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Remember, though, that just because you didn’t list a particular client doesn’t mean your recruiter won’t track them down. A good reference checker, in fact, will do more than just check off a preapproved list.
Please visit www.careercup.com for sample cover letters and other resources.
Interview Prep and Overview
Think you’ve got it rough? Look at it from the company’s perspective. A good hire is incredibly valuable, bad hires are even more costly, and interviews are a not-terribly-cheap way to cut their costs.
A typical Microsoft on-site interview for an entry-level software engineer costs the company over $1,000 in plane ﬂights, hotels, and “man-hours.” Multiply that by the number of candidates who don’t get hired and you’re looking at over $10,000 just for the interviews. We haven’t even taken into account the paperwork process, signing bonuses, relocation, and all the recruiter overhead it takes to manage this process.
Hire someone bad and the company’s costs go up even more. Not only did the company waste money on this person’s salary, but the employee was likely a distraction to their team as well. Then—worst of all—in the United States, the company faces the risk of wrongful termination lawsuits. No wonder companies give so many interviews! In the end, a company wants people who “get things done,” and résumé screening and interviews are a way to analyze you from this perspective. It wants people who are more than just smart; it wants
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people who motivate those around them, who set lofty goals and accomplish them, who act ethically and honestly.
While these are largely “fundamental” attributes of you or your background, the way that you communicate and respond to ques-tions determines how a company reads such attributes. The eager candidate can—and should—prepare for the interview to help them put the best foot forward.
What Are Tech Companies Looking For?
Passion. Creativity. Initiative. Intelligence. And a “getting things done” attitude.
Tech companies operate a bit differently from the rest of cor-porate America. They don’t wear suits. Few employees arrive much before 10 am, due in part to horrendous trafﬁc in tech hubs like Seattle and Silicon Valley. Post-lunch (or midmorning, or midafter-noon) foosball and ping-pong games are standard.
They pride themselves on their funky and innovative culture, and they want people who will ﬁt into this. “You have to prove why you are there, and that you know you ﬁt within their community, that you enjoy the lifestyle,” said Andre, a (successful) Apple candidate. “The moment my interviewer said, ‘We are very informal’ I took off my tie.”
Passion for technology. Passion for technology can be shown through your coursework, but it doesn’t end there. Do you read tech news sources? Do you use technology in your day-to-day life (beyond just e-mail and basic web brows-ing)? Are you interested in ﬁnding new ways to leverage or improve technology?
Passion for the company. Do you know the company’s products? Do you use them? Why or why not? What would you improve?
110 The Google Résumé
Creativity. When asked to design something from scratch, can you brainstorm lots of features you’d want? When you’re asking to solve a problem, do you think outside the box and push back on assumptions or constraints?
Initiative. How have you gone above and beyond? Have you started a blog? A business? Organized a charity auction? Remember that initiative might be something as nontradi-tional as putting on a photography show.
Getting things done. Regardless of where the idea came from, do you have a demonstrated ability to accomplish great things? Think beyond just your academic or professional work: what have you done outside of work?
Intelligence. Your GPA can be one show of intelligence, but people with GPAs well below a 3.0/4.0 can and do get hired at the best tech companies. Intelligence can be “tested” through problem-solving questions, or hinted at through your résumé.
At the end of the day, it comes down to this: can you commu-nicate how you can help the company? Passion, creativity, initia-tive, intelligence, and a “getting things done” attitude are all signals of that.
How to Prepare
For at least the less technical aspects of an interview, preparation comes in three parts. You need to be able to answer questions about your prior work with illustrative examples. You need to understand the company so that you can tell your interviewer why you want to work there and what you’ll add. And, ﬁnally, you need to be able to ask interesting questions to your interviewer that demonstrate your research and interest.
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Résumé and Experience Prep
Regardless of the position or company, almost every interview will include some discussion of your résumé. The more “hard skills” that a position requires, the less focus there will be on the résumé/ experience discussion—but there will always be some.
Practice Your Pitch
For each job or position, practice stating a short blurb explaining what your role was and what you accomplished. Practice two blurbs: one that would be understandable from those in your ﬁeld, and one that’s understandable for nonspecialists. Stay light on the details and let the interview probe as necessary.
Pay special attention to the pitches for your most recent role, as they’re the most relevant. You could even consider recording this pitch and playing it back to yourself—do you mumble during cer-tain parts? Friends can also be useful here. Where do they think you are weakest and strongest?
Review Your Résumé
From past projects to your foreign or programming languages, any-thing on your résumé is fair game. If you claim that you’re ﬂuent in German, be prepared for a company to verify this. Tech companies are extremely international, and it’s not hard to ﬁ nd someone who speaks a language.
The day before your interview, pick up your résumé and explain each bullet out loud, just as you would if your interviewer asks, “What did you mean by this line?” Make sure you can explain the “what, how, and why.”
Imagine your interviewer throws you the following question: “Tell me about a time when you had a difﬁcult situation with a