Equality From the Start: WP Engine’s Strategy For Hiring The Best
At WP Engine, we pride ourselves on hiring the best employees, facilitating an awesome work environment, and encouraging career growth and opportunity. It’s not always easy to make sure that the process for obtaining employment is fair and unbiased. This is particularly important for the Research and Development team who have worked diligently and strategically to create a hiring process based primarily on performance.
I sat down with Lowell Vaughn and Natalie Rogers, two Software Developers from WP Engine’s Research and Development team to learn more about the interview process.
What is the blind interview process?
Lowell: Well, first, a little background on how we got there. Until a little over two years ago, our interview process was pretty standard whiteboard interviews. We did a phone screen and then we had people write code on whiteboards. Whiteboard interviews have some issues. Given that it’s a high-pressure, intense test, some people don’t perform very well and it’s not indicative of their performance on the job. Additionally, there was always a lingering question: is there any subconscious or conscious bias going on? The process for hiring developers is never easy but we decided this method was not optimal. So, then, we decided to incorporate a blind take-home test model in conjunction with the phone screen. We did this for about a year but eventually decided that the phone screen wasn’t necessary and opted solely for the take-home test. Basically, we came up with a problem that should take the candidate a couple hours. We never attach their name, they are assigned a number. Then, the test is peer-reviewed by two people from a rotating list. If the two evaluators agree, we bring then bring the candidate into the office. We never want to be aware or naive to assume every person doesn’t have their own personal level of bias and this is a way to avoid that…create an equal playing field and get developers on-site based on a process that encourages equality.
Natalie: The thing I love most about the blinded interview is that Lowell and a couple of other people decided to implement it after reading an article about blind symphony auditions. I think it says a lot about our culture that ideas for new and inventive ways to be more inclusive don’t have to come from the top down. Of course, our leadership is driving the message. Our CEO and my personal hero, Heather Brunner has spoken on diversity all over the world. We celebrate Pride here. For families, we offer flexible hours and actually care about work-life balance. We have some really nice pumping rooms for mothers. I have a one-year-old, and I don’t know if I could have gotten the support I needed to handle those first hard months back on the job anywhere else. But, I guess, more generally, we have the cultural mindset to adapt. We jump on opportunities to improve ourselves as a company. We have a deep respect and willingness to serve our customers here, and we extend that to each other as well.
How do you measure the success of this new process?
Lowell and Natalie : Honestly, we can’t. We just don’t have the data to know whether we have more diversity coming through the pipeline yet. Even if we have the numbers, there’s not a clear way to know what we can attribute it to. But the goal is to have the best candidates, period. Despite our conscious and subconscious biases.
Why is this so important to WP Engine?
Lowell: At WP Engine, we really try to operate based on 5 core values. One of those values is Doing The Right Thing. We want to learn and grow from our mistakes, act ethically and do what’s right for the company.
Natalie: We are a company that touts diversity and we want to talk the talk as well as walk the walk. Another one of our values is Where the Best Get Better and that applies here as well. We are inspired by passionate people who are the best at what they do. So, we need to be proactive about that and make sure the very best people are working at WP Engine.
WP Engine is currently hiring for positions in Devops & Engineering at our Austin headquarters. Check it out here.
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From a diversity standpoint I would say WP Engines’ approach has worked very well. I go to a lot of tech meetup and mixers, and going to the ones that WP Engines has organized where their whole office comes out it’s immediately apparent how much more diverse their team is compared to many of the other similarly sized companies in town.