Finding, then losing and finding another job. What I've leant and wanted to share

On April 15th I'm starting the new exciting stage of my carreer at recup. I'm honestly thrilled and can't wait to start. The interview process was great, the people interviewing me were super cool I love the premise (and have been using their cups for years!).

It all just worked and I'm at the beginning of an exciting new chapter.

Actively searching since the end of January I've assessed a few stories to tell in my numerous applications and interviews.

To all my mb.io friends

Mercedes-benz.io for me started in February 2018. I was 25 and at that time and I needed "a job". The position came through now defunct stack overflow careers, everything sounded perfect - I've signed the contract.

The guys I have gotten to know in last 5 years were legit cool. I remember my first day very fondly: assembling office furniture, hip urban location, interesting customer-facing project - lovely.

picture of our old office

When COVID hit - company had our backs, there always were new projects and new teams to join if I wanted to. I've got only positive things to say and I'm grateful to all the awesome people I've got to work with in the last 5 years.

Maybe we'll work again on something, together, someday. Till then: Was a pleasure getting to know all you guys.

Silly stuff

Fast forward to December 2022: It felt like the time for a new challenge, a new environment, something to boost my professional and personal growth. Ideally a full-stack position, more responsibilities, new problems to solve and so on.

In first 2 weeks I've got myself an offer via honeypot.io (more on that later). A fintech startup, >25 employees, raised 10mil in funding last year - what could possibly go wrong? Signed the offer, resigned in Mercedes-Benz.io, started my notice period - things were set in motion.

Then one day (January 18th 2023) I get an email from my new company, about us having a short call today.

"Sorry buddy, business doesn't go well. We've cancelled your contract, there's a handy clause for that so you don't need to sign anything. Bye-bye."

Trying to find a new job before I'm out of the old job

Little disclaimer

Everything from now on is "my opinions" and "my experience" i.e. very subjective things. If your experiences were the polar oposites of what you're about to read - I'm happy to hear that, hit me up with all your thoughts on messengers/li/in comments, I'm curious to hear what you think.

It might seem at times that I'm shitting all over recruiters, industry, even the whole United Kingdom of Great Britain is a problem! :D

I have put extra effort to add as many constructive and positive things as I could. Hope you can recognize them too!

First thing I did after the call - got my honeypot.io account back into "searching". Then I've attempted to resume processes I have stopped after signing.

Looking back: I should have done way more back then.

Only my CV has seen 3 revisions since then, my approach to sourcing new interviews has changed (so did what I say or don't say there:p)

Four main sources of new positions for me were: my friends, honeypot.io, otta.com and linkedin jobs. Here's how it fared for me (best to worst):

Linkedin jobs (as of today) is still just a bulletin board, collection of links to careers section of respective companies. And it's great.

You can get a good sense for salary ranges, company size, you can see for how long the position has been open - it's all there. Won't hurt checking what people have been saying on glassdoor too.

I had a very low opinion of linkedin as a whole. It's been a mistake. Setting the green "actively looking for jobs" sticker also helped more than i thought.

honeypot.io is good. You quickly set-up a profile and then it's the companies who approaches you. I had perhaps 5 leads over 2 months, all of them resulting in an interview. People who run the platform are easy to reach and super helpful too (Hi Ava! And thank you!)

My success rate with https://otta.com/ is either a 0 or even a negative number. 50 applications all into nowhere.

Approximately half of them got an auto-generated mail for "we are looking into it" and a quarter then resulted in a "we're sorry, you're no good" second email later on.

On subject of "We're sorry" emails.

If the recruiter decides your CV is not a good fit, you get a short mail saying

"Thanks for applying. We've decided not to continue this time, but let's stay in touch!"

That does the job. Some people take it next level (all direct quotes):

We received a lot of qualified applicants and have decided to continue forward with other candidates (so I'm less qualified?)

your technical expertise is out of question here and I am convinced that you find a team that matches better with your personality. No need to change, for sure! You are a cool person 😎 (so you've been searching specifically for people who're less cool, right?)

Now brace yourself. Remember that south park "We're sorry" bit?

We appreciate your interest and the time you’ve invested in applying. Unfortunately we will not be moving forward with your application, nevertheless we would like to share additional information with you, so please take a minute to watch this video message.

The video, the script - life does imitate at sometimes. What I'm trying to say here is: a dry short rejection is about as good as it can get. If possible: don't overdo it.

