How To Land A Job with a Unicorn.

Staff, Rocket Interview

Some of the most sought after jobs and naturally, the most competitive to land, are in the Tech sector ranging from industry behemoths like Google and Facebook to early stage startups working on cutting edge technologies.  

They are competing against one another for the best talent to turbo charge their growth, while ensuring their interview process is rigorous in identifying the candidates who exhibit the optimal mix of talent and organizational fit.  The latter is the focus of their behavioral interviews.  

While there are unique nuances in their interview process, they have more in common than they have differences.

Each company has its own unique nuances in their interview process, but ultimately they vet candidates along 4 core vectors, and any candidate who deeply understands these and exhibit the skills and mindsets in these areas will have a leg up on the competition.  

Breaking down the Interview Scorecard

Nailing these 5 areas will help you score the most competitive jobs in Tech.

1.  MISSION

Top tech companies are mission driven and think deeply about the value they are creating for society.  In mid-2017, Facebook after having amassed 2 billion monthly active users changed their mission statement “To give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”  

As such, in their interviews they are looking for candidates that are personally motivated to help fulfill this mission and candidates that address their interest in the mission and how it aligns with their personal or professional purpose will naturally have a more meaningful conversation where they are speaking the “same language” as their interviewer.

The company mission also influences the products they build and services they create, so they are looking for candidates that will be their product enthusiasts and early adopters of their new innovations.  In product-speak this known as “eating your own dog food.”  Given this, before the interview, candidates should deeply engaged with the company’s products and be able to articulate what they like and  how it can be improved.  It is common for Apple to ask “What is your favorite app?” and for Facebook to ask how you would improve one of their apps, and they expect a meaningful conversation on the topic.

A powerful way to connect with the company’s brand is to articulate how your personal mission connects with the company mission.  For example, if you are interviewing at LinkedIn, you might talk about how fulfilling it is to help people find meaningful work while helping enable GDP growth.

Ultimately you, the candidate, are interviewing to be part of their brand, whether in the form of wearing their hoodies, buying their products, and talking about them in your social media feed.  So the question is will you make a good brand ambassador?

“You are interviewing to be a part of their brand
2.  Problem Solving

Every company is looking for problem solvers, but tech companies in particular are looking for a particular level of depth in this capability.

Firstly, they are looking for candidates with “analytical chops,” which many may interpret as the ability to “slice and dice” numbers and be handy in excel.  However, they are looking for deeper analytical skills which includes an ability to draw insights from data while also solving problems that have a dearth of data.  Remember, these companies are innovating in new areas that may not have a wealth of data.

In addition to deep analytics, they want conceptual problem solvers that can break down large and ambiguous problems into a discrete structure with manageable chunks that can be divvied across teams, and then brought back together when it is time to connect the dots.

Finally, candidates can further differentiate themselves by demonstrating their creativity in problem solving.  Tech companies are often tackling challenging problems without a formulaic answer which requires lateral or “outside of the box” thinking.  So it is imperative to have a mental model on alternative approaches to solving problems – for example creating a marketing campaign without a budget or getting users to adopt your product when there are many competitors already present.

3.  THOUGHT LEADERSHIP

Tech companies are blazing new trails and moving fast to beat out the competition.  This means employees need to already have a strong point of view on how to solve their toughest challenges.  This category of questions can be broad though there are 3 common themes within this category.  

First, employers may ask you about trends (e.g., automation) and how they impact the company and role.  For example, Lyft may ask you how self-driving cars will impact different parts of their business.

Secondly, they may ask a question on how to tackle a common challenge they face, for example Amazon may ask how you would boost product sales in an underperforming category.

Thirdly, they may test your intuition on how good a product or business is and how it can be improved.  For example, Apple may ask how you would improve their watch.

Across these questions the interviewer is looking for you to present a strong point of view with conviction while also being humble enough to adjust your point of view when presented with new data and information.

“Have your own point of view on the industry and what it takes to win.”
4.  GROWTH MINDSET

Amazon interviews commonly ask you to reflect on their 14 leadership principles, one of which is “learn and be curious” while Google screens candidates for their “Googleyness” which includes their appetite for learning and personal development.

The framing of the question can vary, but ultimately what these companies want to know is do you have a fixed mindset or a “growth mindset” where self-learning is a habit.  They want candidates that are introspective and self aware enough to proactively identify learning opportunities and then vigorously pursue them.  Moreover, they are looking for candidates that are in constant pursuit of improving not just themselves, but their teams, and the company in the pursuit of excellence.

Before your interview, think about your habits that contribute to a growth mindset.  For example, how do you seek feedback to identify areas for improvement?  What do you read for your sources of insight?  How do you measure your growth on a regular basis?  Having clarity on your approach to growth will help you engage in a meaningful personal conversation with your interviewer on a core attribute that the company is looking for and that your interviewer can personally relate to as well.

5.  Empathy

Companies that want to scale their business are typically throttled by how effective their teams collaborate.  In that vein, Facebook’s Product Manager interview process has a dedicated “Leadership and Drive” interview which gauges your ability to collaborate and inspire others by getting deep on your ability to empathize with your colleagues.  They want to know that you can put yourself in others’ shoes, see things from their point of view, and harness that to build trust and collaborate more effectively.  

A classic question that tests your empathetic approach is asking “How you have resolved conflict with a colleague?”.

Moreover, Tech companies have a common strand of DNA in that they ultimately provide products or services to consumers (B2C) or businesses (B2B) and they want to ensure that you can empathize with their customer to deliver on the company’s promise.

Thinking about how you demonstrate empathy (e.g., listening with intent) towards consumers and colleagues alike can provide you with a mental model you can use to answer questions on conflict resolution and delivering a great customer experience.

Summary

Remember, when asking questions to your interviewer, your objective is to engage in meaningful conversation and demonstrate your fit for the company.  If you get the offer, then you can play “detective” and investigate all the nuances of the company.  The interview is not the best venue for fact gathering, it is where you separate yourself from the competition.