4 Ways to Score a Job Interview at Some of the Top Tech Companies

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Tyler Emerick sat alone in a small conference room at Instagram headquarters. In no mood for a selfie, he was feeling pre-interview nerves.

It didn’t help that Emerick had just toured the company’s offering of restaurants, ice cream shops, pop-up stores, barber shops, and even a massage therapist.

“That picture everyone has in their head about working for a tech giant isn’t far off from reality,” he said. “I didn’t see any nap pods on campus, but they had just about every other amenity you could imagine.”

Emerick is proof that scoring an interview at a top tech company doesn’t have to be a pipe dream.

4 ways to get an interview at a top tech company

Finding a job, let alone an interview, at a place like Facebook or Google can seem like being invited to an exclusive club. Not everyone is allowed in. Even Steve Bannon, the onetime White House chief strategist, sought to infiltrate Facebook’s hiring, reported BuzzFeed.

There are easier ways, however. If you’re looking to get your foot in the door at one of these tech giants, here’s how to approach it.

1. Make your application into a project

Cleaning up your Google search results might help you pass the culture fit phase of Google’s interview process. But to secure an interview at all, Dave Seidman said you should seek to impress beyond writing a rockstar resume.

Seidman, an interaction developer applicant, said he got an interview based on his portfolio website. It’s a highly interactive presentation of everything he’d accomplished in his career to date.

“I felt like it did a good job demonstrating my skills and at the same time showed off what a ‘prototype artist’ like myself can do when left alone for a couple months,” he said.

“I’m not sure if Google actually opened up the codebase,” he continued. “My guess is that they just saw a new, shiny site that was popping up on a lot of design blogs and figured I was at least worth talking to.”

You don’t have to know how to code to show off your ability. If you want to work in human resources at Snapchat, for example, you might create a 20-slide PowerPoint about who the company should be hiring. That also gives you another opportunity to explain why you fit the bill.

Taking on an unassigned project and including it with your application can show initiative. But if it’s any good, it could also show your readiness to excel in the role you’re seeking.

Google suggested on its careers website that recent graduates, specifically, should include “school-related projects or coursework that demonstrate relevant skills and knowledge.” There’s no reason mid-career professionals shouldn’t take the same cue.

2. Try different roles on for size

Seidman soon found himself emailing with three Google recruitment coordinators.

“On my own, I’d found a different role on their job boards that seemed like a better fit, so we chatted about that as well,” he said.

Applying to different roles shows a tech company that you’re genuinely interested in the company itself. It might also show you have a versatile skill set that would fit different capacities.

With Google, you can set up alerts for newly added roles that fit your interests. The career pages of top tech companies typically list at least a few roles that are similar to each other. See these careers pages as examples:

Be sure to visit every page of your top company’s careers site. You might find helpful resources that can inform your next application.

Google hiring process

Image credit: Google

3. Network like crazy

In seeking work at Instagram, Emerick filled out a job application on the careers website of its parent company, Facebook. Although that got him in the door — and a seat at the table — Emerick advises doing more legwork before you apply.

“Find someone who works within the company that can refer you,” he said. “Otherwise, you’re rolling the dice that a recruiter likes your resume out of the thousands that come in for any particular job.”

Four of the six Facebook, Google, and Uber employees and applicants I spoke to for this story said they weren’t recruited for their interviews. Three just applied on their own whim, and one was a contractor through Facebook’s program for temporary workers before getting the full-time nod.

Although it’s possible to earn your way into the company alone, it’s more probable you’ll need some help. At Facebook, for example, 65 percent of interviewees are either recruited or referred by an employee, according to Glassdoor.

Facebook hiring stats

Image credit: Glassdoor

More generally, 85 percent of company hires get the job by networking, according to a 2016 survey performed by The Adler Group. It beats submitting an online application, as big job boards offer very little help.

Connect yourself to the company

There’s no shortage of strategies to network successfully. You can search through your existing LinkedIn connections or make friends with influencers at your preferred companies. Keep in mind that they’re likely to have a referral program.

The companies also have ways of reaching out. Although they make a habit out of visiting college campuses and professional conferences, don’t wait for them to come to you. Every startup-turned-corporation has opportunities like these:

If you’re still in school, check with your careers services department. If they don’t have your preferred company visiting at your next job fair, nudge the school to make a call.

4. Find and fill the gaps of your experience

If you have applied to a sought-after company without hearing back, your assignment is a different one. Find out why you didn’t receive at least an email or phone call.

Hounding a human resources rep for an explanation might not get you very far. So do the hard work yourself. Wade through the job descriptions of your favorite roles and ask yourself what you’re missing, where you might not be measuring up.

It might be too late to change the university you attended. But as John L. Miller, a veteran employee of Microsoft, Oracle, Amazon, and Google, wrote for Quora, you could always go back to school. If you already hold a bachelor’s degree, Miller said, consider seeking a master’s degree from a program that your top choice companies recruit from.

You might not have to resort to more formal education or even top continuing education programs to find the job you want. Liz Welzbacher, who was recruited to be a UX researcher at Facebook, said you should try to benefit from your current job in ways you’ve previously overlooked.

“Focus on honing your skills and building relationships,” Welzbacher said. “Determine what you can and can’t get out of your current company [or] position and set personal development goals with those constraints in mind.

“For example,” she continued, “maybe you’re not getting a lot of exposure to new and different research methods, but you work with an excellent product leader. Do everything you can to learn about the ‘soft’ side of product development from this person.”

Keeping busy is especially important if you have to wait an extended period before reapplying to your dream company. If you aspire to be an engineer at Google, for example, you’ll be asked to wait 12 months before resubmitting a rejected application. So use that time to review Google’s guide on technical development.

The interview is just the beginning

Emerick interviewed with six Instagram employees during his one-day visit. He was one of three finalists but didn’t end up with a job offer.

As hard as it might seem to snag an interview at a top tech company, expect the interviews themselves to be harder. They’re infamous for putting you through the ringer. One former Facebook employee even revealed his 17-round interview process.

In general, you can expect a remote interview to start. Your skills will be tested. The culture fit can wait until you arrive onsite.

There will be difficult questions posed in person, too. It’s not in Google’s guide to job interviews, but you might be asked a thinker like, “Pick a product that needs to be improved and explain how you’d improve it.”

According to Business Insider, Facebook interviewers are known to ask, “On your very best day at work — the day you come home and think you have the best job in the world — what did you do that day?”

If you hear that question, you might focus your answer on scoring an interview for the very job you’re applying for. Just make sure to explain to your interviewer how you accomplished the feat.

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