Your ultimate guide to landing a job at a big tech company
The biggest names in tech offer a lot of perks — competitive salaries, growth opportunities, and a major boost for your resume. But how can you land a job with top tech companies like Apple, Meta, Amazon, or Microsoft?
Tech companies look for certain technical skills, experience, and qualities during the interview process. Our guide offers a roadmap to strengthen your skills, make your resume stand out, and shine during your interviews.
How to land a job at a major tech company
If you want to work at a large tech company, you need to know what tech companies look for in job applicants. Whether you want to be an Amazon software engineer or seek a non-technical role at Sony or an Alphabet Inc. company, these tips will help.
Start a digital notebook of research, learnings, and tips.
Tech jobs require specific skills. What’s the best way to track what you’ve learned, company research, and interview tips? A digital notebook.
Include sections on programming or coding tips, definitions of technical terms, and descriptions of projects you’ve completed. You can also add:
Research into tech companies and their missions
Examples of hard and soft skills from your work experience
Questions that might come up in job interviews
Tools like Evernote, OneNote, or Notion can help you organize your digital notebook. And it will come in handy when you’re building a resume and prepping for job interviews.
Invest in getting the experience you need.
Big tech companies look for job candidates with a certain background. While you’ll need strong technical skills, companies also look at your professional experience.
Working for a startup, freelancing, completing a tech internship, and working for smaller tech companies can all help you land a job at a major tech company.
Consider a “lily pad” company — a smaller company where you can gain the experience necessary to work in big tech. Spending one to five years building up your resume and gaining experience at other companies may help you land an interview and job at a major company.
And consider that many of the big tech employers prefer to hire senior-level roles. Gain experience at the junior level elsewhere before moving into a major company.
Seek out informational interviews.
An informational interview helps you learn more about a company, its hiring process, and its expectations. If you know anyone working at a big tech company, ask whether they’re willing to answer questions in an informational interview.
Plan out your questions or email them in advance. And send along a copy of your resume. Ask about their prior experience and the interview process. You can also ask for tips or suggestions.
Use your network to identify people for informational interviews. Or reach out via LinkedIn or other networking sources to politely ask for time.
You will need to stand out from other applicants.
How can you stand out from other applicants? Major tech companies see thousands of resumes. What will set you apart?
Avoid gimmicks. Instead, consider anything unique in your background or skills. Or start an unusual new project that will help you stand out. Record a tech podcast, create unique open-source code, or launch a side project that brings in users. Or found your own company.
Did you work for a high-growth startup? Or a company that made headlines? That can also help you stand out.
Demonstrating your professional passions — and coming across as interesting — will help you stand out during the interview process.
Optimize your resume.
In the best-case scenario, a recruiter from a big tech company will reach out to you. But in most cases, you’ll submit a resume. How can you make it past the screening process?
Make sure to optimize your resume for both applicant tracking system screenings and people reading it. Quantify your experience whenever possible. List your tech stack, including the version of each program. And incorporate keywords from the job listing.
Avoid lengthy descriptions and blocks of text. Do not include multiple pages, particularly early in your career. And avoid passive language by including action verbs in your bullet lists.
Networking is critical.
Networking plays a crucial role in landing a job at a big tech company. Having a referral often means your application passes the initial screening and lands on the desk of a hiring manager or recruiter. But first, you must get to know tech workers who might refer you.
Consider joining professional organizations and participating in outreach or mentorship programs. And brush up on your networking tips to make the most of your time.
Only apply for roles where you fit all qualifications.
When a major tech company lists requirements, make sure you fit them. Does the role require Java 17, but you’ve only worked with earlier versions? Then brush up on your skills before applying.
You’ll be competing with others who meet the qualifications, so make sure you do, too. That might mean gaining experience at a smaller company before jumping to a major tech company.
Start preparing early and thoroughly for technical interviews.
Technical interviews are one of the most intimidating parts of the hiring process. So start preparing early.
That means practicing your tech skills, particularly in areas where you’re weaker. It also means learning about the technical interview process at your target companies.
Each major company uses a slightly different process to measure technical skills. Research the types of questions you might face and find people who’ve completed technical interviews in your area. People may share interview questions they’ve encountered on the company’s Glassdoor page.
Learn everything you can about what to expect so you can plan ahead. It’s also smart to read up on common computer science interview questions.
Fine-tune your interview skills.
Big tech companies often use several rounds of interviews. After an initial phone screen, you might have a second interview with the hiring manager, a tech interview, and meetings with key team members. Fine-tuning your interview skills will give you the confidence you need to stand out.
Prepare a quick pitch that includes your background and why you want to work for the company. Bring in the research you’ve done into the company’s goals and what you can bring to the team.
You’ll also need specific examples to demonstrate your hard and people skills. Check out our interview tips for more advice.
Don’t be surprised if you apply and interview multiple times before landing a job.
