How We Hire at Buffer

A lot of people have asked us how we hire at Buffer and how to go about getting an interview for one of our open positions. I hope I can shine some light on it here!

Probably the most important element we look for is alignment with the 1o Buffer valuesThe way we go about hiring for Buffer is to primarily look for culture fit. 

Then there’s entrepreneurial spirit: As a startup, we’re moving at a very fast pace that’s often hard to keep up with if you’re coming from a larger company (at least that’s what we found so far). So having successful side projects, having worked for another startup before,  or being able to show us in another way that you’re comfortable with a fast pace is also a big plus.

Another quite important factor is usage and knowledge of Buffer, the product and the company.

Of course we need to know that you’ve got the skills and experience for the position in question, but that’s a secondary element for us. We look mainly for relevant experience to the particular role someone is applying, less for academic achievements. For example, Niel de la Rouviere, one of our awesome front end engineers, is completely self-taught. Of course, academic achievements are welcome to be mentioned.

The best candidates have all four of these attributes:

how we hire at Buffer


In general, we only invite very few people for interviews. For example in February, 2,024 applicants through our jobs page resulted in 13 interviews that month.

The main way we try to gauge culture fit in practice is by looking at the wording of each email and seeing how well it is in line with our culture. Especially since we’re a remote team, written communication gets a lot of weight and gauging emotions from it is important for us.

Secondly, we heavily rely on people’s Twitter accounts, how individuals Tweet and whether their postings are also in line with our culture. Would their posts fit on on our team Twitter list?

We know our formula isn’t perfect – we’ve made many adjustments along the way, and we’re still learning. The best advice I can give is to follow along with Buffer, get to know the company and the product and see if you align with the culture well (we found that our culture is very particular and often doesn’t work well for a lot of people). Once you’ve seen how we do things and you like how we go about running a company, get in touch.

We have 10 positions open right now – does one of them belong to you?

  • Adrian Rossouw

    I think you guys should have some kind of auto responder to messages received on those email addresses. Preferably with some information about how frequently you evaluate them and so forth.

    Sending a mail like that into the void and not getting any confirmation it was even received is pretty nerve wracking.

    • Courtney Seiter

      Great feedback, Adrian! We definitely don’t want to cause angst if we can help it. I’ll check on what we can do about that.

    • Abhijeet Raúl Wankhade

      Yeap, as an UX designer I was baffled when something silly like this can be ignored. I still have my “Ready to apply?” window open since yesterday hoping I’ll get some confirmation message over there :p.

  • Parker Agee

    Great insight. Sifting through 2,024 applicants seems like daunting task. Are there any attributes that make a certain candidate stand out easily at first glance?

    • Courtney Seiter

      Great question! I’d love to see if I can rustle up a bit more insight for you on that one. Perhaps a followup post!

  • kobak

    Just increased one of the numbers for the Buffer team list. This was easy. (got reminded about it in the current blog post)
    The other one is a bit more tricky. ;) Thanks for the insight.

  • William Mougayar

    I like the Twitter analysis. People reveal themselves over time, and there is nothing better than a history lookup to see that.

    • Thea Woods

      Oh… Good point. I hope when I officially apply, that my fondness for posting pictures of cute cats, corny jokes and green smoothies isn’t held against me. O______O

  • Mariam Sweet

    It’s interesting how long it takes to get a response. I applied and would like to know when it is time to lose hope :))

    • Courtney Seiter

      Yes, hiring can be quite a long process at Buffer. It might be good for us to talk about that a bit more in a future post. Thanks for the nudge!

      • Mariam Sweet

        Thanks for your reply. I have one more question. Is it ever OK to apply for two positions? As you have some openings very similar to each other… Or would you consider one application for several positions by yourself without applicant knowing?

        • Courtney Seiter

          I can only speak from personal experience here, but I came on at Buffer in an entirely different position than the one I applied for :)

  • Ashley Mittiga

    Thanks for the insights! I have been following Buffer for awhile and love the product and what the company is about. Ill keep all this information in mind and hopefully someday get to join the team and share some ideas ! :) Keep being awesome!

  • Kate Tilton

    Great insight Leo. As an applicant for a Buffer position the wait is nerve wracking but it’s good to get an idea about how many people are applying for these positions. Thank you!

  • Adrian Rossouw

    I wonder if perhaps the model you are using here is a bit too structured. Can you really assign a job title in the way you are now?

    I don’t know how much heed is paid to these positions in the day-to-day running of things, but most startups I have been involved with have required people to wear a lot of different hats.

