added to the JavaScript Engineer job advert. Does this mean that the expected qualifications and years of experience has changed too?

I don’t think they’ve changed the expectations at all, but I believe they are trying to more accurately describe the role. We don’t have those kinds of “Senior” or level roles internally, but I get the feeling that they are only really hiring Senior developers.

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Hello Jerry! I had the exact opposite experience. I have applied twice for the VIP internship and after being invited to make some contributions I’ve got rejected with a copy-paste message. I have politely asked how could I improve my skills and if there is anything I could do better, but I had zero feedback. I have spent a lot of time trying to do my best and many of my contributions have been merged even. This happened to me twice, it is a little bit discouraging that I have been ghosted after the contributing in the second phase. But your article is inspiring and I have been building my skills ever since, I will try to apply in the future when I feel I’ll be ready. Thanks for your article!

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Oh no! I’m sorry that happened to you Tony 😦 Thanks for sharing your experience. I hope if you do apply and go through the process again that it’s more fulfilling and positive!

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That’s great to know though that my experience doesn’t reflect the Automattic team. Congrats and good luck with your further work 🙂

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Excellent article, thanks for writing it up!

> 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. 😂

I remember having exactly the same thoughts during my process 😆

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I remember making a joke to a friend that since they’ve never heard or seen me, how do they even know I am who I say I am? Then I thought, “Oh no – that means it goes the other way too!” 😮

I’m so glad all these wonderful Automatticians are real! 😆

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I just had an interview for a marketing position with Automattic all via text, but Telegram not Slack. I keep wondering if it was real and not a job scam. Any way to tell? I’ve read about 8000 articles on the process and most of it rings true with my experience except the use of Telegram. I’m super reluctant to fill out any paperwork or give my personal info until I can confirm. Any thoughts Jerry or anyone else?

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I’m asking internally for you to find out. Do you recall where you applied and/or saw the job listed?

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Hi Jerry! Yes I was notified via the Angel List job board that they were interested in me for an unspecified position. Then received an email from Automattic asking me to set up a chat time. I had also applied directly to Auto for a different position. During the interview she asked which position of 3 marketing openings I was interested in, didn’t mention the one I applied for.

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Thanks for your help with this Jerry. I have been in touch with Lori. Just FYI for others who might get a scam offer, they did not directly ask me for money, just what bank I use and to download a form. Needless to say, by that point I knew it was a scam so fortunately did not share sensitive info. Best of luck to all Automattic applicants in their REAL interviews!

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Congrats on the job! Thanks for sharing the process with everyone. I’m most intrigued that a recruiter reached out. I’m totally in the dark on how recruiters function. I assume they are often third party recruiting companies that are hired by other companies to find talent? Did they find you on LinkedIn or via your website?

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Thanks, Stephen!

In this case it was a third-party recruiter. Third-party is the most common case in my experience, but smaller companies will sometimes recruit directly. Most of the time when I was contacted, it was via LinkedIn. Also, most of the time it was for jobs that were clearly not a good match based on my resume, required me to move even though I said Remote-only, or were a step-down from whatever my current role was.

This was the first time it was a recruitment worth pursuing, so I’m glad I stayed open to it!

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Having just finished my trial I find this post really on point on the overall process!

> Every step along the way, I thought I would get rejected, but I didn’t. Hang in there!

This is probably the best advice! I was constantly thinking I would get rejected but patience is your best friend in this process.

> 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 failed on this, due to the fear on having to give explanations if I were rejected. 😦

Thanks for sharing this I felt very connected with it and I’m sure it will help a lot of people!

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Thanks for reading and for the comment! It’s good to hear others’ experiences and see that my experience is normal 🙂

I think this difficult trial is a very connecting thing for us. Congrats on making it through! 🙌

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Thank you for this post. I’m really intrigued by this company and I want to learn more before apply.
I’m not a native english speaker, so I think it might be a litlle bit problematic because of continously looking for words that are not in my vocabulary yet. Of course I’m always trying to improve myself, so this won’t prevent me from apply. But I ask you if you know it could be a problem.
And, lastly, I’d know about salary. Well, I don’t want to know your exact salary, just to know if it’s a good one and if it’s commensurate to the location you are living in; I mean, living in Switzerland is far more expensive than living in Thailandia.

