Get and Pass the Engineering Leadership Interview with Flo Monier Leadership Recruiter at Airbnb

Published on Jan 23, 2022

16 min read

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[00:00] Vidal: All right. Hey, so good morning. Today I have with me Flo, she’s a leadership recruiter at Airbnb. And Flo maybe you’d like to introduce yourself briefly to the ManagersClub.

[00:13] Flo: Hello. I’m at Airbnb. Yes. I’ve been there for about four years now. Starting off actually working with university recruiting. I’ve worked with generalized engineers and for the past about two and a half years, I’ve been doing leadership recruiting really across the whole company.

I am based now in Austin, Texas. And excited to be here. Happy to answer some questions for you.

[00:34] Vidal: Awesome. I thought it’d be great to hear from you for all the engineering leaders that follow ManagersClub.

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How should someone get on a company’s radar to interview?

So let’s just start with an easy question. Say, somebody wants to get on the radar to interview at a company, maybe your company or another, top-tier tech company. What would be your advice would be the best way to get on the radar?.

[00:52] Flo: I think I get this question a lot, not just from candidates, but from personal connections and friends who are interviewing and looking for new positions. It’s a competitive market right now and it has been and will continue to be. I think getting on a company’s radar often I would do some homework and see where your connections are. If you have somebody on LinkedIn who you used to work with, maybe you went to school with, maybe you were in a met at a conference. Maybe you guys worked at a company, but at different times have a similar story, whatever it might be, I would try and find connections.

I think it’s really helpful to talk to somebody who currently works at that company who might be able to give you a referral or a tip in if you don’t know someone who works at a company that you’re excited about. I would say apply and maybe do some research. See if you can reach out to somebody who is a recruiter there.

I do get a lot of blind inMails actually for folks who say, “Hey, I just applied to this role. I’m super excited about it. We’d love to talk.” Sometimes they’re a fit sometimes they’re not. I think that’s part of my job is getting a lot of messages. So it’s not a huge inconvenience, especially if it is helping surface someone who could be a great candidate for me.

So I’d say go through potential referral contacts first, and if not, don’t be shy and be scrappy and apply.

What do you look for in LinkedIn Profile, resume, etc.? How important are those?

[02:15] Vidal: Sounds good. Yeah. I think referrals are really the best way. What do you look for, in a LinkedIn profile or resume, what are things that you look for?

[02:24] Flo: Yeah. I do have candidates who apply with just LinkedIn which is fine, but I actually would suggest spending some time to make a detailed resume when you apply or when you’re sending your contact information through referrals. LinkedIn profiles will show usually a pretty logistical sense of when you moved from one company to another groups, that you might be involved in.

Obviously education, but it doesn’t always show the exact information that a resume can detail. So things like the team size that you’re managing. If there’s any growth metrics that you can put on your resume that you can’t put on LinkedIn things like special projects that you focused on, even if you can link to if they’re outside links to some of those projects.

So I think LinkedIn gives a really nice snapshot of someone’s background, but often yes, I would suggest looking at a resume for more detailed information and building that up too.

[03:22] Vidal: So on the resume, you’d like to see stuff. So the team size and different metrics and stuff, things that you might not necessarily put on a LinkedIn profile is what I’m hearing.

[03:31] Flo: Yeah, domain experience some people do hop around from maybe they worked on mobile for a bit, and then they focused on front-end, and then they moved into machine learning, whatever it might be. I think you can add that on LinkedIn, but I would suggest putting more detailed information like that on your resume.

How essential is domain-specific experience, such as machine learning, front-end engineering, and so on, compared to general management experience? I suppose you hire for specific teams regularly.

[03:51] Vidal: All right. So that’s a kind of a good segue to my next question, which has to do with domain expertise. So for leadership candidates, how essential is that domain expertise to say, hey, maybe I managed a mobile team or a front-end team relative to general management experience, cause I assume oftentimes you’re hiring for a specific team?

[04:14] Flo: Great question. This will vary from company to company in my personal experience. I am hiring team to team, so I am looking at a specific team within Airbnb, their needs for a manager. And often that does include domain experience because there’s certain projects that are going to be leading and taking on certain types of engineers that they’re going to lead and they need to have that experience themselves.

Sometimes there are companies and there are roles even within Airbnb that are more general that are looking for, maybe two years of general management experience. And we figure that someone can jump in and lead that team. But I would say for more often than not the roles I’m working on domain experience is usually pretty helpful and pretty necessary when we make that final team match.

Before the interview, what are the most crucial questions an applicant should ask the recruiter?

[05:03] Vidal: Go it. Before an onsite interview, a candidate will have the opportunity to have a prep call with the recruiter. What are some of the most important questions a candidate should ask you to prepare?

[05:19] Flo: First of all I really hope that it’s best practice, that a lot of recruiters are giving prep calls and sending prep information. And if they’re not, I would encourage candidates to ask for it. Your best advocate when you are interviewing is yourself. So I would say if you have the opportunity to hop on a call with a recruiter or if they don’t give it to you ask and make sure you can get on the phone with them.

