Drupal community member interviews with Acquia. You won't believe what happens next!

23 comments
With apologies to webchick for ripping her brilliant headline ;-)

The background:

At the end of 2013 I started to think about where I currently am work-wise, and what I enjoy and want to do with myself now. My drupal-based startup Hello Pretty has been growing at a fantastic rate, and is also self sustaining enough now that I can step away without harming it. We've built it with an ideal of keeping things technically as simple as possible and rather focusing our money & energy on marketing.

In my job at NowPublic I managed the dev team (rather than doing any programming myself. After 20 years of it I've started to get a bit bored). I loved that job and decided that I'd like to get back into that.

In January I began the process of looking for jobs. This would most likely have meant leaving our beautiful home in Cape Town and moving to where the work was. So it was no small decision for Sam and I.

At the end of February two very cool companies for positions I hadn't applied to contacted me two days apart, both through word-of-mouth references from people I've worked with previously. After a handful of rejections in the process already, I was ecstatic. One was in one of my favourite cities in the world, Vancouver :), and the other - Acquia - I've followed since day one of it's existence and have several friends and former colleagues who work there.

After chatting to the company in Vancouver a couple of times, they were quite keen and waiting to hear back on where I stood.

As I write this I keep thinking back to one of my favourite quotes and wondering why I didn't heed this advice sooner. It refers to a person's character or nature, and that how they handle anything small or 'unimportant' most likely reflects how they handle everything big or important.

How you do anything is how you do everything

 

My Acquia Story

 

Note: I don't blame any individual for my experience, but rather a culture within the company. Any names of the people who I spoke to have been changed.

Week 1

Matt from Acquia and I chatted on Skype video for about an hour. He was the person most involved in hiring me, and making a final call. We discussed my skills and qualifications, my salary expectations, and the fact that I had another company waiting for a response from me. He was keen to chat more and would try to keep the process quick so that I didn't have to keep the Vancouver company waiting long. He asked whether I'd be ok to have interviews over the next week. I agreed and said I'd explain the situation to the other company. After those were done there'd still be the meetings with the CEO and CTO of Acquia. He couldn't promise that it would be easy to schedule with them, so there could be additional delays.

This was on Wednesday morning Boston-time.

Week 2

By the following Monday at mid day, 6 days later, I still hadn't heard from them and assumed that he'd changed his mind. Not a big deal. But then, a recruiter from Acquia finally emailed me to schedule some interviews. Yay!

I sent back my schedule and... nothing. I understood from friends that Acquia usually want a few interviews, and the week was quickly coming to an end.

I followed up with the recruiter explaining that there was some urgency and that I didn't want to keep the Vancouver company waiting - I'd already put them off for a full week at this point. In the interest of expediting the process I offered to rearrange my own schedule or meet at short notice. I also asked for a sense of Acquia's timeline.

The recruiter promptly responded by setting up 4 interviews over the next two days. Three of them after 8pm my time, and one of them scheduled from 11:30pm to 12:30am. Ok, I figured, people are busy, and if this was going to get things done sooner, then great. Besides, this would give me bragging rights for having had a job interview at midnight.

After those 4 interviews I was asked to review the product I'd be working with to provide feedback, suggestions, etc. which I did over the weekend. I spent a few hours figuring it out, and working on my review. Obviously I wanted to impress, and the feedback I got from them (on my feedback) was very positive. I was actually really impressed with what I saw. Acquia is doing a lot of very cool stuff that I'd had no idea about.

Week 3

I had now kept the company in Vancouver waiting considerably longer than I'd told them I would. I hate keeping people waiting, in any context, and if I tell someone I'm going to do anything by a certain date or time it's important to me to stick to it. That goes for work and personal commitments.

On Monday (day 13) I'd again had no word. I followed up on Tuesday. "Interviews would be scheduled shortly". Matt asked if it would be ok to do this on very short notice and how late I could meet. Keen to wrap things up, I agreed to meet at any time.

After those next two interviews, radio silence. Matt said he'd "touch base to follow up with next steps". And then more radio silence. Two days later he got back to me to say he was having the recruiter set up more interviews. And sure enough, on Friday that week the recruiter mailed me to arrange a few more interviews.

