The interview process can be one of the most daunting aspects of finding a new gig—but it doesn’t have to be. Our recruiters and interviewers are here to support you throughout the process with clear communication and expectations so you can feel confident every step of the way.
This guide will pull back the curtain on what to expect during the interview process for technical roles at Shopify and set you up for success with tips for each stage. Keep in mind that we thrive on change, so this guide will be updated from time to time as we evolve and iterate on our hiring practices. We've outlined the common types of interviews, but the process can vary depending on the specific role and team you’re interviewing for. This guide is focused on individual contributor roles, as the leadership interview process typically includes some additional team-specific interviews.
The Interview Process at Shopify
The Life Story
The Life Story is a one-hour conversational interview with a recruiter about your past personal and professional experiences.
How It Works
You’ll receive a Google Calendar invitation with a Meet link where the interview will take place. Expect an organic, two-sided conversation rather than your typical interview Q&A. The conversation can be as personal as you want it to be—share your personal triumphs and failures, or get deeply technical if that’s where your passions live. We hire people, not resumes, so the more we can get to know you in this conversation, the better.
How to Nail It
Shake those nerves off! The Life Story interview is meant to be fun, and we’re genuinely excited to meet you. If you’re feeling nervous, it can help to take a deep breath and relax your shoulders between questions. You can even leave a sticky note nearby to remind you.
Spend some time before your interview reflecting on all of the experiences you’ve had and the things you've done to bring you to the point you're at today. Here are some prompts to get you thinking:
- How do you connect with and support those around you?
- When do you feel most energized and passionate in work and life?
- What unique skills and experiences have prepared you for the role you’re going after?
Get to know the five key traits we look for during the Life Story, and consider how you can frame your experiences using these topics:
Come as you are. Maybe you think best in a three-piece suit; maybe you have a favorite t-shirt and jeans combo—we’re happy as long as you’re comfortable.
It’s best to avoid meeting from a coffee shop or other potentially distracting communal locations. If you don’t have a private space at home, many public libraries allow you to reserve a private room.
During the life story interview, we try to talk to people about their background in a way that helps us figure out what interesting things they’ve done in their past, and how they’ve reacted to these situations. This helps us remove any unconscious biases we may have.
The coding exercise is a 40-minute interview focused on algorithmic thinking and problem solving with a Shopify developer or data scientist. You’ll be asked to work through a problem and solve it using the programming language you’re most comfortable with. We may ask you questions about how you’re approaching the task and the technical background of the problem.
How It Works
We use CoderPad to conduct our coding exercises. You’ll receive a link before your interview where you’ll be paired with a Shopify developer to work on a programming exercise. You’ll be writing the code, but your interviewer is there to help with feedback and to answer questions throughout the exercise. The objective of this interview is to understand how you solve problems with code, with the ultimate goal of getting to a working solution.
How to Nail It
Ask clarifying questions to make sure you understand the problem before jumping into solution mode. You can also use any online resources you see fit during the interview (documentation, search engine, etc.). Just don’t research already built solutions.
Run your code early and often throughout the exercise, so you can debug as you go. Focus on getting to a working solution, not a perfect one.
Think about edge cases and limitations and share your thought process out loud. Coding exercises are about communication.
Pair programming is a software development technique where two programmers work together on one problem. One programmer, the driver, writes code while the other, the observer, reviews the process.
You’ll be paired for about 75-90 minutes with a Shopify developer to work on a programming exercise remotely. You’ll be the driver writing the code, but you and your partner will work together on the solution.
How It Works
The session will be conducted over Google Hangouts, so be prepared to share your screen and have your line numbers turned on in your code editor. We’ll present you with a small problem that you’ll take the lead on solving with your partner/interviewer.
How to Nail It
Share your thought process as you go through the challenge and implementation—pair programming is about communication. We want to hear what you’re doing and why you’ve chosen to take that approach.
Don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions to understand the problem, but remember you’re the driver during the pair programming session. You can refer to online references as needed.
Think about edge cases, scalability, limitations, and testability. It’s better to have a well approached and considered solution that’s incomplete than a finished solution that’s sloppy, untestable, and fragile.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, or admit that you don’t know the answer to something off the top of your head. We want to hire people who are transparent and curious.
Technical Deep Dive
The Technical Deep Dive is a 60-minute conversational interview where you’ll be asked to talk about your impact in previous roles or projects. It’s also an opportunity to learn and ask questions about Engineering at Shopify, the role, and our teams.
How It Works
You’ll be asked to come to a Google Meet prepared to talk about one or two development projects you’ve worked on that you know very well and can discuss in detail. We recommend selecting a project or two that align with the scope of the role you’re interviewing for. It could be something you owned from idea to launch or worked on extensively.
We’d like to talk about your approach to and role in the project, including:
- Business impact
- Architecture setup
- Technical decisions
- Trade-offs and alternatives considered
- Challenges and failures
- Lessons learned
- Teamwork and mentorship
We also want to know how you might have done things differently. Our interviewers are also engineers and want to hear specific technical details. You’re welcome to use a whiteboard or slides if you feel that will help you explain your work, but it isn’t expected.
How to Nail It
Be sure to choose a project you have a good memory of. Avoid a solo or side project, as those can be hard to dig into and don’t often have business trade-offs or product components. Remember this is a conversation not a presentation. If you bring a visual aide, be sure to take pauses to allow your interviewer to ask questions throughout.
Creativity and resourcefulness are key to success in an ever-changing environment. We need people who care deeply about doing the right thing for Shopify and our merchants, without depending on a rigid process or plan for everything.
So, What Are You Waiting For?
If there’s a role at Shopify that excites you, even if your experience isn’t a perfect match for the role description, we hope you’ll apply. We believe that varied experiences create strength and resiliency—in products and in people. How business is done is constantly adapting and changing, and we look for people who have cultivated a deep curiosity for opening new pathways.
The thing I’m most passionate about, at the end of the day, is diversity. If we’re going to make commerce better for everyone—and the key word for me there is everyone—then we need to make our company and what we produce reflect everyone.
More tips to help with your interview:
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Ashley Sawatsky is Copy Editor on Shopify's Engineering Communications team. She’s also a writer, a mom, and an iced coffee drinker. Connect with Ashley on LinkedIn.
We're always on the lookout for talent and we’d love to hear from you. Visit our Engineering careers page to find out about our open positions.