How candidates who were once underqualified or rejected succeeded!
Not every employee at the world’s top tech firms was hired on their first try. In fact, it’s not uncommon for applicants to apply multiple times before getting hired.
“I was turned down by four Microsoft teams before I hit on the position that hired me. Once inside the company, I’ve tried to move to other teams and been rejected sometimes, and accepted others. Do not lose hope…keep applying, even if it is for the same team, even if it is for the same role in a different team, even if it is for totally different roles,” shares Nick, who’s worked for Microsoft for over 10 years.
Whether you’ve been rejected from a role at your dream company or you’re aiming to work for one in the future and you feel you’re underqualified, you can definitely use your time wisely to gain the experiences you need to qualify – and succeed – in the future.
1. Keep studying
Sometimes, even if you have impressive experience in your industry, tech companies are looking for a specific set of qualifications.
Carrus Coach Robert Hamilton, who has over 20 years of experience in product and leadership including 10 years at Google and Facebook, weighs in:
“At Google, there was a candidate who had good industry experience, but he didn’t have a degree. Recruiters knew it would be hard to get him through the Hiring Committee without a technical qualification. The candidate took this on board, and started studying for an MSc, specializing in machine learning (which was relatively new at the time). Just over a year later, he re-applied and was accepted. He is still at Google and has been promoted twice.”
Google, Amazon and Microsoft offer certification courses that are worth considering regardless of whether you’re applying for jobs in technical roles or in project management. Any one of these certifications will not only increase your value to the company you’re currently at, but also add credibility to your resume when you apply to top tech firms.
- Google offers professional certification courses on a variety of topics including Data Analytics, IT Support, UX Design, and Project Management. Since the courses they offer are on-demand, you can improve your skill set according to your own schedule – even while working full time. Their courses are also suitable for people who are new to these topics and want to expand their knowledge. If you were to spend 5 hours per week on course materials, you should be able to receive your certification within 3-6 months.
- Amazon also offers AWS Certification on technical skills and cloud expertise. They have role-based certifications for those in Cloud Practitioner, Architect, Developer, and Operations, as well as Specialty certifications in specific technical areas. Also, they offer 4 tiers of certification ranging from 6 months to 2 years, including a specialty exam.
- And finally, Microsoft offers primarily technical certifications spanning 9 areas of tech roles from Data Scientist to Security Engineer to Solution Architect. They offer both self-paced courses as well as instructor-led training which is a great option to have if you’re seeking guidance throughout your learning.
It’s also worth looking into your company of choice to verify if they offer certifications or apprenticeships which could give you a leg up in qualifying.
2. Take on a project to expand your knowledge
Whether taking on a new project means staying at your company and requesting relevant opportunities, or changing companies to one that offers the projects you’re looking to work on, showing hiring managers that you’ve expanded your skill set between applications is always well-received.
Carrus Coach Robert shares:
“There was a Project Manager candidate at Google who was very strong but failed the technical interview; all their other scores were good. I asked one of the Engineer leads how the candidate could prove themselves and they said, ‘Get involved in open source software projects – we’ll be able to look at their contribution and see if they’ve got what it takes to do well here’. Next time around the candidate passed the technical interview.”
One thing to point out about Robert’s example is that it’s really important to ask for feedback if you’re rejected from an interview so that you know exactly what you can improve on for the next time. Don’t accept rejection without finding out why!
Even if it takes you a couple of years to gain the experience you need, that can pay off to your advantage the next time you apply for the company.
“It is more common than you would think for candidates to interview 2, and sometimes 3, times before getting an offer at Google. As a recruiter, I look for positive signals from a previous set of interviews to grow on with the candidate. If you did terribly on the first interview, spent the next 2–3 years growing your skills, and can show growth in your next round, then this looks very good to a Hiring Committee,” says Nicholas.
“If you didn’t get hired right out of college and are underqualified, look for an alumni of your University who is working for your company of choice and see if they will mentor you. The mentor can help you with your career in general and, assuming they have the connections to the company you want to apply for, they can help in preparing you for a better shot the next time you apply,” shares Hal, a former Microsoft employee for 15 years.
Whether it’s about taking on a new project or finding a mentor, the message is loud and clear: never stop learning and growing.
3. Practice preparing for the interviews
Regardless of your credentials and experiences, one reason you can fail an interview is simply because you did not prepare well enough. Recruiters and Hiring Managers are looking for candidates who can well-articulate their experiences. If the responses you give during interviews are too general, vague, or cliche, you might not be shining yourself in your best light and need to get more specific.
Take it from Marcel:
“You can either try to get lucky and fail N times or prepare properly and breeze through the interview. I interviewed at Google 4 times, 3 times I didn’t prepare properly and got rejected, 4th time I prepared 4 months in advance for 20 hr/week and I passed the interview. Moral of the story: failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Practice solving problems in a similar environment to that of the real thing, time yourself, talk while you solve the problems, use a whiteboard, and make note of the skills you need to improve and work on those skills.”
Being rejected 3 times sounds tough…can you swallow applying 9 times?
“I have failed [at Amazon] 8 times in a short span of time. Turns out the 9th time was lucky for me. If you get rejected once, twice , thrice or maybe even eight times like me, it does not mean you are not worth it. It just means you have to keep working harder. I learned from my mistakes, kept no hopes on the result and focused completely on the interviews. You can’t get lucky for interviews in companies like Amazon. They have a proper procedure to weed out a bad hire. You can always try again,” shares an Amazon technical employee.
What you need to prepare for your interview can vary company to company, but there are three core elements you that practice that apply to tech firms across the board, regardless of the role you’re applying for:
- The STAR Method: This is a framework you can use to make sure that you’re crafting responses to interview questions that share well-rounded information from the situation to the result of your experiences.Come check out our full article about it: How to Use the Star Method to Nail the Interview at Facebook, Amazon and Google
- Behavioral Questions: These are questions that are designed to find out how you act in a variety of situations.The 67 Competencies Apple Uses to Test You in the Interview
- Hypothetical Brain Teaser Questions: These are questions like “How many rolls of toilet paper can you fit into an airplane?” These first became trendy by Microsoft as a way of testing a candidate’s approach to problem solving. Microsoft thinks they’re outdated as one of our Carrus Coaches shares on the blog here, but many other companies use them as part of their interview process.
And of course, you can always prepare with one of our Carrus Coaches!
We have a full list of coaches who have worked at Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Uber, and more. No matter what role you’re looking to apply for, they can help you craft your resume and prepare you in mock interviews through our coaching programs. Come get matched and get hired!