Reaching out to friends, social networks and such

Many thanks to all my friends who did text me back, to all of you who's reposted my linkedin post and (or) recommended me internally as a referal. I would have done all of it for each of you guys (and gals), in a heartbeat.

The linkedin post I've written got 3000 impressions, which converted in a whoopin 1 lead that never became an interview.

Facebook/Instagram/Texting everyone I know on Whatsapp got me a number of "internal referal system" recommendations.

If you think being refered by an employee is a "fast lane" - that's what i thought too. It's was not, perhaps only for me.

Often my friends had to bombard people with emails and phonecalls for weeks just to arrange the first introduction interview to an open position company is actively hiring for.

These truly tiresome efforts of my friends did not always result in an interview. A certain tech giant never even replied with an auto-generated "we're looking into it" email. And that's after me spending 20 minutes doing manual data-entry in their website, and my friend calling and texting people for months.

"Still in review", "we gonna pass it higher up". Nothing.

Unless there's a conspiracy and I'm on some kind of secret black list - that's all you need to know about internal referal programs. Why is it like that? - I have nothing but speculations, and I'll leave them all to myself this time.

TL;DR: Go ask all your friends, go ask all your ex-collegues and then go and start applying yourself as if it's your first job. Don't expect much, even better: don't expect anything.

there were other websites and platforms with tech jobs. Thing is: I have nothing to say about either of them with the exception of stepstone.de

"MUST:Java PHP Python,frontends, mobile native apps, embedded c, min 20 years of experience,. 100% in office somewhere in Spandau, gotta speak 5 different languages, max sallary: 60% below market average"

If you didn't get it just yet: stepstone is no good.

The interview process (the way I understand it)

I've been performing CV screening and conducted interviews before. Does that mean I "understand" the hiring process the way professional recruiters do? - No. The next few paragraphs are my one-sided perspective on a much more complex process. Enjoy!

Job description and CV screening

Years ago I had to hire a replacement for me. Me and my collegues wrote the "must-haves": strong Java core, optional knowledge of 1 niche technology we've used, a few other little things about the nature of the project, tools and so on. Short and sweet. That was passed to recruitment department.

In the next few days on our carrers site we'd find a new position with 2 pages long list of technologies that are not used on the project.

Now you gotta know every thing Spring A to Z, AOP, JSP, JSF, JPA gotta know buncha SQL variants, elastic search, have 10 years of experience and so on. I've asked our local recruiter WHY and has been told It's just better this way. "For the company"

Of course I'm being silly now, and of course there were so many good reasons to do it the way it was done, yet, just for a second, imagine it was a one person opinion.

To make it funnier: imagine that one person was not a developer and had a rather vague idea about some of the terms copy-pasted in there.

Let it settle.

The year is 2023 and the job descriptions are way WAY better now.

Assuming your CV is good and it's a strong fit to the job description - you got yourself a 30min call with an in-house recruiter. Congrats! You're doing good! Don't screw it up!

Now let's talk about hypothetical things that could go wrong.

It's possible your CV just slipped through the cracks somewhere, was lost on some system or the job requires 4 years of experience in a technology that's only 3 years old.

A month ago a friend has called me, saying their recruitment needs minimum a 3 and a half years of Vue.js and all my experience only adds up to 3. Do I have an extra 6 months of Vue somewhere in the back-pocket of my pants perhaps?

How do you come up with "minimum 4 years working with angular" or "minimum 5 years working with React" is beyond me.

A doctorate (Ph. D) takes 4-6 years to complete. If you know how to code in anything, you can pick up both react and angular in 6 months with all "advanced concepts" in there.

Way smarter people created something simple, designed it in a way stupid people can pick it up fast and make less mistakes. You don't need to be a Doctor to write web frontends.

Talking to a recruiter / HR Person / Hiring manager

Throw all that professional experience and university degree out of the window, it won't help you.

Go search for "how to introduce yourself in an interview" in youtube - now that's real knowledge, and knowledge is power. Seriously, watch one, or better watch a few.

I've screwed a lot of these HR calls up. Big taboo things I did were mainly:

  1. Not asking questions (Yea, i read your website and job description. It's all clear, lets talk about interview process)
  2. Going through my CV chronologically in "introduce yourself" bit.

