TL;DR: Triplebyte is pivoting. We no longer require a quiz or interview to join. Engineers are almost completely unique as a labor force. There is far more demand for engineers than there is supply, and that makes engineers powerful in a way other professions are not. We want to stop being a placement agency, and instead become a job search platform that leverages that unique power to create a better hiring process for engineers.

If you’re not interested in the history that drove this change, click here to read about what we’re building and the case for why we think it will work.

Our mission is to fix hiring for engineers. This was what Harj, Guillaume, and I set out to do when we started Triplebyte. Our first step was to create a quiz and interview process to pre-screen engineers, then require that companies skip screening steps for engineers who did well on these screens. A lot about this worked. We got jobs for over 1000 engineers, many of whom had non-traditional backgrounds and had previously been totally ignored by recruiters. Helping these people has been by far the most exciting part of working at Triplebyte.

Still, our original model did not succeed as often as it could have, and the problems with that model became more obvious as we scaled. There were always more engineers who we failed to help than there were exciting successes. And we couldn’t change that without resolving fundamental tensions in our model. Two of those tensions in particular were a problem:

First, our approach made us gatekeepers. Companies didn’t want to skip screening steps, and we could only get them to do so by rejecting everyone except the top few percent of engineers on our assessment. Even if our tests had been perfect, this would have left out many capable engineers. Worse, while we work to make them as good as possible, our assessments are certainly not perfect, which meant we also left out some great engineers (who were understandably unhappy about that). Rather than fixing hiring, we’d replaced companies’ arbitrary requirements with our own.

Second, we combined two conflicting values. We provided an expedited process to onsites and we focused on testing as a replacement for traditional credentials. Engineers with strong resumes benefitted from our expedited process at companies, but didn’t care about testing. In fact, by de-emphasizing experience, we undersold them. Engineers from non-traditional backgrounds, on the other hand, loved the way our quizzes opened doors for them, but did not care about skipping screening steps. And in fact, the process restrictions we placed on companies stopped them from reaching out to candidates who they would have otherwise been willing to talk to. And so both groups of engineers ended up underserved and less successful than they could have been.

Over time, these problems compounded. Engineers who we rejected held that against us (which was completely understandable). We found ourselves pushing an increasingly varied pool of both engineers and companies into a narrow set of predefined assessments, which hurt both our ability to evaluate engineers and our ability to help companies find the expertise they needed. And these tensions were built so deeply into our business model that they proved impossible to solve without making fundamental changes.

Our first effort to fix these problems was a fiasco. We began with an idea that made sense on the surface: create engineer-specific profiles that would offer features that other job search sites like LinkedIn or Indeed couldn‘t, then use the enormous number of engineers who had already created Triplebyte profiles to transition Triplebyte into a more general job-search site.

But I made a big mistake. I decided to make these profiles public by default. Our users objected immediately and forcefully. We canceled this change before it shipped, but our users were right: this would have been an egregious violation of our users’ privacy.

My first instinct was to talk about why we made this decision (a mix of bad incentives, poor cultural practices that led me to not listen to other people on the team, perhaps just bad judgment). But that wasn’t the point. If literally a thousand people show up at your door to tell you that you violated their trust, then you violated their trust. Doing this was stupid and wrong, and it is not a mistake I intend to repeat.

We learned a painful lesson from this incident: we get into trouble when we don’t put engineers first. We threw out our entire product roadmap and made internal changes to be sure we wouldn’t repeat the same mistakes. And then we began to search for a new direction for what Triplebyte would be in the future. We went back to basics. We spoke to hundreds of engineers. And we sketched out a product that would solve the problems in their job search. What we’re announcing today is the end result.

What are we pivoting towards? To explain, let’s talk about economics for a second.

Almost everybody (engineer or not) hates job searching — and why wouldn’t they? In most hiring processes, especially outside of engineering, companies hold all the cards. They know how many applicants they’re talking to. They have access to better salary data. And in most industries, there are more people applying than there are jobs, which makes hiring in those industries inherently an employer’s market. Job seekers don’t have much leverage, so companies have no incentive to create a better hiring experience, to be less credentialist, or to give more feedback to applicants.

Worse still, most job search sites recognize this state of affairs. They know companies are holding the cards, and as a result, they skew their sites towards serving companies over applicants. This skew makes the existing unfairness in the job search even worse by giving companies even more ways to gain the upper hand over applicants.

Engineers, however, have unique leverage. As more and more of the world becomes software-driven, every company needs to hire engineers. Under our old business model, for example, companies paid us tens of thousands of dollars per hire and skipped screening steps that they really wanted to do. That’s how badly they wanted to hire engineers.

In short, there is more demand for engineers than there is supply, and that makes engineers powerful.

So why isn’t that power represented in a better job search experience for engineers? Because individual engineers can’t wield it effectively.

