Recruiting Corner: How to Prepare for an Interview at Cloudflare
The EMEA Recruiting team will discuss their observations and tips for preparing yourself for an interview at Cloudflare.
Welcome, thank you for tuning in to Cloudflare TV. This is the Recruiting Corner with the EMEA Recruiting Team.
My name is Lee Sam. I'm part of the team. I've been with Cloudflare just over two years and we're going to talk you through how to prep for an interview.
But first let's introduce ourselves. Anna. Hi everyone, I'm Anna and I'm part of this team since about over a year now, based in London and supporting different functions across EMEA, including sales, engineering, customer support in different locations.
Lovely. Akif. Hi everyone, welcome to our Recruiting Corner.
I'm Akif. I've been here for coming up to three months now and focusing on sales hiring.
Sweet. And last but not least, Isabel. Hi everyone and welcome.
I'm Isabel. I also joined Cloudflare for about three months ago, almost.
I'm based in Lisbon and I'm supporting several teams, mainly in Lisbon.
Lovely. So that's us. Hopefully if you are watching live, if you do have any questions that you'd like to submit to us about, you know, interviewing at Cloudflare, do feel free to do so.
But we've got a few things that we're going to share with you over the next 30 minutes.
So without further ado, let's go straight into it.
So the first thing we want to cover is what prep do we give candidates? So one of the great things about interviewing at Cloudflare that I've observed as a recruiter is that we actually proactively give candidates a lot of prep before their interviews to help them do well and go into their interviews well prepared.
So Anna, obviously you cover quite, you recruit for quite a few areas across the EMEA region.
What's some of the key points that you give to your candidates before their interviews?
I think the most important part is really to do their or your homework on the company, the product portfolio.
This will always be important, no matter which role you're interviewing for, because at the end of the day, you'll be working with the product portfolio to some extent in any role.
That's one point, but also to be very clear on your motivation and why you're looking to join Cloudflare specifically.
So I always recommend to research a little bit more, but also to find touch points of what connects you with the company, whether it is projects we work on or maybe something else, because any interviewer in the process will probably ask you about your interest and motivation.
Now, specifically for instance, sales roles, key is also not only the product, but also for instance, the value proposition of a product.
And then things like, okay, what will make you successful?
I recommend candidates to, for instance, prepare a 30, 60, 90 day plan that will make them successful not only in their first quarter, but also beyond the first quarter.
But also have a good understanding of their potentially go-to -market strategy, as well as understanding of the competitor landscape Cloudflare is in.
So those are a few points. And then one thing that really isn't harmful is to always look up folks you'll be speaking to.
I know sometimes it may seem a little bit awkward to look up the interviewer on LinkedIn, but it will definitely be helpful for you to be also able to prepare questions to the interviewers to get a good understanding of the environment and potentially folks you'll be working in, in the future.
So those are a few of the areas I'd like to cover.
Yeah. And you mentioned the 30, 60, 90 day plan. I'm guessing that's obviously quite specific to sales candidates, right?
For sure. But I also do think for instance, for technical roles, like we do recruit for customer support teams as well.
And sometimes some of the technical expertise will be taught within the first couple of weeks.
So it's still very important to have a good understanding of, okay, how will I manage my day effectively in the first couple of weeks or months in order to ramp up with the knowledge required for me to be successful in the role.
So it will definitely help you to showcase to an interviewer that you're willing to learn maybe the areas you're not experienced in at the moment.
So I think it can be extended to other roles and positions as well folks are interviewing for.
And can you remember off the top of your head, you've been with Cloudflare just over a year now, can you remember any particular examples of, you don't have to name the candidate, but an instance where a candidate aced their interviews, they were super prepared, they aced their interviews and they came in really, really well prepped.
Yeah, so definitely. So actually just a very interesting example, and that goes back to sales as well, is we had a candidate that actually prepared a presentation to really showcase their go -to-market strategy, but also to showcase what their plan is.
So not only by talking, but to showcase, okay, this will be my plan for the first couple of 30 days, this will be my plan for 60 days and 90 days.
And this actually really impressed the interviewer because they've been able to see that the candidate did their homework and really spent time preparing.
And they've seen that someone put a lot of thoughts into it and seen that the candidate is able to understand the competitor landscape, the value proposition and the product portfolio they will be working with.
Yeah. And just to echo that, I think we have a lot of companies and we're all recruiters, so we probably know this.
We have a lot of companies, it's expected that candidates will do a bit of research before your interview, but I think we really put a lot of emphasis on doing your homework part here at Cloudflare because we want to hire people who really want to work here.
