top of page

All you need to know about bar-raising: What kind of interview is it and how not to fail it

Genesis has five values, one of which is a High Bar for Talent. This means that we carefully select candidates to maintain a high standard of recruitment within the company. An important stage of selection is the bar raiser interview. This is the final interview, during which both the company and the candidate discern whether they fit together. In this article, we will tell you why bar-raising appeared, how it works, which candidates Genesis says "yes" to, and how to prepare for an interview.

In preparation for the article, we spoke to the current Bar Raisers of the company: Anatoly Denisyuk, Head of UX/UI for the Headway project; Yaroslav Vugnyavyi, Head of AmoMedia Publishing; Yaroslav Morozov, CEO of the Universe project; and Kateryna Bova, Education Project Manager.

What is bar-raising and who conducts it?

Bar-raising is the final stage of selection, taking place after a technical interview, test task, and the collection of references. The interview is carried out by a top-level specialist who does not work on the project to which the candidate is applying. Thus, the Bar Raiser is not interested in closing a specific position and, therefore, can give objective and unbiased feedback. During a bar raiser interview, it is not the candidate's hard skills that are checked, but their soft skills and how they would fit within the company's culture.

Where does this procedure come from and why is it called so?

Bar-raising appeared at Amazon in 1999. Back then, the company developed its own plan for recruiting technical professionals in order to reduce the likelihood of hiring errors. The plan was called the barkeeper program.

The "bar" in this term refers to the conventional skill level of professionals who occupy the same positions as the candidate. Although the name was primarily about "maintaining the bar," the program also aimed to raise the general skill level of professionals in the company. Therefore, Amazon's Bar Raisers ensure that the selected candidates will truly strengthen the company’s teams.

Why did Genesis introduce bar-raising?

Working in product companies is significantly different from outsourcing, where the professional’s area of ​​responsibility is clearly defined. Genesis usually hires not only for specific tasks but also for the future. It means that at the selection stage, we determine which tasks and in which position the employee will be able to perform after a year or two. Therefore, it is a longer-term relationship that involves shared values ​​between the company and the employee. It is also important that the goals of the candidate and the team correspond. Because of this, bar-raising is mostly used in product companies. The recruitment process at Genesis was thoroughly rearranged in 2014 so that already by 2015, professionals were recruited according to the new system. We turned to the world's leading companies — Facebook, Amazon, and Google — for expertise because in 2014, Genesis was already a partner of these companies and could adopt their experience.

Who are the Bar Raisers in Genesis and how do you become one

Genesis Bar Raisers are top-level specialists — CEO, senior professionals, and Tech Lead. They have expertise in the candidate's field of knowledge, have been working at Genesis for more than a year, have conducted several hundred interviews, and also have an excellent understanding of the company's values ​​and corporate culture.

In order to have the necessary number of Bar Raisers at all times, Genesis carries out an intensive educational program. It consists of two parts: theoretical and practical. Participants listen to lectures by more experienced colleagues and participate in interviews — first as listeners, and then as active participants in the process.

The Bar Raiser has a great responsibility. They hold the bar and do not allow people to enter the company if there will be no mutually beneficial cooperation. To become a Bar Raiser, you need to observe the work of experienced interviewers for a long time and develop your own unique experience. The intensive program provides such an opportunity.

It’s clear why a business needs bar-raising, but how does the candidate benefit?

Bar-raising is a two-way process. Not only does the company choose the candidate, but the candidate selects their future workplace. At this stage of selection, the professional learns as much as possible about the company, its mission, and its values, and discerns whether they share those. During the conversation, the candidate can also clarify what career opportunities they will have in the company and with whom they’ll be working.

Bar-raising is a way to evaluate one's own experience and knowledge from the outside. It is also an opportunity to get feedback from an expert in your field and understand how to improve your skills. In my opinion, this is the most effective hour for the candidate at all stages of recruitment, even if the final decision is not in their favor.

How does bar-raising work?

Usually, such an interview follows a standard structure, but the details and emphases may vary depending on the candidate and the interviewer. With some candidates, experience is discussed more, whereas with others, the focus is fundamental knowledge or motivation. The interview consists of several blocks:

  • Achievements. It’s simple: The candidate tells what they were responsible for at their previous position and what results they were able to achieve.

  • Motivation. It’s important for a person to be passionate about their work because it determines how quickly they will move up the career ladder.