    Speaking as a full-stack developer, I don’t know that you would be able to easily pigeon hole me as either front-end or back-end. Not only that, but you would probably miss a larger picture.

    Since you’re talking about replacing the email with a form, I think you should drop the job title and instead look for an [engineer|support|whatever] and have the applicants rate their own capabilities for the specific areas you want to develop. IE: an engineer with really strong back-end, and decent front-end skills.

    I think you should still require a written application, with the additional fields to help prioritisation and filtering. Just keep in mind you are going to subconsciously be selecting for first language english speakers, and for fairness and transparency purposes you should probably consider a policy w.r.t. this. It might also benefit you in the long run to consider different markets you want to expand into, and getting a broader language base in the company.

    In the evaluation interface (language concerns aside), I would not show the personal skills assessment, because it might subconsciously influence the people doing the reviews. Also, if you have them specify what they perceive the abilities of the candidate in those skills are, you can eventually train the system to detect the bias’ of the evaluators and the (assumed) likelihood for people to overestimate their own abilities.

    It could be interesting to tie this into linked in to increase the confidence given to certain required skills based on recommendations. I’m a bit uncomfortable with the idea of putting too much stock into information gleaned this way, because I know my own endorsements are heavily slanted towards things I did a decade ago when I was more actively involved in open source. Their skills taxonomy is also a bit unruly.

    You would be able to chart the required skills versus the applicant’s submitted and perceived skills over time, to get an idea of the type of applicants you are getting. It would also be possible to resurface older applications if such a thing were desired.

    It would be possible to evaluate the skills of the existing team w.r.t. this as well, so that you can plot the progression of the team, and project where future skills gaps will occur. Bi-annual anonymous skill reviews of the perceived skills of employees might be an idea too.

    Apparently this kind of system is called a skills matrix, but I was unable to find any open source implementations.

    The closest I could find is this nascent SaS product :

  • Tuuti Piippo

    It’s been super interesting to see how your process has developed since I first had the chance to learn about it last spring, Leo. Thanks for sharing these insights so openly!

    Something I’ve been thinking about a lot is how to make new team members feel welcome. I’ve learned that it can be challenging especially in tech companies where most of the people work on the product, but not all.

    Do you guys have a specific way to welcome people and make sure they feel welcome, too? I’d imagine that as a distributed team full of kind people you might be masters at this :)

  • lisi

    I wish that more companies followed this method. When I was first job searching post-graduation, I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere, because I didn’t “look good enough on paper,” simply in terms of my academic accomplishments.

    When I started the internship at my current company, I approached it similarly to your process–at a startup, company culture really beats most other criteria. I can teach someone to do what I need them to do (within reason, of course), but I can’t teach them to fit in with my team. That’s the part that’s probably most important to match when it comes to finding a new person to join us, because introducing someone into the mix that doesn’t have the same work ethic or values as the rest of us do could really throw a wrench into the well-oiled machine we’ve built.

    That “it” factor is organic. When someone sends you an email, you know whether or not they are who you’re looking for when you work at a startup.

    Maybe my problem all along is that I was made for startups, and I shouldn’t have wasted so much time trying to fit into a cookie cutter world where I didn’t belong! :)

  • Scott Ayres

    That’s a ton of applicants!

  • Tom Gibson

    The more I think about this, the more sense it seems to make. I’ve been reading more on motivational theory lately, and there’s a consensus that external motivators (incentives, punishments) don’t work very well in contrast to internal motivators (the stuff we want/love to do without external influence).

    So much of employment culture at the moment is focussed on perks (bribes?!) and the like, while there’s not so much focus on ‘does this person want to be here? Do they love to do this?’

    It looks like Buffer has struck on a way (intentionally or serendipitously) to figure out, as much as as feasible, whether people are working by internal or external motivation. The heavy focus on culture-fit is a way to find employees who will love what they do and will do it well. Awesome :-D

  • José Luis Vallín

    I’ve applyed for one of your open positions, but there is not feedback over if it reached anyone, It will be nice to have some confirmation message!! Thanks in advance!!

  • Courtney Seiter

    Hey y’all–just wanted to let everyone here in the comments know that we really appreciate what you had to say about putting auto responders in place to let you know Buffer received your application and we are working on doing that right now. All of us really thank you for letting us know how you were feeling and we hope this will help others feel happier about the process!

    • Marissa @ The Modern Austen

      This is great to hear, Courtney. I know I am one of many who will appreciate this service. It’s refreshing to see that the same solid customer service is extended to those hoping to join the team (and likely to those already on it!). As always, we value your efforts to make Buffer even better.

