How I got hired by Basecamp

I saw the Senior Programmer offer one day before going to bed. I decided I wasn’t going to apply. I had tried four times since 2013, and I never got to pass the first filter. Each attempt took me a good amount of time and energy, and I didn’t want to go through that pain again. That feeling didn’t last much: the next day, I was already working on my application. 

I knew I had made a mistake in the past: a too long cover letter. So this time I decided to fit it into two pages:

  • The letter itself on one page.
  • A distilled list of my relevant projects and articles on another.

The self-imposed two-pages constraint was arbitrary but served its purpose: reducing my big initial dump of assorted ideas and projects into something essential and easy to digest.

I decided to add a third page with a “Basecamp timeline” of my previous attempts. I wanted to highlight my genuine motivation, as well as referring to a demo I prepared years ago. I considered this secondary, so I placed it as a light appendix at the end.

I tried to make the application look nice with my limited design skills. They asked for a PDF, but I didn’t want to deliver a boring document. This was the version I sent.

They liked the application, and I was asked to do a technical exercise. Not too big, but interesting and fun. I could solve it on my own terms, and it let me show some technical and communication skills. Then I had three interviews: one with Andrea, the Head of People Ops; another with members of the team: Rosa, Jane, and Justin; and a final one with Jeremy, the team lead. Each interview left some candidates out, and I always knew how many of us were left.

Interviews were not hard. No difficult questions or puzzles. They felt like chatting about my background and Basecamp with colleagues. They tried to make me feel comfortable and gave me their full attention, which was a big contrast with other past experiences I have had. I listened to this episode about how Basecamp hires many times during the process, and it is a pretty good depiction of what to expect.

Because I imagined how good other candidates would be, I always thought it wasn’t going to be me. At first, that worked as a self-defense mechanism against the likely rejection. But the final interviews, when I knew I had a chance, were incredibly nerve-wracking.

I hate describing rare fantastic outcomes as just the logical consequence of some actions. I am proud of the job I did but, when it comes to selecting people, there is no best or right, and I was very lucky to be the one. Said that, I hope sharing my cover letter and experience can inspire other future candidates, like I was inspired by others Basecampers before.