How long does interviewing take?

As a new Software Engineer it is hard to know how much time the job search should take. Most people  start by applying to 2-3 jobs and wait for recruiters to get back to them. Then 4 weeks later they assume that because no one got back to them they must not be very appealing on the job market. 

The reality is that if you are cold applying to job openings you will have a pretty low response rate. The most desirable engineers in the market get around a 50% response rate. Entry level engineers have to deal with a response rate closer to 10%. That means that for every ten jobs that you apply for, a recruiter will follow up with you once. 

With such a low success rate you have to adjust your approach to spend less time on each job application. I spend about 15 minutes customizing my cover letter for each job. Then upload the resume and cover letter. Once that is done move on to the next job application. Too much customization is counter productive because you could spend two hours customizing your resume and a recruiter might not even look at it. It is more effective to apply to large numbers of jobs with the same resume and cover letter than to apply only to a few. 

Once a recruiter gets back to you the recruiting process really starts. Typically a recruiter will email you and schedule a quick phone conversation where they make sure you know about the position and confirm a few things about your experience and goals. This conversation is usually low stress and unless the recruiter gets the impression you don’t really want the job you will move onto a technical phone screen. 

Some companies will ask you to solve a coding challenge which is essentially a timed leetcode style problem. The problems are similar to what you would be asked in a white boarding interview so your studying will carry over. Hackerrank and leetcode have an almost identical experience to most interview coding challenges to use them to prepare. 

Other companies will ask you to attempt a coding project. This is usually a relatively simple programming project that is intended to be unique enough that there are not any examples online. I have done projects ranging from creating a basic backend REST service to creating a full fledged cryptocurrency exchange. The key to these projects is to be ruthless about keeping the scope down, otherwise the projects will take up too much of your free time. 

The final obstacle before you go to the on-site interview is the Technical phone screen. This phone screen is typically done over video call with a shared notepad that you can write code on. There are some systems like coderpad.io that allow you to edit and compile code with your interviewers. You will be interviewed by 1-2 engineers at the company. Most of the questions will be about software engineering and this will include more leetcode style questions. 

If you made it past all those interviews you will finally end up with the on-site interview. The onsite interview will involve a mix of behavioral and white boarding questions. Every company does it a little bit differently, but it typically takes between 2-6 hours and is pretty exhausting. Make sure to sleep well and prepare thoroughly. 

How much time do all these interview take? I put together a list of companies that I had onsite interviews with and how long it took in total to decide whether I would get an offer. 

These 5 interviews resulted in 2 offers (22.5 hours per offer). Getting a new job takes a lot of work, that is why people stay in jobs that they do not like for so long.

Gusto

  • phone screen 2 hours
  • onsite 6 hours

Ibotta

  • coding project 6 hours
  • phone screen 2 hours
  • onsite 6 hours

GoSpotCheck

  • onsite 2 hours
  • phone screen 1 hour

Amazon

  • coding test 1 hour
  • onsite 5 hours

Salt Lending

  • coding project 12 hours
  • onsite interview 2 hours

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