Jobs at tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Apple are highly sought after. It’s no wonder everyone is clamoring to get in — working at one of these big tech companies comes with some serious perks in the form of career building and lifestyle (pay and play). Those perks, however, are only available to those who can get past a notoriously selective hiring process; Google reports hiring around 0.2% of all applicants, and considering 3 million people apply each year, the odds are not exactly in your favor.
Surely, the intelligent hordes of applicants have their math skills down enough understand their chances are slim to none. Then why is it so many still apply? The career opportunity of working at once of these companies is too good to pass up. Having one of these companies on your resume is a major leg up for your career in terms of resume building and forming connections with some of the industry’s most talented professionals (YouTube co-founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen met at PayPal).
Beyond career growth, working at one of these companies can be super fun and make your life easier! Google offers its employees, FOR FREE: unlimited gourmet food, travel insurance, concierge services, on-site medical care, reimbursement for applicable classes/degrees…just to name a few! On top of that, the campuses are a childhood dream come true, stocked with nap rooms, ping pong tables, bowling alleys, and encouraged happy hours. These companies are making an effort to encourage employees to mingle, creating a family atmosphere and promoting happiness from within.
Maintaining that unique company culture means these companies are looking for individuals who can offer much more than just ‘expertise’ in their given field. Pure intellect alone won’t get you far; they’re looking for applicants with far reaching abilities as leaders and problem solvers. They’re looking for free thinking that stands apart from the crowd and tells them you can do more than just your job while fitting in with the culture. Most leaders at these companies will say they are looking for candidates that approach problems like a puzzle, breaking the process down to small, solvable pieces.
Getting an interview is the first leg of the battle. The best possible way to get noticed is through a reference. Search your network far and wide for someone who knows a person who works at the company you’re interested, or better yet, someone you know directly. Never ask for a job directly; instead, ask for information and references. Having someone internally refer your resume at least guarantees that your resume will hit the top of the pile.
Your network is your best resource, but you can’t rely entirely on someone else to make a compelling case. Follow the company’s leaders on social, company projects, and blogs astutely. Know how your current work and abilities apply to what that company is trying to accomplish, and find the best way for your resume and cover letter to express that. Remember that these companies are looking for more than just hard skills and intellect — tailor all written materials and correspondence to show that you’re an innovator and a team player in your work and personal life.
If you get an interview, you’ve already accomplished an admirable feat. First, don’t panic. Most of these companies keep the tone pretty casual anyways, they’re not trying to intimidate applicants that they’re taking time to meet — they are genuinely interested in what you may have to offer, how you operate, and how you can add value to their team.
There are elements you can absolutely prepare for, such as coding and simple logic problems for engineers. Be able to work through problems on paper, and whiteboards. Make sure you can explain how you came to solve the problem, and always finish the problem. Interviewers want to see that you’ve researched their products in depth, and that you have an idea for how you will improve it with innovations, so always be ready to offer something up. There is only so much preparation you can do for the infamous brain teaser question. Just know that they are designed to pick apart your brain to find out how you solve problems and lead.
Another thing to keep in mind is that interviewers are not always looking for the ‘right’ answer, technical or otherwise. If you can explain how you solved a problem step by step and transcend the boundaries of a particular problem by learning from past lessons — then you’ve got a chance at convincing them you’re a smart investment.
Landing a position at one of the ‘big tech’ companies is not an easy task, you’ll need to have the motivation, technical ability, and a special ‘magic’ (aka soft skills). Possessing these skills is only one piece, the true test is being able to translate those skills to references, recruiters, and interviewers. It’s a challenging process to say the least, but that’s key — these companies are looking for candidates that are ambitious enough to rise rise to the occasion. Fortune favors the bold; If you’re fortune comes in the form of unlimited gourmet food, nap rooms, and impromptu ping pong breaks at work, well, you must have earned it.