Tips for getting a job at the Wikimedia Foundation

Originally published at: https://space.wmflabs.org/2019/11/13/tips-for-getting-a-job-at-the-wikimedia-foundation/

Young Woman in an Interview by Amtec Photos CC BY-SA 2.0

I am Erica, and I am the manager of the Community Relations Specialists—a team that for years has connected the communities and the Wikimedia Foundation teams to discuss and collaborate on products, features, projects, and more.

Since joining in 2013, among other things, I’ve had the privilege of assisting in hiring several people (some of them with plenty of experience of our communities, like me).

Here are the few things that I wish I had known back in the day as a candidate, and that I’d like everyone to know now about applying for a job at the Foundation.

BEFORE APPLYING:

  • Don’t waste time: apply as soon as you read about the opening. It may close sooner than you think, and the talent pool is literally as wide as the world, as we almost always hire for roles that allow for remote working.
  • Feeling like you aren’t a 100% match with what we’re looking for? If the role truly appeals to you, please apply anyway. Something you should know is that your application is confidential, and it won’t affect your ongoing activities with Wikimedia, if any. On top of this, applying and not getting the job is not going to look bad on you if you decide to apply for future roles as well; it could even improve your chances of landing in another role that is a better fit at a later time.
  • Work on your résumé/CV now if you haven’t updated it in a while. Prepare it in advance so that when a role that you’re interested in opens, you’re ready to go. Remember that hiring managers are reviewing lots of applications, and unless you’re applying for an academic role where you need to showcase your published work, it’s advisable to keep your résumé concise to no more than 2 pages.
  • In addition to checking our website, follow our profiles on social media (such as Twitter or LinkedIn) to make sure you’re one of the first to hear about new positions.
  • If you happen to have a connection with people who work at the Foundation, give them a heads-up that you’re considering to apply for a job, especially if you have actively collaborated with them in the past in any capacity. It’s even better if you can provide them with your CV and cover letter. They may be in a good position to discuss your strengths, and I bet they’ll be happy to submit an endorsement, at the very least. Not everyone knows that asking for someone in your network to refer you for a position is standard practice in the hiring world, so I encourage you to go for it even if, maybe because of cultural differences, it feels uncomfortable to you.

WHEN APPLYING:

  • Read the job posting carefully. Do your best with the cover letter, as it is very likely to weigh at least the same than your curriculum vitae. If we ask you to answer a question or we give you an assignment, these are going to be crucial for our early assessments. So do your research, and at the same time feel free to ask any questions even at this stage, as we want you to feel confident and to be successful.
  • Take time to refresh your knowledge on Wikimedia. Our 2030 Movement Strategy is a good place to start. The hiring team will want to know how we can work together—bringing your prior learnings and experience, to advance our shared vision of free access to knowledge for the world.

AT THE INTERVIEW:

  • Bring your curiosity! You may be about to start a new job in an exciting environment which, although popular, may still be a bit opaque, even for people who are already familiar with the movement. Hence, we’re ready for all of your questions to help you ultimately decide if this is going to be the workplace of your dreams!
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Thank you @Elitre_WMF for this article, I will keep this in mind when applying for any position.

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Thank you, @Elitre_WMF! As I hiring manager, I suggest guidance to keep resumes/CVs to no more than 2 pages.

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Thanks so much @Elitre_WMF for your time writing this amazing article with a lot of tips.

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Thanks for this tips. Could you please say some words about the requirement on English fluency during the hiring process and the strategies to challenge multiculturality and plurilinguism?

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Ciao, as I am not part of the Recruiting team :) I hope others can address your question more in detail, but I did want to provide an example of our thinking. This comes from the Strategy hires in 2018. Now, of course different roles may have different requirements, but I still find it so beautifully worded:

  • Because we want people from across the movement to consider applying,
    please note that these roles require you be comfortable working in English,
    but do not require English as a native language. Particularly for the
    Project Manager role, the emphasis is on functional comfort, rather than
    fluency.
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Thanks a lot

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Keep in mind, that the foundation is not a homogeneous organization - different types of roles put emphasis on different things. For example, I’m sure for many roles a cover letter is considered very important. On the other hand, I never even wrote a cover letter (nobody ever asked me for one) and managed to get hired - I suspect it depends a lot on what type of job you’re applying for.

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@Noé, I don’t know if you had the opportunity to hear me speaking English before I joined the WMF in 2015, but it was not glorious at all! :smiley:

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Great, thank you for this feedback and @Elitre_WMF for the answer of course.