    • Björn Sennbrink

      Yes, there is a green message bar popping up. It would be great to see the auto responder making it to the e-mail too. Now when you apply there is no confirmation sent. That e-mail could hold the same information as in the message bar, just to let one know that you have received the application.

      • Courtney Seiter

        Thanks, Björn; I agree. We’ll definitely keep going on this to make the experience better!

  • T.Nichols

    Leo, you implied that applicants coming from larger companies generally don’t fit within the Buffer culture. Isn’t that a little biased?

  • hugovmonteiro

    “We know our formula isn’t perfect ” – May not be perfect, but it’s one of the best I’ve seen. Specially the graph, just sums it up.

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  • Jason Ephraim

    Hey Leo. Great info. I just applied to the growth hacker position and I have been sinking my teeth into all the videos and blogs you guys post to get an even deeper understanding about your team, it’s values, and everything that makes buffer tick. This post is a huge help (admittedly, while I’m biting my nails waiting). I think you should post this info on all future job opening pages to let people know a little bit more about how you choose so they have a better idea of what to expect. Thanks!

  • tyna__c

    Thanks for giving us a peek into Buffer’s hiring world! You mentioned large companies–I think what people do at a large company is important as well. There are typically pockets of start-up like environments within large companies; our social media team, for example, moves at a quick pace and deal with more ambiguity than the rest of the company. I met someone from HireVue at a conference and learned about some innovative ways they help companies hire their best performers–worth a peek!

  • Vincenzo Iaciofano

    i just received mine. i am not there but hope to help you. read the details and look at the company values if you fit. if you ever call in you will get an idea. i hope the next intake improves. great company and all that i have contacted have been excellent. sorry i cant make that tea for you Carolyn.
    regards Vincenzo

  • Rehman Ali

    There is lots of applicants hope for best.
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  • Kirsten Littlewood

    I was pretty disappointed in the auto response I got, not just for the fact that I’d been refused even an interview (I have 7 years in customer care, speaking 5 languages and I’m happy to work any hours in a company that shares my values…. A refusal to even get to speak with someone is gonna be a let down for anyone, of course)… What it was lacking was specific feedback; what was I lacking? What can I work on so I can apply again? What do you need from me for me to have human contact? It was also a real let down to be told that I could contact Carolyn on Twitter at any time when I’d done exactly that a week before and had no response whatsoever. Doesn’t instill confidence if you treat your customers one way and your potential employees (who are, as it happens, also customers) another. You claim that Happiness Heros aim to respond to tweets in 15 minutes, but other areas, it seems, don’t have to reply at all. Not good business practice, and something Buffer needs to work on if they’re going to be avoid being the faceless entity they seem so hard to avoid being.

    • Courtney Seiter

      You’re absolutely right, Kirsten, and I’m so sorry we’ve given you this terrible experience. We have a lot we can work on in this area, and you’ve given us some great insight here.

      • Kirsten Littlewood

        So how can I help? I’m a LEAN analyst and a qualified trainer. If I can help, I’m happy to because I don’t think this is the kind of service you aim to provide from what I understand of the company.

    • Amber

      I agree, Kirsten . They really need to work on some things . After receiving the email that I received from them trying to sugar coat things , I’ve decided that they are a company that I am no longer interested in. I suppose if I had a YouTube account with 100,00 plus followers , as well as Twitter and Instagram accounts with thousands of followers , I’d fit right in. Never mind that I have a Bachelor’s degree and a great deal of professional experience. Nah, not good enough . Word of Advice : You either need to realize that people can be trained or you need to quit focusing on Twitter and how many followers someone has. Unfortunately , that does not define a person !

      • Kirsten Littlewood

        Yep. I speak 5 languages and have nearly a decade in customer service as well as coaching experience which means I know how to deal with the public AND I can communicate with them in their language. I hold two degrees, have run two of my own businesses– didn’t matter.
        I did hear from Carolyn Kopprasch about how their lack of feedback was a complete turn off for prospective employees (they are going to lose a lot of valuable assets if they continue to hire this way) and was told that they’d take my feedback on board. I haven’t reapplied as I won’t work for any company that won’t respect me enough to give me a straight answer (this hiring thing works both ways, I interview them too; if the company isn’t up to scratch, I’m not working for them no matter the size of the carrot they dangle), but I hope they sort it out before they lose even more strong potential candidates. Or, they can continue as they are and remain an exclusive club that won’t even tell people why they couldn’t enter the inner circle, which will do them no favours in the professional arena at all. They are already in danger of gaining a bad reputation, if they continue like this, it won’t be long before people and companies will steer clear of them. Every clever businessman knows that how you treat the public is a shadow of how they treat you.

