Apple, Google and Microsoft all have vacancies on their websites, and now could be the perfect time to land a job at one of computing's biggest hitters.
But what does it take to beat off hundreds, if not thousands, of fellow applicants and land a job at one of the tech elite? We've talked to people inside Microsoft, Apple and Google to discover how to track down the best jobs, and what it takes to get through the arduous selection and interview processes.
We'll reveal what type of personality the big three are looking for, how to apply, and how to prepare if you make it through to the interview stages. And we do mean stages: candidates can face up to a dozen interviews before they're given a name badge and a space in the car park.
So you have the stamina, a nice clean suit and a brain the size of Melbourne: read on, to find out how to join tech's top table.
Finding a vacancy
The first port of call when casing a job at IT's heavyweights is their websites. All three list available posts online, with options for submitting CVs and cover letters for specific roles.
Microsoft says it generally advertises only full-time posts on its careers site, "because otherwise we'd be inundated, and there are only so many CVs we can sift through". However, specific roles with rare skills occasionally appear with specialist recruitment agencies. Full-time technical jobs are sourced on-site.
Google prefers to hire through its website (www.google.com/jobs), but will also post jobs with skills-specific recruitment websites. "We want to find the top talent and realise that it isn't always going to come to us, so we're active about getting agencies involved and will use headhunters, especially for more specific roles," said Alison Parrin, a recruiter at Google.
Apple advertises on its website (www.apple.com/jobs), but uses agencies to identify staff for certain positions - a recent change that's shaking up the company culture, according to one manager, who spoke with us on the promise of anonymity. "We used to find people through people who we knew," said our Apple insider.
"If we were looking for a systems developer, we'd say: ‘Who do we know in the channel, or at our rivals', and we found people that fitted well with the culture of the company. We're growing so fast now that it isn't always possible, so often we'll go to agencies with a job spec and let them track them down."
The official websites might be the front door, but high-flyers are invited round the back - all the giants use headhunters to help them fill specific roles. Increasingly, the big three are also using social-networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook when searching for fresh talent.
Microsoft, for example, occasionally recruits directly through LinkedIn, saving in agency fees each time. "We also have deals in place with LinkedIn and Monster, where we can interrogate their databases for a very specific set of keywords to find suitable candidates for posts," said a human resources specialist at the company.
It's therefore imperative that jobseekers, even latent ones, manage their online presence - both by keeping it professional, but also up to date. According to LinkedIn's Christina Hoole, "users with complete profiles are 40 times more likely to receive opportunities through LinkedIn than subscribers with patchy details".
Who are they looking for
Nobody will be surprised to learn that the tech giants have a huge pool of talent to pick from. Microsoft, for example, will receive hundreds of applications for its graduate jobs program, with only a few places up for grabs.
"We can afford to be picky," one Microsoft recruitment official told us. "If you get to an interview stage with Google, you're doing very well," added Google's Parrin.
Yet, it isn't only technical acumen that the companies are looking for: hiring managers are trying to find candidates that fit the company's cultural identity. According to Microsoft director Tim Sneath, the cliché of "marry in haste, repent at leisure" works almost as well for job vacancies as for romance.
A candidate that fits perfectly in one company could be a bad match for another. "Google is generally looking for ‘budding entrepreneurs'," said HR expert and business consultant, Marc Lawn.
"Microsoft is generally looking for solid academics, while Apple tends to look for a balance between the two. If you think about analogous businesses, then Microsoft is very similar to a Nestlé, Google is like Nudie Drinks, and Apple like Coca-Cola."
That might mean buying into the company's brand ethos and cultural traits, but candidates must also show a willingness to work like a demon. "Obviously, the skills set is a pre-requisite, but there is a lot to be said for the passion that someone has for a company," said Microsoft hiring executive Chris Sells.
"They want to work here, they are self-motivated, the sort of person who will work on projects that aren't really their job at the weekend and in the evening. Or it might be that they've written books or articles, or are members of open-source groups. It's about people with passion for what they do."
Google demands equally high technical ability, but says it's also looking for extracurricular flair that hints at a more lively mind. "If you're going to work for Google in a technical role then you're going to be technically very good," said Parrin. "But that doesn't always mean academic skills and qualifications - there are lots of people at Google without a degree.
"We also look at an applicant's ‘Googliness', which is what's cool about them and makes them tick. Is it running, rock-climbing, go-karting, cycling or gaming - what do they do outside work? We test tech skills, but also look for personalities with a passion and how it might apply to what they are applying for at Google."
By stating that working there is "less of a job and more of a calling", Apple reveals the cult-like dedication it seeks from employees. The focus is on creativity and a fervour for Apple design. "We want people with backgrounds in electrical, mechanical and specialised engineering - as well as industrial design and quality assurance," the company claims.
"People who are smart, creative, up for any challenge, and incredibly excited about what they do. Apple people." It is, however, prepared to indoctrinate the exceptional. "The best way to understand our company... is to use our products, but if you have an attention to detail, a collaborative spirit and a readiness to learn, don't worry - we'll help you make the switch once you arrive."
Next Page: The application process and the interview