Cheat sheet: 4 NYC managers on how to land a job at their company

by Liz Warren
April 4, 2018
image via shutterstock

Depending on the company, role and number of applicants, the hiring process can look a lot different. It can take weeks or months, require multiple rounds of interviews and call for presentations or written tests. We talked to managers at NYC tech companies and got the inside scoop on what happens behind the scenes during the hiring process. Here’s what they had to say.


Christopher Hazlett
VP, engineering

Engineering VP Christopher Hazlett has been with Transfix since 2016, and has been an integral part of the hiring process ever since. He explained the company’s hiring process, which requires a live coding exercise in the first phone interview.

What’s the interview process like at your company?

After meeting with our recruiting team, an engineer will complete a technical phone screen with an engineer who works within their core competency (front-end or back-end). The phone screen is a live coding exercise where a prospective engineer works on tests or algorithms.

If that goes well, the engineer will come onsite for an interview that consists of an architecture/data structures module, an algorithm module and a history and technical communications module. Candidates meet at least four engineers and, typically, the VP of Engineering. The interview process typically only takes a few weeks and we reach a decision within two days after the interview.

What are some qualities you look for in a candidate that can’t be determined from a resume?

At Transfix, we look for compassion, intelligence, curiosity and drive. We look for someone who is as happy teaching others as they are learning from others. We can't get any of that from a piece of paper, so all of the interviewers are searching for how the candidate works. Are they genuine? Can they communicate? Do they bring something to the team that we don't already have?

What’s one of the most memorable job interviews you’ve conducted?

It's hard to pick just one, so I'll pick two. I interviewed a front-end engineer a while ago and there was something in the way he told his life's story. He had made a career change (something I did when I was younger, so I'm always curious to understand what it was like for others). He was genuinely excited, and I kept thinking I wanted to learn more about who he was. We hired him. Great decision.

The second interview was essentially the perfect alignment of what we were looking for and what this engineer was looking for. We build tools to help people work more efficiently, get paid faster and grow their business, and the spark I saw in this engineer while she talked about a particularly proud moment in her career was that she got joy from helping others through her work just like the rest of us. We hired her as well, and that turned out to be another great decision.


Stephanie Semaan
Team lead of e-commerce and travel

Team Lead Stephanie Semaan has been with for two years and has been helping with recruiting since day one. She talked to us about bringing candidates into the office — not just to be interviewed, but also to sit in on a meeting and get a real sense of the culture.

What’s the interview process like at your company?

Here at Smartly, we aim for a swift turnaround time for our roles, while also being mindful of our candidates’ schedules. Currently, our goal is approximately three weeks from the initial touchpoint to offer stage. Our interview process involves comprehensive steps as we view it as a two-way street; as much as we’re looking for top shelf people, we want to ensure Smartly could be the right home for someone’s next career move.

We also ensure prospective candidates meet as many team members throughout their interview process. We have "Friday Demos", during which we invite candidates to sit in on our engineering/product updates. It’s a great chance to observe the transparency in the company as well as for candidates to ask questions to the team.

What are some qualities you look for in a candidate that can’t be determined from a resume?

We look for candidates that embody our values. We believe in working with people who are “humble, hungry hunters.” The hard skills of a role can be learned through our interview process and onboarding, but it’s the soft skills that we’re keen on having candidates possess right away.

Being humble is important, as we’re a global team and comprised of team members of various nationalities and work experiences. The hunger we seek relates to ambitious people who want to continuously learn and grow professionally. These qualities allow our team to remain competitive in our space.

What’s one of the most memorable job interviews you’ve conducted?

We include a sales demo of our product within our interview process. It’s a great opportunity for candidates to get a glimpse into our product that we’re proud of, as well as the chance for the team to observe how candidates will interact with potential customers.

One memorable moment was when we gave a candidate a rerun of the demo interview after it wasn’t favorable. We didn’t see any red flags from a culture fit standpoint so we felt that if we reiterated the high bar we hold for new "Smartlies", this particulate candidate would exceed our expectations. With the rerun, they were able to impress us and we were able to extend an offer soon after their demo interview.


Vivek Nandavanam
Engineering manager

Engineering Manager Vivek Nandavanam has worked at Turbonomic for over three years and has interviewed a number of candidates. He walked us through the hiring process and explained how one candidate used creative thinking and a whiteboard to land a job at the company.

What’s the interview process like at your company?

The interview process at Turbonomic starts off smooth, with one or two rounds of initial phone screening. The second round of interviews only comes to play when we think one call is not sufficient to gauge the candidate. The candidates are then brought onsite where they talk to at least four people.

There is a final discussion on the candidate and the hiring managers who are interested in the candidate make a case as to why they are better suited for their team. Then the candidate meets our founder if there is real interest from the hiring managers to do the final round of interviewing before finally extending an offer. The entire process can take anywhere from a week to a month depending on the role.

What are some qualities you look for in a candidate that can’t be determined from a resume?

There are certain traits that we look for: confidence, as well as problem-solving, analytical, critical thinking and communication skills. All of these cannot be gathered from a resume or in a phone interview, and that’s why we believe in bringing the candidate onsite to look for suitability and compatibility. One question we discuss as interviewers is: “Would you have a beer with this candidate after work?”

What’s one of the most memorable job interviews you’ve conducted?

I remember one interview very clearly. This candidate was fresh out of school and I started with my standard questions on the basics of computer science and gave a simple programming problem. The code that was written was not what I expected from a fresh graduate because it was so well-structured and different.

This got me curious, so I gave a more difficult problem right after. The response to that question is to date the best piece of programming interview code I have seen — and all of it was on a whiteboard! The thought process of this candidate is something one always looks for in an ideal candidate. 


Jennifer Hooker
VP, Talent Acquisiton

At 2U, Jennifer Hooker helps hire only the best of the best, who will help develop the sophisticated SaaS platform used at schools across the country. Needless to say, the process is as exciting as it is thorough. 

What’s the interview process like at your company?

Our typical interview process includes three rounds. The first round is a recruiter interview during which they vet culture fit for the company and team, as well the candidate’s expertise in the area in which they applied.

The second round is a hiring manager phone interview to determine technical depth. The last round includes on-site interviews, during which the candidate meets with and gets to know the team they would be joining. Our on-site interviews for tech hiring include a mix of whiting boarding and pairing sessions to further determine their technical depth and ability to work in our collaborative environment.

What are some qualities you look for in a candidate that can’t be determined from a resume?

The hardest areas to spot on a candidate’s resume is how collaborative they are, and how well they can solve a problem on their own. We have a very collaborative work environment. They must be excited about the opportunity to work with others and understand the value of bouncing ideas off of team members.

Generally speaking, culture fit to our guiding principles and being excited by our mission is hard to spot on a resume, which is why that is part of the recruiter and team interviews.

What’s one of the most memorable job interviews you’ve conducted?

The most memorable interviews I conduct are with individuals who are excited about the technology they are working with and its impact. When someone talks about creating or developing something and can explain how their work is impactful to the business — that is exciting.

We are a technology business with a great mission. We partner with the best colleges and universities to enable access to their degree programs to anyone. We want to hire individuals who are excited about what they do and how their work can impact our mission.

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