in People

Working with recruitment agencies: assessing effectiveness

Every company wishes that all potential candidates find them directly. However, that isn’t always the case. Although we want to keep recruitment spend to a minimum, we also need to face the fact that external agencies are one part of our sourcing strategy.

The scenario we found ourselves in about 6 months ago will be similar in other startups. We needed to grow fast and we saw numerous agencies come on board, either through contacts from hiring managers, referrals from other companies, or direct contact with the talent team. We suddenly realised we were working with about 25 agencies and we couldn't manage them effectively. It became frustrating for all parties involved.

Therefore, we decided to rethink our approach and put in place steps to get to know each agency properly, to understand how they will represent GoCardless, and how we can assess their performance. Moreover, we want to work with and manage a realistic number of relationships.

Getting to know the agency

Recruitment agencies can be a helpful additional source for finding talent. Although a good relationship can lead to mutual gains for both parties involved, a poor fit can be very detrimental, wasting time for the team, hiring managers and even the recruitment agency itself.

Therefore, before starting to work with an agency we want to understand if the way they work fits with our company values. We’ve created a checklist of key points about GoCardless (e.g., who we are, our interview process, other logistics) and what we need to know about the agency in our initial discussion. For example:

  • What is the agency’s recruitment style & procedures?
  • Do the agency’s recruiters understand us as a company?
  • How do they usually prefer the interview process to be managed?
  • Do they care about candidate experience?
  • Will they be good ambassadors for our employer brand?

Sometimes, even if the agency is a good fit for a company we know well, it might not be a good fit for us and vice versa – it’s ok, not everyone is!

Agency Management

When we start working with an agency, we try to set up a short call every week or two. Although the call might not always be needed, it’s a useful reminder in case there are any issues we need to discuss, for example:

  • Particular feedback – positive or negative – on a candidate that might be more appropriate over the phone.
  • Particular feedback on profiles submitted, for example, if we’ve noticed a trend in the kind of profile that does/doesn’t meet the role requirements.
  • General updates on role requirement, compensation, or the interview process.

Once we achieve a good working rhythm, we agree with the agency on a number of profiles submitted per month. Although setting a number is not always feasible, it gives us a rough idea of the amount of CVs we can expect to receive from this source.

Assessing agency performance: the performance index

We decided to create an easier way to objectively assess agencies’ performance and keep working with only those that perform well on the things we care most about. The assessment is based on 3 criteria, assessed quarterly:

  • Rate of candidates advanced from CV screen to initial interview
  • Conversion rate of candidates from CV to offer
  • Rate of candidates rejected on what we call the GoCardless fit measure

The CV to initial interview rate: We expect that 70% of candidates submitted by the agency will make it to the initial screening call. We are more lenient with new agencies or new roles as we know initial CVs might be more exploratory.

The CV to offer rate: We expect to make an offer to at least 10% of candidates submitted by external agencies. Also, depending on the time and number of candidates the agency has submitted for a particular role, we expect to make at least one offer per quarter.

The GoCardless fit rate: One of the main advantages of using external agencies compared to job boards is that they will have pre-screened candidates. They should be able to evaluate whether candidates’ motivations and goals align with GoCardless’ values and what we can offer. Therefore, we expect that no more than 20% of candidates who make at least the first interview with us will be rejected based on these criteria.

The final index

Our index is split by department (e.g., engineering, marketing) and shows us how the agencies we’ve been working with in that quarter performed in these three criteria. Once the data is added, it updates the decision field to “Keep working with agency” if:

  • The agency has positive scores on two out of three of the criteria, and
  • The agency has a positive score on the GoCardless fit rate.

Looking at these criteria has allowed us to focus on the relationships we value most and end relationships that were not mutually beneficial (e.g., focus on quantity vs quality).

How can this system be beneficial to agencies?

We keep working with the agencies that are most successful in placing candidates. When we see a drop in performance, we’re able to look into it together and find ways to improve the relationship. We have done this in the past with two of our best performing agencies in which we noticed a drop in performance. We were able to discuss our and their challenges with the roles, understand where the profiles submitted were lacking, and have a general refresher on the role and teams.

How strict were we when implementing this system?

It took us a while to implement the assessment system, at least a quarter of trialling it to find if it aligned with our own empirical experience, and it is a process we're continuously working on. Initially we thought about making a “make-it-or-break-it” system in which the agencies should meet all 3 measures. However, we found that agencies might not meet all the criteria for extraneous reasons (e.g., changes in role requirements) and there is a level of flexibility that should be considered.

The only criterion we’re not flexible with is the ability to bring in candidates who demonstrate a good GoCardless-fit, giving candidates a good experience throughout the process, and building and maintaining a good relationship with our Talent Partners. The latter two fall outside the Performance Index, but are easily picked up either in our day to day work, or in the survey we send to all new joiners.