And I think I remember seeing a stat that we only actually end up hiring 1% of the people who apply to our role.
So when companies say they have a high bar, we really do have a high bar.
And so the way you can really differentiate yourself is by showing your enthusiasm for really wanting the job and really being interested in what we do by really investing time in doing your homework.
So yeah, those points you make there are definitely very, very valid, Anna.
So next point we wanted to kind of cover was common interview questions.
So Akef, what are some kind of common questions that you've seen candidates asked in interviews by your hiring managers that maybe candidates can think about in advance and prepare some good answers for?
Yeah, absolutely. And I think some of this goes back to what Anna was talking about as well.
So really do your homework on the company and who you're applying and who you're speaking to because a common question that we're going to ask you is why Cloudflare?
So get an understanding of what we do and don't just go onto a website and when you get asked that question, sometimes you'll actually get candidates that will read what's on the website word for word.
We can tell that, right? So get some understanding and some gravitas behind the research that you've done.
Also, why are you looking? I think that's a really common one.
So be prepared to talk about kind of your motivations, reasons why you're looking.
You've got to talk about kind of like your gaps in your CV because that's something that will certainly come up in an interview.
So having the information to talk about in a positive way regardless of what the situation was and if you had an awkward exit from a previous company, I think just be prepared to talk about it in a positive way.
Take your learnings in what you've got from every single company and communicate that in a positive way to kind of really justify the gaps and the transitions that you've had.
And I think those are the main ones and to really, I suppose, understand why you're actually looking, why you're really interested in working for us.
Because again, you talked about it as well Lee, like we love to speak to candidates and to interview candidates who are passionate about joining our company.
And you mentioned why Cloudflare.
Why does that question matter so much and what would you say an interviewer is actually looking for a candidate to say in response to that question?
Yeah, good question. So when someone says why Cloudflare, we want to hear, okay, look, these are the reasons that we can see that you've grown.
So do some research about our growth, about our kind of success, our journey that we've had in the last couple of years that we went public last year, for example.
So maybe talk about that and say, look, I can see that you've gone public.
I know that the company is doing exceptionally well.
Talk about the current situation maybe and talk about how our value proposition is going to help you be successful at what you're going to do.
So for me, I'm a sales recruiter, right? So I'm speaking to sales candidates.
So if you start telling me about, okay, look, this is why I think your product set is fantastic and working with customers in this particular sector is going to really kind of help them with the solution that you have.
So a nice kind of in-depth answer and really kind of a showcase on why you want to work for us, really.
Yeah. And Isabel, I mean, obviously you've been focusing a lot on all of our roles across Lisbon for us.
Are there any kind of differences that you've observed in questions that some of your hiring managers and interviewers ask candidates that maybe a candidate might want to know in advance to prepare for?
I think that in the end of the day, most of the questions are common.
So, so far the major difference that I see is for candidates who are thinking in relocating to Lisbon.
They, of course, can expect why do you want to relocate? And that's something very important to consider.
So, and regardless you are, it's Lisbon or any other wells in the world.
So if you are thinking, if you are from another, if you are applying for another country that not the one you are currently living in, prepare for that question.
It's obvious that they're going to make you. So it's important to show that you are prepared for that, that you already did some research, that you know the country that you are applying for, that you are just not sending a CV just for, for sending.
So it's a question that you need to be prepared to, to answer every time.
And if you can show on a first stage that you did some research, that you know the city, that you already search a bit about average salaries, about cost of living, about some things that are different from your current reality that made you want to move.
That of course would be valuable. And it gives extra confidence to the person who are interviewing you that you are in fact committed with this.
So that's of course a point to consider. Besides that, I think there are of course other questions that's, that are common.
I think that it's never enough to, to, to keep referring why you are applying to this company, why you are applying to this position.
So be prepared for, for that. And it gives you the perfect opportunity to show your motivation.
So if someone asks you why you are applying for this company, for this position, or why did you apply at all?
Or why are you considering? This gives you the perfect opportunity to start showing your, your motivation and why, and that you did some, some homework that you actually search for, for the company.
Another few things that I think it's important to be prepared is for questions more related with what are you looking for in a team?
What are you looking for in a manager and what type of environment you are looking for?
It's not something that all people ask, but sometimes they do.
And it's always important to be prepared for that, even to manage expectations for both sides, because in the end of the day, you might be applying for something who has a culture or a team or a manager that it's not aligned with what you are looking for.
So it's always a win-win situation to be prepared for this.
Absolutely. Great, great overview. And I think those pointers from you plus, plus Kev should hopefully give people a really good insight into what they can expect.
So next thing we want to cover is competency-based questions.
