Saturday, May 25, 2013
Booking.com Job Interview Experience
Last month I had an opportunities to visit Amsterdam for the first time. I went there to attend onsite interview in Booking.com. Booking.com provide very great facility during recruitment process.
That experience was started when I see and booking.com Perl developer vacancy in stackoverflow career website. Actually the position is for Perl developer. Honestly I don't have professional experience in Perl yet. But the job post didn't ask such requirement. Although I spent most of my professional career use Java, but I am language agnostic person that always happy to try and learn new thing.
Back to the interview story. After submitting my resume, I didn't receive any immediate reply. Couple of weeks from that suddenly I received a missed call from strange number. The country code is +31. I asked to my wife which country code is that. Then she goggled it and reply her finding, "Netherlands". I didn't know exactly who probably try to call me that night.
Few days later another phone call was coming in at the time I go home from office. Same country code, but not sure whether it was the same number. I picked up the called and the girl was on the phone. She greeted me and introduced as a recruiter from Booking.com. Since my phone was low battery I asked her to call me back in couple of minutes so that I could reach my room and plug the charger.
Couple of minutes later I was standby in my room. Looking my phone waiting the recruiter to call me back. The phone was ringing again and I picked up. Fast forward, we were talking about HR thing. Her main question was about my interesting to do a technical phone interview about the job that I applied. Of course I said I interest. Later she asked several information about my profile. Time availability, the reason to change job, salary expectation, etc. At the end of phone called she said will arrange phone interview schedule At the next day I got the schedule about two weeks forward from that day.
Then within 2 weeks I did some preparation. I went to library and lend several books, specially Perl and algorithm book. Read the book and did coding practice. Finally the phone interview schedule was coming. I did the interview at 10 PM Singapore time which is around 4 PM Amsterdam time. There was two interviewer. I spent about 45 minutes for the interview. The questions include algorithm, database and one business process. The interviewer are so nice. Like usual at the end they let me ask question regarding the company or the job. They said I will got the result withing 2 days.
The day after I was on the bus from office to go home. Another Netherlands number was calling. She introduced as another recruiter in booking.com and immediately congratulate me for passing phone interview phase so that I was invited to go to Amsterdam for onsite interview. Wow it was an awesome call. For the first time in my life I will go to Europe for free. She gave me 6 weeks time preparation so that I can apply visa while she would prepare another things for my travel preparation. In the same time that 6 weeks also very useful for me to do technical preparation as well by more reading and coding practice.
I applied my visa through Netherlands embassy in Singapore. The process was very straightforward First we need to make appointment through the website. The visa requirement are application form, photo, invitation letter, travel insurance, recommendation letter from our current company, last 3 months bank account statement and visa fee. The current fee for Schengen visa is 60 Euro which is equivalent to 97.10 SGD at my application time. After all requirement was complete, I went to the embassy according to my appointment time. I submit the whole document and the staff will check it immediately. I pay fee and the visa can be collected withing few days (I forgot how many days). At scheduled collection date I called the embassy and they said the visa is ready. While waiting my departure time at the end of April, I spent the time for reading and coding practice again.
Finally the departure time was coming. I took 3 days leave for this purpose. I went on April 17 Wednesday, just after midnight. I arrived the same day around 7 AM in the morning. But the whole flight was about 14 hours direct! The longest flight I've ever experienced. I spent the time on plane by sleeping and staring flight tracking screen seeing the plane icon moving slowly from Singapore to Amsterdam. The first feeling after landing was cold weather. Actually it was already spring, but the temperature still below 10 Celsius.
From the plane I move fast through Schiphol airport, pass the immigration and then collect my baggage Later I went outside baggage collection area and found a stall selling phone sim card. I bought Lebara sim card with some data plan. After that I move a while see airport surrounding. Later I bought the train ticket to Amsterdam central from the machine. It cost about 4 Euros something from Schiphol to Amsterdam central. The train station located exactly below the airport. Europe has very complex railway system. In schiphol station itself there are several train platforms. We have to go to correct platform when going to particular destination. The very coplete informartion bords are everywhere but we still need sometime to grasp all the things. Within few minutes the train was coming and jumped in then try to find empty seat. I was asking one passenger just to make sure that I ride the correct train. The train was moving out the station and rise to the street level. Slowly I amazed to have that experience. I am in Europe! I saw the cars at the street, the vehicle is moving at the right lane. I saw many exotic and well maintained building. I saw so many people ride bike.