Key take-aways

Assessing the agencies we work with is mutually beneficial. For the Talent team, it means working with fewer agencies and getting to know who we’re working with and how they can help us. For the external agencies, they know we might consider them whenever we’re in a position to reach out for external help, and we will invest our time to make sure the collaboration is productive.

When we implemented the measure we stopped working with 5 agencies. In the past 3 months of trialling this measure we’re now getting to the point in which we know the 1-2 agencies we want to work when we open a specific role and that we trust will fill it in a timely manner.

NB: this is not a promotion piece for working with agencies! We wish we could always hire directly and that is always our preferred way to find new talent to join our team. However, we work with some agencies we’ve gotten to know well. If you are from an external agency who we don’t work with, please do not call or email. We only work with agencies whose introductions are done by referrals from trusted sources.

in Announcements, People

Customer Support Interview Process

We take a lot of pride in our support team here at GoCardless. 😛

If we see a ticket that's close to breaching our service level agreement (SLA), we'll jump straight on it. Or if we notice a product update that's caused an unexpected issue, we'll quickly follow up to resolve it.

We're constantly working to improve processes, increase efficiency, and share more knowledge. Whenever our users get in touch, we have the right tools to provide a quick resolution that will minimise any disruption to their day. If we can put a smile on their face while doing so, well that’s just the icing on the cake.

We're also a team that knows how to have fun. Our Slack channel is widely revered across the company. If there were a prize for inexplicable overuse of giphys and non-stop banter, we’d win hands down. We all love getting stuck in at our company events…and the weekly Friday evening pub drinks.

Together we’ve sampled our fair share of bars and restaurants near the office, and we’ve competed in laser tag, bubble football, beer pong, and more – all in the name of creating a great team spirit.

Anyway, before we get too carried away, let’s get back to what you came here for – insights into our interview process.

It all starts with your CV

We know that great ‘supportees’ can come from many different backgrounds (our team is no exception!) so don’t be put off from applying just because you don’t think yours is relevant.

Your CV and cover letter give us an initial impression of you, along with your experiences, skillset, motivations, and perhaps one or two oddities that make you unique. Remember, we receive quite a few applications. Think about how you can best present the information in your CV and cover letter to ensure we won’t miss the best bits.

If we like what we see, we'll arrange a phone interview with you.

Phone interview

This is our first chance to get a sense of you as a person; what you’ve been doing up until now, and why you want to work for us.

We want to know what excites you about GoCardless and the world of fintech, and how you see your potential future with us.

Depending on who calls, you might also be asked about your baking prowess. (We have a bit of a sweet tooth here in support - contributions are always welcome 😋).

But this isn’t just our chance to find out more about you. It’s also your chance to ask us questions, whether about the role, our product, company culture, or how many giant marshmallows Jess can fit in her mouth at once. (She’s said it’s important to reiterate that they were ‘giant’ ones).

Don’t forget, this is your chance to make a great first impression. Try to relax and let the real you shine through.

Face-to-face interviews

Having nailed the phone interview, you’ll then be invited into our office to meet some of the team. We’ll show you around so you can get an idea of the environment you’ll be working in. You'll also experience how we work with a few example tasks to complete while sitting among our friendly support team.

Once you’ve been shown around our office you’ll begin the first of two face-to-face interviews.

Role Fit:

Lasting approximately half an hour, this first face-to-face interview is where we aim to find out if you’re a good fit for a support role. We’ll ask questions that identify your strengths, expose areas you can improve on, and assess whether you possess the key competencies we’re looking for.

We’ll also delve more into your motivations for joining a support role at GoCardless, your own experiences of customer support – good and bad, and how you see support fitting into the wider company vision.

Culture Fit:

The second interview is where we find out more about you and the values you hold dear. It our chance to see if we think you’d be a great fit within our support team and the GoCardless community as a whole.

We’re a varied mix of personalities so there’s nothing specific we’re looking for; we just want to know if we’d enjoy spending 9 hours a day with you. (This is similarly your opportunity to decide this about us as well!) We want to know what gets you up in the morning, what makes you tick, and most importantly what it is about supporting customers that you find irresistible.

Support Tasks:

Once the face-to-face interviews are completed, you’ll move on to the support task. This is a short exercise where you get to sit with our support team and experience what it would be like to work with us. You’ll be given a few short tasks, example emails, and a couple of role play phone calls. They’re all very straightforward and not designed to trip you up, so don’t worry. We’re more interested in seeing how you interact with the people sitting next to you, how you approach the tasks, and how you formulate your responses.

Supporting our customers over the phone is an important aspect of our work. The role plays allow us to test your phone manner, your ability to explain information, and how you deal with situations when you don't know the answer.

Once you’ve completed these tasks you finally get to head off home, hopefully with an air of renewed confidence having just knocked this stage of the interview process out of the park.

Executive Interview

If you’ve made it this far you’ve done extremely well. You definitely have some of the characteristics we’re looking for.