This was when I started feeling demoralized. Why had they only scheduled two interviews in the entire week when I'd made my schedule completely open to them? Why did they continue to schedule interviews after 8pm for me (that's after 2pm Boston-time) if they were only going to schedule two or three in a week? I knew there was one other candidate, I had no idea where I stood, and it was never communicated to me how many more interviews there might be. I'd made my schedule very flexible for Acquia, and I'd pushed back my other job to the point where I was being straight-up disrespectful to them.

I decided to get back to the guys in Vancouver and figure out next-steps with them.

I've interviewed for jobs in the past, and I've interviewed people for jobs. I'm quite familiar with the "normal" process from both ends. Never had I been involved in, or even heard of, had such a long, stretched out and uncomfortably bureaucratic process. I hardly expected it from a company who claims to want to move quickly, and one who I hadn't applied to, but had actually approached me in the first instance. This is a company whose CEO subscribes to a philosophy of Ready, Fire, Aim. I'm of the opinion that, if you can't make a decision after 4 interviews... DO NOT HIRE. It's a sign that something's wrong, maybe just a gut feeling, but something worth listening to. I'd had 7 interviews by now, with 3 more scheduled for the following week.

I began seriously questioning whether I could work for a company with such bureaucratic, non-transparent and slow processes. Was this how things operate internally too? It was hard for me to believe that they could have a hiring process like this and still function acceptably within the rest of the company. But, I have a lot of friends who work for Acquia and they all seem to really enjoy working there.

The recruiter asked for times early the following week, so I again opened up my entire schedule including late night interviews. For anyone who's never done a late night interview, I'll tell you right now that they're extremely challenging. After a full day of work (I've been putting in 10 to 12 hour days), after hanging out, eating dinner, it's time to snap out of it and get ready. Get out of your PJs, put on a nice shirt, and get focussed. It's always important to be on top of your game in any interview. This means being wide awake and involves adrenaline.

 

No pants interview

The interviews themselves are always intense. Almost always enjoyable for me too, since I love chatting with interesting people (and everyone I spoke to at Acquia was interesting). Regardless, if my interview ends at 11pm, I won't be getting to sleep before 2am at the absolute earliest. This means a slow day to follow it up. Of course I had no idea that this would be the case when I first started agreeing to these, and I also thought I'd be looking at 7 days of it, not at least 3 weeks of it (at the end of which I still didn't have any clue as to when it would all end).

Week 4

My meetings for the week were set up, the final one being at 9pm on Friday. The first interview of the week was with Matt again. I'd hoped to get a chance to get clarity on the process, but no dice. I was caught a bit off guard as he grilled me again on things we'd already discussed in our first and second interviews, and that were brought up by the developers I spoke to in week 3. I had another interview immediately after that which was probably my favourite of the bunch but at the end of it all I was left feeling very disheartened with no idea what was going on.

While I was moving forward with the Vancouver company, all of this was still upsetting. I was under the impression when they contacted me that this would take a week, and it had now been dragged out over 4 (with no end in sight). Had I known up front that they required 10-12 interviews I'd have turned them down immediately and saved everybody a lot of time.

Through all this, and despite feeling the way I did, everyone at Acquia seemed very smart and like people I'd have really enjoyed working with. I felt I had a great vibe with Matt and even if this didn't work out, every one of the team would have been a person I'd have enjoyed having a beer with next time I was in Boston.

This is why the response I received the following Monday was so shocking.

Week 5

 

REJECTED!

Hi Scott,

Thank you for taking the time to interview with us for our Director, Acquia {DIVISION HIDDEN} opening. Our team has had a chance to discuss your qualifications, and unfortunately, I have decided to pursue other candidates who appear to match (skills and experience) our requirements more closely at this time.

Should something change on our side (or I get another job opening that matches your background better), I will not hesitate to contact you.

Thank you again for your interest in an employment opportunity with Acquia, Inc., and I wish you the best of luck in your current job search.

