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.
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 an 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."
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.