Let’s consider an anecdote. One senior engineer we spoke to, who was mostly looking to maximize his salary, told us in frustrated tones about his job search. Early in a recruiting process he would tell a recruiter his salary target, and the recruiter would smile and nod. He’d then go through a couple of calls and two or three interview screening steps, get to the end of the process, and receive an offer — only to find a number much lower than what he’d asked for.

This engineer was as credentialed as anyone. He had a CS degree from a top school, had worked at Apple, was pretty senior, and (as measured by our quizzes, which he had taken in the past) was exceptionally skilled. He had leverage! But if we think about it for a moment, we can see that these recruiters did not have much incentive to be honest about their offer upfront. If they had been honest, they’d have had a 0% chance of hiring this great engineer. If they strung him along, they might have perhaps a 10% chance of hiring him. And since their low offer eventually had relatively low cost to them (beyond some wasted time), they were willing to make that gamble.

An individual engineer can ask about culture or salary. But companies aren’t incentivized to be honest unless they think it will make them a hire. They will never tell you that they think their culture is a bad fit or that their salaries are below market rates, because right now they’re never incentivized to do so while they’re still trying to make a hire. They would rather be evasive and noncommittal, because that gives them (say) a 10% chance of making a hire later, instead of a 0% chance.

An individual engineer can ask for detailed feedback if a company rejects them. But once the company has decided to reject an engineer, they have (from a purely self-interested perspective) very little reason to give feedback. After all, they’ve already decided not to make a hire: they no longer have anything to gain by making the engineer’s experience better. It doesn’t improve their chances of hiring someone else by very much, if at all.

Engineers might avoid applying to companies with hiring or engineering processes that they disapprove of. But discovering those practices before every application is impractical. A very motivated engineer could perhaps research the practices of one company (if they’re large or established enough for that information to exist), but realistic job seekers are applying to dozens of different jobs. Companies often have no incentive to be transparent about their practices, especially when they might be unpopular.

This pattern repeats over and over. Hate whiteboard interviews? Okay, but you’re probably not going to turn down a job offer over them. Want to work for a company that values test coverage? Good luck finding one in a pile of job listings.

Engineers have the power. But they can’t use it alone!

That’s where we come in. Triplebyte has hundreds of thousands of engineers on our platform, and that means we can flip the script on companies. The collective power of thousands of engineers is enough to change their incentives in a way that individual engineers cannot.

We can change their incentives directly by rewarding or punishing certain behavior. For example, companies aren’t normally incentivized to provide salary and culture data. But we can force their hand by promoting transparent companies in our search rankings. When a company’s access to thousands of engineers is on the line, their incentives are very different. The same goes for honesty: a company often has no reason to be honest with any one engineer, but we can disincentivize lying by making their behavior with one engineer affect their access to the next. Recall the Apple engineer I mentioned ten or so paragraphs ago, and imagine that at the end of the hiring process he had a big red “this company lied to me” button that he could press to punish them and hurt their access to other engineers. Now that would change recruiter incentives!

We can change their incentives indirectly, too. A company will think twice about adopting engineer-unfriendly practices when they know that applicants know about those practices upfront. And by the same token, a company that genuinely wants to be better, that wants to provide a truly excellent experience for engineers, can be rewarded by having that good behavior visible to everyone.

That’s the idea behind the new Triplebyte. We want to be the job search platform that puts engineers in control. We’re in the same space as companies like LinkedIn or Indeed, but with a focus on engineers and with the philosophy that their interests need to come first.

Here are our first product changes, all of which are already live:

  • Detailed information on what a recruiter did with your application. We give you the ability to track how companies interact with your application. We tell you whether recruiters look at your application and, if so, at what parts. We also give you data on how selective each company has been with other applicants.
  • Structured, engineering-specific data (e.g. release cadence) on jobs. Every job site lets you search by things like title or location. But what if you want to search by whether a company uses pair programming? Or by how often they ship new code to production? We’re collecting this data for every role companies post on Triplebyte — and we assume any missing information is unfavorable to ensure companies always give us this information.
  • No quiz or interview requirement to join Triplebyte. Our quizzes open doors for engineers who lack traditional credentials, but have locked many other engineers out of using Triplebyte in the past. Going forward, our assessments are a purely optional means by which engineers can show their skills to employers (who overwhelmingly tell us that they trust our scoring), rather than a requirement for entry.

For more details on these changes (and some of the other things we’ve been working on), see here.

Our mission is to fix hiring for engineers. Our lowest points have come when we’ve forgotten that mission, and I’m excited to be moving in a direction that puts engineers first. Our lead PM, Rachel Wolford, and I are holding office hours next week , and we’d love to hear from you. I’m especially interested in ways that a job search platform could put you in control in new ways.


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