Actually, the question wasn’t considering my own case, as my English is quite fluent, and since I spent a semester in Berkeley, I may also have the same accent as some of the WMF staff living in the City.

It was more a general question, on multiculturalism and inclusivity. The Foundation is based in US, it’s normal to have English as a working language, but it may also be biased to work only with people that express their world-view in English.

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I can imagine :slightly_smiling_face:.@Trizek-WMF is this an indication that the intermediate level of English speaking skills is acceptable for certain positions?

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Talking about my cultures, or cultures I know about, is something I do daily at work. This is because the communities we support are not the same at all, or just because we are curious of others. English is our common language but we have such different backgrounds that English culture is not prominent with people I work with.

Yes.

I’m working with communities, quite only in English. But since it is mostly written English, you can take time to work on your messages and proceed replies.

Spoken English is only used for meetings, or during events. During meetings, we take notes often, which helps during the first months. And honestly, I because much more confident about my English since my first steps.

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Yup, some roles require a cover letter, some a take-home task, some even both…
https://blog.wikimedia.org/2017/02/02/hiring-data-scientist/ is also a great piece about hiring for a technical role.

This question has been addressed but I would like to comment further because as a hiring manager I can say that the Foundation has been putting a lot of emphasis on cultural and linguistic diversity, and the trend continues.

Looking at https://wikimediafoundation.org/about/jobs/ one can see that most positions are for “San Francisco CA or remote”, some are remote only and only a few require to be based in San Francisco or Washington DC (I bet the location requirement is basically restricted to Finance / Legal / Administration, for good reasons). This already opens the door to plenty of possibilities.

I am clicking the positions open right now and quoting excerpts, as a good way to show what the Foundation is looking for:

  • Creative Director, Emerging Markets. Remote: India, Indonesia, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Mexico, Egypt, or Brazil. A transcultural creative leader.
  • International Communications/Press Manager. Fluency or familiarity with languages in addition to English is a plus.
  • Lead Program Manager, Anti-Harassment. Command of major non-English languages in addition to fluency in English. Experience working in an international organization that has a distributed workforce and an open culture.
  • Senior Program Manager, GLAM and Culture. A strong level of written and spoken English, as well as the ability to communicate clearly with non-native English speakers. Non-native English speakers are welcomed. (This role has multiple references to multicultural skills, obviously).
  • International Events Specialist (remote). Fluency in at least one other language in addition to mandatory professional competency in English. Cross Cultural communication skills. Sensitivity to a culturally diverse range of people.
  • Global Instructional Designer & Facilitator. Experience designing and ease working internationally within multilingual and multicultural contexts. A strong level of written and spoken English, as well as the ability to communicate clearly with non-native English speakers. Non-native English speakers are encouraged apply. Additional languages are a major plus, as is experience living or working in multiple cultures.
  • Lead FP&A Analyst (no direct references?)
  • Tech, Law and Policy Fellowship. Fluency communicating complex topics in English both clearly and succinctly, in writing and orally, to expert and non-expert audiences alike. Multilingual. Fluency in French, German, Mandarin, or Indic languages is especially helpful. work on a team with diverse demographic and cultural characteristics.

(The list is long, and I will pick some contributor roles semi-randomly.)

  • Software Engineer (Contractor), Graphs. (no direct references?)
  • Software Engineer (Community Tech). Open-minded - The team is comprised of people from several different countries and cultures. Be open to new ways of communicating and working.
  • Human Resources Business Partner (Temporary). Experience working with diverse, multi-cultural teams and international environments. Communicate with clarity, conviction and confidence across regions/cultures.
  • Engineering Manager, Site Reliability. Communicate effectively in both spoken and written English. Great colleagues - diverse staff and contractors speaking dozens of languages from around the world.
  • Developer Advocate. Excellent verbal and written communication and presentation skills. Experience working with geographically distributed software engineering teams. Ability to read and write multiple (human) languages.

Does the Wikimedia Foundation offer internships?

It happens. It depends on the team and/or the position. I mostly recall meeting interns from the Legal department when I was at the SF office.

Some programs exist for internships:

  • Google Summer of Code is a global program focused on bringing more student developers into open source software development. Developers are welcomed to submit a project, and if it is accepted, they are mentored bu Wikimedia developers.
  • Outreachy is an internship program for groups who are underrepresented in free and open-source software.You can see Outreachy alumni here, with a Wikimedia section. We had projects that were not technical ones.
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