That's it. You do these - no technical interview for you. Outside of usual "tell me X and Y about the company" two BIG WINNER questions are:

  1. Tell me a bit more about a perfect candidate for the position. (listen carefully and then repeat every word)
  2. How long have guys been already searching for this position? Since November? 6 months? 14 months? - Thanks, I'm out of questions.

Little side-note: Recruiters are people of the people, so smiling and jokes are allowed and encouraged at this stage.

Homework and (or) a code challenge.

Here is our little code challenge that shouldn't take you more than 4 hours. Unless you have put ~40 hours into it (realistically) - you won't go to the next step.

Create a single-page application with a few entities, CRUD operations, login, mock backend implementation, cover everything with unit-tests, and an e2e test. Bonus point: it also should run as an outlook extension!

You have to complete the assignment in the next 48 hours starting now, we'll come back to you shortly (in 4 weeks to be precise)"

Here is what everyone can (and should do). Go make that app once, put it on github. Make it a few more times in Vue, Angular, React, Svelte and keep bumping the versions every few months.

Offer the recruiting / tech interviewer to look into that instead.

If they insist you have to do their little homework - ultimately it's your choice.

Be prepared for a week of free work that nobody will ever pay for.

Then it will be reviewed by a self-taught junior with 1 year of experience and big opinions and you'll get rejected because you've used spaces not tabs, didn't use his favorite HTTP client for a single fetch() call you have in entire app or some other bullshit.

"Hi guys, thanks for all the insights, about the code challenge - here are all the challenges I did in last 2 months on github, deployed to pages, i think it shows enough of what my code is like AND would speed-up the process"

"Hi Roman! For this one position we're trying to interview exactly 69 people and it would be unfair to other candidates. Since you want this 1 job only 1 person can have - I'm sure your first goal is being fair to other candidates, right? Everyone dreams about working in our crypto- nft- blockchain scam. You did a todo list, list of stnoks and a list of magic potions - now go do the same thing but it's a list of animals now. Just for us."

Desperate to get the job - i did way too many of these, so I'm extra butthurt. If you can afford not doing them - cut your losses.

A 90 min exercise on codility or a live-coding session together with an interviewer is better because:

  1. They respect your time.
  2. You get to interact with people you could potentially work with

50 shades of "Technical interview"

If you've made it this far - It's getting serious! Here's every kind of technical interview I had in last few months:

  1. "live-coding session" - good
  2. "whiteboard challenges, usually on system design" - great
  3. Answering questions someone googled 10min ago as "best frontend/fullstack interview questions" - bad
  4. Casual conversation about your recent projects, tasks you had and how you solved them - great
  5. "Presentation" of your coding challenge homework thing - great, but i wish i didn't have to do so many of them.
  6. "Presenting" a github repo of an older codechallenge, because people respect you and your time - priceless
  7. "Reviewing" a piece of "very bad code" we wrote just for you - ranges from perfectly good to outrageously stupid

My problem with "questions-only" approach is - you can not and will not know everything. Never.

"Why did you chose to decouple this and that in line 71" is a 5 minute conversation

Here's a chart of systems we want to build, let's try decoupling these on a whiteboard is a 30 minute conversation

"Tell us how %Collection-name% works internally / Explain hoisting / what will (NaN >> 2) + 4 + '' return" - you either know it or you don't.

And if you do know it - often it's because you've been reading "best answers to best frontend/fullstack interview questions". There're whole books of them too, I've read a few in my 20s. Often quite useless knowledge.

Speaking of useless I knew hoisting as "closures" and in my native language hoisting is called something amongst "lifting the variables up / підняття змінних".

I can solve all your dumb puzzles with re-defining same variable name in different scopes, do a characteristic of functional vs block and even explain you how babel compiles let and const for ES5, yet

I don't recognize the term "hoisting" can you perhaps gimme a hint? - Oh no! It's either you know it or you don't, i'd give it all away immidiately! Movin on....

How is this question from 10 years ago even relevant with everyone uniformally using let and const? Who the fuck uses functional scopes and closures in 2023 ?


Don't you dare being confident.

Be a bit nervous, mousy,no negative opinions on anything.

What do you like better X or Y - I LOVE BOTH AND CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT THEM

You're still allowed to smile, but it's more of a nervous/shy smile this time that we're going for.

Another tip: there will be "suggestions" and "improvements" for your code.