I think exactly. Like we just were speaking about often the interview process is more general. It’s the same process for everyone in one type of level of a role. For a certain level, the interview process and steps are going to look the same, but it might be really important to highlight your experience in X, Y, and Z, or highlight the projects that you worked on in the past that, my really directly look appealing to that certain team.

So I would ask the recruiter, “What exactly is this team looking for? Where are, where do my strengths lie that you think would be good to highlight? Is there any certain background that you all are looking to find for this specific team?” So that, you have the opportunity to bring those up during the interview. And then I would say, there’s no harm in asking if they haven’t sent it to already who exactly you’re talking to. So you can do some homework and check out the people, within that company that you’re going to be connecting with and try and make a personal connection.

So you can see. It looks like we went to the, we both worked at X company or I really loved checking out your background seems like you’ve had a really interesting path to where you are today. So I think doing some homework on the people who you’re going to be meeting with always goes a long way too.

Do you have any advice specifically for women and underrepresented minorities looking to land EM jobs?

[06:55] Vidal: All right. Do you have any specific advice for women and underrepresented minorities that are trying to land engineering leadership positions or just positions in the tech field?

[07:07] Flo: Great question. My advice would probably be similar to the first piece of advice that I gave, which is to make connections, join groups that you feel might help put you in front of the folks that you’re wanting to talk to, whether that’s attending the Grace Hopper conference or Afro tech don’t be shy even though we’re all in a more virtual world.

Now I think reaching out and making connections with folks is really key and can be helpful. So I would say It’s awkward, but put yourself out there and try and make some of those connections with people who maybe work at a company that you’re excited about, or looks like a career that you admire.

Maybe you’d want to meet someone for potential mentorship conversations, and then that could help relay into a job connection or could help, facilitate some more introductions. I would say use the groups and resources that you might find on the internet, LinkedIn, within your company, if you have, affinity groups and start to just share your background and sharing information and what you’re looking for.

And I find that more often than not, people are excited to help each other.

[08:14] Vidal: Yeah, I think those kinds of groups are really helpful to be part of those connections. So that’s awesome. Shifting here, so I know you’ve attended up by a ton of debriefs in your career. What are some of the common causes, maybe for people not getting the job at the end of the day at the debrief? Is there anything candidates can do to maybe avoid these mistakes or you have any advice on?

You’ve attended a lot of debriefs…. What are the most common causes for people not getting hired, and what can candidates do to improve their chances of getting hired?

[08:38] Flo: Yeah, great question. With technical leadership interviews, there’s usually two parts. There’s going to be the technical portion of the interview process. And then usually another portion, more focused on your experience and your leadership skills. We can tell, unfortunately, those who do not prep for the technical portion of the interview, whether it’s, you just think you can walk in and it’ll be fine and then do not come prepared.

So I would say, definitely take the time to prepare for the technical portion. Make sure you are feeling confident in your skillset, whether, if you have a coding interview and you haven’t been coding for a long time, set aside some time the weekend before and practice.

Make sure your skills are there and up-to-date — same with architecture system design interviews. I think it does show when people have gotten back in the swing of things. So I would say the technical side can be one where candidates knock themselves out if they haven’t gotten their skill set up.

And then I would say as we mentioned before, domain experience and just team fit is more often than not where I see someone not getting hired. If they’re a newer leader and they only have a couple of years of experience, they maybe haven’t dealt with difficult situations on a team or put someone on a performance plan and this team that they’re walking into needs someone who has corralled and grouped a team back together. Or domain experience, they need someone who has experience with mobile engineering and one candidate has that, and another does not. That’s probably gonna tip the scales. Those are things that can really help you improve. And sometimes, honestly, if the team is not the right fit, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad candidate. It doesn’t mean you didn’t do on the interview. Doesn’t mean there isn’t another position that could open up in a month or two, that would be a good fit for you. It just means that for that specific team, we have needed a different skill set.

[10:26] Vidal: The hearing is like maybe the number one thing is like not doing well in the technical part of the interview that kind of loses people a job. And then the second thing I’m hearing is just, it’s not like the best fit, right? Like you’re looking for some domain expertise made the candidate well, but it’s we needed some of this specific skill or sort of the experience and you didn’t have it.

[10:45] Flo: That’s typically what I see. Yes. Yeah.

When someone receives an offer, how should they go about negotiating it? What are the do’s and dont’s?

[10:48] Vidal: Okay. Got it. Okay. So here’s a delicate one. When someone receives an offer, okay. How should they go about negotiating the offer with you? Because people always want to negotiate the offer I find. And maybe what are some kind of do’s and don’ts in negotiating an offer?

[11:05] Flo: This is a great question. So in my case, in particular, I work very closely with the compensation team and they ultimately are the ones who are helping us land on the final offer. They control the financials. I handle the communication. I think when it comes to negotiation, I definitely advocate for candidates negotiating and for showcasing what their value is.

