Cloudflare TV

How to Standout for Engineering & Product Opportunities

Presented by Todd Ciampa, Aly Cabral, Joaquin Madruga
Originally aired on 

Austin Recruiter Todd Ciampa will interview a Product Leader, Aly Cabral and Engineering leader, Joaquin Madruga on ways candidates can standout in the application and interview process.


Transcript (Beta)

All right, well, good afternoon, good evening and good morning, depending on where you might be dialing in from around the world for another episode of Cloudflare TV's The Recruiting Corner.

My name is Todd Ciampa. I am one of the recruiters in the Austin office.

And today I am excited to introduce you to a couple of my colleagues, also in Austin, representing engineering and product management leadership.

So first, I'd like to introduce Aly Cabral. And Allison, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself, how long you've been with Cloudflare and what you do at Cloudflare.

Yeah, sounds great. So I'm Aly Cabral. I am the director of product for Cloudflare workers, which is great.

I've been at Cloudflare for a long and tenured six months.

But I'm super excited to be on the team and super excited about the technology and platform we're building.

Prior to that, I worked at MongoDB, leading the product team on the core database.

So I'm super excited. I've built a career around building tools for developers and making developers lives easier.

And this, I view this product, Cloudflare Workers, I view as the next generation of that, which gets me really excited to work on this team.

Awesome, awesome. Joaquin Madruga, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Yeah, so I'm on the engineering side. So I'm an engineering director.

I work on workers and a few other projects as well. Magic Transit, Argo and Spectrum.

So it's kind of a mix between Edge compute, which is the worker side and then a lot of the core networking and more kind of security policy that the customers have so that you can put Cloudflare in front of your site and protect it.

That's awesome. Awesome. And Joaquin, how long have you been with Cloudflare?

Oh, going on three years, which is an eternity in a very fast moving company here.

You're definitely the Wiley veteran. That's right. Myself, I've been here for three months.

So I'm the rookie on the team. And, you know, what we wanted to talk to you about is, you know, the last couple of episodes we've really brought to you a recruiter's perspective or point of view as it relates to applying for opportunities or actually interviewing for opportunities at Cloudflare or just in general.

And we thought it'd be really important to get the perspective and point of view of actual leaders who are doing the hiring within the organization.

And so today's episode is about standing out as a candidate and what we think are the right types of things that you can be doing in order to accomplish that.

And so, you know, the first place I wanted to start, Joaquin, is that, you know, Cloudflare actually has a unique way of going about the hiring process as it relates to other medium or even larger sized companies.

Can you tell me a little bit about what's unique about our process?

Yeah, I can just kind of walk through the process in general.

So one thing that's really important to Cloudflare is that the engineering managers themselves or the managers in general are on point.

And so we actually don't work with external recruiting and we'll have the manager drive a lot of that conversation all the way through.

So from initial contact, a lot of times that's phone screens that the managers are doing.

You'll still a lot of times talk with the recruiter as well to be able to help with some of that.

And then continuing that all the way forward.

After you do some sort of initial pre -screen, usually you'll do some sort of kind of technical screen, at least on the engineering side.

And then assuming that goes well and everybody feels like it'd be a good fit, then you'd come in and actually meet and talk with the team.

I think one thing that is pretty unique to Cloudflare that I hadn't seen, especially for a company this size, is the final call.

And what that is, is it's basically 20 minutes.

Matthew and Michelle, the co -founders, actually do a lot of these, but usually it's somebody from the executive staff.

And after you feel like it's a good fit with the team and the manager is excited and bringing you on board and everything, then we'll set you up with some time with them so that you can ask any sort of questions about general direction for the company.

Actually, it was one of the most memorable things in my onboarding.

I was able to talk to Matthew and ask some questions just about what is Cloudflare's second act and all of these things look like.

And he told the truth. A lot of that stuff that went in is actually stuff that we're building and is stuff that I got to play a hand in, which was really neat to be able to see that directly from the founder.

Okay, awesome. So if I heard that correctly, and just in case anybody is also joining a little bit late, hiring managers are actually taking a significant part in creating the job descriptions, as well as reviewing and screening all applicants in addition to any referrals or outbound sourcing that the recruiters bring to them.

The hiring manager isn't looking at something filtered.

They're actually seeing every candidate from the word go.

That's right, yeah. We've tailored our inbound process to make sure that managers can see a lot of the people coming in.

And the advantage of that too is even if it's not the exact rec that you're applying to, there's somebody in there that knows the product, knows all the other people that are hiring and what we're looking for, so that they can go in and help find the right spot for a lot of those resumes as well.