Many tech professionals apply multiple times before landing an interview at a big tech company. And many interview multiple times before receiving a job offer. Don’t get discouraged. Instead, expect the process to take time.
Keep honing your skills and perfecting your job application and your coding portfolio. And keep working toward your professional goals.
Insights from a big tech company employee
Cedrick Ilo is an augmented reality software engineer at Adobe, specifically working on the Aero product. He uses his creative passion for full-stack development with augmented reality (AR) as its medium.
Cedrick has a passion for creative storytelling through AR and wishes to help democratize AR and the immersive space.
He received his MS in computer science from Virginia Tech — specializing in human-computer interaction and augmented reality — and his BS in computer science from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.
ZDNet: What was your job application journey like before you landed a job at a big tech company?
Cedrick Ilo: Before coming to Adobe full-time, I spent two years working for the U.S. Department of the Navy on virtual reality simulations. Fresh out of graduate school, applying for AR jobs required work experience that I didn’t have at the time. So, I decided to get some more experience under my belt that I could utilize, which led me in a better direction for my career.
By maintaining my focus and passion, and overall trusting the journey, I was led to a connection that opened a conversation around possibly working on the AR team at Adobe.
At first, I had applied for a web development role, but the recruiter really took the time to understand my background, passion, and career aspirations, and they suggested that I might be interested in another position. Of course, I was ecstatic about the opening role and eager to become a part of the team.
ZDNet: How long did it take before you landed the role you wanted?
CI: Today, two years and three months later, I am proud to say I work on AR at the most creative company in the world. Adobe is a place where ideas are encouraged, and a place where you can learn, grow and make an impact. Looking back, everything I went through to achieve this was worth it.
ZDNet: What background and experiences did you have that made you stand out on your applications when applying for big tech companies?
CI: I believed myself to be a well-rounded candidate with the right mix of technical and leadership skills. My curiosity for using technology as a medium led me to be grounded in full-stack development. Also, by the time I reached graduate school, I decided that augmented reality (AR) was the right fit.
I also focused on incorporating key internships and learning opportunities into my academic journey. I spent two summers interning at Adobe under the National GEM Consortium program, with a full fellowship.
I spent my first summer on Adobe’s Document Cloud team working on a full-stack project and the second on the Adobe Research team working on an AR initiative.
ZDNet: When applying to big tech companies, how did you convey that you were a stand-out candidate?
CI: During the interview process for my full-time role at Adobe, I focused on being myself. By being authentic in who I am, I let my passion for technology speak for itself.
I highlighted my creative thinking, plus all the ways I’ve used AR in my graduate research and side projects. The core fundamentals of who I am matched Adobe’s core values (genuine, exceptional, innovative, and involved), which led to my career here.
Traits that big tech company employers look for
Big tech companies want more than solid technical skills. They’re also looking for talent with exceptional soft skills.
These traits, which shape how you work, directly link with emotional intelligence. Innovative, fast-moving tech companies look for job candidates with the following traits.
Weave examples of times you’ve demonstrated these traits into your cover letters and interview answers.
Curiosity is one of the top skills tech companies want. An interest in lifelong learning and a drive to expand one’s knowledge make curious employees an asset.
Job candidates can demonstrate curiosity by giving examples of times they followed unique lines of inquiry and preparing questions to ask in an interview. Creativity can also demonstrate curiosity at work.
Tech companies have a reputation for innovation. And they look for employees who share that trait.
Innovative employees invent new ways to approach problems and develop unique solutions. When interviewing, bring a few examples of times you showed innovation in a professional environment.
Passionate employees stick with projects and see them through to completion. But tech companies don’t only care about passion for work.
They also cultivate passion for hobbies and other interests. For example, Google encourages employees to devote 20% of their time to hobbies or skill-building.
What does thoughtfulness mean in a professional setting? It means examining all aspects of a situation, showing attention to detail, and demonstrating care for coworkers and clients.
Tech companies want employees who bring this approach to work. An example of when you caught an error or built a solid relationship with a client demonstrates thoughtfulness.
Proactive employees identify and correct potential issues before they become major problems. They’re also willing to work independently and take on leadership roles.
Tech companies want proactive workers willing to contribute to the company’s mission. Bring examples of times you took point on a project or went above and beyond to show proactivity.
Having a learner mentality
Tech companies expect employees to add to their skillsets. A learner mentality is necessary in tech since technologies constantly evolve.
Demonstrate a learner mentality by listing professional development and training sessions on your resume and mentioning new skills you’ve learned.
Taking informed risks
Willingness to take risks — particularly those with a high chance of paying off — helps candidates break into tech jobs. Tech companies need workers willing to try new things and take risks.
Prepare examples of times you made a calculated risk, even if it did not pay off.
Tech companies have lofty mission statements that show an interest in making big changes. So rather than focusing on minutiae, bring a “think big” mindset.
Consider how your skills connect with the company’s broader mission or culture. And bring in examples that show macro-level thinking in prior roles.