Compose Hiring: Scaling to 100


When you join forces with a massive international technology giant (like IBM), you can never be quite sure what to expect. As we've previously commented, we feel its been pretty positive. With an army of new colleagues and abundant resources behind us, we can set our sights further than ever before. As ambitions grow, we need to recruit bright new minds to our cause. We find ourselves in a position where we are hoping to double, and eventually triple, our current team -- within a few quarters.

Faced with the realities of rapid scale, we're taking a look in the mirror. What is it that empowers our team to create wonderful work, feel like family, and operate happily and efficiently as an international, remote, self-managing organization? We work transparently, make a special product, commit to open-source, wear sweatpants, and genuinely enjoy each other. We'd like to keep it that way.

Compose provides databases as a service to web developers. We connect with the busy plight of the modern web developer and are passionate about creating a tool we, and therefore our users, will find powerful and intuitive. How can we continue to grow this relationship? Is it possible to avoid external pressure and remain accountable to our desire to craft excellent things? Can we maintain a casual, fun, balanced and loosely structured environment? Will our values and philosophies be preserved as we grow to 100 people (or more)? Will I be able to keep living in pants that have an elastic waistband?

The answer to all of these questions is an enthusiastic "Yes!"... and here's how we're going to do it.


The roots of keeping our values, product, and integrity sacred are nested deep within our hiring process. We've invested a great deal of care in home-cooking a respectful, objective, and (hopefully) enjoyable process for both the applicant and our team. When you're gainfully employed, it is easy to forget the tribulations of the job seeker. We haven't lost sight of the reality that, while often exciting, looking for a job can be... difficult.

After meeting many applicants, we see that folks tend to fall into a few groups:

We've written in detail about our hiring process in the past. We work hard to reduce our biases as much as possible, if not remove them entirely. At Compose, we are not influenced by your gender, culture, creed, appearance, what type of super power you'd like, or what your previous experiences may be.

We feel brilliant and well-hearted people can be found anywhere - it doesn't matter if you're with a great team now, living a work nightmare, or haven't been able to get a fair shake at any company. We want to let you show us that you are the best human-being for our team.

Work Sample

How do we find the best people? We start with a request of some light technical words. If you're technically inclined, we request a short story about a database - something you loved or didn't love about it. If it is a less technical role, we will request a story that is role-relevant to help give us some insight into how you can communicate greater ideas. Most people capture the spirit of the request and articulate a short tale about something they've experienced in their technical (or non-technical) history. We get some real gems that are informative, fun to read, and feature the rare talent of relaxed but concise delivery of complex thought.

Resumes are included and it's common to see GitHub profiles and personal portfolios. We respect when individuals take their time to craft an engaging self-presentation but we don't give them much (if any) weight. If we do, it's usually for something to chat about when we respond to you; each applicant receives a quick and personal reply, asking if you might be interested in completing a work sample.

If you agree, we generate an anonymized link for you. The link contains questions that are relevant to the role you've applied for. The request isn't trivial. If you're an Engineer, we will not request a JavaScript calculator. You'll be answering questions that will allow you to demonstrate how you would be able to approach your real work. Once you submit it, here's what we see on our end:


When we grade the submissions, we 'yay' or 'nay' from a list of specific criteria. Criteria helps to ensure we aren't giving into our own biases or grading something relative to the last thing we graded.

We understand this is a grand request. Your time is valuable. We're grateful that you'd invest hours of your time in something that could wind up feeling like extra practice. In the end, the time you invest in this process is similar to a more traditional hiring process. Instead of phone-screens or unstructured interviews, we pitch our company then give you a project you can use to demonstrate your ability.

At any time during the process, we are available for a casual video chat. We'll answer questions about our team, the role, our direction, how we work -- we won't help you with the sample, as that would compromise the fairness of the process, but we'll chat about whatever else you wish.

Speaking with many applicants, we notice that people often feel as though they're constantly under evaluation. We like to keep our discussions light and informal - this best reflects how we work. Our chats and communication are not done with the intention of judgement; we just want to know what kind of human you are. We do our best to make you feel comfortable. The work sample will show us what we need to know about your abilities.

If you've made something excellent, then on to the second of our two steps.


There isn't a week that goes by where there isn't some reflection on how great it is to be part of a team that is fully remote and international. We have friends in London, Canada, Japan, the US and South Africa -- there are people around all the time to share things with and give you support. We conduct our work in the open. Nothing is kept secret and nothing is off-limits to anybody. We empower you to self-manage and find the most appropriate place to invest your proven abilities.

This style of work isn't for everyone. It takes intrinsic motivation and drive. You need to be emotionally prepared to communicate in an environment where the vast majority of your interactions are devoid of non-verbal cues. You need to be able to work off vapours of direction, be proactive, show perseverance and self-motivate.

To ensure that you're able to work within our team, we get you to join us within Slack for a day (don't worry, we'll pay you). We create a channel for you, fill it with a few great brains, and give you some general tasks. You won't be making changes to production code or publishing an article. You'll need to use the resources made available to you to illuminate a "greater" piece of your potential role in Compose.

Once you're finished, you present your result and we evaluate your over-all body of work based on pre-defined criteria. Were you engaged? Are you the sort of person that can connect-the-dots? Ask sharp questions? Are you a master of your domain? Amiable, communicative, and team-oriented?

At this point, you've had a foot in the door, met many Composers and have completed a fair amount of work that reflects upon your performance in your potential role. We hope, at this juncture, that we welcome you into our team. Less than half of the applicants receive offers after working a day with us. We are grateful for everyone who makes an attempt.

Onwards and Upwards

We'll be welcoming many new people into our team in the coming months. Our focus is, and will continue to be, on providing our users the best possible foundations to host their data upon. As we grow, we'll be able to let bright new talent loose on solving problems that matter to our user base. You'll see more databases, read more informative content, see more polish on our existing offerings, and enjoy a few of the surprises that we have in store. For our team, and ultimately our users, the sky is the limit.

Are you interested in joining our team and taking part in a process that will slice through unreliable human filters and allow you to provide a clear demonstration of your abilities? We have exciting plans and a radiant future ahead.

We'd love to meet you!

Positions available at Compose

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Evan Kelverson “This is the real secret of life -- to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” - Alan Watts Love this article? Head over to Evan Kelverson’s author page to keep reading.

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