Bad reactions are: Why? How is this better? and god forbid Could you please explain me how that would work / make sense?

If not this mistake: I'd have an offer end of February, true story. I'm a fool, learn from my mistakes.

I'm a living proof nerds also read books with behavioural questions, so be prepared fellow nerds will ask you a book question. Give him the book answer, you've both read the same book most probably, it's gonna be fine.

Soft-skills interview and culture-fit with our C-level someone

Boy oh boy! By now you're talking to the company for 2 maybe 3 weeks. Today you've got a happy letter saying the feedback from technical interview was positive and we're proceeding to step 5 out of 20 exciting steps: talking to the CEO/CTO/CFO...

In 5 people Berlin startups there are frequently more C-level positions than employees. I don't have any useful insights on this particular step outside of:

Don't smile. Don't you dare joking or being comfortable even - that's no good and more often than not it won't work.

All the people in the process so far might like your personality, they want to work with someone who's fun. Not your manager though. He most likely won't. Word by word feedback from a recruiter after a failed 4th round with managers:

You're very fun guy, I liked it, team really liked it, developers liked it but managers - didn't. Too many smiles, too confident, too cocky.

If not this mistake: I'd have an offer end of January and none of this would have happened. I'm a fool, learn from my mistakes.

Be reserved, serious, mousy. You're magic Zaubermausi looking for a job, you're cute kitten who has "caught a laser point once" as the only thing on his resume. You might have many years of proven experience, big tech jobs and such - it won't matter.

Rembemer those books on on behavioral questions I've mentioned?. I keep saying "books" meaning I've read at least two :D

You might think you understand "the idea", "the principle" behind each question. "Tell us about one conflict situation", "What's your biggest weakness" and so on.

Maybe you do! Also: maybe the person asking you the question - doesn't! Everything you'll say here is gonna be printed and sent back to you in your rejection letter, word by word.

Would you feel like a total idiot, a dork who just threw away a month of his life going to interviews with this place, jumped through all the hoops and screwed up HERE out of all places?

I would and I did. Less is more. Say as little as possible.

Once for a 100% office job I've said "it's gonna be great for my work-discipline. I keep hearing from friends of mine struggling to focus with all their XBOXes, playstations and nintendos around them haha". Direct quote from my rejection:

...your statement about sometimes playing XBox during home office. In a company stage where ownership is the most important success factor this worried me.

Same with every other answer.

Now repeat after me:

What's your biggest weakness?

I'm too much of a perfectionist and a workaholic

Try not to laugh. Good. Now that's better, honesty will get you nowhere.

Another funny anecdote happened when mr BIG BUSINESS said: JUST ASK ME ANYTHING, YOU GOT 30 MIN and that was our interview.

We've chatted a lot about business, about the product, his surfing vacations, my surfing vacations and then I've been rejected.

Should have asked "what issues the company is experiencing currently" and my other greatest hits from HR interview :( - would have had an offer mid of March then.

The interview process of my dreams

So, when it works, how does it work?

Shout out to recup here. Had an introduction call - was mega interesting stuff, all on-point. Same week had a 90min whiteboard challenge - boom, got an offer end of that day.

No "our code challenge will only take you 4 hours", no 3+ step interviews.

Fun fact: My job interview at vmware was a few hours of talking in rounds to different devs and then an offer all in one session, Mercedes-Benz.io and others were also either 1 or two rounds max. Do you catch my drift?

Many rounds of interviews over a huge period of time - BAD TIMES.

2-3 rounds over a short period of time - GOOD TIMES.

I would say: The second recruiter mentions more than 3 rounds of interviews before the offer - run, but I didn't run. Why? - Almost every recruiter I've ever talked to listed 4 or more. It is a problem, and again, if you're bit desperate - you'll fall for it.

What helps sometimes, is asking if it's possible to merge CTO PORTFOLIO PORTMONE PROGRAM MANAGER interview with SCRUM MASTER CULTURAL FIT interview and TEAM FIT interview, to have them all as one interview.

Say you're tight on time, sometimes this works out and you have an interview less.

Recruiting agencies and people who's pnone numbers start with +44

Labor market is tough. Some friends of mine changed jobs about the time I did. Others - still looking for a new place

My contract being cancelled isn't all that uncommon: a friend had an offer from a DAX company that "took the offer back" the day he agreed to sign.