        • Amber

          I couldn’t have said it better myself. That’s also awesome that you speak so many languages. The company that I currently work for hired me based on my education. I had ZERO experience in this industry coming in. My supervisor saw my potential and knew that she wanted to hire me. I had to learn several complicated engineering programs. I learned the most complicated one in a week! The ONLY reason that I’m looking to leave my current job, is because the location that I’m in is transferring to another state and I cannot relocate. Otherwise, I would stay here and work my way up to be one of those employees who is paid over $100 an hour. We have employees here who are making great money and don’t have anything other than a high school diploma. My company is also a billion dollar industry. I guess that’s the different when you compare a billion dollar industry to a small company. A small company is either going to hire someone that they don’t have to train, someone who looks a certain way (I’ve actually been told in an interview that I needed to present myself as being “precious”), or who “fits in.” Companies like that don’t usually make it very far and their turnaround rate is extremely high. I’ve worked for a company like that. Currently I work with people from all walks of life and it’s enjoyable. Can you believe that Buffer had the audacity to tell me to keep in touch with them and once I’ve gained more experience and would like to “re-open” the door, to let them know. Let’s just say, they won’t ever be hearing from me, again.

          • carokopp

            Hey there, Amber and Kirsten. First, I wanted to thank you for being honest and sharing your feelings on with us, especially on a public platform; I can imagine it isn’t easy in these moments. Second, as much as I wish I had a really thoughtful answer to your comments, I can’t pretend that I don’t simply agree with you. I know that we, as a company, and I personally, have a lot to improve on this front. We are somewhat intentional about not giving individual feedback at this moment (mostly due to simple volume of applicants and time constraints, as well as philosophies about asking people to change, and even legal considerations), but there’s no excuse at all for us (specifically, me) not replying to every single communication, even if it takes time. The people who apply for our jobs are our most aligned and excited customers, and this is just as important if not more important than our communication in support. I take your comments to heart, and I will continue to strive for more transparency and empathy in our hiring, as well as prioritizing my time to better honor the time and self that you invest by reaching out on the hiring front. Thank you both. I realize it may sound a bit empty now, but if I can help in any way or share anything further, please do let me know.

          • Robert Williger

            Interesting discussion, I had read this article a while back and looked it up in relation to a school project I was working on and scrolled down into the comments.

            I applied for two different positions with Buffer, once for Happiness Hero and the other for the Creative Connector. I certainly agree that the time frame of hearing anything was a bit long, especially as to not be making it to the first stage. Other than that, I respected the process. Was I a bit upset for not being interviewed? Of course. I would have loved the opportunity and did question what I was missing compared to others. However, even with the transparency of Buffer, they are still a venture back company and it is easy for discrimination and such to come up.

            I did feel the e-mails from Carolyn and Courtney were both very polite and certainly beyond any other rejection letter I received in my job search. There was a company with a similar product to Buffer that I spent over an hour filling out their form with extensive scenarios to cover and never heard a word. Most companies never even acknowledge, or if they do, it is a one liner such as, “Thank you for applying, we will be continuing with further candidates.” Nothing personal to it as the Buffer team sent. After my initial disappointment, life moved forward.

            I am happy to be part of the Buffer community as a user and in #Bufferchat and happy to share their content and even the job postings.

            I wrote an article very recently on Medium about how you never know where your next brand advocate will come from. In particular, treating job applicants with a certain respect as you never know if the job they do end up in, they could be the one making the decision to purchase your product. I actually considered using the e-mail from Carolyn as an example of what to do.

            Yes, people will be upset in the process. I have been on both sides of the interviewing desk and not everyone can be hired. Are there times I wish I would have made it further, sure. Is Buffer still the type of organization I would want to be part of 100%. I did end up going back to school so the next application will probably be for a front-end developer position in a couple of years:)

  • Ritesh Kadmawala

    I haven’t used twitter or buffer much, but i believe i fit the other values really well. Does is make me not applicable for the job

  • vruizext

    Thank you for sharing this. It’s nice to have some insights about how the hiring
    process works. I hope that the fact I’m not a very active twitter user is not reducing my odds in the selection process. I put lot of good feelings and passion on my application, which should have increased the odds :)

    The content I use to share in instagram or facebook though, I would say it would fit quite good in your twitter list. Just decided from now on to start posting again in twitter, the more people you reach, the more people you might influence.