Recruiting an AI Specialist

Have you ever wondered what it takes to recruit an AI specialist? We’d like to offer you a glimpse into our recruitment process – so you know what to expect if you decide to apply for a position at Scyfer.

artificial intelligence career


The Recruitment Process Step-By-Step

If you’re looking for an artificial intelligence career, the first step is to respond to our outreach phase. This is when we start looking for fresh talent; we’ll do this by attending events to meet potential bright sparks, as well as running standard recruitment ads on platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter – anywhere where we think a machine learning expert might hang out. Once you’ve all responded to our ads and sent us your CV’s, then our next task is to screen them. The amount we receive varies a lot, so this can take some time for us to do.


artificial intelligence career


After we’ve checked out your CV,  the next step is to invite you to an initial interview. This is a getting-to-know-you meeting with Tijmen, our CTO. If you’ve been lucky enough to meet any of us here at Scyfer already (at our “Deep Learning and AI” events, for example), then you’ll know that we’re a pretty chilled, chatty bunch. So, the vibe won’t be super formal. What we’re looking for here is to get to know you on both a professional and personal level, so we can discuss together whether you’ll be a good fit for our company culture. We’ve had candidates who’ve decided to reapply after gaining more experience – and we find this to be a highly positive experience.

We’ve had candidates who’ve decided to reapply after gaining more experience – and we find this to be a highly positive experience.

What we really want to know is what drives you, what you’re passionate about, what makes you want to get out of bed in the morning. We’ll also check to see if your CV is reflective of what you can do. You’d be surprised at the number of candidates who have a perfect CV showing off all their amazing skills – and then show up to the interview without even a basic knowledge of programming! Most of the questions we’ll ask will be pretty familiar to you if you’ve ever had a job interview: “If we hire you, how will you help grow the company?” So, we’ll ask general questions about your professional attitude and ambition as well as questions about programming and machine learning to see how in-the-know you are about the latest developments in the field. Just like you should for any interview, we’d advise you to prepare for this stage.

The Tough Mudder of Machine Learning

Congrats! If you make it past the first stage, we’ll then invite you to our four-part technical interview. We fondly call this “Chalk Hell.” Think of the Chalk Hell like the Tough Mudder obstacle course of technical interviews. Tough Mudder will put obstacles like 50 gallons of mud, electric shock fields and pools of ice in your way, but when you cross the finish line, you get an ice-cold beer and the pride of having completed the impossible. Here at Scyfer, we’ll put four hours of technical interviews in system design, programming, machine learning fundamentals, followed by  a behavioural assessment in your way, but when you make it across the finish line, you’ll get the opportunity to work with us!

Tough Mudder photo by Fat Tony.

Tough Mudder. Credit: Fat Tony.


The purpose of the chalk hell is to see if you’re up to the job. While a hard four hours of interviews might sound pretty hellish, this is your time to shine. We’re looking for insight and technical know-how. Are you a computer programming wizard? Or perhaps machine learning solutions are where you’re really at home? Either way, this is your chance to wow us with your skills. You don’t have to get everything correct; we certainly don’t expect anyone to be 100% perfect in all areas. We’ve previously hired people that needed a bit more work on either the programming or deep learning field. For us, it’s all about how much time it will take us to polish off any rough edges.

Our Tips

We do advise you to practice coding for the Chalk Hell. The best thing you can do is practice writing out code on a whiteboard to get used to the feel of it. You should also spend time brushing up on your CS fundamentals such as arrays, lists, binary trees, stacks and queues, basic graph representations and so on. A good way to test your coding speed is to set a time for 45 minutes, so you can get a feel of what it will be like working under pressure. Here are three websites that you can use for sample coding questions:

We’d also advise you to discuss your initial ideas and solutions with your interviewer, which will help you to clarify any ambiguity in the question that you are given. We’re not trying trip you up; we don’t use ‘trick’ questions, but some of them are purposefully ambiguous. Ultimately, you should dig deeper to fully understand the problem that you’re given. Instead of just staring at the blackboard, you should ask questions, and talk things through.

When you are mentally working through a solution, think out loud, as your interviewer will want to know how you approach and troubleshoot problems. We say that it is much better to code quickly, make mistakes, and pick them up yourself as you go, then code slowly and correctly. A working solution is better than a more efficient non-working solution.

We say that it is much better to code quickly, make mistakes, and pick them up yourself as you go, then code slowly and correctly.

If the interviewer gives you hints to improve your code, take them and run with them. Again, the interviewer isn’t there to try to trip you up. There’s a good chance that they have seen a bug or error that you have not noticed. It’s good to adjust and work through the problems with the interviewer to show your problem-solving ability. You should also check for edge cases and test your code to ensure it is as bug-free as possible.

In the fourth hour, we’ll give you a behavioural assessment. We are keen on people with consultancy skills, which means having the ability to liaise with clients and wanting to ask questions to get to the bottom of their problem. We also like to ask what tricks you employ to improve your workflow. Some of our employees use the Pomodoro time management technique, others meditate. What we like to see is that you recognise what makes you unproductive and that you’ve taken steps to fix that.

Most importantly, we’ll consider your potential. We recognise that no one is perfect, for example, you could use a little more experience with deep learning. What we’ll consider is your potential to learn and how long it will take to iron out these flaws.

If you make it through this, then we’ll welcome you to the Scyfer crew! We think our interview process is an important part of integration into company culture for successful candidates. It’s a rite of passage that all Scyfer employees have been through. Just like the obstacle course, if you make it through, you’ll do so in the knowledge that everyone before you has done it. We think that this promotes comradery within the team.

So, what are we looking for in our potential employees?

One of the qualities we’re looking for is ownership. What this means is, rather than identifying a problem and doing nothing about it, we like to see the kind of person who sees a problem and goes out of his way to solve it. An example we can give of this is a guy who looked at his company and realised that his colleagues didn’t know a lot about deep learning. So, instead of seeing this problem and doing nothing about it, he personally organised workshops for his colleagues, to teach and excite them about the topic. This problem-solving mentality is exactly the kind of thing we like to see!

Another example we can give comes from one of our current employees. Our employee was being interviewed remotely via Skype – an awkward experience at the best of times, but particularly when the interviews require you to write out machine learning solutions by hand. His solution: he bought his own blackboard to use during the interview; a pleasant surprise for us! This example is a problem-solving mentality at its finest and something that we value highly in our employees.

Another thing we want to see is enthusiasm. We want to see your passion for programming and machining learning; you can show this by showing how up-to-date you are with the latest developments in the field. The best demonstration of passion we’ve seen so far comes again from a current employee of ours. He worked so hard during the Chalk Hell and wrote so much code in multicoloured chalk that his suit turned into a rainbow!

Finally, we’re ultimately looking for raw skill. This means the basic level of understanding of programming and machine learning needed to be able to do the job.

Is there anything we don’t like?

The answer to this question is simply common sense. We like happy people; we aren’t such big fans of super negative people or people who only talk about themselves. We’re looking for can-doers and problem solvers – not people who give up at the first hurdle. Everyone takes some time to transition into the company – that’s how new jobs work. There is a lot to learn. So we want to make sure you’ve got buckets of enthusiasm and positivity to meet that challenge.

The finish line


The Finish Line. Credit: John Blackie.

After you’ve climbed over every slippery obstacle, walked through fire and swam through pools of ice, you’ll cross the finish into a job where you’ll be given a high amount of freedom and autonomy and a competitive salary. Passing the Chalk Hell makes you one Tough Mudder! The very best thing about working for Scyfer is the chance to work with as part of a team of lovely, like-minded colleagues.