Big tech had some layoffs, many good experienced people are now available for hire. On the other hand hiring is being on freeze in many places - you can imagine how it all is. Tough.

I was never too successful with recruiters. Friends told me they're being bombarded with recruiter proposals their whole life, all super-high-quality stuff yet every job i EVER had - I've found on my own, applying through carreers pages on websites and such.

Sorry for stating the obvious, there's two kinds of recruiters:

Internal recruiters - people on salary, hiring people for company they work for

External recruiters - people on a comission (~25% of candidate's YEARLY salary once he starts). Some external dudes work for recruiting agencies, some are self-employed but either way: it's a great hussle. Here's my tip:

Internal recruiter has a job. You are the candidate who wants a job. What does the external recruiter have for you? - Nothing

You don't need external recruiters

The third person in the middle can't add nothing except communication overhead making your "fast 5 week process" a fast 7 instead.

Rude cocky boys (and girls!) mainly from UK and Bavaria (or is it just my luck?) will call you on the phone, conduct a sneaky interview on you, will promise you mountains made of gold and will never come back.

How much do you earn in current position?

How much does your current company pay on average?

Does your current company use external recruiting?

It's a private matter

Haha. Roman, it's all in your interest, buddy, you gotta tell us buddy

Nope. I've already told you, it's private.

uncomfortable silence... Listen, I highly recommnend you to tell us, of course you don't have to but i think i should and..

10 conversations like that. 30 minutes each. 1 person turned out to be a real professional and helped me to schedule an interview or two (which i've screwed up at some stages)

2 others deserve a special mention for forgetting to delete company name / internal recruiter email from job description. Guess what I did? Yup. Just wrote the company directly and was in the process that same day. Whoopsy-daisy.

Your experience might be different, and if you are an external recruiter - this whole section is upsetting. For all the recruiters who got triggered: I'm sorry, buddy, it's in your best interest and it's better for you this way.

In summary: How do you pass all the interviews and find your new dream job?

Keep saying "It's just bad luck". I don't believe in luck or God, but it's an easy explanation for others and everyone just feels better this way. Keep saying it out loud.

I admit it: some of it was chance and a lot of it was me being real dumb, a complete idiot. I could have done better - things would have developed faster. It took me two months to tame the idiot inside while also trying to recognize possible idiots on the other side. Fail fast, cut your losses early.

Keep going. Grind the stupid interviews, day by day. Less stupid bad interviews, more "interesting good interviews", it's not like you really want to work in "that Berlin startup".

Get your "puppy energy" back. Remember searching for your very first job in tech? Remember blabbering really fast really nervous all the things you've learnt in books on interviews, all the bullshit about how a Hashmap works, or listing every reserved word in Java - get that character out.

Take written notes. People in all positions love when you're taking notes, scrabbling something with your cute pencil. Questions you didn't know answers for, new tech, library names - write it all down, maybe google it someday.

Also write down your "important questions about the company" somewhere there too. This way it's easier to pick a few mid-of-the-interview when you must ask something, fast.

Inevitably, every now and then a question will arise: Am i even good for any kind of job? Was my whole career a coincidence? - just repeat "time will tell" and block it all out, go lift some weights or something.

Once all the stars align: You won't need any tips, you already got everything you need to get employed. All of these things I've told you about or suggested you to consider are rather for your self-preservation.

There will be great people and awesome oportunities, good-feeling interviews and very nice matches. Hope you're looking forward for those!

There also will be vindictive, outright machiavellian people doing cruel things to you. You're just an internet stranger and they can "get ya real good". Let's all just be nice, some day these sociopaths will meet their kind. You'll make it through, just keep repeating "time will tell" till then.


That Berlin startup

  • 10 people or less
  • AI-powered tools or crypto-something
  • Venture capital, no real profit
  • A copy of existing product, but this time "for insurance" / "for banking"

Work elsewhere. If you don't understand how this can make money - please, for the love of god, work elsewhere. Even when you're desperate and you need that job, fast - maybe reconsider?

Count with me: Cloud, Big Data, NoSQL, Blockchain and NFT(lol), Machine learning and artificial intelligence (let's make 10 000 UIs that just send prompts to chatgpt, please forgive me for bringing chatgpt up).

Majority are e-waste, scams or both. Let's contribute elsewhere, somewhere where it makes sense.

29-03-2023, work i guess