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5 ways to get hired at Facebook

Rick Newman
Columnist

You probably already have a Facebook (FB) account—so how about working there?

The world’s biggest social-networking site might seem like a virtual universe, but it takes thousands of people to operate the site and manage other parts of the company. Facebook now employs about 12,000 people—roughly half of them at its headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.—and with the company still growing, it plans to hire many more. Like many Silicon Valley companies, Facebook offers free food, flexible scheduling and lots of other cool amenities. And Facebook has become one of the more influential companies in America: It was the Yahoo Finance 2015 Company of the Year, after all.

We visited Facebook HQ recently and sat down with Lori Goler, the company’s human resources chief, to talk about what kinds of people Facebook likes to hire. It goes without saying Facebook hires lots of programmmers and coders. But other factors matter, too. Here are 5 things Facebook (and other tech firms) look for when hiring people:

Builders. When Facebook was a brash upstart, its motto was “move fast and break things.” The company has retired that part about breaking things, and now talks about building things instead. “We’ve always hired builders,” says Goler. “People who look at a problem and say, ‘I bet I can make this a little bit better,' and they tinker with it in some way.” In the 21st century, of course, “builders” are often people who create web sites, apps, games and other types of digitalia, not just people who construct physical things.

[Check out our behind-the-scenes glimpse of life at the world's biggest social network.]

Sharers. Millennials get a bad rap for sharing way too much of themselves. But Facebook thinks that’s a good thing. “We love that they take selfies more than any other generation,” Goler says. “That means they’re sharing and bringing their authentic selves to work.” That’s something Facebook’s No. 2, Sheryl Sandberg, talks about in her bestselling book, "Lean In." “I am now a true believer in bringing our whole selves to work,” Sandberg writes. “I no longer think people have a professional self for Mondays through Fridays and a real self for the rest of the time.” Sharing details of your personal life with work colleagues—okay, with everybody—breaks down barriers and strengthens professional relationships.

A robust Facebook feed. It’s not a rule for new hires, but if you’ve got a rich stream of news and links on your Facebook page, you’re probably the kind of bubbly, engaged person Facebook wants to help fulfill its mission of “connecting the world.”

Something a little different. The company seems on guard against becoming an army of nerds out of touch with real-world sensibilities. “It’s really important for us to have diversity in our population, and that means diversity of experience,” Goler says. That means you might have a chance if you majored in psychology or economics and weren’t so great at programming—as long as you’re also a builder who shares a lot and is on a mission to connect the world.

[Read about the early days as a member of thefacebook.com, back at Harvard in 2004.]

Tech-savvy women. There’s a notorious shortage of women in Silicon Valley, and many tech companies need more females everywhere in the ranks, to better relate with the 50% of the world’s population they may be underserving. The competition for tech-savvy women is intense, since there are actually fewer women studying computer science than there were 30 years ago, before the Internet was a consumer phenomenon. “We’re trying to build that pipeline up again,” Goler says. Facebook started a program called Tech Prep to convince young women (and guys, too) that programming is a rewarding field. If that’s not persuasive, starting pay packages of $200,000 or more might be. No matter what generation you belong to.

Rick Newman’s latest book is Liberty for All: A Manifesto for Reclaiming Financial and Political Freedom. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman.