Working in software engineering, Aline Lerner saw firms overlook promising candidates who didn’t have fancy schools or top companies on their resumes. Her company, Interviewing.io, helps them get a foot in the door.
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4 min read
This story originally appeared on PC Mag
Ivy League degrees and stints at top firms don’t necessarily impress Aline Lerner.
Lerner, the co-founder and CEO of Interviewing.io, started her company after becoming frustrated by the lack of a meritocracy in software engineering. Resumes don’t tell the whole story, she found, and more candidates deserve a shot at the interview table.
Just look at Lerner’s own path. After studying brain and cognitive sciences at MIT, she decided to become a chef. “After spending some time in professional kitchens, I got exposed to how hiring in those kitchens happens, and it’s very, very different from what you might expect,” she says. “It’s extremely meritocratic. Basically, you come in in the morning with your knives, and then they teach you how to do the dishes that you’re responsible for. They also watch you chop stuff and watch you multitask, and if at the end of the night you did a good job, they hire you.”
When Lerner returned to software engineering, she soon realized it was nothing like working in a kitchen. “It wasn’t meritocratic at all,” she says. Companies fixated on where people had gone to school, or where they had worked previously, instead of what they could actually do.
This annoyed Lerner so much that after four years working as the first female software developer at her company, she went into recruiting and eventually founded Interviewing.io, which allows people to anonymously practice their technical interview skills with senior engineers from companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and more.
“Our goal is to make hiring fair and more about what you can do than how you look on paper,” Lerner says.
How They Do It
First are mock interviews, which are a bit more academic than the work software engineers do every day. If people do well in the practice interviews, they unlock interviews with real companies, bypassing the resume review altogether.
“Let’s say you want to interview at Twitter,” Lerner says. “You can do that as early as tomorrow if you’re one of our top performers, even if you didn’t go to a top school and even if your resume doesn’t look very good. No one’s going to look at it.”
Forty percent of Interviewing.io’s top performers are nontraditional, meaning they took an alternate route to get to software engineering. Many have been rejected by a company only to be hired by the same firm after rigorous interview prep with Interviewing.io, Lerner says.
On Imposter Syndrome and Hiring Internally
Lerner is proud of the work she does, but she still struggles with an issue many women in tech face: imposter syndrome, or feeling like a fraud.
“I don’t think it ever really goes away.” she says. “What helps is one, being so busy that you don’t have time to doubt yourself. And two is repetition and proving to yourself and others that you belong. There’s no shortcut, I think.”
Lerner saw a lack of gender diversity in her time at MIT and while working at companies like TrialPay and Clicktime.com. Now that she’s CEO of her own company, she gets to set the culture for 10 employees and hundreds of contractors.
One of the things she’s most proud of is hiring internally. “I just don’t look at resumes,” Lerner says. “Until it comes up in conversation much later, I generally don’t know what school my employees have attended. We try to interview people based on their ability, and try to make interviews very practical.”