And for trying to land an offer that is exciting and makes them want to accept the offer. People often bring, if they’re actively interviewing competitive offers. I think a lot of people will try to break down, not just, what is the base salary, but they’ll look at total compensation.

So that might include base, bonus, and equity. And if they’re looking for a certain number all in, then that can help the recruiter figure out what they can move and shift to make sure that they reach that number in the end. I would say some does are, make a connection with the recruiter be honest with sharing other offers, and sharing information.

It is helpful to us as we negotiate with you and for you with the financial teams. So I think it is a dude. If you’re comfortable to share. Competitive information and maybe even current info, current salary information I think be realistic and do your homework around what you should actually be asking for. There are tons of different compensation information websites out there. If you come in asking for something completely unrealistic, we’re not gonna be able to give that to you, but doing your homework and knowing what is what’s feasible is helpful and realistic.

Don’ts I would say push maybe one or two times, don’t push too much beyond that the recruiters are going to try and do the best they can to get you the role. Our goal ultimately is to hire you and to make sure that you are a part of our community. I think sometimes in compensation comes up, people can show tougher sides of their personality, or maybe be a little more short with the recruiter.

And that shouldn’t change the result in the end, but it definitely does affect the ability to negotiate. So I would say, work with them, human to human, and know that you’re on the same team and trying to get you to join the company.

[13:20] Vidal: I think it’s so important to have a good relationship with the recruiter because it can help you, if you ultimately get the offer or, even if you don’t get the offer, to connect with them in the future, or maybe try to get a little bit more feedback.

[13:31] Flo: I will add that a lot of the folks who I hire I work with now. I am now hiring for their teams. I’m helping them build out the groups that they’re running and having that started that relationship when they were candidates themselves to now helping them hire they remember what the candidate process is like.

I remember the way that we worked together and totally, I think it makes a difference because ultimately you would be teammates if you joined that company. So I think, yeah having a good relationship always goes a long way. Again, it’s never me who decides the final number, it’s the compensation group. I think knowing the person there to help you out makes it, it makes a difference.

Do you have any other advice or tips or anything to say to leadership candidates?

[14:09] Vidal: . Do you have any other advice or tips or anything to say to leadership candidates?

[14:15] Flo: I would say I think it’s like I said, it’s a tough job market. I think continuing to apply and stay in contact with recruiters goes a long way. If there’s a company that you are excited about, but you’re not actively looking right now, similar to the way that recruiters run their business, I would suggest continuing relationships and staying in contact with someone.

If you interview at a company, it doesn’t work out at that time. You’re able to get feedback on what you need to improve on. If there is a wait time, maybe check in a year and say, “Hey, I’m curious how things are going at this company. I’d love to just stay in touch. I’m not looking right now, but if we could have a call, that would be great.”

Play the long game. If you know where you would like your career to take you, and, there are certain companies that are on your wishlist making a connection and fostering, it can go a long way because it can continue to make sure that your name comes up first when those roles do open up.

So I would say do that with recruiters. Do that with mentors and folks who you work with in the past follow their careers, stay in contact, even though we’re all. A lot of us are working virtually right now. Having a quick call can go a long way and can help you continue to build your network.

When you were looking and also on the flip side, that’s the way that recruiters often run their desks. And I tell engineering managers to continue those conversations too. Because you never know when you yourself are hiring and you. Have a connection or a relationship with somebody who might end up having the skillset for that role too.

[15:47] Vidal: think that’s great advice to play the long game. In some of the jobs I’ve gotten I applied and for whatever reason, I didn’t get the job. And then years later, I applied again and I knew the recruiter and then I got the job, so it’s not no forever.

[16:02] Flo: Oh, totally. It might be I’ve had folks who’ve interviewed in May the team fit, as we’ve said, the more senior you get becomes more and more important. Their interview feedback is still relevant for us for up to a year. Six months later, a new team opened up that really matched the profile of that candidate who had already come onsite and done well.

And they reached out and they ended up joining the company. So I think, like I said, ask for feedback, be open to feedback. When you receive it, we’re all, hopefully looking to improve our skillset over time and definitely stay in contact with those companies and people that you feel passionate about.

How can someone reach out to you if they are interested in opportunities at Airbnb?

[16:41] Vidal: That’s awesome. Thank you. Flo, if someone wanted to reach out to you, if they’re interested in opportunities at Airbnb would be the best way to get in touch with you, or if they would just want to ask you.

[16:50] Flo: LinkedIn is always great. They might, you can email me it’s I am going to go out on maternity leave in the middle of March. So if I don’t respond after that, I’m sorry. I’ll get back to you when I’m back. But yeah, I think I’m open to making connections as well.

Definitely add me on LinkedIn and send a note and I’m happy to chat whenever.

[17:12] Vidal: Awesome. Thank you so much. You’ve been really generous with your time and really appreciate it.

[17:17] Flo: Welcome. Good to see you. And hopefully, we’ll stay in touch and talk soon.

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