This is the final stage of the interview process. You’ll be invited back to our office to meet two senior members of our team, most likely our Head of Support alongside another head of department.

This might seem daunting - I remember the nerves I felt as I walked into the interview room for the final time - but it needn’t be. Even our most senior team members here are really cool and easygoing. This is an opportunity for you to meet the people responsible for managing you and your progress within GoCardless.

They'll want to find out more about your motivations for working with us over any other potential employer. Also, they'll want to know how your experiences will help us in achieving our company vision. They'll ask about your expectations in working for GoCardless, what you want to learn during your time with us, and where you see your career heading in the future.

The key difference between this and the previous interview is that your responses are being considered through the lens of our most experienced team members, the ones who can pick up on things that others may have missed.

The best advice I can give you is to think about what you’re really looking for in your next job role before you come in.

  • How have your past experiences led you to where you are now?

  • Why do you want a career in Support?

  • Can you see yourself working with us for the next couple of years or more?

If you’re confident you’re in the right place, going in the right direction, and with the right motivations, then just relax and remember, above all else – be yourself!

Notes about the process

Questions:

At any stage in the process you're more than welcome to ask questions. We may prompt you at certain times to ask us questions, but our aim is to make the whole process as open as possible. As such, there’s never an inappropriate time to ask us something.

How we decide:

For each interview stage you undergo, each member of the team involved in that stage will meet afterwards and discuss how we think you got on. We'll keep discussing until we agree on whether to progress you to the next stage.

Hearing back:

With each stage of the interview process we'll do our best to let you know our decision within 48 hours. If there have been a lot of applicants though this may take us up to a week. If a week has passed and you still haven’t heard from us please feel free to get in touch.

Interested in joining GoCardless?
We're hiring
in People

What's up at GoCardless: November 2016

📷 Matt Heath @mattheath

2nd November - The DevOps Series: Insider Talks

The Insider Talks is the first event on GoCardless DevOps Event Series. Our own Chris Sinjakli presented "Lessons Learned the Hard Way: Postgres in Production at GoCardless" and Simon Vans-Colina presented "DevOps at Monzo". Stay tuned for more information on the next event!

16th November - Trans*Code London Remembrance Social

The Trans*Code community has had a busy year. It was one marked by incredible accomplishments from members of our community, but also touched by loss. One of our much loved community members, Emily Voukelatos, passed away earlier this year. Her coworkers, friends and members of the Trans*Code community created an event to gather and remember her, while looking back at the year that's ended and forward to the one ahead.

21st November - The Family. Stop Paying for It: How to Not Waste Money as an Entrepreneur, by Oussama Ammar

Join TheFamily for a talk by Oussama Ammar, Co-founder & Partner at TheFamily, to hear about how you can stop wasting cash. 💸


Wondering what we’re up to next month?

in People

How to interview at GoCardless

You’ve heard great things about GoCardless, you’ve applied for a job, and you’ve been invited for an interview – great start! Now what?

We know interviewing is hard. So we want to give you as much guidance as possible to help you succeed! Here’s what to expect, both at the telephone interview stage and in our face to face interviews.

The telephone interview

This stage is the first part of the interview process and usually lasts for 15-30 minutes. In it, we’re looking to assess a few basic things

  • Do you have the right experience?
  • Have you researched the company?
  • Are you passionate about what you do?

To do well in this interview

  • Think ahead. Make sure you’re in a quiet, comfortable place with good signal!
  • Research GoCardless. Do you know what we really do? Who our customers and competitors are? What our culture like?
  • Be prepared. Think about what motivates you and why you’re excited about joining GoCardless. We want to see that you can clearly articulate your reasons for wanting to join us (hint: we’re looking for more than ‘I’m interested in startups/fintech’!)

We’ll let you know the outcome of this stage within a couple of days.

The face to face interview

When coming to meet us for an onsite interview you should know

First of all, we dress casually in the office, so please don’t feel you need to wear a suit and tie! Casual or smart casual is fine – we just want you to feel comfortable.

Secondly, when you walk through the elevator doors, you won’t be greeted by a receptionist. Instead you’ll walk straight into our office. In front of you there will be an iPad - please fill out your details and it will let us know you’ve arrived. Feel free to take a seat on the sofas while waiting!

Most onsite interviews last a couple of hours, but this really depends on what role you're applying for. At this stage we’re looking to assess

  • Can you do the job?
  • What can you bring to GoCardless?
  • Are you excited about working with us?
  • What really motivates you?

Our interviews include sessions on role fit and culture fit. Both are equally important. We’re not just looking for people who are great at their jobs, we’re also looking for people who care about the same things as us. The culture fit is absolutely not a personality test - we’re just interested to know what motivates you.