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English is the language we use in all communication at Automattic, but there are many non-native speakers. On my team of 7, there are only two native speakers of English. I’m not sure how they determine what level of English is “enough,” but I would say to not let that prevent you from applying.

For salary, I’m not sure how they determine salary, but mine is good for my location. There are employees all over the world, some in high cost of living areas. I hope that is helpful! Feel free to ask more questions as well 🙂

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Well like others I have also applied for Code Wrangler. Today is my slack interview kind of nervous but let’s see how It goes for the past few days I have been digging on the internet regarding the hiring process of Automattic and the work environment its really getting me excited. I will surely come back and will write how was my experience.

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Congrats on the role! I have a question about the support aspect of the position- does that requirement extend for your entire tenure at Automattic?

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I did an initial two week support rotation. Every year afterwards, you do a one week support rotation with your team.

I’m looking forward to doing it again, as I think it’s a really beneficial way to better understand the issues people face and how they approach things.

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Thanks for sharing this inspiring experience. And congratulations on getting the position.
I took a profound interest in learning how to code in the languages of the web. So I taught myself web languages like HTML, CSS, JavaScript and Bootstrap. I was successful in this endeavor and went ahead to build a simple personal resume website. Ever since, I have been searching for a place or a team where I can apply what I have learnt to real life situations and make real life impact while i learn more about the world of the web.
My search led me to Automattic and after reading their Creed and your experience I am super convinced Automattic would be the right place for my growth. However I am a little hesitant and having jitters to apply. Can you advice me on how to proceed? Thanks

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That’s great that you’ve taught yourself so much! I’m self-taught as well. I freelanced for about 10 years before getting a job at Automattic. I believe they’re mostly looking for people who already have a lot of experience. That said, whenever you feel ready (or close-to-ready), go ahead and apply! The worst that can happen is they won’t hire you. As I said in this post, I applied a few years ago and did not get to the interview stage. If that happens to you, keep learning and growing (hopefully at another good company or freelancing) and try again later! Best of luck to you on your journey!

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Hi Jerry.

I’ve been reading many stories of people who got hired by Automattic. Most if not all seem to have had years of experience before applying.
I’m just wondering if Automattic ever takes on junior developers with less than two years experience?
Thanks

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They mainly hire more senior level at the moment. I believe there is talk of hiring junior level at some point, but I’m not sure if/when that program may get put in place. That said, I’m don’t interact with the hiring team very often so my info could be out-of-date. Sorry I don’t have more specific info to give!

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Hi Jerry.

Thanks for sharing your experience.

Currently, in the third stage, I wonder if you had any challenges during the coding test, and you felt your answers were inadequate, but you still went along with it.

I’d like to know what you think. Cheers!!

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Howdy!

First off – Huge congrats for making it to the third stage! 🎉

> “I wonder if you had any challenges during the coding test”

Yes. I absolutely had challenges during the coding test and the trial as well. My take is that it’s intended to be challenging, so don’t feel discouraged just because it’s difficult.

> “…. you felt your answers were inadequate, but you still went along with it.”

I remember one specific problem in the coding test that I redid a few times since I had this gnawing feeling that there was a better solution. I ended up figuring it out after taking a break from it and not stressing over it as much (and I did stress over things a lot! I’m an anxious person about things like this.)

So, to answer that question, yes I felt my answers were inadequate at times, but the ones where I felt strongly that they were inadequate, I did take more time to fix them. I wanted to be able to stand behind my work, and be able to explain why I did things.

FWIW, I don’t think I felt 100% confident about anything during the entire hiring process 😅

Best of luck with the process. Feel free to reach out if you have more questions or just want some encouragement 🙂 🙌

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Jerry, thanks for sharing your experience – we’re so glad to have you at Automattic!

Nicole (and other job seekers), unfortunately Automattic was the target of a hiring scam. If you were contacted through Angel List and asked to interview by Telegram, that’s the scam. We don’t interview over Telegram and we don’t EVER ask candidates for money during the application process. I’m so sorry you were targeted.

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