Trying Hirelite

Tonight I tried Hirelite, and I really think they're on to something. They arrange online software developer interview speed-dating-style events where N companies and N software developers each sit in in front of their own webcams and are connected together for live video chats five minutes at a time. It's like chatroulette with more hiring talk and less genitalia.

They pre-screen the developers to make sure they're at least able to solve a simple programming problem and screen the companies by charging them a little money. Each session has a theme, like "backend developers", and a geographic region associated with it. After each five minute interview -- there's a countdown timer at the top -- each party indicates with a click whether or not they'd like to talk further. Mutual matches get one another's contact information immediately afterward.


I've only tried Hirelite once, which was only nine interviews, but from my limited experience here are some of my observations:

  • No one is ready for an interview-like talk that lasts only five minutes. One party or another launches into a sales pitch and uses up two or three minutes right off the bat, leaving little time for a more bidirectional exchange.
  • When it's clearly a bad skills/interests match, five minutes is still easy to fill. If two people can't find something, anything to talk about for five minutes something is wrong with one or both of them.
  • With only five minutes it's less like an interview, or even a phone pre-screen, and more like a hand-delivery of a resume.
  • Race and gender aren't always knowable from a resume, but they immediately are when a video chat happens this early in the process. Conceivably there could be some EoE considerations there, be they concious or not.
  • The novelty of what everyone is doing was enough to keep things light. One of my interviews started with an interviewer holding up a sheet of paper that said "USE TEXT CHAT" where he explained his mic wasn't working. How everyone dealt with the technical glitches is probably as good an indicator of personality as anything else -- I did an entire exchange using text-chat and pantomime.

Tips for Participants

Again, I've only done this once, but here are some tips I intend to employ if I try this again:

  • Make sure to wear headphones -- without them you'll echo.
  • If you're using a laptop have an external keyboard plugged in -- you don't want to have to hunch forward to use the one on your laptop if it comes to text chat.
  • Interviewees: Make sure to include a resume link in your pre-interview profile. Most interviewers had looked at mine, and the rest did so during the chat.
  • Check your lighting before starting. I looked like I was sitting in a cave.

Technical Issues

I'm sufficiently enamored with the system that the technical glitches were more funny than they were frustrating, but I could easily see someone else feeling otherwise. Here's what I encountered.

Before the session began I followed Hirelite's advice to test my "video and audio" with their test interview link. My camera worked fine -- I could see myself -- but I couldn't hear myself on audio. I spoke to Hirelite about that, and it turns out you're not supposed to hear yourself during the test -- there is no test for audio.

I tried both Google Chrome on Linux and Firefox on Linux with the test, and both worked. It wasn't until my audio stopped working well during an interview that I realized the text chat wasn't working in Chrome -- the text entry box was cutoff on my small netbook screen. A quick switch to Firefox got that going.

The most persistent technical problem I had was the lagging of my outbound audio. I could generally see and hear the interviewer with little lag and in synch, and my interviewer and I could both see my video unlagged, but my audio was delayed by about 40 seconds starting about the sixth interview. This made speaking all but impossible.

My internet connection speed just tested out at 14Mbps downstream and 5Mbps upstream which is more than sufficient for small video and low bitrate audio, so I don't think the problems were with my bandwidth. What's more, since Hirelite is built in Flash (who does that this decade?!) likely using RTFMP (I'm kicking myself for not running Wireshark during the session) audio and video are multiplexed in the same packet stream -- so any de-synch-ing of the two is almost certainly a software problem not a network problem.

When things were glitching I was often able to improve them temporarily by reloading the page. This kills off the Flash component and reloads it, which brought the lag down for awhile. The Hirelite system was able to re-connect me to my in-progress session with nary a hiccup, which is a nice touch. I was afraid it would automatically move me to the next interviewer.

All in all a great idea. StackExchange should buy Hirelite using some the 12 million they just raised, hopefully some of the money from their snack room.