To do well in this interview

  • Structure your answers. Read through the job description and make sure you know what’s required for the role. Then think of examples where you’ve demonstrated the skills we care about. We want to know that you can do the job and, beyond that, get an understanding of what you can bring to GoCardless – so make sure you think about achievements and not just responsibilities.
  • Be curious. Use this opportunity to ask us questions. Interviews are a two-way process and we both need to make sure we’re right for each other.
  • Be honest. People at GoCardless matter. We strive to create an environment that helps everyone be engaged and motivated to do their best. So be yourself, tell us what you’re passionate about and what you want to do in your career.

Hopefully you’ve found this blog post useful!

Find out more about what it’s like to work at GoCardless.

Interested in joining GoCardless?
We're hiring
in People

10 ideas about 2.5 years

About two and a half years ago, I decided I fancied a change from working for myself designing & building WordPress sites in my bedroom, so I applied to work at GoCardless. From the website I wasn’t totally sure what the company did, but from what I could find on social media it looked like a group of people who were having a lot of fun working together building something they were proud of.

An image from the GoCardless jobs page at the time I applied, featuring Kit, James, Andy, Helen, Phil & Charlotte

After a quick Skype chat, a take-home challenge to test my design & front end chops and finally a trip to the GoCardless office, I left my final interview realising that I really cared whether I got the job or not. On the way back to the bus stop I reasoned that I would soldier on following a rejection — but that I would be really disappointed if I ended up not being able to work there.

My train of thought was interrupted by a phone call from Hiroki, GoCardless co-founder and CEO, making me an offer that I excitedly accepted on the spot. I never made it to my bus stop because I got another call from Andy, who worked at GoCardless as an engineer at the time, inviting me on a company outing to a roller disco in Vauxhall that evening — so I turned around and went back to the office to join the team for some Turkish takeaway before we all headed out.

* * *

I started here in May 2014 as a front end developer, tasked with building landing pages whilst looking for opportunities to make more use of my background in design. I’ve since grown into the role of a lead designer with an intimate understanding of our product, owning impactful projects that improve the user experience of our online dashboard and working on pretty much everything with the GoCardless logo on along the way. I’ve also learned to write plain JavaScript (contrasting with my previous life of prodding jQuery and hoping stuff worked) as well as how to build & maintain Angular & React apps.

Over that time I’ve collected a handful of ideas about doing a good job & working well with others. Some of these I brought with me to GoCardless; some have formed whilst I’ve been here; none of them can I claim a 100% track record with — but I thought that writing them down might make sticking to them even easier.

A photo I took after arriving at my desk on my first day at GoCardless

* * *

1. I want to keep asking questions until I understand

When I joined, I had so much to learn in order to become productive — there was no option other than to ask questions until I understood the answers. Over time it became more normal to get stuff done without help and asking questions naturally started to feel less essential.

It’s easy to… let conversations progress without fully understanding everything being said, but I’ll do a better job & learn loads by always digging until it all makes sense.

2. I want to help my workmates get their work done

When I’ve been stuck on something, it’s been amazing when someone has clearly outlined the steps I needed to follow to solve my problems, rather than just ushering me in a general direction.

If you tag me in code review, my goal is to help you ship your code — and the quality of my feedback could mean the difference between that happening in the next five minutes or the next five hours.

In verbal communication I try to be succinct when someone asks me to help them understand something they need to get on with their job — something I’ve kept in mind especially after getting feedback that my “considered nature can sometimes lead to giving more context than required”.

It’s easy to… feel like there isn’t time to go the extra mile when helping someone else — but I want to keep in mind that I’m not the only one trying to get stuff done.

3. I want to receive feedback that helps me get better

Every six months, GoCardless employees review each other. Over time, I’ve gone from needing to hear good things (looking for validation that I’m doing well at a new job) to being keen to hear bad things (looking for anything specific that I can spend time improving).

I’ve also sometimes sent out my own feedback forms in between the official review seasons to make sure that anyone who works closely with me has an earlier chance to let me know anything I could be doing more or less of.

It’s easy to… settle into a groove and just get on with my job, but I will get better faster with constructive feedback.

4. I want to give feedback to my workmates to help us work better together

If someone is making it harder for me to do my job well, it’s not fun and takes guts to give feedback to that person to improve the situation — hence me not doing it nearly enough.

It’s easy to… not express myself following a negative interaction, be a bit annoyed for a while and move on, but I think we’ll both learn something if I can give some constructive feedback.

5. I want to take a notebook to a meeting rather than a laptop when possible

This only applies to meetings where it would be permissible to have my laptop open — there are lots of meetings where that simply wouldn’t be appropriate and there are also some meetings when I need my laptop for demonstrating something.

I aim to take notes in every meeting and I’ve noticed that when I’m poised to jot things down in a notebook I listen more intently & leave the meeting with a better understanding of everything. Conversely it’s rare that a laptop doesn’t become a distraction — and it ends up needing to be firmly closed when people are talking anyway.

It’s easy to… take a laptop to every meeting out of habit, but for me it’s often more distracting than it is useful for the discussion.