So it's literally going through, looking through, sometimes even hundreds of resumes in a week.

A lot of the guidance, especially if you have somebody that you're trying to hire in, you should be spending about 25 to 30 percent of your time on hiring, which ends up being a lot of resumes, a lot of phone screens, a lot of outreach.

We feel like it's really important to drive from there.

Actually, I think Allie just went through this and hired a PM that's coming here pretty soon.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, definitely. It's great to be as involved as early as possible in the process.

I think that's actually both better for the hiring manager and better for the candidate.

They get a lot of view of who their hiring manager is, who they want to work for.

And I think that's really mutually beneficial on both sides.

We find a candidate that's going to be the best fit for the team.

They find someone who they're going to gel with from a leadership perspective as well.

I think that really helps. And having gone through it on the other side recently too, I can say my first conversation with anyone at Cloudflare was with Jen, the head of product.

And that to me was like, whoa, they're not even sending a recruiter to me first or something, some kind of screen before talking to the head of product.

But no, she was the hiring manager, so direct to her.

And that really stood out from the candidate perspective as well. Yeah, no, that's awesome.

And as a recruiting partner, the company taking a stance of that involvement so early on in the process really shows kind of accountability because ultimately it really is the hiring manager's responsibility to assure that they have the proper resources in order to be effective.

And so as hiring leaders, Ally, why don't you kind of kick off this next part.

But what are some things that you feel that candidates can do to really stand out in the application process to help give themselves a competitive edge?

Yeah, and one of the things that I'm going to say first, I have a personal hill to climb with this effort, which was my first point of feedback here is to take credit for the things you've done, for the things you've achieved, and take credit for them fully.

The written down resume is not the place where you need to be humble. It's the place that you show all of the experience you have on your plate.

It's not where you necessarily need to feel bad about not sharing credit.

I know that we live in an environment where that can feel uncomfortable, particularly might be uncomfortable for women to take those strong statements.

But it's something that I found that if you're not doing, then it can feel like it's not an apples to apples comparison, because a lot of other people are taking credit for their achievements and throughout their career, not needing to share that in a written resume form.

And so that's advice that I try and follow.

And I'm still learning, even with myself, as I write down the goals or things I did every quarter.

But I think it's an important skill to have.

Another thing that I think is really interesting, from at least the product management perspective, is to have provoking ideas about the space.

So for instance, if you're linking to a blog post, or maybe some kind of written publication that you've done in the past, or even prior projects, showing that you've put an idea out there that is provoking in the industry is actually kind of cool.

I like to see and understand the thought process, and understand where folks are in their idea generation.

And I think that does really help me by looking at prior projects or looking at publications that they've done.

Awesome. Awesome. Joaquin, what about from your perspective as an engineering leader?

Yeah, I agree. Especially avoiding the royal we in a lot of those conversations.

A lot of times, if I see that or hear that in an interview, I'll immediately start digging in into like, what if your hands weren't at a keyboard?

What wouldn't have gotten done? And it's just better to kind of avoid that.

Like Ellie said, your resume, your cover letter, all of these, these are the things that scream why you feel like you're a good fit for whatever company you're applying for.

And so you want to make sure that you spend the maximum amount of time just making that a good representative sample of what you've done.

And some other examples where I've seen it, where like people will put in like attended standup or kind of regular daily ritual things that you see in there.

And it's really just wasted space, right?

Every square inch of your resume is an opportunity to advertise yourself.

And you don't want to spend that time just saying that you've attended standup or that you know how to use Microsoft Word or something like that, right?

You really want to be targeting on what you're trying to attack.

And that also goes in, I think, with cover letters or your objective or any of those, like make sure that they sound like you, right?

That professional seeking opportunity to, you know, that doesn't mean anything.

It doesn't really like sell what you're trying to do.

So you want to make sure that you're, and you can change that, right?

Tailor it to what you're, where you're applying. That's not bad.

That's not cheating, right? Like you're trying to show that, why that company is the right fit for you.

And so spending a little bit of time thinking about that is really important.

So if I'm hearing both of you guys, we want to be able to see your personality come out, you know, people hire people, but obviously really think about the things that you have accomplished.

Don't be afraid to, this is the time to brag.

These are the time to let everyone know what those accomplishments are, because those are the things that are going to resonate for you as a hiring leader.

What about outside of the resume? Are there any other things that people can do that help shape your opinion about whether to bring somebody in for an interview or to do that initial screen?

