Tech Companies Are Among the Toughest for Job Interviews

What’s the marginal cost of a gigabyte in gmail?

If you know the answer, you may have a shot at becoming an associate product manager at Google. If you don’t, hey, don’t feel too bad. Google ranked 9th among the 25 most difficult companies to interview with.

In fact, of those 25 , a dozen are tech companies. according to a report by Glassdoor. Google scored 3.5 out of 5 on the difficulty scale of 1 to 5, while Facebook and Amazon weren’t far behind — each has a 3.3 rating.

Why Tech is Tough

“We’re finding tech companies are moving very quickly and they need to find very skilled workers,” says Scott Dobroski, a Glassdoor spokesman and community expert.

Indeed, Dobroski says company recruiters aren’t waiting for the perfect candidate to come through the door. They’re also proactively scouring social media networks looking for the right candidates.

He also says that tech companies ask candidates for both IT and business roles questions like, “What would you change with the company’s products and how would you push them forward?”

And beyond questions about your hard skills, they’ll also dive deep into your thinking process.

For example, a candidate at Unisys was asked if “skill or will was more necessary” to get the job done. At Google, a product manager candidate was asked how many hotels are in the United States. A systems administrator candidate at Rackspace had to conjure up as many uses as they could for a brick, in one minute.

“These questions are asked to test your critical thinking,” explains Dobroski. “The worst answer you could give is ‘I don’t know.’ You should sound out your response as you think your answer through. They want to see how you think on your feet, how you dream and what solutions you come up with on the spot.”

Hmm…those oddball questions don’t seem so odd anymore, eh?

“I find many times companies ask these questions and have extensive interviews to assess culture fit,” says David Chie, an executive with recruiting firm Palo Alto Staffing Technology. “Most of these technology companies have experienced explosive growth and the leaders realize that the internal culture is a huge component in their success or failure.”

He added these firms also usually have a high level of applicants, so they feel they can be more selective in their process.  Other firms don’t always have that luxury.

Here’s a look at Glassdoor’s Top 25:

Glassdoor rated these companies based on culling more than 80,000 interview reviews over the past 12 months. Each company had to have at least 20 interview reviews and 20 company reviews to be included.

Tough Love

“What unifies almost all of these companies is that they’re hugely successful and have dozens (maybe hundreds) of applicants for every opening,” says Jon Holman, president of executive recruiting firm The Holman Group. “All their applicants have high SAT scores and great grades, so they need some way to pick only the best and brightest.  Their answer is to ask these hard questions.”

Microsoft started this trend among the technology companies, Holman notes, pointing to a book about their practice called “How Would You Move Mount Fuji? Microsoft’s Cult of the Puzzle – How the World’s Smartest Company Selects the Most Creative Thinkers.

“Years ago, there used to be companies that deliberately conducted stressful interviews, not by the difficulty of the questions and the creativity required for the answers, but by actually stressing people with physical conditions or semi-abusive interviewers,” Holman recalls. “This is a whole different kind of difficulty, maybe no less stressful but more intellectual and not masochistic.”

And while these tough questions are designed to test job applicant’s creativity and fast thinking skills, companies usually find most people only possess one or the other – not both, Holman notes.

“Unfortunately, (hiring managers) tend not to hire deeply creative people who require time to think, and thus may miss the true innovators, but it’s hard to interview people who want to get back to you tomorrow with the answer,” says Holman.

11 Responses to “Tech Companies Are Among the Toughest for Job Interviews”

  1. Jimmy Lozano

    Is the first time that I READ a good article from DICE.
    Telling Us the Truth about the “Interviews Jobs” from the big companies in U.S.A.

    “”For example, a candidate at Unisys was asked if “skill or will was more necessary” to get the job done. At Google, a product manager candidate was asked how many hotels are in the United States. A systems administrator candidate at Rackspace had to conjure up as many uses as they could for a brick, in one minute.””

  2. Albatross

    Interviewing with Guardent long ago, I was asked how I felt about 60 hour work-weeks. I replied that life requires balance, the 40 hour work week exists for a reason, and a 60 hour work week only allows one to accomplish about 45 hours worth of work due to reduced efficiency. The interview was immediately terminated and I was walked out of the building.

    I stand by my answer.

    • Glen Smith

      In a task-oriented job, a person who is CONSISTENTLY putting in 60+ hour work-weeks by the strongest definition of work is either incompetent or working on a badly managed project. I do put the emphasis on consistency of work hours because there may be factors that cause task to take more time (or more assigned to this person than normal) for short periods. Now, you could also mean being highly available for 60 a week. Of course, by one definition of work, all people work 24/7/365. So, what do they mean by 60 hour work-week?

    • Adressing both Albatross, and Glen Smith:

      Years ago a manager told me “if you work more than 40 hours per week, week after week, in order to meet deadlines, there is one of two possibilities:

      1 You have too much to do and that’s my (the manager’s) problem.
      2. You are wasting time and that’s your problem; you receive a salary, not an hourly wage.”

  3. Jimmy Lozano

    Is Simple GLEN:
    They want you work MORE with pay you LESS money.
    If YOU are not agree with this statement, you will NOT hired by the company.

    Like you said GLEN this kind of company:
    —-“” working on a badly managed project “”—-

    And ALBATROSS knows very well of this situation, because he said:
    —-“” I stand by my answer. “”—-

    • Glen Smith

      I was attempting to answer such a question using the structure that this article was talking about. In any case, the story Albatross tells really answers the most important question of any interview process (something both sides need to know, no resume communicates and may be phrased in an illegal way), are we a cultural fit with one another. If I don’t know if you qualify technically, I should not even be interviewing you yet. OK, I may still want to clarify a few things and I may need some :”tie-breaker” info.

  4. Now to address the blog theme:

    For every Google, FaceBook, Apple, MS, etc. that are indeed in need of top-flight-tech-talent there are poseurs, spoofers and wanna-bees who believe asking “Google-esque” questions elevates them to the tech stratosphere. Not.

    Many “tech jobs” require only good, basic (no pun intended) technical ability because neither that company, nor its products, will “be the next big thing” that “changes the world.” Those companies need to grasp reality and realize if they are not willing to pay the big $ they will not attract the folk who are probably aiming for Google, etc.

  5. I’ve learned through many experiences what it’s like to work with and for these people. You can possibly talk your way into getting “the job” ; lookout, especially in the present state of affairs in our country. My advice, stay completely out of debt, don’t get yourself involved in any financial crisis because if you need that job so bad to pay bills the future employer knows that and it’s not a pretty picture. Corporate America, in my opinion is extremely brutal these days. Good luck to you all for trying . It takes a lot of courage to engage in this warfare. Being nice, civil, trustworthy means very little except an sign of weakness within this corporate nighmare. Again, I wish everyone the best and stay safe.

  6. steve davis

    You don’t even get an interview unless you can answer the question “What is the status of your visa?” It’s a polite way of saying Americans need not apply.

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