A group shot from sometime around August 2014 — I’m second left in the front row 👋

6. I want to describe a solution before I try implementing it

Before GoCardless, I rarely spent enough time in advance thinking about a technical solution — I just hacked stuff until it worked. Too many times I uncovered hidden complexity after having invested significant time in a solution before this one really clicked.

It’s easy to… jump straight into the code and hope for the best, but it’s better to spend time scoping problems out and solve as much as possible on paper before attempting to build anything.

7. I want to think about what I’d like to work on

I turned up to GoCardless on my first day just hoping I could be useful. I was lucky to have people looking out for me to make sure I had things to work on that they knew I’d do a good job of.

One piece of feedback I got quite regularly is that I didn’t speak up enough about what I actually wanted to work on. People left, I became more senior and it became my responsibility to decide what work I wanted to lead on, which I initially found challenging due to previously relying so much on others to direct my focus.

It’s easy to… passively let decisions happen around me, but it’s dangerous to not have a good idea of what would make me happy to work on or the confidence to communicate it.

8. I want to be in as few meetings as possible

This one’s just a reminder to myself to make sure I always question whether it makes sense for me to be in a meeting or not — or, if I need to discuss something with one or more people, to question whether a quick “hey, are you free for 5 mins for a chat?” on Slack would suffice.

It’s easy to… see something turn up in my calendar and go along with it, or to start booking out times, rooms & guests every time I need to discuss something with others — but it’s good to consider what the best use of everyone’s time is, including my own.

9. I want to use principles to do better work

Whilst at GoCardless I’ve seen us work on a company vision; on team themes that helps us focus on the right problems each quarter; on design principles for projects. Done right, each of these should essentially be tools that help us make consistent decisions with confidence.

Since I’ve been here I’ve realised the importance of having solid frameworks like these to inform everything we do, whether we’re prioritising a project, making a decision on a candidate, or solving a design problem.

It’s easy to… justify opinions on the fly, but I can make better, quicker decisions with guiding principles.

10. I want to create the culture that I think should exist

During my first weeks at GoCardless, I gained a strong first impression of an entire company and its shared culture — but naturally it was the people I worked closest with who most impressed certain values on me, like Al who was great at making the most of flexible working, finding time for side projects & generally being a lovely guy to work with.

An individual can really influence how you perceive a company’s culture and when they leave it can feel like they’ve taken an important chunk of that culture with them. If they’ve done a good job of leading by example then those values aren’t gone, because now you care about them too — but it becomes your job to keep them going.

It’s easy to… quietly observe the gradual change of my workplace as the team & product evolves, but I want to actively maintain the culture that I cared about belonging to when I applied to work here two and a half years ago.

* * *

Thanks for reading! What do you think of the above? Do you have similar ideas, or maybe totally different ones? Get in touch at [email protected].

in Engineering, People

(Re)designing the DevOps interview process

Interviewing is hard. Both the company and the candidate have to make an incredibly important decision based on just a few hours’ worth of data, so it’s worth investing the time to make those precious hours as valuable as possible.

We recently made some changes to our DevOps interview process, with the aim of making it fairer, better aligned with the role requirements, and more representative of real work.

We started by defining the basics of our DevOps roles. What makes someone successful in this role and team? What are the skills and experience that we're looking for at different levels of the role?

It was important that the process would work for candidates with varying experience levels, and so it needed to be flexible and clear to assess skills at each of these levels.

The skills we’re looking for fall into three broad categories: existing technical knowledge (e.g., programming languages), competency-based skills (e.g., problem solving), and personal characteristics (e.g., passion for the role, teamwork and communication skills). After defining these skills, we mapped out how we would assess them at each stage of the interview process.

The application review stage

At this stage, we want to check whether your background and interests align with our expectations for the role. Your CV and cover letter tell us about your experience and prior achievements; however, we also ask for a description of a technical project or problem that you’ve found particularly interesting. With this question, we’re looking to hear more about what motivates you and what kind of challenges you enjoy working on.

The phone interview

Assesses: motivations and communication

If we think there’s a match, the next step is a call with someone from the People team. In this call we’ll:

  • Say hi! 👋
  • Ask any questions we have about your application or background.
  • Find out what you’re looking for and your motivations for the role.
  • Guide you through how the rest of the interview process will work.
  • Give you plenty of opportunity to ask questions about the role, the company, or anything else on your mind - interviews are two-way processes and it’s as important for us to know about you, as for you to know about us (we hope the answer is yes!).

The video interview

Assesses: motivations and interests, and web knowledge

This stage involves a one hour video call with two of our engineers. They will start by digging into your technical interests and background and finish with some questions about web fundamentals and troubleshooting. As with the phone interview, you will have plenty of time to ask our team questions, so don't be shy!

