In October last year I landed a job at Trilogy Enterprises which hires solely via Crossover. I was thinking about writing an article on my experiences regarding Crossover hiring process ever since, so finally here we go.
A bit of history
Actually it was my third try to land a job via Crossover – XO for short as it’s coined internally. The very first time I applied to Software Engineering Manager (SEM) role back in 2015. At that time I became very interested in remote work. I got the offer but the hiring manager decided I’m not good enough. The offer was for the grade directly below the SEM role I aimed for. That wasn’t compelling much, so I declined it. The next year (2016) I learnt about Toptal. It was similarly hard to pass the screening but I onboarded there. I have been partnering with Toptal ever since and never looked at XO again.
Early last year XO got on my radar again via Linkedin ads. I became interested in DevFactory subsidiary and their approach to technical product management (TPM devision). My current engagements weren’t challenging enough, I sat for too long in my comfort zone already, so taking a leap forward looked exciting. I landed the final interview for a VP role but hiring manager wasn’t convinced in my AWS expertise and rejected me suggesting I’d get the certification and try again in 6 months – a cooldown failed applicant should wait before trying again. That was frustrating especially since a cert was something to find out early in the Crossover hiring process. Nevertheless I got a challenge to tackle – get certified by AWS. I worked almost solely with AWS, so it made sense from the career perspective anyway.
With AWS Certified Solutions Architect at Professional level certification under my belt I did another try and finally managed to land a job in Trilogy Engineering.
What to expect
XO has mostly automated hiring pipelines, so you won’t be able to talk to anybody besides candidate area support desk ppl until very late stage. That may be frustrating and requires significant upfront time investment to get through all the tests. The reasoning behind is simple – unbiased hiring decisions & plunged costs per candidate. XO aims to fan out far and reject most of applicants, so that makes sense. There are 2 categories of tests – generic & role specific.
Generic Crossover hiring process
For engineering and software arch & design roles generic tests are:
- Cognitive Aptitude: this measures the ability to problem solve, use new information, and think critically. Test measures ability using 3 different types of questions: verbal, math and logic, and spatial reasoning. You have to answer 50 questions in 15 minutes, i.e. have 18 seconds for every question on average. Questions aren’t hard overall but you typically have to get 35-40 correct answers for most roles and time pressure is extreme. No penalty for wrong answers, though, so using guessing as the fallback strategy is totally fine. Nothing is allowed except pen & paper. For me that was the hardest test.
- Spoken English Proficiency: assesses the verbal level of English using A.I. Asks candidates to repeat sentences or phrases that they’ve just heard, in increasing order of length and difficulty. Teams are spread across the world, so English is the common denominator when it comes to communication. No surprise since the company origin is the USA. With my amount of speaking practice that wasn’t hard but still challenging.
- Writing Code – Data Structures & Algorithms: measures code-writing and problem-solving skills as well as the ability to produce clean code at reasonable speed using 4 hands-on coding assignments of increasing difficulty. It was backed up by CodeSignal when I took it, so it was possible to choose from a wide range of programming languages (20+) to solve each task. For a seasoned developer this shouldn’t be a problem overall but getting top level score is a real challenge.
Results of generic tests
For each test passed you’ll get a skill badge on your profile in the candidate area. A badge contains star rating (number of stars out of 5-7 max) to grasp the grade easily and detailed description of the score. The good thing about badges is that you reuse them, i.e. once you achieved one you can reuse it for other roles which require the same badge without taking the test again.
Role-specific Crossover hiring pipeline part
If you managed to get past all that there’s more! Now you should take typically a couple more tests specific for the role you applied to. Devs will get coding tasks, QA guys something to test etc. The good part is these assessments imitate some real work you’re going to do. That allows to get a taste of the work and decide if you like it right away before you invest more time. Typically you’ll be able to see examples of what is considered to be a high-quality work and maybe even bad examples – that helps drive own approach.
Future colleagues assess the work you did in anonymized way to address possible biases and give it a score. If score is above the bar – yay, you passed to the next stage. If not there’s no second chance – XO rejects you immediately =\ You can’t apply for the same role for the next 6 months BUT you can apply to other roles. And there’s no way to get actual feedback on a failed assessment since that makes XO “vulnerable to oracle attack” – ppl can cooperate to figure out how to address particular assessment.
With the all upfront investment in tests interviews (you may even have to take a couple!) should be smooth. It’s an opportunity to finally ask everything you want to know and get to know future colleagues. Since work is remote meetings are also remote typically via Zoom. Hiring managers provide you with their availability schedule, so you can pick a mutually convenient time frame.
Did getting through Crossover Hiring Process worth it?
For me definitely but I think in general as accomplished IT/CS guys love to say it depends =)
Not everybody is ready to spend so much time on tests. Many ppl want to meet the hiring manager right away. XO is definitely not for everyone even if they have skills to tackle the hiring pipeline. The company has specific culture and stands out by a lot of things – consider the publicly available pay grades alone, that’s something companies usually hide to have more flexibility in who is paid what even for the same grade.
What I can say for sure is that you never know before you try. Whatever your impression is before trying something out it may be completely off while you’re quite sure it’s accurate. There’s no better way than to just try and then figure out if it’s worth it or not. So dare!