Getting A Job At Facebook: Inside The 'Meritocratic' Hiring Process

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Facebook jobsFacebook just passed the one billion user mark. That makes it the only employer on the planet capable of directly impacting a seventh of the world's population, except for the Communist Party of China.

So despite a glitchy public offering and a spate of shareholder lawsuits, Facebook is on a hiring frenzy.After all, the second most popular site on the web has to keep pace with the world it's conquering.

In the movie, "The Social Network," Mark Zuckerberg's classmates can earn a coveted intern spot at his start-up by winning a hacking contest, where players had to drink a shot for every 10 lines of code. Holding your liquor is no longer a bona fide qualification for employment at Facebook, but raw programming chops still are.

So what's it take to get hired at Facebook in 2012? Facebook is known for eschewing the kind of brain-busting interview questions that Microsoft and Google favor, such as why manhole covers are round or how many hummingbirds were born in the latest k'atun-cycle of the Mayan calendar.

Facebook engineer (and children's book author) Carlos Bueno, for instance, posted a note this summer -- on Facebook, obviously -- about the hiring process for software engineers. He explained that applicants go through a phone screening or on-site interview to cover the basics: your resume, skills, interests, and some basic programming exercises.


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Getting A Job At Facebook: Inside The 'Meritocratic' Hiring Process

Median annual salary: $68,500*

What you'd do all day: Social media managers use sites such as Facebook and Twitter to publicize a company's products or services. A typical day might be spent responding to customer inquiries and complaints via social media tools, writing blog posts and analyzing the effectiveness of social media campaigns.

Why the job is in demand: As more companies rely on social media to attract customers, the demand for social media managers has jumped. In the year ending in April, the number of job listings for social media managers on CareerBuilder grew 56 percent.

Ideal background: Strong organizational skills and understanding of social media, as well as top-notch verbal and written communication skills. A bachelor's degree in a related field may be required.

Looking for a job as a social media manager? Click here to get started.

*Source: CareerBuilder

Median annual salary: $78,500

What you'd do all day: Think of data scientists as journalists who work with numbers instead of words. Just as journalists take scientific reports and turn them into readable stories for the masses, so, too, do data scientists take numbers and make them meaningful to everyday people. Data scientists also dig deep for the numbers no one else is looking for to find information that might otherwise go unnoticed. Data scientists can work for a wide range of organizations, from NASA to payroll processor Automatic Data Processing to Internet companies such as Amazon.com. 

Why it's in demand: Advances in technology have resulted in an explosion of information, and many companies need workers to sift through all that data. A recent McKinsey & Co. report forecasts a shortage in the U.S. alone of up to 190,000 workers with the analytical skills required to be a data scientist. Job listings for data scientists rose 82 percent in the 12 months ending in April.

Ideal background: Strong math and analytical skills. College degree desirable.

Looking for a job as a data scientist? Click here to get started.

Median annual salary: $88,000

What you'd do all day: Design and build apps, or computer applications, that help smartphone and tablet users read, shop, find information, play games and more.  

Why the job is in demand: Recent surveys show that nearly half of Americans own a smartphone, while a quarter plan to buy an iPad electronic tablet. That's a boon for companies that develop apps for those devices, but it's also created a shortage of mobile application developers. ITCareerFinder.com recently selected the role of mobile application developer as its No. 1 Best Computer Job for the Future, through 2020. The site noted that "there are simply more job openings than skilled and educated mobile developers to fill them" -- especially for Apple and Android operating systems. Related job listings surged 60 percent in the year ending in April. 

Ideal background: Bachelor's degree in computer science and related field. Proficiency with computer code, software and operating systems.

Looking for a job as a mobile application developer? Click here to get started.

Median annual salary: $100,000

What you'd do all day: "Cloud" computing is a way for companies and consumers to save data and information remotely via the Internet, rather than, say, on a computer hard drive or flash drive. And it's a business that's growing by leaps and bounds as companies look for ways to slash costs.

Why it's in demand: The increased demand for cloud computing means employers need more workers who can design cloud systems. That often includes working with a company's information-technology team to ensure that the technology is developed in a way best suited for the clients' needs. The number of related job listings on CareerBuilder rose 92 percent in the year ending in April.

Ideal background: College degree in computer information technology or related field. Customer service skills are a plus, too.

Looking for a job as a cloud architect? Click here to get started.

Median annual salary: $65,000

What you'd be doing all day: Search-engine experts help ensure that businesses' web pages rank high in Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines. So any time that a user searches for a specific product, service or the company, that company will pop up in the results, preferably on the first page. To that end, search engine specialists create and manage web pages, and design strategies and advertising campaigns to support them. They also analyze data to ensure that goals are being met.

Why it's in demand: The ability to create attractive web pages that show up in the top returns in search engines is one way that many companies seek to promote and sell their products and services. Employing a specialist who understands search techniques and website design helps consumers to more easily find the businesses and products they're interested in. The number of jobs ads in this field have risen 15 percent in the year ending in April.

Ideal background: College degree in computer science or related field. Strong writing and verbal skills, experience with the Internet,  and ability to meet tight deadlines are key.

Looking for a job as a search engine specialist? Click here to get started.

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Applicants who pass the smell test will be invited in for the "onsite loop" of interviews, the heft of which are more coding problems, as well as a possible take-home "hack." The interviewers are looking at how well you solve the problems, as well as how you approach them (with patient, methodical, outside-the-box thinking? Or by twitching and muttering expletives?).

The process is more meritocratic than most, as it judges its applicants on the brute power of their brainboxes as opposed to the pedigree of their alma maters. "I'd rather have the top student out of U.T. or University of Central Florida than the 30th best from Stanford," Facebook engineering director Jocelyn Goldfein told Fortune magazine.

Which is why Facebook even offers an online timed coding challenge, open to all, where the best performers automatically win a phone interview. The tech giant's hunger for talent is so ferocious it will even buy entire companies and kill their products just to scoop up ("acqui-hire") the minds behind them.

Fundamentally, Facebook interviewers want to see what you're awesome at. "If it says 'expert in X,' we will try to schedule you with a proven expert in X, so be prepared," Bueno advises applicants about their resumes. "If you are not, leave it off. I'd rather have a short list of the things you're awesome at than pages of everything you've ever done."

More:The Secret To Getting Hired At Google

Applicants for non-tech positions, like in business operations, sales, marketing or analytics, will have a different ride, with no need to prove their fluency in C++ and Python. But they should know the company like, say, your mom knows the moles on your back. "If you are going to work for Facebook tomorrow, what project do you want to work on?" was one question posed to an applicant for a market research position, posting on Glassdoor.com.

Those who become one of the approximately 4,000 employees at Facebook will enjoy generous salaries, three free gourmet meals a day, lots of freedom and flexibility, and the warm, tingly feeling of affecting the experience of 1,000,000,000 people around the world (that breaks down to one Facebook employee for every quarter million Facebook users).

Even a blog post by a Facebook software engineer criticizing the company reads like a parody of an unbelievably awesome company. The employee's gripes? Too few meetings, too much focus on long-term vision over short-term revenue, too much internal trust, too much delicious food, and a hot tub in the New York office used for interviews.

But that same employee installed a (non-working) hot tub in a conference room at Facebook's Seattle office to fill with plush pillows for cozy hacking sessions. So even a public Facebook naysayer has guzzled at least a gallon of its koolaid.

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