The live challenge

Assesses: problem solving, communication, logic, OS knowledge, troubleshooting

Research indicates that work sample tests provide some of the best indicators of future performance (e.g., Bock, 2015). For this interview, we looked through post-mortems for issues that we’ve debugged on the job, and built an EC2 instance that exhibits a number of these issues. We’ll give you remote access to the VM, and work with you to solve them.

The main aim of this stage is not to solve everything, but to gradually progress as you encounter different issues during the interview. For example, we want to know how you approach problems and why you might choose one process over the other. We’re interested in how you communicate with the team during the process and how you address the issues that you find.

The final stage

If everything else goes well, we’ll invite you to our office in London to meet the team. This final stage consists of three interviews.

The technical interview

Assesses: domains of technical knowledge (e.g., Linux internals, networking, storage)

The technical interview is usually held by someone from the Platform team, along with our CTO. Our engineers believe in giving people the best opportunity and will allow you to select the topics you will discuss during the interview. The level of difficulty within each topic will gradually increase until you decide to move the next one.

Pair-coding with our engineers

Assesses: collaboration, communication, logic and coding

This is another live exercise, but this time you’ll work directly with the team. We'll spend 90 minutes working together on a coding exercise that’s representative of the kind of task you’ll be doing on the job.

The soft skills interview

Assesses: motivation, team work and influence, and shared values

The final interview is a chat with someone from our management team. We’ll discuss your motivations and aspirations and whether your values match those of the company. Most of all, we want to know that you’ll thrive at GoCardless and within the Engineering team. This interview isn’t a personality test - we’re not looking to hire people who are the same as us. Instead, we’re looking to hire people that care about the same things as us. Making sure we add to our culture is as important as the tech skills you bring in; after all, we like where we work, but we love the people we work with!

The outcome(s)

Redesigning the interview process has hugely improved the experience of our engineering team and their confidence in making decisions after interviews. We've also received great feedback from candidates, especially regarding the live problem-solving challenge, which many find challenging and fun.

Overall, the redesign was a success in targeting the main issues that the team was facing. However, we're always looking for ways to improve and we're constantly adapting our processes based on feedback we receive from candidates and interviewers.

If you're curious about GoCardless, why not apply?

in Business, People

How we nurture an environment of gender diversity at GoCardless

GoCardless is a fast growing FinTech startup based in London. Within the last 12 months, we’ve grown the number of women working at GoCardless from 8 to 18. They now make up for a quarter of our company and work across all departments. In comparison: the number of female entrepreneurs in FinTech has reached about 17%.

Building diverse teams is core to our business culture and this is communicated clearly both in our recruitment and hiring policy as well as internally. While everyone is in favour of actively supporting this, we are aware that the difference lies in the details and making a continual conscious effort to remove any bias.

We can make a difference by eliminating unconscious bias

I recently moderated a Gender in Tech panel in Berlin where we talked about how we can ensure we create an unbiased environment in our tech companies to attract more women employees. The 18 women at GoCardless took this as inspiration to organise an audit to review our office environment to make sure it’s attractive to both male and female employees. Whilst the specific details may appear minor, they can play an important part in creating the right workspace for women to feel welcome and comfortable.

Generally we feel that GoCardless is performing well. Many of our new employees applied to GoCardless due to our support and participation with specific groups and organisations such as Code First: Girls. The office has good facilities for men and women with well equipped bathrooms and showers, a stocked kitchen with a diverse range of food and drink and sports and leisure activities from basketball and bowling to cycling and yoga. We regularly host events in the office supporting all departments and encourage meetups and get togethers with similar teams in other organisations across the startup space. We’ve also recently updated our HR policies benchmarking against other businesses to offer extremely competitive employee benefits.

There is still room for us to improve…

Firstly, we realised all of our branded clothing is in male sizes and styles. This is an easy one to fix - we have now ordered womens sizes and styles so all employees feel comfortable supporting our brand at events and meetups.

We also realised that in departments where we have a higher percentage of male employees such as sales and engineering, a candidate may only meet male employees during the interview process. We have now updated our interview funnel to ensure that all candidates will meet with at least one female employee during the process. This is key for all potential employees as it demonstrates that diversity is critical to the culture at GoCardless.

Finally, we found that much of our external communication was driven by the men in our company. 8 out of the 10 most recent blog posts were written by male employees. We agreed to increase the number of blog posts written by women and already have the first writers lined up (watch this space).

Get the ball rolling

We have been inspired and encouraged to do this audit by many great individuals in this space. A special thanks goes to the panelists from Berlin: Inga Höltmann, Maxi Knust, Lisa Lang and Jana Scharfschwerdt, as well as some key individuals advocating women in tech in London: Phoebe Lebrecht and Leah Templeman.

We believe that having an environment where female employees feel happy, accepted, welcome and supported is key to encourage more women to take the step into working in the tech industry. We would love for other companies to do the same and nominate our FinTech friends in and outside of London to do a similar audit of their office. We need to plant the seeds to grow a sustainable female-friendly environment within the FinTech scene.