Thanks,
[Recruiter's Name]

I was in shocked disbelief. Not because I was turned down for the job though: I had in fact received this identical message two months earlier when I applied for an unrelated position at Acquia. They'd looked at my resume and turned me away without any interviews. And now, after:

  • 3 interviews with Matt,
  • a lot of back and forth emails discussing the company and position,
  • a couple of hours spent reviewing and reporting on the project I'd be managing,
  • 4 weeks, and
  • 10 interviews, with
  • 8 people...

... I got a template rejection? And not even from Matt himself, but from the recruiter he delegated it to.

It took a full day of thinking to figure out whether I was upset because I didn't get the job, or because I'd been treated in such a disrespectful way. I'd believed that I'd had a great vibe with Matt, and that the task of sending me my template rejection had been delegated to a recruiter was insulting.

I'll be honest, I was so furious that first day that I considered working for one of their competitors with the sole purpose of taking them down. The next day after I'd got my head back on straight I realized that that would be a strange focus to put on my life for at least the next decade. I spoke to a friend at Acquia and asked if he thought this (the process, not my malicious aspirations) was normal. He couldn't believe my story, and promptly spoke to Matt about what had happened.

I don't think Matt realized I'd be getting a template response, and after learning so from my friend he quickly sent me an apology mail for it. While his mail explicitly said "Either way, no excuses", it was still surprisingly full of excuses (such as being too swamped).

Now, for all I know Matt wanted to send me a long detailed response or call me to explain everything but really was too swamped to. However, considering that he knew I was under pressure with another company and availed myself for what turned out to be a 10-interview gauntlet, a quick 2-liner explaining that I was rejected and setting up a call would have been appreciated.

 

The Moral

I feel that my quote here applies firmly. When you start seeing red flags like a company taking advantage of a person's offer of flexibility (or anything else), unnecessary bureaucracy, and a lack of transparency, it's probably time to call it a day and cut off communication with them (unless you work well in that environment). After the way I felt during the whole process, should I really have been surprised with the way my rejection was handled?

Nobody, whether applying to a position as a CEO or a janitor, should be treated with such discourtesy by the company interviewing them.

 

For Acquia:

Despite dealing more with Matt than anyone else, I certainly don't put the full blame on him. I believe that what happened here is the result of culture and attitude within Acquia.

You have a CEO who contradictorily states that he won't hire anyone with a Ready Aim Fire mentality. Acquia's hiring process is exactly that. Dries (the CTO) says he wants Acquia to do well and good such as acting as a driver to build up and support the Drupal community, yet at the same time the company is treating job candidates (many from within that same community) extraordinarily disrespectfully.

To those at Acquia who are in a position where they can make positive change: it's time you look at your processes and question them. Another friend at Acquia told me that the HR and hiring process is something you're proud of. If you happen to read this post and you're proud of the actions taken, well, I appreciate the rejection.

I'm almost certainly not an isolated case. Much of the Acquia team is made up of loyal members of the Drupal community, and I'd guess that a large percentage of the applicants are community members too (myself included).

Peanut Gallery

A similar story

Renee

A friend sent me this because I had something similar happen with my interviews at Acquia. This was over a year ago now, and I'm sad to see that little has changed.

My story isn't quite as egregious as yours, but I was definitely dicked around, and it left me with a very sour impression of the company. (I've tried to find a politer way to characterize it, but it was that: they were inconsistent, didn't know what they wanted, and kept changing their tune.)

I applied for a remote position; I'm in Canada, and I'm hesitant to move to the US because healthcare, and because my spouse would be unable to work. But, I also wanted to work with a leading company in the Drupal field, and this job seemed perfect. I also mentioned in the follow-up with the HR rep that I'd be happy with working from the Oxford office, because my spouse is a UK citizen.

They had me write a big long essay in response to a bunch of questions, and then I had an initial phone screening with a director (he's no longer there). That went well, but I was told that they no longer wanted remote workers. Would I consider Portland? I told them that I wasn't totally keen, so the compensation would have to fit with that change (this was not what they wanted to hear). I countered with Oxford, but no. Portland it was. Ok.

I did think about it -- I really wrestled with it, both me and my spouse did. Finally we decided, ok, let's take a risk. We could do Portland, for awhile, at least; he could go back to school or something, and maybe we could negotiate the Oxford office later.

