How to get a TikTok job, career: HR on hiring and interview process

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How to get a TikTok job, career: HR on hiring and interview process

  • While still a relative newcomer to the social-media world, TikTok has emerged this year as one of the most talked-about companies in tech.
  • The short-form video app has broken download records and entered the cultural mainstream by setting new trends in the music and entertainment industries.
  • The ByteDance-owned company is now scaling up its hiring in the US, with hundreds of current job openings for roles in cities like New York, Los Angeles, Austin, and Chicago.
  • Business Insider spoke to Kate Barney, the company’s head of HR for TikTok America’s global business solutions team, to learn more about how TikTok is adjusting its hiring process during the pandemic, what the company looks for in new hires, and how to stand out as an applicant.
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TikTok’s rise in 2020 has been meteoric.

The ByteDance-owned company set a new record for app installs last quarter, and recently passed two billion downloads globally. The app is a relative newcomer to the social-media world, but has already had a huge impact on the music and media industries.

Now TikTok is staffing up in the US to support its recent growth. Last month, the company poached Disney’s former head of streaming services Kevin Mayer to serve as its new CEO. It currently has over 200 US job openings listed on LinkedIn for roles in cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Austin.

“We’re growing really quickly,” said Kate Barney, the company’s head of HR in the Americas who focuses on hiring for TikTok’s sales and marketing organization. “There’s a ton to do, and we’re looking for people who are going to dive in headfirst like the rest of us have.”

TikTok has had to adapt its normal hiring process in recent weeks to accommodate a new work-from-home culture during the coronavirus pandemic. Like Netflix and other major tech companies, TikTok uses its own list of company values — dubbed its “ByteStyle” — to screen for certain employee qualities when hiring. 

Business Insider spoke with Barney, who leads the company’s efforts to hire for roles that TikTok needs to earn revenue — namely sales and marketing jobs — to learn more about how it’s adjusted its hiring process during the pandemic, what the company looks for in new hires, and how to stand out as an applicant.

What the interview process looks like at TikTok during the coronavirus pandemic

Because employees at TikTok’s US offices are working from home — the standard for most non-essential tech workers across the country — prospective TikTok employees are doing all of their job interviews remotely using the conference-call app Zoom.

“In pre-COVID days it was a lot of on-sites,” Barney said. “Having candidates come to the office and meet with teams and visually see the culture and feel it as they were in our offices. But now we try to do as much as we can remotely.”

The company said it’s running Zoom interviews for prospective candidates with recruiters, hiring managers, and cross-functional teams. Some calls are one-on-one Zooms, while others are held with two or three interviewers at the same time to replicate the group interview experience that the company does during on-site interviews.

“You get a chance to almost have more of a dialogue or discussion than just that one-way interview,” Barney said. 

“We try to provide a well-rounded set of interviewers so that as a candidate you have the opportunity to talk to a lot of people about their experiences and what their expectations are of the role,” she added.

How to get noticed as an applicant (going viral on TikTok is one option)

The easiest way to have your application stand out at TikTok is to demonstrate relevant skills or work experience on your resume, Barney said. But showing passion and knowledge about the short-form video app itself matters too. 

“The traditional way to stand out is someone who has strong experience in what they’re applying for,” Barney said. “But also someone who’s very passionate about TikTok. We’re looking for people to grow with the company, so someone who can talk to us about their favorite parts of the product, the ins and outs, what they would change if they were given the opportunity.”

One recent hire caught the company’s attention by posting a video version of her resume that went viral on TikTok. The applicant, Jenna Palek, applied for a sales planner position through the company’s standard job portal and then posted a video highlighting her professional background and interest in the role.

Palek’s video ended up on the “For You” page — the app’s content discovery section — of a TikTok HR employee in Chicago, and the employee sent the video over to the recruiting team and eventually the hiring manager at TikTok’s Austin office where Palek had applied. 

“He reached out to the hiring manager, Garland Hill, the guy who runs the Austin office, and said, ‘Hey, make sure you check out this supplementary material behind this candidate’s application,'” Barney said. “I think what was so amazing about this video was that it really showed somebody who was passionate who’s going to go above and beyond. For a sales organization, this is putting yourself out there. This is someone who is very much a self-starter, and who’s very imaginative and creative.”

“She applied first too,” Barney noted. “She did all the normal steps as well. It didn’t feel like it was just kind of a quick gimmick.”

Reaching out to current TikTok employees can be a good way to prepare for an interview (as well as playing around with the app itself)

One of the first things TikTok’s recruiting team screens for is whether applicants have actually carefully read through a job description, Barney said. 

“I think as a tip for candidates, it’s really to do their homework,” she said. “We post the roles that are open, so read that role that you’re applying to, and see if you can find anybody else on LinkedIn or anywhere who’s doing that role now, and ask them about their experience.”

The company said it’s also wary of candidates who haven’t taken the time to explore TikTok’s app ahead of an interview. 

“I’ve interviewed plenty of people who’ve said, ‘Oh no, [the app] is not really for me,'” Barney said. “Then it’s like, ‘Well, what exactly do you think you’re interviewing for then.’ It’s much more difficult to steer a conversation toward product knowledge or business knowledge if someone right off the bat says that they’re not in the product’s audience group.”

While TikTok said it doesn’t expect all prospective employees to post application videos on the app like Palek did, downloading it and testing it out is a must.

“If you’re not going to make a video, at least have proven that you’ve watched a few and you know what it is,” Barney said. “Figure out what’s trending that week. You might not need to know the Tootsie Slide, but at least figure out what makes a TikTok video and why they are so fun and joyful.”

“We are looking for people of all experience levels, so no one has to come in and be the expert, but I think showing that you’re passionate and that you have some knowledge means that you’re going to enjoy working here even more,” she added.

Why TikTok says having ‘ByteStyle’ is important for job applicants

Like many companies in the tech industry, TikTok’s parent company ByteDance lists its own set of company values on its website. Barney said that screening for these cultural tenets, referred to internally as “ByteStyle,” are part of the company’s hiring process.

“If you’re looking for how do we talk about culture, we talk about it in terms of ByteStyle,” Barney said. “Just being very humble and being very grounded and realizing we wake up fresh every day and it’s always day one.”

Barney continued: “When you’re interviewing as a candidate, come across as intellectually curious. [Candidates] who are really trying to push themselves to learn new things would be a better culture fit than someone who comes across as very arrogant or with a large ego.” 

For more stories on how to get hired at major tech companies, read these other BI Prime articles: 

  • The ultimate guide to getting a job at Netflix. We talked to its head of recruiting, former employees, and staffing experts to learn exactly what it takes to get hired in 2020.: Everything you need to know about the hiring process at Netflix, from its top recruiter’s favorite interview question to how to prep.
  • Hulu’s head of HR explains exactly what it takes to get a job at the streaming TV company in 2020: Hulu’s top HR exec shares her best tips for getting hired at the streaming company in 2020, and the departments it’s staffing up.
  • PayPal is hiring for hundreds of jobs amid the coronavirus slowdown. A hiring executive there lays out the exact skills you need to nail an interview.: PayPal is one of tech’s most sought-after employers, and it has hundreds of job openings, including in software, product, communications, and sales.
  • A senior director at Google says she doesn’t hire people who act like ‘rock stars’ and aren’t able to back the claim up. Here are 3 qualities she looks for instead.: The term is popping up in more and more job descriptions, but one Google director is not at all interested in hiring “rock stars.”

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