How to get a job at $2.75 billion code-collaboration startup GitLab, despite a nontraditional hiring process where it doesn’t accept applications for specific roles

GitLab employees
  • Code-collaboration startup GitLab hasn’t faced uncertainty when it came to working from home during the pandemic because it has been remote-only since its founding in 2011.
  • The company closed its applications portal in March in favor of an outbound recruiting approach, but there are still ways for people interested in GitLab can stand out, according to senior manager of recruiting operations and insights April Hoffbaur.
  • For example, interested parties should emphasize experiences working in a team asynchronously and demonstrate good communication skills, she said. 
  • The firm is currently hiring for about 60 roles. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

While other companies settled into remote work and began to mull what a post-coronavirus corporate environment may look like, code-collaboration startup GitLab hasn’t dealt with any transition pains: It has been remote-only since its inception in 2011. It has 1,280 employees spread across 66 countries, all working to build out its open-source code collaboration portal that rivals Microsoft-owned GitHub.

The firm, valued at $2.75 billion according to PitchBook, also has an nontraditional hiring process. 

In March, the company closed its job portal and stopped accepting applications for specific jobs. Instead of sifting through resumes sent to the company, the talent team would need to be much more proactive about recruiting talent through LinkedIn and employee referrals. 

When GitLab proactively reaches out to a prospective candidates, the recruiter makes it super-clear why that person is being asked to interview — whether because of a hard-coded skill or experience at a company GitLab is interested in recruiting from, said April Hoffbaur, senior manager of recruiting operations and insights at GitLab. The company also provides a sample list of questions prospective candidates can expect to receive.

“I think whatever you can do to be transparent with candidates is super important, especially now more than ever,” Hoffbaur said. GitLab is often reaching out to people who already have jobs, who may not want to go through the effort of interviewing if they don’t fully understand the process, she said. “So when we reach out to passive talent who are probably scared to change a job in 2020 or feel a sense of security, or if it’s the sense of responsibility to their current teams, how can I be transparent with them?”

The company now focuses almost entirely on outbound recruiting, instead of inbound, with the exception of a portal that it calls “talent community” where anyone interested in a job at GitLab can drop their resume and a cover letter, though not for any particular role.      

CEO Sid Sijbrandij told Business Insider in April that the application portal closure was meant to be a temporary measure, but the company has now been operating without it for seven months. While Hoffbaur said that the firm is open to changing processes if they’re not working, there’s no current end-date at this point. 

The company is currently looking to fill more than 60 roles in engineering, sales, and marketing, and said in April that it aimed to grow to as many as 1,500 people by the end of the year. The company’s entire interviewing process, from the early stages to onboarding a new employee, are completely remote.

Hoffbaur explained for Business Insider how people interested in the company can stand out:

Those interested in GitLab should keep their LinkedIn profiles up-to-date and be smart about expanding their network

While around 18% of GitLab’s hires in October 2020 came from referrals and the talent community, a whopping 77% involved the talent team or hiring managers proactively reaching out to potential candidates.

While the recruiting team finds talent through a variety of sources, LinkedIn is a top tool, which means that people who are interested in GitLab should make sure their profile is up-to-date and chock-full of details. 

The company is always looking for proven experience collaborating in different offices, as well as clear indications of hard skills that would be useful at GitLab. 

Hoffbaur said reaching out to GitLab’s talent team on LinkedIn and building out a network can also give applicants a boost —as long as they do it the right way. 

“It can’t hurt to reach out to people and try to build your network and try to create a connection,” she said. 

For example, group of college students reached out to Hoffbaur to get feedback about a remote-work product they were building out, which led Hoffbaur connecting them with GitLab’s head of remote, Darren Murph, who now serves as an advisor for them. 

Hoffbaur said she’s happy to engage with people who reach out to her on LinkedIn looking for professional opinion, but shies away from strangers who ask for referrals. 

“I think there’s this culture of reaching out to somebody, random on LinkedIn and being like, ‘Hey, can you recommend me for this job?'” Hoffbaur said. That’s an approach that she would not recommend. 

Candidates should exhibit strong communication and independence skills during the interview process

Once candidates are selected to interview for a role, Hoffbaur said her job is to gage how well they would work in a remote-only environment where employees work asynchronously across the globe. When one team member puts down a project in one time zone, updates and instructions have to be clear enough for another team member to pick up the project and work on it from another time zone. 

The company needs to make sure that the people that it hires are prepared to adjust their behaviors accordingly. 

“How do I convey what I need to convey in an async way and still make it productive?” Hoffbaur said. “So I probably reread things more now than I did ever before, because before you could clarify something or hop on the phone.”

The company’s entirely remote workforce also means managers aren’t around to keep employees on track, and candidates have to exhibit high levels of independence when it comes to completing projects and nabbing career development opportunities.

“So am I self enabling myself and my self motivating myself?” Hoffbaur said. “Do I need that constant cheerleader or can I be my own cheerleader?”

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