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Referral Talks

Interview: Amandeep Shergil, Automattic

Nasser Oudjidane
December 19, 2022

The way we work and hire talent has changed dramatically in the past two years, and Automattic – the company behind, WooCommerce, Jetpack and more – are at the forefront of this workplace revolution.

In our latest Scaling Stories podcast, we were honoured to catch up with Amandeep Shergil, director of tech recruiting at Automattic, to discuss some of the seismic changes that are shaping the way we source talent today.

Listen to our conversation with Amandeep

Automattic is a distributed company, with staff in many different physical locations (95 countries to be precise). The company employs almost 2,000 people who speak 119 different languages. Isn’t this a remote working model? 

“We don’t like the word ‘remote’,” Amandeep says. “Distributed working is kind of the next level from remote working.”

What’s the difference? Amandeep defines remote work as “when a company allows people to work from wherever they want, but they still have a base”, often with “geographical core hours”. In contrast, distributed work is “truly spread”.

“We could have a team spread across 10 or 12 time zones,” Amandeep explains. “It is a very, very different way of working because it could be a team of two, or it could be a team of 100 people split into squads or organised in their own way.”

Hiring talent for a distributed model no doubt comes with its own set of challenges. Amandeep’s main area of focus is technical recruiting, and this involves scouring the world, particularly outside of North America, to find talented PHP and Javascript engineers, among other roles.

“It’s actually a really, really exciting way for us to be able to address the market,” Amandeep says. “We’re tapping into this talent that isn’t being leveraged by anyone else.”

In order to find this talent, Automattic typically veers away from LinkedIn. “We’re leveraging tools”, Amandeep says, and cites the use of CRM and an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) among the ways Automattic builds its global talent pipeline.

This forward-thinking approach to talent spotting also extends to the assessment stage in the candidate cycle. For example, the company has implemented a “no interview experiment” at the start of the recruitment process; instead, engineering candidates undertake a code test as the first step. Candidates also get to spend time with other Automattic engineers, and engineer candidates, during the application process. “We want to make sure we’re giving our candidates a great experience,” Amandeep says.

Once a successful candidate is on-boarded at Automattic, they experience what a truly distributed working arrangement looks like. In practice, this means Automattic’s team aren’t required to always be online at the same time, and they often communicate across Slack and an internal blogging system.

It was a fascinating and in-depth discussion with Amandeep, and to hear more, you can listen to the podcast or read the full interview transcript.

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