Why Hack Weeks Are an Essential Part of The Rainforest Hiring Process
We have a fairly high-touch candidate experience for all of our roles at Rainforest, but on the engineering team we’re particularly invested in getting to know our candidates well. To that end, once we’ve completed the initial phone screen, hack hour, and panel interview we invite the candidates to a Hack Week with the Team.
What is a Hack Week?
Our Hack Weeks provides candidates with a chance to work directly with the Rainforest team. To give both the team and the candidate enough time to properly evaluate the experience, a Hack Week is typically 40 hours long. This is a big commitment from people looking to join our team, so the week is fully paid for at contracting rates. We understand it can be difficult for people to find time to do the week, so it can be done as a normal week or scattered over various days. Because the engineering team is globally distributed, candidates can do their Hack Week in the office (if they are local to San Francisco) or from wherever they want — in fact, if candidates expect to work remotely we’d prefer they do that so they get a better experience of what their day-to-day would be like at Rainforest.
The hack week helped me get a feel for how the dev team operated, what kind of stuff I’d be working on, the company culture, and how I worked with a team spread across the world.
-Shane Pope, Sr. Software Engineer
We introduce candidates to their team and add them to our company Slack channel and github accounts. Hiring managers work to onboard the candidates during their first couple hours and either work with them directly or assign someone to help them out during the week. We normally have plenty of tasks available, which range from those we think will be simpler to those that are more challenging. Success in the week is not whether the tasks are completed or not – a seemingly simple task can be more complex than we thought it was – but instead we look at how the candidate solved the problems they encountered during the work and how they communicated with the team.
Over the course of the hack week candidates meet with many of the engineering team members either face-to-face, via Slack, or over video conference. We start the week with a variety of projects to work on. These projects span the range from the simple to the complex, and come either from within the engineering team or are product features that will customer visible. By working on these projects we hope to get a better understanding of your skills and experience; and everyone (including the candidate) gets to see what it’s like to work together. We also want to give people a chance to see what it’s like to work remotely – which can be a source of concern for people who haven’t done this before.
One of the most impressive moments during my hack week was when I was invited to join a meeting discussing a product feature and the person leading the meeting got 5 minutes in and realized they weren’t prepared, admitted this and stopped the meeting before it wasted any more time. As a potential hire this was a striking demonstration of the culture of honesty and no bullshit we have at Rainforest – not to mention the integrity of the person leading the meeting.
– Jonathan Barber, Sr. Engineering Manager
Why do we do it?
We use Hack Week as an opportunity to get to know the candidates, and get a better sense of their skill sets and how they’ll mesh with the team.
Additionally, the candidate gets to know Rainforest a little better. Hack Week exposes candidates to everything from the product and the team’s communication style to what it’s like to work with a well-functioning distributed, international team.
“The hack week allowed me to get to know the majority of my team and get a taste of how I would work day to day. I was quickly introduced to a few problems to work on and got a chance to contribute to the production codebase from the start. That experience really helped me see what I’m getting myself into and eventually decide to join Rainforest”
– Jan Grodowski, Sr. Software Engineer
What are the results?
We do lose candidates due to the length of the interview process, but those candidates that do get to this stage typically find it a great experience and accept our offers. Conversion rate after successful Hack Week is nearly 100% and the Hack weeks becomes the first step in onboarding new hires
Evolving Our Approach to Hack Weeks as Rainforest Grows
As we grow as a company we’re constantly reevaluating our processes to make sure they continue to serve us well. We’ve found that the investment of time and money for Hack Weeks continues to help us build a strong and stable team and plan to keep them as part of the interview process for the foreseeable future.
Interested in joining the team? Learn more about open opportunities on the Rainforest engineering team on our careers page.