So I let them know that would be all right.

No, no, they came back: "We'd actually want you to work out of the Boston office."

Woah there. Boston? Well, that's not what we'd talked about.

At the same time, we'd scheduled a tech interview. Things went really well. The HR person got back to me *pronto* and said she'd be discussing the results with the director within a few days. All positive signs.

Nothing.

The next week, I followed up.

Nothing.

The week after, I followed up.

Nothing.

Then, three weeks later, I get a form email. Blah blah blah.

By then I'd already written them off by that point, but, you know what? I expected so much better. And no, I didn't want to move to Boston. And maybe we weren't the right fit. Who knows? I never did get a response when I asked for clarification. Maybe I blew the tech interview. Maybe, maybe, maybe. But... I am good at what I do and I am good at Drupal, and I really don't think Acquia should be treating skilled people in the community this way.

Oh my gosh Renee, that

Oh my gosh Renee, that seriously blows. The discomfort that they put you through was quite similar to ours then, in the sense that it involves immigration. Which is a bloody huge mission. Did you end up staying in Canada?

Sorry that you had this happen too (but also comforting to know that this wasn't an isolated case, as Scott had suggested). What a disappointment. And our friends & acquaintances who work there are wonderful people - every single one of them. Everyone seems to be genuinely very nice. I don't get it.

Ditto. Ish.

Anonymous

I had a series of on-site interviews with several people at Acquia a few years ago (including with some friends who were working there, when). I too started the process with the up-front disclaimer of only being interested in a teleworking position, but after several rounds of interviews they were only willing to offer me a job if I was willing to relocate. Honestly, it felt like they weren't comfortable enough with me to let me work remotely, they positioned the job offer so that *I* was the one who was saying "no" to them, saving them face over having to do it, i.e. they were being disingenuous about the offer. While my interview process was not as long as yours (two+ weeks vs five), it still left me feeling disillusioned.

I just re-read the emails

Anonymous

I just re-read the emails from back then - it was a full month from the initial intro email to "sorry but they want everyone working on-site" email. Ah well, I'm happier where I am now.

Seriously that is some

Anonymous

Seriously that is some bullshit. Wow. What spineless assholes.

Sounds like the story of our

Anonymous

Sounds like the story of our life. Although Tai hasn't had that many interviews, some have taken months to happen. We sit around thinking that he definitely didn't get it, only to get contacted 2 months later for a hire. I do believe they don't have time. Ironically, they need someone on their team badly, and just don't have time to hire them!

Does this mean you're moving to Vancouver?

Hopefully we'll see you in Vancouver

If you end up in Vancouver hopefully we'll see you at the local Drupal User Group - https://groups.drupal.org/vancouver

Hi, I also had the same

Anonymous

Hi,

I also had the same scenario and I'm finally happy to not work for them and I'm also glad for you that you don't too, there are much better company all around ;-)
The biggest doesn't means it's the best company.
They know that they are the biggest players but don't be fooled... there's a lot of turnover there, it's never good.

I managed to find the email I got from them after 10 interviews, and more than 2 month of waiting, here it is, it looks like they updated it ;-)


Hi [CANDIDATE NAME],

I'm sorry for any confusion. I wanted to follow up with you directly in regards to the role with Acquia. After much consideration your qualifications have been carefully reviewed by the team. However, at the present time we will not be proceeding forward with the interview process. The team enjoyed speaking with you and noted the appreciation for what you've accomplished as well as your drive and determination. We would love the opportunity to reconsider your application 6 months from now as we re-evaluate our hiring needs.

We should keep in touch as things evolve and change - Acquia is certainly evolving rapidly. I very much enjoyed connecting with you and appreciate the time you took to connect with the team.

Warm regards,
-[EMPLOYEE]

Anyway, I hope you'll find a good job dude!

Bye

It's Boston

Anonymous

I lived in Boston for 15 years (a mile from Acquia) and I'm a native New Englander but I'd never live there again. What you experienced is partly the company's culture but probably also has a lot to do with the Boston attitude. Coldest and most unfriendly people you'll ever meet, downright rude even. Miserable weather, sky high cost of living, and bad traffic too, and if you're single and over 30 the dating scene is moribund and depressing. NYC is a far better place to live if you want a big east coast city. I'm happy in Orange county, CA - waaaaaarm and friendly!