Yeah. And I touched on some of them briefly, like someone who, especially because Cloudflare has quite a strong writing culture, specifically in like go -to-market initiatives.

It's nice to have someone on the product side that is really comfortable writing and actually like comfortable writing and kind of presenting their thought process in a like tactical way.

So I think that particularly hiring at Cloudflare, seeing someone's personal blog, whether it's like relevant to the industry or not, has been pretty insightful.

And I love when people link to their personal blog from their resume so that I can kind of like get a sense of, again, you see some of that personality, but I also get to see a real tangible skill that they'd be using on the job.


And Joaquin, what about on the engineering side? Yeah, I agree. If there's a GitHub link or any of those, I click it and I start digging through everything.

Everything that you link to off of your resume is something that I'm going to go in and really kind of dig into.

And so I'd say make sure that's in good shape, right?

If you link to your personal website that hasn't been updated since 2008, that probably isn't the most accurate representation of who you are.

Or if you go into GitHub and you just see a bunch of starting tutorials or forks off of other projects or any of that kind of stuff, that also, what you want to do is you want to show a project that has some meat that you spent some time in, that you supported, and that you've actually put out.

If you don't have that, that's okay. Just don't link to it, right?

Like not everybody is participating in open source in that way.

I certainly understand sometimes it's even previous employers' stances or any of that.

But I think one of the worst things you can do is link to things that aren't representative of you, right?

Like maybe it's a sloppy project that you're just kind of playing around with or something like that.

You don't want to put a production on there.

So usually when I'm looking at a resume, I'll quickly look through it, experience, see if it maps pretty well.

And then right after that, immediately start digging in on their website and everything too.

One other thing that I've noticed a pretty high hit rate is if people have used the product before or if they're excited about Cloudflare.

And with Cloudflare, it's free to sign up, right?

It's very easy. And so just even if you spend 10, 15 minutes kind of playing around and understanding what's going on, it can help set you up.

And then if people include their LinkedIn profile, you mentioned, Joaquin, anything that's on a resume, you'll click in into that too.

But what are recommendations from Pappy, Cathy they work with? Are those things that are important to you, either Allie or Joaquin?

I don't place a lot of weight.

Go ahead, Allie. Oh, sorry. The LinkedIn profile itself isn't like that super like, I'm not looking for anything specific with the LinkedIn profile.

I do look for things you're linking to on your LinkedIn though. So like if you're linking to, you know, like articles you've written on LinkedIn or if you're like linking to, you know, areas of interest, I'll see like, again, learning a little bit about your professional personality and what you're professionally interested in by looking there, but not looking for like specific skill definition or anything there.

I like, I'm fine with like a pretty slim LinkedIn. I don't, I don't.

Yeah, that's just a personal preference though. Joaquin, what about you?

Yeah, I agree. In terms of like giving references through LinkedIn or the skill stuff, I know what they're trying to do.

It just doesn't seem to work. To be honest, I usually don't get a lot of signal out of there.

They tend to sound a little, a little stiff and generic and it's just not a great, a great representation of what that, what I feel like that person probably feels about that person.

Okay, awesome. So I think that the consistent message, whether it's product management or engineering is however you can showcase the skills that would be synonymous with the work that you would be doing.

It really carries a tremendous amount of weight, right?

It was interesting. I remember when I first started recruiting for engineers, one of my hiring managers used the analogy of if I was going to hire a juggler, I'd want to see him juggle, right?

And so here's, you know, once again with product management or engineering, there's opportunities beyond just that, that one or two page resume to, to showcase what you'll be bringing to the table.

That might be a benefit to Cloudflare or whatever company you're interviewing with.

So let's talk a little bit more. We've kind of touched on this a little bit about resumes.

What are some of the learn offs, you know, either about the way resumes might be written or maybe it's even about the amount of times that people apply and what that looks like.

You know, Ali, tell me a little bit about your thoughts there. Yeah.

So I see some resumes sometimes where the bullet points focus on the means, not to what end.

And I think what's really important for resumes, particularly for product managers, and I assume also for engineering, is to make sure that you are more outcome based than you are like detailed.

And sometimes it does feel like people are trying to take up space, not because they haven't done great work, but because maybe they don't know how to talk about it in the right way.

Where like, instead of saying, I did this thing for my team, I would say, oh, I did like, I did a thing, but then it made the team 30% more productive.

Right. Like I don't have that context as the person reading, unless you give it to me.

So I want to know why. Like, why did you spend your time building up these skills?

Like, what did you do with them?

