Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube insiders explain how to get a job at the social-media giants — from interview tips to landing a referral

  • Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube are staffing up at a brisk pace as interest in social media spikes.
  • Insider spoke to current and former employees at the companies to break down their hiring processes.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Interest in jobs in social media has skyrocketed — either in front of a camera as an influencer or behind the scenes at a tech platform like YouTube. 

A 2019 survey by the toy brand Lego found that more children aspired to become YouTubers and vloggers than teachers or astronauts. And companies like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube have been hiring at a fast clip.

Employee headcounts at YouTube and Instagram rose 24% and 26%, respectively, in the past year, according to LinkedIn analysis. TikTok grew even faster in LinkedIn’s data set, increasing its employee count by 158% between April 2020 and April 2021. 

The hiring spree coincides with an overall increase in social-media use, with global social-network users rising 8.1% in 2020. 

Insider spoke with current and former employees at YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok to help readers understand how to land a job in social media.

Sources told Insider that applicants should expect to be drilled on how familiar they are with each company’s core product. Hiring managers said that they’re interested in hearing from applicants on how they could improve their products.

“Something that’s always really impressive to us is when people are able to come into an interview and explain how we can be better,” Charniece Huff, a product manager at YouTube, told Insider. “Those are the kind of applicants that really stand out to us.” 

Here’s a full breakdown of how Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube approach hiring, including what the companies look for in new hires, and how to stand out as an applicant:

Instagram

Instagram — and its owner, Facebook — are almost synonymous with social media. 

But behind the ubiquitous platform is a giant company with international offices and notable perks. From free food to long paid leave programs, working at Instagram has its benefits. Its New York headquarters even had its own gelato bar.

Landing a job at Instagram, however, is no easy feat.

Like any application process, having a referral goes a long way. As does networking. Securing a job at Instagram requires candidates to “know your networks and do the work,” said Taj Alavi, who was Instagram’s head of global brand marketing from 2015 to 2018. 

Referrals aren’t everything, though, and many candidates go through agencies or third-party recruitment firms. 

Once a candidate gets the attention of Instagram’s hiring managers, a robust interview process comes next. 

A former Instagram recruiter from 2016 to 2019 told Insider that pre-pandemic, interviews would typically be held on-site and included three to five interviews scheduled for one day. 

In those interviews, questions range from asking how someone would solve a problem to how they would work with other departments, or how to improve one of Facebook’s features. 

Two sources told Insider that some candidates are asked to make a small presentation about themselves to showcase their writing and problem-solving skills. 

The former Instagram recruiter recommended that candidates understand the problems Instagram is facing and come with solutions to those problems. 

“One thing I tried to do is talk about how impactful, as a whole, Facebook and Instagram had been in defining what community is online,” said Christen Nino De Guzman, a former contracted community manager on the marketing team in San Francisco from 2017 to 2019.

Read more: How to land a job at Instagram, from getting a referral to nailing the interview

TikTok

As TikTok continues to top the charts for new app installs, the company is staffing up across its organization. 

One focus area for hiring has been its sales team, which pitches TikTok’s relatively new suite of advertising solutions to brands and marketers. 

“We’re looking for people who are going to dive in headfirst like the rest of us have,” Kate Barney, the company’s head of HR in the Americas who focuses on hiring for TikTok’s sales and marketing organization, told Insider in June 2020.

One thing TikTok looks for during interviews is making sure an applicant is well-versed in its product.

“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,” Barney said. 

It also tests for a set of cultural tenets that its parent company ByteDance has dubbed “ByteStyle.”

These include: 

  • Be grounded and courageous.
  • Be open and humble.
  • Be candid and clear.
  • Always day 1.
  • Champion diversity and inclusion. 

Read more: A TikTok HR exec explains how to get a job at the company, including how to ace an interview and stand out in a pool of thousands of applicants

YouTube

YouTube is hiring for roles based out of its headquarters in San Bruno, California, as well as offices in New York, Los Angeles, Sweden, France, and more. 

In 2021, YouTube is hiring to increase the diversity of its staff and to fill key roles in software engineering, user experience, account management, and trust and safety, according to the company. 

Insider spoke with seven current YouTube employees, and YouTube’s director of global staffing Olga Donnelly, to learn what it takes to become a “YouTuber,” which is what the company calls its employees. 

The insiders’ top tips include reading up on YouTube, scheduling informational interviews with employees, and showing a strong passion for the platform.

Knowing someone at YouTube, or working with the company in a previous role, also helps when applying. 

You should also stay on top of YouTube’s job listings because some openings go fast. A YouTube employee told Insider that prior to applying they turned on Google Careers job search alerts and checked new job listings daily.

“Something that’s always really impressive to us is when people are able to come into an interview and explain how we can be better,” said Charniece Huff, a product manager at YouTube. “Those are the kind of applicants that really stand out to us.”

Read more: The ultimate guide to getting a job at YouTube. We talked with current employees and its director of global staffing to learn exactly what it takes to get hired in 2021.

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