Contents Chapter 1: Introduction Life at Infinite Loop and Microsoft Way Big vs. Little: Is a Start-up Right for You? The Job Title: What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up? And You’re on Your Way . . . Chapter 2: Advanced Preparation What Can You Do: An Overview Academics Work Experience Extracurriculars and the Checkbox People Your Questions Answered Chapter 3: Getting in the Door The Black Hole: Online Job Submission Getting a Personal Referral Career Fairs Professional Recruiters Additional Avenues Networking Your Questions Answered Chapter 4: Résumés Six Hallmarks of a Powerful Résumé The Structure How Long Is Too Long? Your Questions Answered Chapter 5: Deconstructing the Résumé Résumé A: Bill Jobs Résumé B: Steve Gates Résumé C: Geena Roberts Parting Words Additional Resources Chapter 6: Cover Letters and References Why a Cover Letter? The Three Types of Cover Letter The Structure Five Traits of a Strong Cover Letter An A+ Cover Letter References Your Questions Answered Additional Resources Chapter 7: Interview Prep and Overview What Are Tech Companies Looking For?
How to Prepare Working with Your Recruiter Communication and Behavior Special Interview Types After the Interview Your Questions Answered Additional Resources Chapter 8: Interview Questions General Advice Acing the Standard Questions Behavioral and Résumé Questions Estimation Questions Design Questions Brainteasers: Why Are Manhole Covers Round? Answering the Tough Questions Your Questions Answered Additional Resources Chapter 9: The Programming Interview How They Differ: Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Apple How to Prepare Memory Usage Coding Questions Algorithm Questions: Five Ways to Create an Algorithm Object-Oriented Design Scalability Questions Testing Interviews Example Problems Your Questions Answered Additional Resources Chapter 10: Getting into Gaming The Culture: Is It All Fun and Games? Job Positions: What Can You Do? Fresh Meat: Advice for College Candidates Reaching Out and Getting In Personality Fit The Gaming Interview—Three Tips to Doing Well Your Questions Answered Chapter 11: The Offer How to Evaluate an Offer Your Career Development The Financial Package The Happiness Factor
How Can You Negotiate an Offer? Tricky Issues: Deadlines, Extensions, and Declining Offers Your Questions Answered Chapter 12: On the Job Your Career Path Promotions and Raises How and When to Quit Going Back to School Part-Time Schooling Your Questions Answered Chapter 13: Final Thoughts Appendix A : 156 Action Words to Make Your Résumé Jump Appendix B : Answers to Behavioral Interview Questions Index
Copyright ? 2011 by Gayle Laakmann. All rights reserved.
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McDowell, Gayle Laakmann, 1982-
The google résumé : how to prepare for a career and land a job at Apple, Microsoft, Google, orany top tech company / Gayle Laakmann McDowell.
ISBN 978-0-470-92762-5 (hardback)
ISBN 978-1-118-01313-7 (ebk)
ISBN 978-1-118-01314-4 (ebk)
ISBN 978-1-118-01315-1 (ebk)
1. Résumés (Employment) 2. High technology industries—Vocational guidance. 3. Job hunting. I.Title.
To my mother and grandmother, whose engineering endeavors paved the way for my own.
Just so you’re clear: it was not my idea to give a talk to Microsoft Research. I had learnedembarrassingly little about computer science in my 18 years of life, and the last thing Iwanted to do is to have that exposed in front of a bunch of genius PhDs in MSR. But my managerthought it’d be a great “opportunity,” and so there I was, blabbing on about my summer
I finished up my talk at lightning speed. As I was dealing with a somewhat severe case of stagefright, I considered my haste a good thing. And then the questions started. Did I considerdoing X? Yes, I told them, I did, and this is what happened. Why not implement it with Y? Youcould, but that would cause problem Z.
I almost hesitated to admit it to myself afterwards, but things went fine. Just fine.
That whole summer I had been convinced that Microsoft would discover that I knew practicallynothing and cut me loose. I had only gotten my internship offer through some brilliant streakof luck, I reasoned, and didn’t really deserve it. Not like my fellow interns did anyway. Theyhad done three times as much college as me, completed three times as many projects, andbasically knew three times as much as me.