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The Account Executive Interview Process

One of the most important things as we look to scale from processing $1 billion payments a year to $10 billion is growing our sales team. Our vision is to create a global payments network, making payments simpler on the internet no matter what country you're from. We’ve previously written about how we train our salespeople. This blog post is aimed at guiding you through the account executive interview process. We want you to succeed, so we’re going to outline what we look for and how the process works.

The process is split into three sections:

  1. Phone screen
  2. First round interview (1.5 hours)
  3. Final round interview (2.5 hours)

We have identified the following characteristics as being most important for successful salespeople here:

  • Smart. Our product is technical. To succeed here you need to be able to learn technical detail so you communicate potentially confusing things in a simple way.
  • Driven to learn and improve. We believe how good you’ll be a year from now is more dependant on attitude than current ability. How driven you are and how motivated you are to improve are the two most important drivers of success.
  • Coachability. Giving and taking feedback is one of the most important aspects of our company culture. The quicker you are able to act on feedback, the faster you learn.
  • Likeable. People don’t like to buy from people they don’t like. It is essential that anyone we employ is friendly.
  • Communication skills. The ability to explain complex ideas simply is absolutely crucial for our salespeople.

The interview process is designed to test these skills.

1. Phone screen

This interview lasts 10-15 minutes and you will speak to our hiring co-ordinator. We are assessing a few basic things here:

  • Have you done your research on the company?
  • Are you passionate about startups?
  • Do you want to work in sales?

To do well in this interview:

  • Be in a quiet place. Good signal helps too!
  • Be prepared. Make sure you’ve done research on the company. You should have more specific reasons on why you want to join than just ‘interested in startups or fintech.’
  • Be enthusiastic. We want to know you’re excited about joining us.
  • Be positive and engaging. We want to hire people who will make a contribution to our culture, who are respectful, polite, collaborative and energetic.

2. First round interview

This consists of two parts:

  • The background interview. Here we’ll be trying to assess the skills we value in salespeople as well as find out a bit more about your motivations for joining us and why you want to work in sales.
  • The roleplay. For this you will be doing a sales meeting with a mock client. You don’t know anything about them in advance.

In order to succeed in culture fit:

  • Think of examples of where you have demonstrated the skills we care about.
  • Be structured. Good communication is really important in sales. Read about the pyramid principle and apply it in your answers.
  • Be honest. People join a startup for a variety of reasons; tell us what you’re really looking for and what you want to do in your career. It doesn't matter if you’ve not got a history in sales (I didn’t do sales before GC!), but you need to have a good reason to work in sales with us.
  • Do your research. Why is it you want to work for us? Try and be specific as possible. How did you find out about us? What about us excites you?

In order to succeed in the role play:

  • Read SPIN Selling. This forms a great foundation on how we do sales here. If you don’t have time for the whole book, at a minimum read a summary. Prepare some questions for the role play using what you learn.
  • Know our product and industry. Sign up for a GoCardless account and learn how to use it. At a minimum you should read our Recurring Payments Guide and our Direct Debit Guide.
  • Listen attentively. Good questioning and good listening are two of the most important skills in sales. Listen carefully to what we say and use it to ask intelligent questions.
  • Don’t pitch. You should think of this as a conversation not a ‘pitch.’ The key is to really understand the client’s needs. Only then can you align our solution to what the client wants.

3. Final round interview

This consists of three parts:

  • The roleplay. The is the same format as the previous round. After the first role play we will give you feedback. The second round is the same scenario: we want to see if you’ve responded to the feedback.
  • The exec interview. In the final round you get the opportunity to meet our CEO and another member of our management team. The same advice as the background interview applies here.
  • Working with sales. This is a quick challenge. There is no need to prepare anything for this. We’ll give you something you might be faced with on a typical day here.

Good luck and we look forward to meeting you! If you’re unsure about applying, please just do. We'd love to hear from you!

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in Business, People

The Business Development Interview Process

Interview

Image courtesy of XKCD, via a Creative Commons license

GoCardless is poised for global success, and we need people to help us achieve our vision of building a payment network that makes it simple to move money across the globe. To help us grow, we're looking for systematic problem-solvers to join our business development team. This post is a guide to the application process for the business development position. Above all, we want you to succeed, which is why we’re going to explain in detail how the process works and what we’re looking for.

At GoCardless, the business development team is responsible for projects that are crucial to the future growth of the company, and that do not fit neatly into the ‘marketing’ or ‘sales’ categories. Recent BD projects have included: developing European launch plans; assessing which geographies to expand into next; working with engineers to prioritise product features for multinational companies; improving the onboarding process for customers; and reaching out to potential partners.

Because the role encompasses so many different possible projects, we’re looking for people who are analytically smart, adaptable, get things done fast, and can come up with creative solutions to problems. You do not have to be technical to apply (none of the team has a technical background). The role is particularly great for people who want to start their own company in the future and want to get hands-on experience of different projects at a startup.