So, you know, what's a competency-based question? What's a good way to answer them?
So Kev, I mean, for those who might not be, you know, familiar with a competency-based question, how would you kind of explain what they are?
So a competency question is designed to bring out behaviors, to bring out an understanding of how you deal with certain things and processes that eventually lead to positive outcomes.
So it's, it's picking out specific examples in which you've had to manage certain, certain things, right?
So what it is kind of also designed to do is pick out your behaviors and how you usually manage, say, confrontation, how you manage tough situations, how you have to kind of go above and beyond to get to certain outcomes as well.
So I think that it's a great way for any company to really pick out like proper kind of positive traits in a candidate, as opposed to just going through your CV.
And especially again, like I'm going to make it more specific to sales hiring, right?
So it's really kind of, it really does help us understand some of the complexities that you've had to manage.
Yeah. And so the, when our colleagues in SF were covered this topic, I think it was last week, they talked about the STAR technique, the STAR method for answering competency-based questions.
Hopefully you can remember what STAR stands for.
I won't put you on the spot, but I've got it. I've opened Google just in case.
But can you, can you remember or? Yeah, yeah, yeah, definitely. So situation, task, action, result.
All right. Right. So just to give a very quick overview in why STAR is such a good technique to use when answering the competency style question, like if you don't have a structure to your answers or to how you're going to answer something, usually you'll walk away from that and you'll think, oh, I forgot to say this.
And I forgot to talk about this topic in this whole story or scenario.
So the STAR technique is, it really does help you cover off every single point to make sure that you're providing a whole picture.
So, so say if somebody is in an interview, be it a sales engineer, a sales interview or an engineering interview, they can use this STAR technique to answer the competency-based question and make sure they've covered all their bases.
Is that it?
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. Okay. All right. So we obviously talked about this earlier, so I'm not catching you off guard here, but what I thought it would be cool is if, if I could ask you a competency-based interview question, and then you could use the STAR method to answer, to kind of give the viewers a taste or a feel for what it's like, you know, getting an competency -based question and answering it using the STAR method.
So, so Kev, let's say you are a sales candidate, and I'm interviewing you for an account executive role.
And I'm going to ask you a competency-based question.
Can you give me an example of a time where you, where you missed your, your target, your sales target?
So there was, let's say that there was a time last, the end of quarter in 2019, where I missed my target by say, $10,000.
A lot of money. A lot of money. By looking in the grand scheme of my, my entire quote, and yeah, it was, it was a small, small miss, shall we say.
But so that was the, that was the time in, in, in which I missed my target.
So I had to really kind of step back and think about kind of what certain factors that were the kind of end result that, that proves to me missing target.
And the, I think what I needed to do is kind of assess my pipeline, realize that I probably didn't have enough opportunities at the top end of the funnel.
So what I really needed to do in the following quarter to make sure that I overcame this, and that I had a good solid pipeline is to, A, partner with my internal teams, with, with my lead generation teams, with channel partners as well, identify opportunities from different channels.
But also I wanted to dedicate more time to, to kind of put in more prospecting and outbound and campaigning myself.
So I had kind of full ownership on my pipeline. Now, I think that, that specific kind of task that I set myself and those actions that I wanted to kind of take into consideration really helped me towards securing a really good solid Q1.
I was able to kind of split it up into success from opportunities from partner, some opportunities through my own kind of outbound activities, and able to get just over 100%.
So all in all a positive outcome. All right. So, so just recapping there.
So, so Kev has just used the STAR method to ask, answer a question, a competency based question, where he was asked to give an example of a time where he missed his sales target.
So he used the STAR technique to give the situation, to talk about the task, i.e., you know, what, what he did about it, the action, i.e., what, what actions did he take to remedy the situation and then result?
What was the, you know, what was the result of him taking those actions?
And it didn't take too long.
He didn't have to go off on a huge, massive tangent. I think what you took, what, a couple minutes to answer that question, which, which is all you really need.
And that means that you've answered the question thoroughly, you've covered all your bases and you've kept it nice and concise.
And that's it really. That's, that's, that's competency based questions and that's how to best answer them.
Isabel, do you know if you, do you, have you noticed whether your teams have used many competency based questions in the engineering team?
I know that they're obviously a lot more technical, but do you find that some of your hiring managers or interviewers use them at all?
Usually on the, on the tech side, interviews tend to be more focused on the technical side.
Still, some hiring managers would like to do it, especially on the first call.
So if you have a first interview with a hiring manager or someone else, it might happen.
Okay. Because we are talking about not so tech based interviews.