Four years later, with a job at Google about to start, I reflected on my incredible luck. Ilanded a Microsoft internship at an incredibly young age, and that turned into threeconsecutive internships. Then I got an Apple internship, even though Apple never even recruitedat my university. And then I happened to get hooked up with just the right people who referredme to the up-and-coming Google. I must be the luckiest person alive.
Or am I?
Maybe, while Lady Luck was certainly in my favor, I had somehow, accidentally, done everythingjust right. I completed several large projects in high school, offering me considerably moreexperience than my peers. I got an entry-level job as a web designer, which developed myprofessional and technical credibility. I created a résumé that, while atrocious in manyrespects, demonstrated my passion for technology and showcased my limited experience. Andfinally, I built a network of more senior professionals, managed relationships with mentors,and leveraged these connections to land one dream job after another.
And that, my dear readers, is how you get a job at the world’s greatest tech companies.
Life at Infinite Loop and Microsoft Way
Even their addresses are suggestive of company stereotypes. Microsoft, at One Microsoft Way,screams big and mammoth. Google’s 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway address is understated, like itsuser interfaces. Apple, of course, takes the bold “think different” step with One InfiniteLoop—a play on words that could come back to bite a less beloved company.
Despite the little eccentricities of each company, these companies are much more alike thanthey are different. Software companies are youthful—at heart, if not in actuality. They scornthe stuffy suits-and-ties atmosphere of their predecessors and elect to wear just jeans and aT-shirt. In fact, this casual attitude is so potent that it’s pervaded even the social scenesof tech hubs; only a small handful of restaurants in Seattle and San Francisco would requestanything beyond jeans, and a woman in a suit gets more stares than a girl with a purple mohawk.
Desperate to attract and retain the best and the brightest, tech firms shower their employeeswith perks. Microsoft offers free drinks, a heavily discounted gym membership, and an all-expenses-paid health care plan. Google matched and then one-upped Microsoft on almost all ofthese. Free sodas? Try free breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Free gym membership? Use the on-sitegym and pool. Deluxe health care plan? We’ll give you a good one, and throw in an on-sitedoctor. Nerds everywhere can only hope that the “next Google,” whatever it is, will engage inits own perk war.
Of course, cynics argue that these benefits are really just a way to trick employees intostaying at the office longer. You can fulfill almost any regular appointment, from a haircut todry cleaning, without leaving campus. But the fact that you can doesn’t mean you have to. No
one will think worse of you because you declined to get your dental work done from the on-sitedentist parked in the van out back.
The severe shortage of engineers in the United States forces companies to take good care oftheir employees. They would lose too many qualified candidates otherwise.
Workers are encouraged to find a reasonable work/life balance, and work comparatively shorthours compared to people from other industries.
The exception, as in most jobs, is during crunch times. Software releases will be stressful inany team.
Moving Up: Individual Contributors
Although other industries push high-performing employees into management roles, technologycompanies tend to be more open to the “individual contributor” role. After all, greatengineers do not necessarily make the best managers.
An employee, particularly in engineering, can continue to get promotions and increasedtechnical responsibilities, without becoming a people manager. Eventually, this employee cangrow into an architect or a distinguished engineer, earning one of the most respected positionswithin the company. It’s perhaps not as glamorous as being a VP, but for some people, this isjust right.
Cultural differences between companies can often be traced back to the company’s roots.
Amazon, many would argue, is more of a retail company than a software company. It facedextremely hard times during the dot-com crash, and continues to battle profit margins that arelevels of magnitude lower than that of a “core” software company. It is consequentlyextremely frugal, and refrains from providing the lavish perks that others software companiesmight. Additionally, some employees have suggested that the company does not value technicalinnovation for its own sake, and instead looks for an immediate and causal link to profits.But, do not let that deter you too much; indeed, Amazon is leading in multiple industries
(retail, cloud computing, etc.) largely because of its technical innovation. The company movesat a rapid pace and pending deadlines often mean late nights.
is just as secretive inside as it is outside. When your innovation lies so heavily inApple
your look and feel and your market share depends on beautifully orchestrated hype, it’s nowonder. The company can’t afford to let its secrets slip. Employees are die-hard fans, just asone would expect, but rarely know what coworkers from other teams are working on. In my time atthe company, I sensed a feared-but-revered attitude toward Steve Jobs; he called the shots, andno one would argue.
