Talk about the biggest startups in Southeast Asia, and there are a handful of names that always pop up. Grab, the ride-hailing company that is successfully defending its turf against Uber in the region, is one of them. Another oft-mentioned company - currently valued at US$3.75 billion - is gaming-turned-internet company Garena.
While traditionally known across the region for their popular online games, locals would likely recognize Garena for having one of the coolest offices in Singapore. Think nap pods, air hockey tables, and well-stocked pantries.
Naturally, we had to talk to Garena to find out more about how they find talented engineers to fuel their growth. This article is the second in a series of posts that will uncover the hiring processes of leading technology companies in Singapore.
Interview process at Garena
Not surprisingly, Melanie Sheng, Assistant HR Manager at Garena Labs, tells me that getting a spot in their engineering team is an extremely competitive process - around 5 to 10 out of every 100 candidates are hired. That pegs a potential hire's chances at around 10%.
Like many local companies, Garena's hiring team utilizes multiple channels to find engineering talent. "While we use a variety of channels, we've had a really good experience with 100offer so far, as it has a good pool of experienced candidates with experience in similar tech firms," Melanie says."We have about 150 to 200 applications a month, but it can go up to 250 to 300 during peak hiring season," she elaborates. "About 30% get through the first round, 15% through 2 rounds of technical interviews, and finally, 10% will get through to interviews with senior management."
According to Melanie, Garena's senior management are still very much involved in the recruitment process.Still, promising candidates can go through the hiring process relatively quickly. A 100offer user who recently joined Garena tells us that it took him just 1.5 weeks to land an offer.
In total, candidates typically go through 4 interview rounds:
- An initial technical test and HR interview
- 1 technical interview round by senior and/or line managers
- 1 more technical interview round by senior and /or line managers
- The final round is a one-on-one meeting with the VP of Garena Labs
4 interview rounds might seem extensive, but these may not take place across 4 separate days. In fact, our 100offer user went through all the interviews within just two rounds:
"The first round comprised of two sections. The first was a two-hour examination paper, containing several general computer science questions. The question types were as follows: 20 MCQ, 5 fill-in-the-blank, 1 SQL question, and 1 algorithmic coding. The second part was a one-to-one interview with a senior Garena developer. Some of the system design questions require a deep understanding of computer science.
The second round was also split into two parts. The first was a one-to-one tech interview with the team head, who asked me many detailed questions on Hadoop and other big data systems. The second interview was with the regional business head. This round was the only non-technical round."
In the early stages, there are a few characteristics that hint at a candidate's suitability. First and foremost, Melanie makes sure that the candidate has a solid technical foundation, and a passion for coding. Next, she looks out for "an ability to think laterally and take initiative to problem-solving."
"We also look for how they'd mesh with the five Garena qualities: we run, we adapt, we serve, we commit, and we stay humble," she says.On that note, Melanie clarifies that both technical and cultural fit are equally important in their assessment of candidates:
"We need people with the technical proficiency to do the job well. We also need people who are adaptable and able to grow with us as we are ambitious about where the company is going, and the tech team is central to that."
Garena's interview questions
For the technical rounds, candidates will naturally be asked questions relating to programming knowledge. "We do an on-the-spot coding test, data structure, algorithm, operating systems, database, web, security, and so on," Melanie explains.
Candidates can expect to be asked many questions during the technical interview rounds, according to our 100offer user. Most of the questions were "standard" coding questions, but he was surprised to see one about Strassen's algorithm too.
"Candidates will likely require solid fundamental knowledge of computer science, particularly relating to algorithms, computer organization, network, database, operating system, and programming languages," he adds.
At the end of the day, though, Melanie is looking for "creative thinkers and problem solvers." "We look out for bright minds who can develop platforms with the end users' needs in mind, and not just an engineer who codes," she explains.
"They should have tenacity, perseverance and commitment to deliver excellent results. We look for someone with potential who we can cultivate over time to become a leader in their field."
As such, she and her hiring team tend to have conversations with candidates that "test critical thinking." These include questions such as, how many passengers pass through Changi Airport every year? or how would you move all the water out of Marina Bay?
"It's important that our candidates can rationalize and think out of the box," she emphasizes.
To get an edge over the "competition," Melanie suggests staying updated on the latest programming languages and know-how, as well as "keeping an eye out for new technologies."
"Also continue building an awareness of trends in Southeast Asia – a very exciting and dynamic market."
Garena is one of several leading technology companies hiring technical talent on 100offer's marketplace. Sign up for 100offer to see what opportunities there are in the market right now: