Tips on Tech: Nailing the Interview

As the age of technology continues, companies are being created to suit this new economy.  With these new companies come new jobs and new opportunities for career advancements. Pew Research published a 2015 study showing the growth of tech sector jobs in the U.S. from 1997 to 2014. It reported that the number jumped from 2.2 million in 1997 to 3.9 million in 2009, and then again, according to CompTIA, a tech company that provides professional trade certification for the technology industry, to 6.5 million in 2014.

unnamedFor example, the software-as-a-service company Apttus, has grown from 30 to 600 employees just seven years, making it a prime example of a company full of opportunities to advance as the company continues to grow. The tech giant Google started out with only 21 employees, and has grown their employee count to 53,700.  In companies as big as these, many need to stand out from the crowd, which is why passion is greatly valued, whether or not the person possesses tech specific skills. Tech companies are new and exciting.

They have a totally different work style and culture compared to traditional corporations. According to the author and editor for Geoffrey James, they want people who will “perform well in turbulent, entrepreneurial environments….You need to present yourself as the kind of worker who can thrive in their world.” James goes on to explain the differences between the traditional corporation culture and the new tech culture. Tech companies, unlike companies of the past, don’t want people that will fit into “a vast corporate machine”; they want individuals with innovation who will stand out. Nick Schroeder said “I think they look for smart people that are willing to work a lot…like 70-80 hour weeks, but [also for] creative people and problem solvers.” They also don’t believe in the same type of strict hierarchy as that of a traditional company, instead tech companies opt for a more interconnected way of sharing ideas. They operate more horizontally, rather than strictly vertically [expand upon], many people, no matter their position, often collaborate with each other, causing many teams, both informal and formal, to be formed.

This year, Fortune ranked Salesforce the 8th best company to work at in the United States and Google as number one. In 2011 Careerbliss ranked Google “Happiest Company in America.”  Getting a job at Salesforce, or Google or … is not that easy.  For example, with over 2 million applicants a year, getting a job at Google is over 10 times harder than getting into Harvard. Facebook, ranked 13th “Best Place to Work” by Glass Door, also receives a copious number of applicants each year; according to Mashable, in 2010 around 250,000 applied to Facebook for a job.

What do tech companies want?


Tim Cook, the Chief Executive Officer of Apple, said the company looks “for people that are not political. People that are not bureaucrats. People that don’t care who gets the credit. People that can privately celebrate the achievement, but not care if their name is the one in lights. There are greater reasons to do things…. [It looks] for wicked smart people…people who appreciate different points of view…people that care enough that they have an idea at 11 at night and they want to call and talk to you about it. Because they’re so excited about it, they want to push the idea further. And that they believe that somebody can help them push the idea another step instead of doing everything themselves,” according to Geekwire.

Apple’s website reads that working at Apple means more than just creating a product; a job at Apple means “creat[ing] the kind of wonder that’s revolutionized entire industries.” The company says to applicants: “Join Apple, and help us leave the world better than we found it.”

Although interview questions vary greatly depending on the job a person is applying for, according to Entrepreneur, some sample questions are: “What are your failures, and how have you learned from them?” “Describe an interesting problem and how you solved it,” “Explain to an eight year old what a modem/router is and its functions,” “What brings you here today?” “Describe yourself, and what excites you,” “How would you test a toaster?” “If you’re given a jar with a mix of fair and unfair coins, and you pull one out and flip it three times, and get the specific sequence heads heads tails, what are the chance that you pulled out a fair or unfair coin?” and “How many children are born everyday?”  The wide mix of questions is designed to test a person’s creativity, fit to the company, technical experience and attitude.


Google has an easy-to-access page, titled “How We Hire.” It writes that it is looking for someone who’s “good for the role, good for Google and good at lots of things,” someone also known as a “Noogler.” A Noogler is people “who are great at lots of things, love big challenges and welcome big changes.”

Google looks for people who can help the company in the future, not just for the short-term. It’s looking for smart people who can work in teams and get things done. It wants leaders who have a large range of strengths and passion, rather than an isolated set of skills. It wants engineers who have coding skills and expertise in technical areas, and people who have the experience and background necessary to do their job well and succeed at Google. Google also wants people who have “googleyness.” Googleyness is “what makes you, you.”

Impact Interview shared some of Google’s interview questions: “Name a piece of technology you’ve read about recently. Now tell me your own creative execution for an ad for that product,” “How many golf balls can fit in a school bus?” “You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and your mass is proportionally reduced so as to maintain your original density. You are then thrown into an empty glass blender. The blades will start moving in 60 seconds. What do you do?” “You have to get from point A to point B. You don’t know if you can get there. What would you do?” “Why are manhole covers round?” “Given a file of 4 billion 32-bit integers, how to find one that appears at least twice?” “How would you deal with an angry or frustrated advertiser on the phone?”


Facebook looks for people who will fit in well with its culture. Will Barnet, a Facebook Engineer Recruiter, told VentureBeat that although engineers are obviously important, the company relies on a wide variety of roles to keep it running. “Much of our campus hiring focuses on engineering, but we have hired new grads into marketing communications, user operations, payments and risk, monetization, business operations — the list goes on,” Barnett added.

Barnett explained that Facebook looks less for “stellar grades,” and more at “real things….People who can display their actual skills by building real things beyond class projects are very frequently the stronger candidates. Ultimately, we want to hire people that [sic] build amazing things and push technologies to new heights,” Barnett revealed, “If you can build awesome stuff and have big impact, that’s all we’re really looking for.”


In Salesforce, the software engineer interview is fairly standard.  Many people apply online before being contacted over the phone for an interview with a member of the team.  This first interview consists of general questions about the interest in software engineering, and about any previous internship experience.  Then if the candidate passes that, they will be brought into a

round of five to six interviews.  This can take anywhere from one to two days to complete, and will consist of similar questions to the screening, as well as some technical questions.  The final step of this process is a programming test in which they give you an assignment and review your code for the ability to complete the assignment and the conciseness of it.  Often the interviewer will look for lastability in the candidate, meaning that they cannot have a history of leaving and joining companies often, as it takes time and money to train a new employee.  It often takes six months to a year for a new employee to become a fully productive member of the team, so it’s important that candidates can stay with the company for a long period of time.  Of course, this does not mean an interviewee should have no experience at all, as Salesforce also prefers some work experience as well as the right major.

Why go tech?

Tech jobs are competitive, but not impossible to get. As new applicants stream in every day, new jobs are invented. The tech business is constantly evolving; it’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s creative, it’s now, and it’s about changing the world. There is a place for everyone in tech, because tech is a place where ingenuity and enthusiasm outweigh technical expertise.

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