What I’ve Learned From Interviews With Top Companies

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Olu Eletu

Between August of 2016 and February of this year, I’ve had well over 20 interviews alone between Dropbox and Google, to say nothing of the number of interviews I’ve had with other lesser known companies of similar and different ilks. After great assist play from an old friend, I was invited to interview with Dropbox in San Francisco for a role as a contracts analyst. I was euphoric. But upon being turned down weeks later — the first of many rejections— following what I felt was an absolutely stellar interview process, I was brought back down to earth, and reminded that we live in an age where one needs to pay an unconscionable amount of dinero for a master’s degree just to be sufficiently qualified to answer phones for some bigwig — competition is steep, in a nutshell.

Far from crestfallen, I persevered. And why wouldn’t I? With each subsequent phone screen, Skype, and in-person interview, I was growing more comfortable with the hiring process and learning invaluable lessons on the nuances of HR. Further, I was perfecting my ability to answer artificially difficult questions under pressure, as well as to fabricate a story, paint my past, and otherwise (regretfully) lie about my desire to be a sales rep. Though the treatment had me feeling presidential, being flown cross country meant more than just an all expense paid two-day vacation to parts of the country that have been out of reach for me. It was an opportunity to explore, meet interesting people, breathe new air, and ultimately grow.

But it would taste a lie for me to say that I was dying to work for some of these companies. And unfortunately, this is a criterion for applying: an unyielding, congenital, burning obsession to qualify leads for x software company is par for the course. Passion.

No. I do not have a passion for cold calling (nor do I believe that anyone actually does [Naturally, these weren’t sentiments I expressed during — but they were my feelings]). I know that I am good with people, and that I enjoy learning about each other’s difference. I am a diligent autodidact who simply wants to better himself and those around him, particularly his family. Regrettably (and understandably), these traits on their own are insufficient in the face of a hiring manager.

I remember when I was denied entrance to the University of Pennsylvania for college. I literally didn’t bat an eye, and proceeded with my life. I knew it was a long shot, particularly considering that I had no desire to go to college following high school, so I certainly hadn’t padded my resume with the litany of extracurriculars expected of an Ivy League candidate. Looking back, I am reminded of how ridiculous this all is. I wasn’t a straight A student coming out of Germantown Friends — an independent, day school in Philly which is incidentally the top private high school in Pennsylvania — but I was a stellar student, still. Why? Because I engaged. I wanted to learn, and learn for learning’s sake — and for nothing else. Was I unqualified to study in the ivory towers at Penn? Did I have to beg for an opportunity to make myself better? Why do we have to ask?

These feelings have played themselves out repeatedly over preceding months. Penn didn’t owe me anything; certainly, these companies don’t owe me anything. No one owes me anything, for that matter. But to continually be denied golden opportunities for growth — not money, not bullet points for resumes, but growth — I hark back to a time where I moved through life under the guise that my personal development was incumbent on another gifting me a chance. I abhor this, and I implore all those reading to keep the gatekeepers in their life to an absolute minimum. If you want to raise your standard of living then find a way to do it, on your terms. Without your consent, allow few to dictate the course of your life and keep you from those opportunities that will improve your life and that of your family.

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An Encouraging Ending

I did eventually catch a break. On a random Friday afternoon, following a great week at a new internship, I got the call: I was being offered the opportunity to join Google. In hindsight, my journey to the summit of 21st century workplaces was not nearly as drawn-out as it could’ve been and typically is for most, so I am thankful for that — but it was a lengthy process all the same. The magnitude of the feat isn’t lost on me.

I am always beholden to those who look beyond the surface and give me a chance, and I thank Google for the opportunity to get involved in work of civil importance. I don’t know what the next few years are going to look like — and I shouldn’t anyway. It is certainly going to be more fun with the plot hidden. All I am ever after is progression. And I personally value so viscerally seeing people around me progress to heights previously unattainable. It’s a gift. And I do what I can to help others get theirs.

ibz 

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What I’ve Learned From Interviews With Top Companies

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