  • Intelligence and reaction. The interviewer may ask the candidate to solve a logical problem or may ask an unexpected question such as "How many carriages are there in the Kyiv metro." The correct answer is not as important as the approach to solving the problem and the reaction of the interviewee.

  • Questions from the candidate. If a candidate comes to an interview with a list of questions, it shows their interest in the position and the company. The nature of such questions allows us to understand the professional’s motivation more clearly.

What professionals is Genesis looking for?

I pay attention to several points:

  • Positive perception of the world.

  • Proactivity. A proactive person can show the results of their work. These can be quantitative indicators from past work and a description of the project or startup that the candidate worked on.

  • Awareness of one's actions and processes. A professional can explain how and why they achieved this or that result. If they cannot do so and consider outcomes as coincidence, this is a cause for concern.

I look at a combination of factors: how a person talks, what exactly they say, how well-educated and empathetic they are, and how well they listen to others. I ask about difficulties and successes that they had in their past work. These are qualities of a candidate I would recommend hiring at Genesis:

  • Willingness to work with a team. Otherwise, it will be difficult to achieve significant results here. A person should be communicative, work towards a common goal, and be inspired by teamwork.

  • The desire to grow. A person cannot be forced to work on themselves if they do not want to. One of the criteria is reading books. At Headway, we are very particular about reading, because our product is related to it. So if a candidate does not read at all, there is a question of how much they want to grow. Of course, in addition to books, there are other resources for education, but it is much more difficult without them.

  • Willingness to work in a startup environment. Genesis consists of a dozen and a half projects that, in one way or another, work in the rhythm of a startup – meaning quickly. This does not mean that they are forced to work at night here. Yet, if a person knows how to organize their time to keep up with the pace of a growing company, then they are our candidate.

  • Adaptability, flexibility, and the ability to make quick decisions.

Why can a candidate be rejected?

Bar Raisers pointed to several "red flags." They mentioned toxicity and insincerity the most often. If the candidate has an "opaque" previous experience and they are trying to hide something, then hiring managers are recommended to refuse to cooperate with them. A toxic person – one who spreads negativity and complains, but does not act or draw conclusions – will also not be tolerated.

This also applies to situations when the candidate does not know how to accept feedback or react to criticism.

Another "red flag" is when a candidate takes credit for other people's merits or declares themself an expert on topics they don't really understand.

What is the difference between bar-raising for junior and senior positions?

Anatoliy Denysiuk: During interviews with junior candidates, I pay more attention to motivation. With seniors, I focus on experience and reflection.

Yaroslav Vugnyavy: When we hire seniors, we make sure that the person is an expert in their field; in other words, they have the skills and abilities that the team lacks, and complete tasks for which we lack expertise.

When searching for a junior, we place the main emphasis on their motivation, potential, and desire to grow and develop. We consider what position a person can apply for in the future.

How should someone prepare for a bar raiser interview?

Yaroslav Morozov: It’s important to show interest in the position. Learn more about the project and team, your duties and area of ​​responsibility, and how your work will impact team goals. Strong recruits usually come with a list of questions; in the eyes of interviewers, this gives them an advantage because it shows that the person is interested in working for the company and will be able to dive deeply into the processes.

Identify your strengths and weaknesses. Walk through your experience and write down what you are proud of. If you have very little experience, research the information about the project and think about what you can bring to the table.

Anatoliy Denysiuk: Candidates are more likely to get into the company if they understood the weaknesses of the previous interview and improved upon their “mistakes.” Remember the interviewer’s comments, analyze feedback, and you will come to the next meeting more prepared. If the candidate repeats the same mistakes during bar-raising, it means that they don’t reflect on their own actions.

This applies not only to previous stages of selection. For example, we all understand that complaining about past employers is not a good idea, so candidates usually choose not to talk about past negative experiences at all.

Yet there is another option: the candidate analyzes the situation, shows empathy, and talks about their experience consciously. For example: "I had a disagreement with the management. I did not agree with this, because it negatively affected the processes. However, I understand why it happened this way and why this was demanded of me." This is an ideal response.

Yaroslav Vugniavyi: I don't think that there is any way to prepare for bar-raising. The best you can do is to be open, sincere, and honest. Do not rush to answer questions if you are not sure. It’s better to think for half a minute and then give a balanced answer. Never talk about things that you do not really understand because your interviewer will see through you.


Підписуйся на нашу розсилку та отримуй корисні матеріали першим!

Надаючи вашу електронну адресу, ви погоджуєтесь з нашою Політикою приватності.

Дякуємо, що підписалися.

bottom of page