Creating an Abnormally Great Hiring Experience
In the past, the underlying theme of the recruiting and interviewing process was, "Why should we, the company, choose to hire you?" Now the question has become, "Why should I, the candidate, choose to work for your company?"
As the Talent Marketing Manager at Abnormal Security, I’m responsible for communicating our story to the world and amplifying what’s happening internally to an external audience. My goal is to broadcast the answers to the questions that every high-quality candidate is asking:
What's unique about Abnormal as a company?
What can we exclusively offer to employees?
What is it like to work here?
Why should a candidate choose to work here versus anywhere else in the world?
I recently sat down with three employees who all joined Abnormal within the past nine months to discuss their experiences as candidates and new hires. We hope you enjoy this behind-the-scenes look at the journey of becoming an Abnormal employee.
Introducing Our Panelists
First things first, what’s your name, what is your role here, and how were you introduced to Abnormal?
I'm Susie Bernard, and I’m the Security Compliance Manager. I help ensure all employee laptops and devices comply with government and industry regulations to maintain compliance with required security standards.
My Abnormal origin story started with reading a Brian Krebs article that Crane Hassold was quoted in. The company name caught my eye, so I investigated, learned about Abnormal’s mission to fight cybercrime, and I applied right away because it had been my goal for years to be on the front lines of the cybercrime war.
I'm Rainier Ababao, and I'm a Software Engineer working on tools that make it easier for our analysts to label emails and suspicious events. I actually interviewed with Abnormal while it was still around 40 employees back in September 2019, and I turned it down for big tech.
Fast forward two years later, I was working in big tech and also working at a super tiny startup with some of my friends. I realized I was learning the most at the sort of mid-stage level. By then a couple of my friends had joined Abnormal and told me about how great the company was and how much it had been growing. So I asked him for a referral, was re-interviewed, and joined in January.
My name is Yi-Chu Chen, and I'm a Machine Learning Engineer on the detection team. Our team builds and improves the systems that detect and mitigate attacks. I learned about Abnormal from my friend, and after hearing so many great things about the company from him, I decided to join.
The Abnormal Candidate Experience
Comparing your recruiting experience with Abnormal to recruiting processes you've been through at other companies, what are one or two things that stood out to you as differentiators?
Were there any specific "surprise and delight" moments you remember?
I think one big thing that differentiated the Abnormal recruiting process from others was the speed. It was so fast. It was pretty shocking—in a good way.
Additionally, during my interview process, I got to sit in on the weekly company Town Hall and I realized that the transparency is at a totally different level. The sales team shared updates about the customer experience and the product, and I remember thinking, "Wow, this company shared those details with everyone, with engineering."
As an engineer, you’re often so far removed from the customer that you don’t actually get to see how your work impacted their business. But hearing how what the engineering team was doing was specifically beneficial to customers really pumped me up.
I also got to talk to my future manager one more time after I received the offer but before I accepted. We discussed the individual team I’d be joining within engineering and that helped me understand expectations and be confident that it would be a good fit for me.
When I was on the phone with [the recruiter], I could tell he was genuinely excited to talk to me. Most recruiters just robotically ask you the same list of questions, but not him. He was so passionate about his dedication to Abnormal’s mission. He obviously loved the company, and that came across loud and clear in our conversation.
I was on the phone for maybe five minutes before I decided, "This is the place I want to be, and I'm never going to work anywhere else ever again." Based on his fabulous attitude, positive demeanor, and authenticity—that’s all it took. I bought in at that moment.
Throughout the process, I saw that Abnormal treats candidates like humans and not just resumes. To reiterate what Yi-Chu said, the process wasn’t dragged out. The velocity shows care; it shows that you don't want to waste our time. It was apparent the company wasn’t going to just leave us hanging, and that's so, so rare. Truly, I was shocked by it.
I want to echo what everyone else said about the velocity. I think what comes along with that is follow-through. That signaled to me that the rest of the organization has this value to follow through on commitments and do things quickly. I also want to echo the optimism, authenticity, and passion. The people I talked to were optimistic about the company and honest about the organization.
The one other thing I wanted to mention is how the process for engineering candidates in particular was distinct from other companies. What stood out to me was how specific and in-depth the conversations we had were.
In most interviews for engineering roles, you’re just asked some brain teaser-type questions that you can memorize the answers for. When I was interviewing with Abnormal, there was a large emphasis on projects I’d worked on in the past. They wanted to know what kinds of things I liked working on and the things I didn’t. There was a strong focus on making sure that the team I was going to be on was going to be a fit for me, and I’d never had an interview that required that level of introspection or had that level of intentionality.
The Abnormal Onboarding Experience
What would you like to share about your first-year experience as an employee at Abnormal?
