Have you Herd?

How we hire engineers

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Hear from our herd about what it’s like to work at one of the most successful U.S. insurtech companies, and best places to work – straight from The Zebra’s mouth! Ready to join? Check out our current job openings.

Since 2017, The Zebra Engineering team has been on a hot streak of hiring. We’ve been averaging 32% year-over-year growth and have essentially doubled the team every two years. To achieve this growth and hire the best engineers possible, we are constantly evaluating and improving our hiring process.

We know from experience the importance of intentionally building a diverse team that feels inclusive for all. We say "All Stripes Welcome" and put that into practice by valuing things like non-traditional backgrounds into Engineering and ensuring everyone has a voice and feels valued. Our team is passionate about working closely with peers to achieve our goals, learning and growing together and continuously delivering value to our customers. Below we share our inspiration for how and why we interview the way we do.

Eliminating Bias

Early this year we introduced resources to our hiring team around interviewing biases. Being aware of our biases is a good first step, but there are also organizational and individual ways to mitigate or minimize the effect of our biases. We created a structured and planned interview process that seeks to give every candidate an equitable evaluation.

Examples of how we are working to actively mitigate bias in our interview process:

  1. Create a structured, standardized interview process so every candidate is asked the same questions and assessed on the same core skills.
  2. Implement interview and unconscious bias training to everyone involved in the interview process.
  3. Create diverse interview panels containing people of different genders, ethnicities & seniority.
  4. Conduct pre- and post-interview roundtables so all interviewers have a voice and a vote. All feedback is submitted beforehand so that feedback is not biased by others.

Establishing Goals

We know that interviews are a two-way street. Candidates are evaluating us just as much as we are evaluating them. Our goals have to be two-sided: share with candidates what makes The Zebra an amazing place to work and fairly evaluate a candidate’s potential success here.

Goal 1: Deliver an amazing experience for the candidate

We want you to leave your interview wanting to work at The Zebra, even if we do not extend an offer. Our interviewers are trained and prepared; they will have reviewed your resume and have structured questions ready. Our recruitment team will set clear timelines, instructions and expectations throughout the process. We also provide every candidate with a customized “Interviewing at The Zebra Best Practices” document so everyone knows how to come best prepared.

Goal 2: Find the right candidates

Our team values those who have a strong sense of ownership, great communication and collaboration skills, a dedication to continuous learning and improvement, and who enjoy working together to solve problems. We don't require specific language experience, instead favoring those who have the potential to learn and grow independent of a particular technology stack.interview 2

 

Crafting the Process

We believe inclusive behavior starts with your first interactions with us. Before you even finish applying to one of our openings, we want you to know we care about who you are! Feel free to share your pronouns and how to best pronounce your preferred name. We are always adjusting our process to ensure it is the most effective and efficient, so the schedule may change for specific roles depending on the needs of the team.

Assessing Alignment

Our first phone calls with you are all about assessing alignment between what you're looking for and the role we have open. We want to dig a little deeper into your motivations for your next role and ensure that you have enough information to want to continue with us as well. Is our team the environment where you will be highly motivated to work diligently, continue to grow and achieve your potential?

In the past, we’ve used take-home coding assignments in order to assess your coding skills. We currently are not using assignments for most of our Engineering roles, so after speaking with the hiring manager the next step is our final interview panels.

Digging into details

We now conduct all final interviews fully remote for all candidates, regardless of location. The final panels have been coordinated and prepared by the recruiter and hiring manager to ensure that we cover a wide breadth of focus areas and skills. Your recruiter will communicate the focus areas ahead of time so you can properly prepare. Typically our panels will feature two interviewers and focus on either technical questions or behavioral questions, though all interviewers are assessing some level of ability, growth mindset and values alignment.

Technical panel

We know that technical portions of the interview can be stressful, especially in front of other people! Continuing the theme, we want to enable a good environment to evaluate how you learn and react to information. The format is essentially working together to solve a problem with you. Our most common premise is to talk through designing a system similar to ours, where information is fetched from several providers and displayed back to a user. There are no trick questions and no trivia. Our interviewers are trained to be collaborators with you, not interrogators. We want to see where your current skills are, but also evaluate if our team is where you can best continue to develop your skills.

Behavioral panel

The non-technical parts of our interviews focus primarily on past behaviors as the best predictor of future behavior. We want specific examples wherever possible, in order to dive deeper into the situation and the actions taken. The outcome of your actions, the impact you had and the things you learned are significant to us. We love hearing about embracing challenges, learning and growing from past mistakes, respecting and empathizing with your team, seeking feedback to improve, collaborating on problems and serving others.

Results of intentionality

We spent a lot of time on creating a process that will evaluate the things we care about. The third quarter of 2021 has shown us clear results: 20 new employees, double the number of any other quarter, which grew our Engineering team by 25%. Half of new hires in the second half of 2021 identify as female and 75% identify with a race other than White. Feedback from candidates are glowing:

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And intentionality doesn’t stop at hiring: we also work hard to craft inclusive, healthy and psychologically safe environments from day one across our entire organization.


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Jason KennedyVP, Engineering - Platform/Quality

Jason Kennedy has been with The Zebra since July 2016, joining a small development team at the time as an Engineer with experience in software consulting. Throughout his tenure and a variety of roles, Jason has spearheaded internal efforts to improve developer efficiency and work towards continuous delivery. Now, as Vice President of Engineering, overseeing the Platform and Quality engineering teams, he will support the scale The Zebra expects to see as they continue to grow.

As a member of The Zebra’s IDEA (Inclusion. Diversity. Equity. Action.) task force, Jason is also actively involved in creating more opportunities for community, equity, inclusion and belonging at The Zebra, including earning his certification in inclusive recruiting tool, Textio. 

Outside of work, Jason is a committee member for Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, a leading non-profit organization focused on curing Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. 

Jason graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife Cassidy and their adorable French Bulldog, Margot.