Avoid Boston like the plague - it's only good for college kids.

Similar issues they knew from

Anonymous

Similar issues they knew from the start I was only willing to work remote, and then after 3 interviews (I was lucky) they informed me that I had to move to the USA and specifically Boston which I was not willing to do. Still a month of my life wasted......

We certainly made mistakes, and strive to do better

Chris Brookins

I'm Chris Brookins, VP Engineering at Acquia and I was involved in your interview process. I sincerely apologize for how the process didn't go smoothly, and especially for how it ended. Interviewing for senior positions takes time, but we didn't properly set expectations. We never intended to treat you disrespectfully, but that is what happened and we are very sorry. It is not how we strive to operate. We have a system that we use to help us manage the many great candidates that apply to Acquia, but we shouldn't have used it to send you an impersonal rejection notice after spending so much time, and late hours, with us. At Acquia are taking your feedback seriously, and we are learning from this experience. Going forward we are making sure that we properly set expectations, and and respectfully reach out to candidates who have invested significant time with us.

Recruiting at Acquia

Tom Erickson

Scott

My apologies for the experience you had in your interviews at Acquia. It's clear that we need to make some changes to our hiring processes, and I will be working with our HR team to ensure this happens. Your experience is not typical, but based on your post and the replies herein, it happens too often.

It is normal for us to have many interviews for senior positions. It's vital for both the candidate and the company that a match with a high chance of mutual success is found. For me, this is not at odds with my "Ready, Fire, Aim" statement, and is very consistent with the fact that I personally interviewed the first 200+ people who joined the company.

However, we should have been clearer about setting your expectations on timing and delivering on what we promised, and certainly not have informed you in a note the way we did. Please accept my apologies.

Tom Erickson
CEO, Acquia

Interviews

Tom,

I used to be a part of the interview process for a Vancouver company, and we used to strive to do all the interviews in one or two days, usually back to back. I understand the constraints might be different within your company, but I can't imagine how any company could reasonably sync the opinions of the interviewers properly over a process that lasts weeks if not months, especially considering other interviews are undoubtedly going on during this time period. If all you end up with during your multi-week process is a few notes in your online system you use to track interviews, I would argue you'd likely miss some of those immeasurable attributes that some employees have that make them truly special.

Regards,
Duane Storey

I had a very similar

Anonymous

I had a very similar experience with Acquia about six years ago.

It started with getting reached out to personally by a senior and well known person at Acquia asking me if I'd be interested in working there.

After a couple of personal chats, there was then a two month period where my first official interview was being scheduled.

3-4 months after the initial contact, without that formal interview actually having been scheduled yet, I got a form rejection letter from an HR consultant informing me that they'd hired people in Boston instead.

I didn't write a blog post about it at the time, but perhaps I should have, since I got a similar apology when I pointed out the mismatch between the personal invitation to apply and the rejection letter. Might have saved some other people a few dozen hours going through a similar process.

I've never worked for Acquia.

Anonymous

I've never worked for Acquia. I have no plans to. But I've heard my fare share of stories about friends who got in and friends who didn't. Seriously, just this month I heard another story that, as of now, isn't on this thread. Perhaps they will pop in here and share it!

In the end, Acquia has a business to run, and run it they will. They are larger now and no longer have the luxury of a personable experience in the hiring process. We need to accept that these stories will be the norm and not the exception.
What's sad is that we also need to take Acquia with a grain of salt with regard to hiring. If you are reading this and you find yourself going through the hiring process, don't miss out on other opportunities while waiting for Acquia. You may lose both. Don't forget that an interview is 2-ways. Ask them why you would want to work there. If you're interview process is painful tell them about it and explain that this is casting doubt on your decision making process. Perhaps, if more people did this, we might see some real change in the process over there. Nahhhh... Probably not LOL!
Try to give them the benefit of the doubt. Remember that much of management at Acquia are not Drupal Community ppl. They are business ppl, and they need to be. They have little to no understanding of the sentiments and personality of the Drupal Community. That is not a job requirement for managers. You won't be having a beer with these people in Austin or at a Drupalcamp. They aren't plugged in to the community per-se. Unless some one else tells them about this thread, they will never ever know it exists.