During the interview process, I was given specific instances where employees had demonstrated one of the company’s VOICE core values and examples of engineers that had accelerated their careers at Abnormal. And I’ve absolutely seen it now since joining. Every junior-level engineer who has completed the onboarding process is really operating at a higher level than what I’ve seen at other companies.
I also feel there’s been a lot of proactive communication and guidance about where to look for information or who to consult when I have certain questions. I think people are especially communicative, and it’s definitely not a sink-or-swim environment.
Since being hired, I’ve seen everyone be treated as equals. There’s this understanding that, regardless of your position in the company, we’re all human. The culture and structure are not hierarchical.
Additionally, one of the great things about Abnormal is support comes from the top down. I've worked in organizations where it was so difficult to do my job because senior leadership did not buy into the need for a security program. But here, there’s buy-in across the board for everything we do. Not just our mission as a whole, but every little thing we do here.
After I joined, I realized that Abnormal’s VOICE culture isn’t just a slogan that people say. Everyone in the company is valued and connected.
I also feel truly supported in our company. Whenever you have a question, you just open up a Slack channel and type in your question. There are plenty of people who are happy to hop in and answer or look into the problem and tell you how to solve it. Especially as someone new to the company, I appreciate that everyone is willing to help me figure out the issue instead of me having to find the answer myself and feeling overwhelmed.
To piggyback off this, when we talk about opportunities at Abnormal, we say, "Every employee can get 10 years of experience in two." But it’s not as if you’re thrown into the deep end and left to your own devices the way it is at some other fast-moving startups. You’re able to take ownership of projects and be autonomous, but you also have access to a wealth of resources and information along with support from colleagues throughout the organization.
I think at many other companies, there’s an attitude of, "You ran into an issue? Well, hope you can figure it out!" And then it creates this pressure where you feel less-than if you can’t solve the problem on your own.
But that’s why you join a team! The whole point of having a team is that you’re surrounded by other people who have experienced that issue, be it here or somewhere else, and they can accelerate your learning. Things get done so much quicker that way; you can do more and the team can do more. We’re here to support one another at Abnormal, not watch each other flounder.
Insights for Potential Abnormal Candidates
What final thoughts about Abnormal would you like to share with potential candidates?
Potential candidates should know that Abnormal is such a generous company. It's a bunch of very generous people who like to recognize success and share success with other people, which is rare.
Dale Carnegie said, "Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise." It means giving pats on the back and just focusing on the positive—and that's what Abnormal does. So many job descriptions tout "work-life balance" and "great culture", but the reality is most other companies don’t actually prioritize either of those. At Abnormal, leadership walks the walk and talks the talk. They genuinely stand behind what they say.
One thing I especially appreciate is the "improving 1% every day" mentality and also the culture of sharing. On the engineering team, we have a demo hour every week where people are invited to share something they’re working on or some improvement they’ve made to our system.
I appreciate the opportunity to hear about other moving parts in our system because you learn so much. I feel like I’ve learned so much about how people work, and it's just been such an enjoyable time for me. The company culture and the engineering culture here are really great, and this is what I was looking for.
I think sometimes engineers of a certain profile, especially those coming from big tech, are hesitant to join a smaller company. They want to make sure there are still things to do and that it’s not too late to have an impact.
So if you’re an engineer who’s interested in working on solving problems on the cutting edge of technology, you should apply. It is absolutely not too late to join at all. There is still a ton of stuff that needs to get done.
That’s a really good callout. With a tech startup, it can feel like you either join when it’s two people in a garage or it’s 10,000 employees, and there’s no in-between. And the belief is that it’s only at that stage of two people in a garage where there are interesting things to work on; otherwise, there’s nothing at all.
At Abnormal, there are still plenty of interesting things to do, and I don’t foresee that changing anytime soon.
Recruiting at Abnormal
As a startup with an employee-first model, Abnormal is dedicated to supporting every member of our workforce at every stage—even before they’ve officially joined the team! Of course, being a fast-growing, younger company, we’re still learning and improving. But as we evolve and adjust our hiring strategies, we will never overlook the fact that at the center of the recruiting process are real people who are volunteering their time and energy to us.
We recognize that successful recruiting is a lot like matchmaking. We need to consider both what candidates are looking for and what we can offer. From there, we need to understand what an individual candidate values most and ensure we as a company are crystal clear on what we value. Then, we need to commit to making sure those things align along the way so the company can support each employee to do their best work.
If you’re ready for your next challenge and want to be a part of our mission to stop cybercrime, visit our Careers page and browse our open roles!
See the Abnormal Solution to the Email Security Problem
Protect your organization from the full spectrum of email attacks with Abnormal.