Applying for a job in Silicon Valley

How to get your dream job at Google, Apple and co.

Silicon Valley near San Francisco, California, is home to numerous IT companies including Apple, Google, Facebook and Tesla. Many of the technical innovations of recent years, such as the iPhone, were developed here. But how do these innovative companies choose their employees and what do you have to do to get one of the sought-after IT jobs in sunny California?

Working in Silicon Valley

For many qualified applicants worldwide, Silicon Valley is an absolute dream destination. This is not only due to the high quality of life in cities such as San Francisco or the high salaries, but also to the dense concentration of companies and start-ups. With their developments and innovations, they play a decisive role in what the future will look like. Here you have the chance to work closely on the technical innovations that will change the world.

If you want a job in Silicon Valley, you should be able to cope with a lot of stress, be interested in new technologies and enjoy the unknown. An independent way of working and a creative approach to solving problems will also come up in the application process. A great deal of risk tolerance is also included. Today, a company may still land multi-million financing deals, tomorrow it may already face bankruptcy.

In general, contacts and a sustainable network play an extremely important role when you are looking for a job. Learn more

If you know someone who can establish a contact, you will quickly sit at a table with CEOs and other important people and have the chance to convince employers in person. Otherwise, you'll meet investors, founders, programmers, and other exciting people at the numerous meetings, hackathons, and other networking events in Silicon Valley.

In particularly high demand at all companies are high-potential applicants with suitable fields of study such as computer science and relevant practical experience. You may, however, also have the chance to get a job if you have a different professional background. The number of applicants at all tech giants is, of course, huge. Therefore, a perfect application is only the first step. Work specifically on your qualification for a job, on a professional level but also regarding all other aspects. Currently around 60,000 German-speaking employees are working in Silicon Valley, so it is definitely possible to prevail against other applicants!

If you want to work in the U.S., you will also face some bureaucratic issues. You need a visa, which allows you to take up work. If you can convince a company to hire you, that shouldn't be a problem.

How does a Silicon Valley application work?

Even if the leading companies in the tech industry always talk about "groundbreaking innovations" and "new ways," an application to Google and co. is still quite traditional in many respects. If you don't know anyone who can establish a personal contact, you have to look for vacancies on the companies' career pages and then apply in a more or less standardized procedure. Career fairs where you have a direct contact person can be an alternative.

In the next step, a CV and a cover letter are part of your application documents as are certificates and other attachments. In many cases, you will have to adapt your documents to U.S. standards and prepare an application in English. Your "Anschreiben" will thus turn into a "cover letter" and your "Lebenslauf" into a "resume." 

The differences between U.S. application documents and those common in German-speaking countries are not only about language. Particularly important for an American-style application are references in your CV ("resume"), i.e. contacts who recommend you. In many cases these replace written job references. You should be aware that your potential employer will actually contact your references and ask them for their opinion of you.

Of course, an application in the U.S. also requires an excellent command of English. In addition, you should have your application documents checked for mistakes by a native speaker before submitting them.

If your application documents are convincing, several interviews await you next. Here you often also have to solve practical tasks and, for example, do some programming. Afterwards there may be a personal meeting for which you will be flown to California.

Due to the high number of applicants for each individual job, you should try to find as many suitable positions as possible and provide first-class application documents. You should also practice potential professional questions that might be asked. Maybe you know someone who has already applied to a Silicon Valley company and can give you further advice.

Apply to Google

You can find current vacancies on Google's careers page. Unsolicited applications are not accepted. However, the HR department of the search engine giant itself also searches for suitable applicants on career networks such as Xing or LinkedIn. In order to be found, you should maintain and optimize your profiles on these pages. It's also very good if someone who already works for Google can recommend you.

Once you have decided on a job, you are faced with one of the usual online portals where you enter your information and upload your documents. When you have mastered this first hurdle, the next step is job interviews, for example by telephone. Depending on the position, these can vary, but, on average, four different interviews take place before he or she is recruited.

It's important to Google that you can convince each of your interview partners of yourself. If even one of your interviewees doubts your qualification or other suitability, you will not make it to the next round. In the interviews, you're supposed to show that you can deal with challenges in an innovative and analytical way and that you fit in with Google's corporate culture. In this context, very detailed technical questions and case studies, which refer very concretely to your potential later position, may come up. If your solution is particularly creative, you can score more points. It is also important that you don't focus on a fast career path, but enjoy working in a team. With a little luck, you'll soon be cycling to your office on a colourful Google bike.

Apply to Facebook

Facebook also relies on a whole series of interviews to find suitable applicants. You may have to immediately solve a programming task and then submit it online. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has another bit of advice for interested parties: He only hires applicants for whom he would also work himself. learn more.

Apply for a job at Tesla

Tesla also relies on multi-stage selection interviews. Until recently, it was CEO Elon Musk who made the final decision about any recruitment. learn more.

Usually, either a personal conversation or a telephone call was the next step. If that was not feasible, applicants had to write an essay for Musk and establish their suitability for the position. If an applicant could not convince Musk, this could also have a negative effect for the respective HR manager, who therefore tried to respond to the CEO's expectations already during the application process.

Musk is said to have asked the applicants one question in particular:

"You're standing on the surface of the earth. You walk one mile south, one mile west and one mile north. Then you'll arrive exactly where you left off. Where are you?" learn more

Apply to start-ups or smaller companies in Silicon Valley

If you want to work in Silicon Valley, you should not limit your job search to "top dogs" like Facebook. New jobs are also constantly on offer in many smaller companies. So who knows - maybe you'll be working on the "next big thing" in California soon!