All about Toptal

25 Dec 2021

[You can read Uzbek version here]

Introduction #

Have you ever heard of the Toptal Freelance Community? Yeah, that company where only top 3% talent is hired. That one. Anyway, in this post I would like to talk about getting hired into the network as Software Engineer and working with clients from my own experience.

Why another how-to-get-into-toptal article? Yes, there are a bunch of articles exploring what I am about to talk about. My main reason is to raise awareness among my Uzbek peers that it is more than possible to get in and pursue a successful career at Toptal. Another reason is that I am contacted by people a lot on this topic, now I can send them this link. You see how you got here? :P

Disclaimer: This article is mainly about working at Toptal as a Software Engineer. If you are in a different profession, the interview process will be different for you.

Why join Toptal (on not to) #

Everyone has different preferences when it comes to work. So, the best I can do is to enlighten you on advantages and disadvantages of working at Toptal. 

The pros are:

… and the cons are:

Alright, we have 5 pros vs 5 cons! — “Perfectly balanced as all things should be”

Prerequisites #

Before you rush and apply to the network, there are minimum requirements you need to satisfy as a potential talent at Toptal:

These two are clear prerequisites set by Toptal. But, there is one more requirement for which you need to get prepared before hitting that “Apply as a Freelance” button. And it is … [drum roll] … Algorithms/Data Structure. Yes, you need to be well prepared to solve algorithmic coding problems.

I strongly advise you NOT to apply if you are not ready for the above things. You might say “What worst can happen? Rejection? So, I will apply again”. Yeah, you will get a cool down period of up to a year. And the 2nd time you fail, you pretty much chill forever :P. So, get prepared well before applying :)

Interview process #

Interview process consists of 4 stages:

Important: Don’t start the process if you still need time to prepare. The whole thing happens in one breath and you won’t have time to prepare in between stages.

Phone screen

After you have submitted your application form online, you will have a video call with one of their Communication Specialists. As you might have guessed, the interview is to assess your communication skills & your level of English. Here are some things to keep in mind for the interview:

Online assessment

After you make it past the phone screen, you will be sent a link to a 1.5-hour online assessment and asked to complete it within 2 days. You will be asked to solve 3-4 Algo/DS problems.

Important: If you are busy the next 2 days, do ask them for an extension. It is reasonable to request it — everyone has their responsibilities to tend to.

Here are things to keep in mind:

Technical interview

If you did a good job on the previous stage, you will be asked for time availability and invited for a technical interview. Here too expect Algo/DS problems. In my opinion, the problems themselves are not hard to solve; it is just the stress of in-person interviews (somebody watching you as you solve it) that escalates the difficulty. For that, mock interviews will come to the rescue.

Here are things to keep in mind for the interview:

Test project

Once you pass this stage… Wait, you passed this stage??? Half-congrats! Congratulations because in the last stage, you have much more control over the outcome. In this stage, you will be given a test project and two weeks to complete it. Make sure your next two weeks (at least the evenings) are free to focus on the project. The more time you spend on the project, the better. Once done, you will have another call to demo your work on your local machine.

Here are things to keep in mind:

Once you have nailed this stage too, you are ready for your full-congrats. Welcome to Toptal! Celebrate your victory with an uppercut:

Celebration with uppercut Image source

Onboarding & getting your first engagement #

After passing all 4 stages, some paperwork and account setup should follow to onboard you to the community. Once you are fully onboarded, you are ready to take on your first engagement. The first engagement is a little tricky to get and usually takes 2-3 weeks to land. It is not because it is hard, but because it takes time for you to learn how things run in the network.

Be prepared to do client interviews. Interviews are not over once you are inside. Do your homework on the project and the company you are interviewing for. I have a lot of tips to give you on that, but the main thing is to communicate well with both Toptal and the client.

Wrapping up #

If you have come so far, you must be dead serious about joining Toptal and I like you, here is my referral link. Drop me a message if you have any questions.