And those are the more interesting nuggets than the kind of like plain form detail of like, this is what I did description.

Joaquin, anything to add there?

Yeah, I agree. I think, I mean, you got the resume. We only read what you write on it.

Right. And so if you don't put it on there, then we're not going to know about it.

And so if it's something you're proud of, then you definitely want to put it up there.

And also you want to put it in terms of order of importance, right?

Like not your work history, that's chronological, but in terms of what's inside of each individual thing.

Like if something's really important, that should be bullet point one or two.

I'd say the other bit of advice I'd give there is have somebody that isn't familiar with the company you're working at, read through your resume.

It feels very natural in terms of acronyms or language or anything, is very specific to a company.

And I don't know what that means, right? So if you say that you improved your blah, blah, blah score by whatever in it, it's not something that would be a standard thing, then you need to figure out a way to actually make that feel like something that somebody outside of the company would be able to understand, unless you're only applying within the company.

Any strong opinions on length of an interview from either of you?

Length of a resume? Oh, sorry, length of a resume.

Well, I have opinions on both. Which do you want next? From my perspective, I like resumes that are concerned about, like I like resumes that are as trim as possible to get the message across.

I don't want people like over indexing on like hitting the one page mark.

I will say I have, for ones that kind of go beyond one page, it doesn't seem to just go beyond a little bit.

It seems to balloon out into like four pages, six pages.

And I think I'm missing a lot of like resumes in between that.

It's like, it's okay to go past one page. Just don't take that as, you know, like if you take an inch, you'll take a mile, or if you're given an inch, you'll take a mile.

Like I think it's, use the length. From my perspective, this is my personal opinion, use the length that gets the message across.

And I'm gonna, if it's long, I'm going to judge like the individual meaning, like meaningfulness of the bullet points a little bit more with some more scrutiny because I'm gonna be like, oh, was this necessary to include?

Are they, you know, are they just kind of like adding fluff to seem more important or like seem like they have more experience or is this like meaningful things that they wanted me to read?

And I think I've seen it done good both ways, but there's a bad way to do it both ways too.

Okay, cool. And Joaquin, what about applying? You know, obviously there's people who are very passionate about, you know, our company or other companies.

What are some of the negative aspects of applying too much, if any?

So if you apply on every job, then that means you've spread yourself out pretty thin.

Usually it's a sign for the hiring manager that you're just kind of, it's a shotgun approach, right?

Like, why do you feel like that particular job is really important to you if you also apply to every other job that you saw on the website?

I know it feels like a lot of work and it feels productive, but it can actually work against you.

I would, in general with trying to be noticed, I always try and go for, put more marbles in a smaller bowl, right?

So you want to reach out and if you're asking somebody about like an opportunity or something, whether that's through LinkedIn or any of that, don't just say like, I'd like to connect or talk.

What you really want to do is focus in on like, hey, I'm really interested in this product.

I read this blog post by this person.

This is what I've done that, you know, that relates to that.

I'd really like to help contribute on this team in this way, right? And even if you miss a little bit or it's not perfect, somebody will see that you went through and tried to be, I like the way Allie put it earlier, right?

Opinionated and targeted on some of this stuff.

And if you do that for a few and you hit one, you're going to hit really, really hard and you're going to have that, that EM's going to have that hook and they're going to pull you through the process a lot more rather than trying to see it as overly generic and trying to apply it, be everything to everybody, which in that case, you kind of blend in, right?

Like I said, you, I've easily looked through 200 resumes in a day, right?

Trying to fill a position.

And if you look like everybody else, then it's really tough to pull yourself out of that stack.

Okay, awesome. And I'll add to that really quickly. So with product management, it tends to even be a little bit more broad where people might even apply to different roles like a data scientist or a program manager along with the product manager role.

And it's hard to then know how serious the candidate is about either like, staying in product management or getting a product management role for their next job.

And that can be a little bit confusing to a hiring manager.

Those roles look very different. Those skills are very different and it's possible to be happy in both.

But from my perspective, I'm going to be like, oh, would they prefer the data science job?

Like, yeah, it gets even a little bit messier because people might apply to different roles even.

Yeah. And I think a way to combat that, right, because as you do become more senior, sometimes your skill set puts you in a position to be a good fit in a couple of different positions.

And this is where a cover letter can really help that. Like, hey, listen, I applied for these two different positions.

Let me tell you why, right? Because maybe I feel so strongly that I am a team player and whether you need me to play the first actor in the scene or to direct the scene or to be probably one of the people putting together the scenes, I can do all of it because I've been doing this for 30 years.