About half hour later I arrived at Amsterdam Central station. I alighted from the train and directly went down from platform to the station. After observing from internet, I should ride tram to my hotel. But I have to purchase OV chipkaart first. OV chipkaart is a smart card that we can use to pay public transport in Netherlands. For someone who live in Singapore, OV chipkaart more or less is similar with Singapore EZlink card. But OV chipkaart just implemented recently. We can purchase the card from the machine. After purchasing the card I go out and find tram stop with so many trams standby ready to serve passenger to various destination. Exactly after going out from station I was hitted by cold weather. Actually I have used thick jacket and sweater.
Every tram number has their own rail and stop. In every stop there will be a board showing tram destination and the whole stops it will passed. I directly hoped to one of the tram and not forget to tap my OV chipkaart to the ready near the entrance. Tram usually consist two or three cars. The crew are one driver at the front and one assistant in the middle who sit inside one ticket counter. We can pay cash here if we don't have OV chipkaart.
It was about 4 stops from Amsterdam central to my hotel. I alight and walk some minutes to the hotel. I was staying in The Bridge hotel, during my visit to Amsterdam. The hotel located exactly beside the canal. Oh yeah, I forgot to share, Amsterdam is canal city. Canals are everywhere. Boat are everywhere. Bikes also everywhere. I went in to the hotel, checked in, and entered the room. All expenses has been taken care by booking.com.
When entering the room I was amazed, I got the room with canal view. The room was so large. A queen bed, work table, a heater near window and large bathroom. That evening for the first time I can feel how is jet lag. I fall sleep at 5 PM and suddenly woke up in the middle of the night, fresh! My body still think that I am still in South East Asia.
Btw I have shared too many unnecessary detail. Let's fast forward to interview date. My schedule was on Friday 19 April, two days after my departure. Booking.com office located 5 minutes walk from my hotel. So at the d day, I walked 15 minutes before the schedule. I register at the front office, wait some minutes and finally welcomed by another recruiter. The onsite interview was scheduled for 3 hours. 1 hour HR interview plus 2 times 1 hour technical interview.
The HR interview stage actually more to presentation than interview. Because at this opportunities one HR staff will describe a lot of benefits that we will receive if got the offer. The interviewer also again will ask about the reason why we want to move etc.
The first technical interview was coming. There are two developer. Immediately they ask one algorithm about string permutation. I have to admit that I was little bit stuck in this question. But I tried to be cool and keep comminicate with them properly elaborating my thinking process. At the end I can solve their question after they simplify and simplify again the problem. Anyway, likely they are not too satisfy with result.
The second technical interview, another two developers were coming. At this stage I asked little bit more database question and business process. At this stage I was more confidence with all of my answers. Finally 3 hours interview has ended.
That afternoon I was planning to go to Keukenhof. But it was too late for that day, so that I went there the day after. Anyway let just fast forward again to one week later after I go back to Singapore. Finally on Thursday 25 April I receive email from booking.com HR. I just watched Iron Man 3 in cinema with my wife. The email consist of rejection. Honestly I feel so sad that time. I was thinking, if I can got the offer, I can move to Amsterdam, and can stay closer to my wife which is currently studying post graduate in Germany. I just feel so often failed. But this time it is easier for me to try to be positive. Most likely that positive feeling was coming after so many encouragement from my wife. Something is happening and not happening with reason. Event for the worst failure there will be always sweet lesson that we can gain.
Now it has been more than one month since that awesome experience. I will be always looking forward, continuously enhance myself, trying with my best for any opportunities. Destiny is not lie on water surface that is impossible to write. Destiny is written in hard stone. We still need a hard effort but always possible to write any story that we want.