There’s nothing “pink” about interviews at Etsy

Originally posted Feb 14, 2013

There’s been a bunch of really great, thoughtful responses to this article by Meghan Casserly on hiring practices at Etsy. The crux of what’s wrong with that article, to me, was summed up nicely by my coworker Rafe Colburn:

“There’s a lot that’s wrong with this blog post, starting with the assertion that Etsy has exempted women from anything. For example, ‘brutal challenge-based interviews’ were never a standard part of the interviewing process at Etsy” – from Interviewing is just a model of employment

The article assumes that the change CTO Kellan Elliot-McCrea was discussing in his original presentation was to give female applicants a different kind of interview (as Casserly called it, “pinkifying” the interview process). I feel qualified to comment on how wrong this idea is because:

I’ve seen how other companies do it, and Etsy’s interviews are very different, but no less technical or rigorous. I’ve been to “prove to me quickly how smart you are” interviews. I’ve been to unorganized, sad interviews where companies appear desperate to fill the role. At more than one company, I was given a technical interview with a language I had zero knowledge of, because they had never hired for a front-end developer position before. I’ve interviewed with companies who hinted that I would be the token female engineer. I’ve walked out of interviews upon realizing what a bad fit a company would be for me.

There was nothing “pink” about the application or interview process at Etsy. The day that I had my in-person interviews, we started at 10am and I left at 6pm. I met with numerous employees with different roles and each had a totally different approach to interviewing me. That evening, I noted how challenging the day felt – it was easily the most exhausting interview day I’ve ever had. Never once did I feel that the process was different for me because I’m female, nor did I feel like any person who interviewed me wanted to hire me because I’m female. I have no idea how Casserly came to believe that female applicants get interviewed differently than male applicants at Etsy. They don’t.

Importantly, I felt that Etsy employees asked me questions that would truly help them figure out whether I was right for the role and right for Etsy. They’d “found my edges” technically – they already knew from phone interviews and a technical screen what I was good at, and that final day of interviews was to find where my technical strengths end. Rigorous, exhausting, but really the best way I’ve ever seen interviewing done. Do you have any idea how refreshing it is, as a female technical manager, to not wonder if I was given an offer of employment because of my gender?

Remember, a company’s interview process is an opportunity for the interviewee to see what the employer’s like too. I have turned down offers because of what I experienced during the interview process. It’s one of the big pieces of the company’s first impression (the other big one being the first day at work – don’t get me started on how much companies can mess this up). I was sure at the end of the day that whether they hired me or not, they would have all of the information they needed. I didn’t think “Oh I wish they had asked me about this” or wonder what I could have done differently; they did such a good job with the questions, the variety of people, and the organization of the interview schedule that I was sure they would be making a truly informed decision, and the right one for the role itself and for Etsy as a culture.

I’m proud to work here as an engineering manager. I’m proud of what Etsy is doing as a B-corp and what they’re doing with Hacker School. I’m very proud to be a part of Etsy during this really exciting time.

Lara Hogan

Author, public speaker, and coach for managers and leaders across the tech industry.