Here's where my passion may lie, but this is the reason why. I think it can help somebody to understand your thought process a little bit as opposed to just that shotgun approach where, oh my gosh, this person is just applying for several different jobs.

So can I switch gears a little bit? Because we want to be able to stand out now as a candidate that secured an interview, right?

And so you've done that. You've passed an initial phone interview with Joaquin or Ali.

What are some other things that, you know, you expect a candidate to do from a preparation perspective in order to stand out?

And Ali, why don't you kick us off there?

Sounds good. I'm very upfront with candidates that I bring to the next stage that they should look into the product, try and use it as a product manager coming through being a reprocess.

I tell them I don't expect them to be experts, I don't expect them to know all the things about the product, right?

And that's what they need to do enough to form an opinion.

And I think that does help conversations with the interviewers on site.

I think that you have to kind of have that baseline, I think, to kind of get an interesting conversation going.

Otherwise, you spend a little too much of an interview on, like, informational topics as opposed to, like, learning from each other, teaching each other, and, like, getting to the crux of a good conversation that has some trade-offs in it.

Cool. Joaquin, how about you? Yeah, it's completely fine to ask about what languages the team uses.

This is from the engineering side, obviously. But, like, what you're going to be working on, I'd say the only caveat to that is you should lean on your success, right?

When you come in for code panels or any of that kind of stuff, if you're going to be writing code, you should lean on people and ask if that's okay.

In general, at least the way Cloudflare structures this and the way that we look at candidates is we try and find smart people that we feel like can do the job.

And so if you're not super familiar with Rust, but you feel like you have skill sets that would lend itself to that, and we can see that in there, then that helps a lot, too.

Where I've seen people really struggle on the interview is when they try and cater to the interviewer, and they're trying to do what they think the interviewer wants instead of being themselves and really showcasing their own strengths.

And that's ultimately the best you can do. That's the best you can present yourself as, right?

And so it's up to kind of the system and seeing if that will land you in the right spot.

And if it doesn't, then maybe it wasn't the right fit, and that's okay.

But even going in beforehand, just asking, what are the expectations?

What's the general format? Obviously, if you ask for the questions, they're probably not going to give you the questions or anything ahead of time, in terms of just setting yourself at ease and making sure that you're comfortable through the interview, too.

We're not big on high pressure or trying to trip you up or gotcha questions or any of that kind of stuff.

We just want to see how you think.

Yeah, and I think that, you know, that's from both of you, that's spot on.

And, you know, candidates should not be afraid, whether they're interfacing with a recruiter or a hiring manager, to ask for those questions that are going to properly set them up for the interview.

And the other thing that I would add on to there, too, is that the majority of us don't interview very often.

And just like anything else, practice makes perfect.

And it might sound or feel awkward to do so, but you got to look at an interview as being an audition.

And, you know, a lot of times you only have 30 minutes, 45 minutes, maybe even an hour, to really show somebody that you have the ability to create outcomes.

You have the ability to solve technical challenges that companies like Cloudflare are trying to solve.

And while you shouldn't come in so rehearsed that you're trying to memorize things, you should have some themes and some real-life examples to draw from, right?

Everybody's always going to ask about, tell me about yourself.

You know, tell me about an accomplishment you're most proud of.

You know, tell me about something that you're working on professionally.

You know, they might frame it in the old classic what are your weaknesses question, you know, what way of saying it.

But those are all kind of standard things that are going to help people to understand future performance.

And so just really preparing and practicing, I think, are things that will really set you up as well.

So before we kind of summarize, I wanted to see from Sherry if we had any live questions.

And it doesn't look like we do have any live questions.

But kind of coming back to what we discussed, let me see if I can pull this up for us real quickly.

Kind of summarizing, right?

Like you got to think about your marketability. Make sure you're researching the organization.

Look at the blogs. Look at any kind of videos.

YouTube is being a medium that people are using more and more. How can you leverage your network to help you?

Whether that's through, you know, practicing, reviewing your resume, making sure that there's no spelling errors, making sure that it's something that's clearly and comprehensively understandable.

And then also maintaining, you know, clear-cut communication throughout the process.

Don't be afraid to ask questions about what they can expect from you, what you can expect from them in terms of timelines.

Those are all things that we think that will really help you to separate yourself and stand out as a great candidate for an engineering or product role.

Awesome. Well, I think we're out of time.

And if we are still alive, thank you for joining another episode of Recruiting Corner at Cloudflare TV.

Thank you.