Ever wonder what it’s like to interview for a software developer position with Facebook, Google, Amazon or Microsoft? Working for one of these companies, often called the “Big Four”, would be a dream come true for many people, but we found a guy who made that dream a reality in a huge way. Our anonymous interviewee has worked as a developer for, or received job offers from, three of the Big Four companies. Get ready to have all of your burning questions answered!
Q: Tell us about your professional background
A: I am a software developer/engineer with seven years experience as an engineer for Microsoft. After that, I spent about four years consulting and working on my own ecommerce startup.
Q: You recently accepted a job at another Big Four company, correct? How does your job search usually work?
A: Yes. I’ve had two real job searches in my life: once in 2005 and this year. They were very different experiences since I was just coming out of school in 2005. This time, about half the jobs came through referrals from friends, which works well in the software world, about 40% came from Hire.com and similar curated recruiting services, and 10% came from reaching out directly to companies.
Q: What has been the hardest part of each job search experience?
A: I didn’t know what I was doing in 2005, so that was obviously difficult. It was easier this time around because I have experience. Plus, software development is a totally different industry now since most industries now have a need for engineers.
Q: When applying for jobs, what parts of your resume do you usually try to highlight?
A: Work experience is really important, especially since I’m more senior now. The college part doesn’t really matter. My experience with Microsoft and the length of time I spent there is a strong selling point, as well as the diversity of experience I have.
Q: You’ve interviewed at Google and Facebook. How did you hear about those job openings?
A: Google found me and reached out on LinkedIn because I had connected with people on there and listed my experience. I got the interview at Facebook through a referral from a friend who works there. He had actually been trying to recruit me for a while.
Q: How would you compare the atmosphere at each office?
A: Google is less personal than lots of other companies. They are very down-to-business. It feels a little more corporate. Facebook still feels like a startup, and people are walking around chatting. They are very lively at Facebook.
Q: What type of interview questions were you asked at Google?
A: The questions were very much experience-based and knowledge-based. There weren’t soft questions because they were focused on learning how good I was at computer science. The questions seemed like they were pre-designed and were very well defined. There were two phone screens, one with HR and one with a technical manager. Then I was brought in for an interview.
Q: What was the hiring process like at Google?
A: Google has a very special hiring process. Some smaller companies care about personable skills, but Google wants to remove this part of the process because they are afraid people will get hired based on personality. Notes are written then sent to a hiring committee who has never met with the candidate in person.
Q: Was there anything surprising that stood out to you about the interview process or the office itself?
A: Even though Google is a giant corporation, they are very transparent. There are no secrets from level to level.
Q: Were there any questions at Facebook that stood out to you during the interview?
A: There was more individual flare to the questions at Facebook. The company just doesn’t feel as corporate in general. The interview questions were clearly made up by the interviewer and not taken from a pre-written list.
Q: As someone who was offered jobs at Google and Facebook, as well as other companies, how do you suggest answering interview questions?
A: For software engineering, the best thing you can do is make it not feel like an interview. Jump up, use the whiteboard, and think of each question as a problem you are solving with the person interviewing you. A back and forth with the interviewer is great.
Q: What tips would you give to other software engineers applying for a job at a Big Four company?
A: Be a good interviewer. Interview a lot. For example, at one of my interviews, I was asked to solve a question I had already solved for a previous interview two days before. There is some reuse in this industry, and the questions are technical and about solving. I would also suggest that you interview even if you aren’t interested in the company. When you get multiple offers, you can negotiate with the company you really love.
There you have it! If you’re considering a career as a software engineer at a Big Four company, or any other company, use your connections wisely, be comfortable and confident while interviewing, and don’t be afraid to negotiate. We hope our anonymous interviewee’s tips and experiences help you along the way.