So that can happen sometimes. So I think it's always important to be prepared for these types of interviews, even on tech stages, although it usually doesn't happen.
It doesn't hurt to be prepared in the end of the day, because someone might have a doubt.
Imagine that you are in the process and close to final stages, someone remembered that they didn't access one competency, one competency.
They maybe do some type of questions that allows to assess that.
So, so also it's always important to be prepared. Yeah. Okay. And Anna, I mean, again, I come back to you because you've, you've covered recruiting for probably, I'd say 98% of the teams in EMEA.
Which teams would you say you've noticed use competency-based questions quite a lot in their interview processes?
Coming back, it's definitely customer support to a big extent, especially dealing with customers or working with customers, but also I would say, generally speaking, client facing teams, whether it's customer support or sales.
Those are usually the teams that are using competency-based questions from my perspective, I believe.
Great. Cool. Okay. I don't know.
Go on. Should we, should we ask the question now or should we wait till the end?
Let's, let's cover off our last point and then we will leave a few minutes for questions.
So our last, our last section is really about common mistakes to avoid.
So, you know, Anna, since I'm on you, what are your thoughts? Like, have you noticed in reviewing interview feedback, have you noticed some recurring themes, you know, of easy mistakes that candidates make that could be easily avoided?
Yeah, there is some sort of pattern I've seen every now and then, and hence I've started including this in my prep as well.
But generally speaking, it's usually for, or maybe to take a step back, what we sometimes do is mock calls or mock meetings or mock QBRs, as well as in some interviews we talk about or try to evaluate technical expertise or knowledge of a candidate.
So some of the common themes I've seen is that sometimes candidates like to impress and maybe come up with answers that are not right.
So sometimes it's maybe better to share that the knowledge does not exist or maybe to ask a question back to try to ask the interviewer to rephrase it instead of answering with a question that is made up.
And it's, that can happen because I do think we cover technical questions in most of our interviews, but sometimes those technical questions are really just to evaluate the level of expertise and the level of knowledge.
So it's less of a right or wrong, it's more to get an understanding.
So folks shouldn't be afraid of like saying, okay, I don't know the answer right now, but I will take a step back and learn or research and come back at a later stage.
Got it. Lovely. Thanks, Anna.
So we've got five minutes left. So let's use this to answer any questions that we might have come through.
I think Anna, you were saying that we did have one question.
Yeah, there was one coming through from Jess actually. She's mentioned, thanks Jess for watching actually.
She's enjoying our live session and her question was, or she wanted to find out and hear our thoughts about internal promotions and how best to prepare for it.
How should it be different from external job seeking?
Yeah, great question, Jess. So my opinion is that internal candidates, if they're interviewing for a role, treat it as if you're an external candidate.
Don't take it for granted that you're internal, you already work for Cloudflare, so you're just going to have a couple of conversations and then be given the job.
That definitely won't happen. In fact, I would say again, from being in the position that we are as recruiters, we get to see all interview feedback on every single role and every single candidate.
I would say in many cases where internal people have interviewed for roles, in many cases they got those promotions or those moves because they went into those interviews very well prepared.
They treated it as it was a proper interview. In some cases, they went in with their slide decks or their 30, 60, 90 day plans as Anna referenced earlier.
If you treat the interview seriously, that will be noticed by the panel that interview you and it will work in your favor, even if you're interviewing for a role that you're not 100% qualified for.
The fact that you go in and you show you've done your research, you've done your homework, you understand your gaps in your own experience, and you address how you're going to overcome those development points, that will go a long, long way.
Anything anybody wants to add on that?
I think that's it. I think that in the end of the day, the most important thing to consider is just because you might think you have an advantage, it doesn't mean that you will have the job for sure.
Preparation is important in every stage, in every situation, so it's always on the base of everything.
Great stuff. Just to recap, because I think we've just got a couple minutes left, we've covered what prep we give candidates.
Anna here basically gave an overview of some of the prep points that she gives her candidates, as did Isabel.
We also talked about some common interview questions, so Akef gave some high-level points on this.
We also looked at competency-based questions, what they are, how to structure your answer using the STAR method.
And then we wrapped up with some common mistakes to avoid during the interview process.
So we are just about out of time, but it was a quick 30 minutes, which I promised.
I told you, Anna, the time would go quick, didn't I? The US team, for those watching, our colleagues in the US did this session last week, and they actually did an hour, so we basically tried to cover as much as we could in just half an hour.
Hopefully, everybody's found the session useful. If you did have any questions that you didn't get a chance to submit, all four of us are on LinkedIn, so feel free to reach out to us, and we will be back in a couple of weeks' time for our next segment.