Microsoft has dabbled (and reasonably successfully) with search and the web, but a large chunkof its earnings come from Windows and Office. Live patches to these products are expensive, sothe company tends to operate on longer, multiyear release schedules. This means moving slower,taking fewer risks, and making sure to get everything right the first time (even if it’s nevertotally right). The bright side is that the company tends to have a good work/life balance, asship dates are relatively infrequent. Many former employees say that though they loved thecompany, its mammoth size could stifle innovation and risk-taking. However, individual teamcultures are all over the map, and some may be more innovative than others.
Google is the nerdiest of the nerdy. Founded by two former Stanford PhDs, the company is still,many claim, preferential to engineers over other positions. The company moves quickly, shippingproducts weekly, and can value technical innovation even to a fault. As a web-based company, itcan afford to take some risks on products; after all, “shipping” a new application to the webis so much easier than boxing up and mailing software. Google values its flat hierarchy, butthere’s a downside as well. Your manager may have too many people under her to fuss about theprogress of your career, and moving up can be a challenge.
Big vs. Little: Is a Start-up Right for You?
Go to almost any business school and you’ll find that there are about three times as manypeople who claim to be “interested” in start-ups than actually pursuing this career path.Why? Because start-ups are sexy.
Newspapers splash stories about start-ups that made it big, or crashed and burned, and we
we can do that or we can do better. Start-ups are a high-stakes game, and you’realways think,
gambling with your time as well as your money.
For the right person with the right opportunity, however, a start-up environment can befantastic.
Many say that for true “start-up people,” this high-risk career is just in their nature. Theyget that entrepreneurial itch, either in college or at some big company, and know they need tobe somewhere much, much smaller. And their new career path offers a ton of value to them inreturn:
-Diversity of skills. Whereas big companies have designated marketing and finance people,start-ups never have enough people to fill every role. And the smaller the company, the morehats you have to wear. Unless you are truly narrowly focused on just one field (in which caseyou should avoid start-ups), this can be a great thing. You’ll get to develop a more diverseskill set, which will help you in your future job search.
-Leadership opportunities. When—or if—your start-up grows, you’ll be in a great place tolead your own team. Many people join a company and find that within months they’re expectedto manage several new hires. You’d have to be at a bigger company for years to get such anopportunity.
-Control and influence. Each time a bit of my work shipped at a big company, I was able topoint to it and say, “I did that.” And while that made me happy, a little part of me alsoknew that, really, someone else would have come along and done something very similar if Ihadn’t been there. At a start-up, however, you are not only shaping the company in how youperform your immediate responsibilities, but you’re also offering feedback on all aspects ofthe business. Think the newsletter should have some content about related tools and plug-ins?It’s your job to speak up, and everyone will listen. You always know the decision makers inany department.
-Rapid results. You won’t have to wait years to see your work out in the real world; it’llhappen within months. That holds true for any decisions you make as well. For better orworse, the outcome is visible within months, enabling you to learn from your mistakes (andsuccesses) much faster.
-High reward. Hey, we don’t take on all this risk for nothing. Start-ups can make you very,very rich if you get very lucky. Of course, it could just as well do absolutely nothing foryou financially—and usually that’s the case.
Me? I’m a start-up person. I love everything about it. I love that I get to do 10 things atonce. And if I have no idea how to do it, then I get to learn. I see my impact immediately andI know that, for better or worse, I shaped the company’s future.
Start-up burnout is a very real thing. Sure, you may be passionate about your new social-location-group-buying-thingy-dot-com, but things change and passions die. The followingstresses tend to wear on people the most.
-Long hours. With the amount of money and careers depending on a start-up’s success, longhours are critical. Those who do the bare minimum don’t last long, and start-ups do not havethe fear of firing underperformers that bigger companies do.
-Unclear job description. You were hired in to be a tester, and now you’re helping look foroffice space. Well, tough. Someone’s got to do it. Start-ups don’t have the time and money