How the process works

  1. Phone Screen
  2. Analytical challenge
  3. Onsite interview - Round One
  4. Onsite interview - Round Two

1. The Phone Screen

This interview lasts 10-15 minutes. You will speak to a member of our business development team. The interview will focus primarily on your motivations for applying to GoCardless, what you’re hoping to get out of the job, and how you make decisions.

To do well in this interview:

  • Find a comfortable place with no background noise. Environments with lots of noise will distract you and make it difficult for your interviewer to understand you.
  • Ensure your phone, or internet connection (for Skype), work. You’d be surprised at how many people get this wrong!
  • Be on time. First impressions matter.
  • Be prepared. Do your research on GoCardless - what problems are we solving for businesses? What have you learned about our company culture? What attracts you to the company?
  • Be structured. Try and give your answers in a structured manner, so that the interviewer can understand your central points easily.
  • Be concise. Don’t ramble; we want to give you the chance to answer as many questions as possible, so spending 10 minutes on introducing yourself won’t work in your favour.
  • Be enthusiastic. We love people who are excited about the mission and are interested in what we do.

After the interview, we will get back to you fairly quickly - within a week at most.

2. Analytical challenge

If you’re successful in the phone round, we will send you an analytical challenge to complete, using real data (sanitised, of course!) from GoCardless. This challenge is intended to assess your ability to draw insights from data, as well as your prioritisation and communication skills. It should take no more than 2.5 hours to complete.

In your first on-site interview with us, we'll discuss your approach to the problem, the reasoning behind your recommendations, and how you would go about prioritising and implementing them.

We’re looking for people who can make sense of lots of data, develop hypotheses and test them, make data-driven recommendations, and be flexible when challenged or confronted with new information.

3. Onsite interview, Round One

You should expect to be on site for about an hour and a half. At this stage, we’ll be looking to dig into your problem solving ability, chat more about your background, and find out more about who you are and what you’re looking for. You’ll get the chance to meet several members of our business development team, ask questions, and get a feel for our office and what it’s like to work with us.

Some tips for your onsite interview:

  • Be honest. People join a startup for a variety of reasons; tell us what you’re really looking for and what you want to do in your career. The purpose of the interview should be to get to a really good understanding of whether the company would be a good fit for you, and vice versa - so feel free to be open with your interviewers.
  • Be concise. We’re keen to get as much information from the interviews as possible so that you have the best chance to show us who you are. Don’t spend too long talking about things that are irrelevant, and answer the questions directly.
  • Give some structure to your answers. Look up the ‘Pyramid Principle’ and similar communication tactics, and use them; being great at communication is an important part of doing well in a non-technical role, so we will be looking for people who can communicate in a compelling, easy-to-understand way.
  • Think through problems aloud. If you get stuck, clarify the question and tell us what you’re thinking about. The discussion should be a collaborative one, and you won’t be penalised for changing your mind or taking the time to think through your solutions.
  • Think hard about what would make you want to work here. Are you interested in the company culture? Our growth? The projects we work on? Be as inquisitive as you want to be - we’re keen to share how GoCardless works with you and make sure that it would be the right fit.

After the interview, we will get back to you fairly quickly - within a week at most.

4. Onsite interview, Round Two

This is the final round of interviews and your opportunity to meet with people across the business. At GoCardless, we tend to work cross-functionally, so it’s important that you meet people from other parts of the business. Every interviewee also gets the chance to interview with our CEO.

The first part of the day consists of a practical exercise with a member of the business development team, which takes around 3 hours. The aim of the exercise is to work with you on a small project and see how far you get, i.e. to test your skills in a real working environment. You’ll also get a sense of what kind of work we do here. We’re looking to test your ability to execute in a real world environment; you should feel free to ask your interviewers as many questions as you want, and aim to make as much progress as you can in the allotted time.

To succeed in this part of the interview:

  • Ask clarifying questions. Be really clear with your interviewer what outputs are expected of you and what problems you are expected to solve during the interview.
  • Think of all the possibilities. In solving a problem, it helps to consider all possibilities first and then choose the one that will accomplish the goal the best. Make sure you don’t prematurely latch onto a single strategy and then pursue it without considering alternatives.
  • Keep the time limit in mind. You want to make as much progress as possible within the time limit; make sure you consider the information to time ratio of each strategy.
  • Stay calm and focussed. Self-explanatory - we solve hard and ambiguous problems in team BD, and this requires the ability to stay focussed under pressure. Don’t worry if something you tried didn’t work - you should take stock and iterate on your strategy to win.

In the second part of the day, you will chat to our CEO and another member of GoCardless, usually someone from the engineering team. The chat will mainly focus on your motivations and we’ll be looking to ensure that you'd thrive here and share the same values as GoCardless.

After you’re done, we will get back to you very quickly; if you don’t hear from us, don’t hesitate to reach out. Good luck and we look forward to meeting you!

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