In an earlier blog post, we talked about how we changed the interview process during remote working as a way of improving our recruiting efforts. In this post, we’ll talk about the training process we defined for the Bar Raiser interview.
The Bar Raiser interview is a critical part of the final round of engineering interviews at SoundCloud, and it’s focused on increasing the quality of hiring, which ultimately has an impact on the products we develop for our users.
Bar Raiser interviews are well-known in the industry. Amazon popularized the concept of the Bar Raiser role, which is a unique part of its culture, by focusing on interviewing candidates and overseeing the hiring process so that every new hire is “raising the bar.”
A Bar Raiser is an interviewer at SoundCloud who’s brought into the hiring process to contribute an outside perspective to the hiring panel. They represent the technical excellency, culture, and mindset of SoundCloud. Bar Raisers have a history of hiring effective engineers, experience running interviews, and technical depth in multiple areas. With each new hire, we seek to improve and raise our standard.
Bar Raisers are experienced interviewers who have usually worked in more than one area at SoundCloud. They carry the mindset of continuous improvement and empowering one’s self and others. They focus on value for our users and have built and operated systems at scale. They value and promote workplace diversity and have seen the long-term effects of hiring decisions.
To join the group of Bar Raisers, a candidate should show a desire to exhibit cross-engineering awareness, the ability to identify the best engineers in the industry, and a willingness to put SoundCloud’s hiring needs above a single team’s hiring needs. If they see themselves as a good candidate for this role, they go through a training process to observe how these interviews are conducted and further practice themselves.
The goal of the Bar Raiser interview is to determine the attitude and instincts of a candidate to understand whether any given team at SoundCloud would culturally and technically benefit when working with a specific person, and if the person would in turn thrive in any team they’re assigned to at SoundCloud. By bringing these critical signals to the hiring process, the Bar Raiser helps assess to what extent a potential hire could raise the effectiveness of every engineering team.
To become a Bar Raiser at SoundCloud, we’ve defined a training process that comprises multiple steps. This includes shadowing established trainer Bar Raisers for multiple interviews over the course of several months. Prior to this, the candidate Bar Raiser must attend other training sessions, including one on removing unconscious bias.
Trainer Bar Raisers assess candidate Bar Raisers through a series of real Bar Raiser interviews. Each candidate Bar Raiser first shadows a trainer conducting one Bar Raiser interview, and then is shadowed by the trainer for several interviews. After each shadowing interview session, the candidate and trainer debrief about the methods of the interviewer but not the content. Each individually writes an interview scorecard, and together they compare these in a follow-up debrief. During the debrief, they discuss how the interview process went and what observations and conclusions were covered or missed.
After these sets of interviews, the trainer Bar Raiser decides whether the candidate Bar Raiser is ready to conduct these interviews on their own, if they require more shadowing, or if they should step back from the Bar Raiser pool at this time.
During shadowing, the primary Bar Raiser interviewer leads the interview. The shadow Bar Raiser has a passive role and isn’t expected to actively contribute to the session. Instead, they observe and take notes. After the interview, the primary Bar Raiser fills out a scorecard. At this point, the shadow and primary interviewers can reflect on how the interview itself went without discussing the scorecards. During the hiring sync, the shadow Bar Raiser will share their feedback for the candidate.
We have a session every few months with all Bar Raisers to share experiences, learnings, and interesting cases using anonymized data to see how we could further improve the process by iterating on it. Moreover, we continue to do cross-pairing among all Bar Raiser interviewers, which involves shadowing each other to learn from each other’s techniques.
We strongly believe that finding the right candidate is crucial for the future impact of our business and what that means for the products we’re creating for our users. Furthermore, we believe that Bar Raiser interviews play a significant role in this.
If you’re interested in finding out more about current roles at SoundCould, please visit SoundCloud jobs.