I think we all benefit from Acquia's presence. I believe they open doors that others, besides Acquia, walk through. This is very very good. Yes, the hiring process is painful, disrespectful, and downright off-putting. I believe we can cut them a measured dose of slack and understand that they're running a big, soon to be public, business. There will be more painful interviews. We can feel free to blog about them and call them out. But I caution anyone against looking for improvement in this area. With each new story of "somebody done somebody wrong" we need to just shake our heads and reissue that measure of slack.

Yes, it's rude, painful, protracted, etc. But it's business. The day we, as a community, stop taking that personally, we win!

Tom and Chris's comments

Tom and Chris's comments above notwithstanding? : P

Fwiw, I think there's room for them to screw up without this comment being true. DrupalCon Portland, anyone? London? I've found most of their team, Tom included, to be personable and available at community events.

Acquia's being a 'big

Anonymous

Acquia's being a 'big business' isn't an excuse. I know of plenty people who work for companies far bigger than they are, and not one of those companies have pulled a number like this.

Yes business is business, obviously they are in it to make a profit and that makes sense and isn't a problem. But I think if I were contacted by a company right as I was about to sign with another one, and THEN dicked around this way, I'd have been far ruder about than Scott has.

I would argue that you're wrong - we don't all benefit from Acquia's presence. We benefited from Dries' presence. Acquia is a for-profit business who holds too much of a controlling stake (paying the salaries of a number of core contributors) in what was once a thriving open source community.

This matter has brought to light a great deal of arrogance within the company, which is sad, because I believe that there are also a lot of great people within the company, sourced directly from within the community (which, incidentally, is who I suspect Scott was referring to when he mentioned going for a beer when he was next in town).

I've worked with clients

Anonymous

I've worked with clients attempting to use Acquia's professional services and TAM hours, amongst other things and, unfortunately this is all too reminiscent of the interactions I have had on that front, too. Slow to respond, a lot of bureaucracy, etc. It doesn't surprise me that their hiring practices suffer in similar ways.

In response to this post

Jamie Cerniglia

Scott,

I would like to echo Tom and Chris’ apology as well. I can tell you personally that my team cares immensely about our applicants and that their overall experience is a positive one. Offering candidates a great experience is paramount to the success of Acquia and something that we are (and always will be) committed to improving. We have come a long way, but we still need to do better. When it comes to finding talent we have two objectives: continue to grow our company by hiring the best, most talented people possible and ensuring that all applicants have a great candidate experience. Even if an applicant doesn’t receive a job offer, he/she still walks away feeling that it was a positive, competitive and transparent process.

Though unfortunately we were not successful in your particular case, please know we are actively taking steps to ensure there is clear communication and visibility throughout our entire hiring process going forward.

Jamie Cerniglia
Global Director. HR

"continue to grow our company

Anonymous

"continue to grow our company by hiring the best, most talented people possible" - ouch, Jamie. It's a bit odd / insensitive to rub something like this in his face as part of an apology.

It was not my intention to

Jamie Cerniglia

It was not my intention to appear insensitive by saying that "we grow our company by hiring the best, most talented people possible". What company doesn't aspire to find the best person for the job?

Also, please keep in mind that just because someone's not the right fit for one position doesn't mean that they are not a great fit for another. Some of our most talented employees have joined Acquia in this same exact scenario.

Jamie

+1

Anonymous

Thanks from someone who shares the experience, but can't share it so eloquently ;-)

Please consider adding this to the Glassdoor website

HelpAll

Hello,
Feel sad that you folks had this bad experience. Please consider adding your Interview experience on Glassdoor website, that is what usually comes up in the searches these days. By adding it there, Scott you would be helping save other applicants from going through the same frustration. Additionally the rating there may be a positive motivation for the folks incharge at Acquia to make a change. Thus please consider sharing your experience there for the benefit of the community.

Thanks.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options