A Broken Valentine to the Hiring Process: Data Scientist Flips Over HowAboutWe.com Interview

Imagine that you are having a Big Thought. You know, the kind of Thought that could Start a Conversation on

How about we...don't? (HowAboutWe.com)
How about we…don’t? (HowAboutWe.com)

Imagine that you are having a Big Thought. You know, the kind of Thought that could Start a Conversation on the Internet, which is clearly the point of having Big Thoughts in the first place (as well as small thoughts/all thoughts, but let’s leave that aside for now). Let’s say your Big Thought was “I don’t like how tech companies determine new hires based on antiquated models of evaluation.” (In this hypothetical, you also didn’t read this month’s Atlantic cover story.)

How to express your Big Thought best? If you’re mad data scientist “Will,” you’d apply to HowAboutWe.com, get rejected, and then send a massive missive to the company akin to a sophomore year, 2 am drunk-email you’d send to the person who broke up with you on Valentine’s Day. AND THEN YOU WOULD CC A BUNCH OF MEDIA REPORTERS.

Here is the letter in its entirety, though we’ve removed the sender and the many, many CC’d recipients:

Hi Aaron,

Last Thursday, I applied to the Data Scientist role at HowAboutWe thinking I had liked what I read in the job description. Given the speed which I received a reply, I felt good about my chances. But it didn’t work out. Just as fast as I was contacted, I was rejected given no other reason besides I’m not a good fit for the position. But how can someone make that fast of a decision based on one awkward phone conversation? How does someone know my curriculum vitae based on 22 minutes? That someone was your so called Data Scientist. He inferred my life’s work based on one phone conversation. I had even provided code and writing samples to strengthen my case knowing this is an odd job to hire for…

This is like online dating. A single man and a single woman go into the their first meeting with biased expectations making utterly wrong first impressions of each other mostly because they don’t who the other person is… The questions asked during my phone screen weren’t what I expected of an analytics role.

Why wasn’t I asked a few simple questions about SQL which almost every other serious player in the industry asks during their first phone screens? Why wasn’t I asked more about my accomplishments at my current position? Why didn’t anybody introduce themselves when they contacted me? Instead, I was interviewed by a man whose articulation and responses were so laid back and monotone I thought he was watching TV on the couch. That is not how a phone interview is conducted!

I know I have what it takes to succeed in this type of job, because I have most of the skills one could want for a role as hyped and distorted as the Data Scientist job is… I’ve been swinging data for years. I would be a total idiot to have applied if I didn’t have what it takes to succeed. And I have succeeded doing something very similar at my current position – given bonuses repeatedly and promoted without hesitation. The reasons why I want to leave my current position should and do not matter here. That’s my choice alone.

Alas, my candidacy at your company wasn’t meant to be. Just like many women who have dismissed me for making the wrong first impression about me, so too do most companies with inside-the-box thinking. So, what is it? You guys are taking on some big names in the game. You NEED people that bring toughness and variety to the picture. And if you’re making snap judgment calls for your hiring process, then that can only suggest your company doesn’t take the data and analytics seriously. No good statistics can be based on one data point! No good statistics should be based on even two data points! No good statistics even on three.

And so no relationship should be based on the awkward judgment of two people who have just met for the very first time… Because, nobody can infer a lifetime together based on one moment. Nobody’s that good. Chemistry is a process, whereas combustion is instant. The hiring process should be better than this! Nobody on your team has even met me in person, and I really didn’t want to introduce myself this way. Maybe if everybody dismissed my candidacy after being brought in for a serious face-to-face… Only then would I consider it fair enough. But a man’s gotta do what man’s gotta do to get his point across. I don’t care if this incriminates me elsewhere, because it is the right thing to do.

I’m writing this to you and everybody as a plea… A plea to recognize how broke the job interview process is in this country. A plea to recognize that sometimes it’s the interviewer and not the interviewee who sabotages the process. I hope my voice can speak for all the well qualified candidates trying so desperately to land a job in this rather uncertain time we live in… I am fortunate to be employed and succeeding in my career, but there are those out there who aren’t. And there was a time I wasn’t. I bring this up, because this same process also hurts them in way far worse than it hurts me.

And on top of all that and when the job is Data Science under the overblown pretense of Big Data, this broken nature I talk about is compounded… Because this job is not well defined with most everybody having their own idea about what it should be. I don’t want your job, but I did want to give you a piece of my mind about how poorly your employees have represented your company. I’m okay with burning this bridge down to its ashes, because at least we know where each other stand… And that is awesome!

This jerk gone fishing.


This isn’t so much an email as open letter to the industry (that industry being “jobs,”) considering that he CC’d writers from Buzzfeed, The LA Times, Bloomberg, Mashable, OKCupid and other tech-y publications, many times using the writer’s personal Gmail accounts. Maybe it’s a veiled threat: The big data scientists are revolting, and if you don’t start hiring them to analyze the propensity of one-night Tinder-stands versus relative age of one’s dog, they will start writing thought pieces and sending them to you, personally.

Consider us all warned, Will. And let us hope for their sake, your exes have all changed their phone numbers.

P.S. Best response, from Buzzfeed’s Katie Notopoulos:


Based on your email (and the fact that I’m randomly included on an un-BCC’d list of people not affiliated with the company in question), I do have an inkling of what might have gone wrong in your interview: you are clearly very unpleasant and a little bit bananas.

Best of luck,


A Broken Valentine to the Hiring Process: Data Scientist Flips Over HowAboutWe.com Interview