How to Land a Job at PayPal

Paypal LogoDespite its October layoffs, PayPal’s Bill Scott, senior director of user interface engineering, says the company’s still hiring top programmers in all disciplines. He didn’t say how many positions are open at the eBay unit, something he says remains undecided. He didn’t say how many positions are open at the eBay unit, something he says remains undecided. (Nor did he comment on the layoff stories.)

“This might be called Web development engineering – mobile, tablet, desktop. I’m looking for people who have deep skills in those areas, but foremost they’re engineers,” Scott says of his UX team. “That means they understand performance engineering, accessibility engineering, internationalization engineering, security — they don’t have to be experts in those areas, but those are areas where I want them to grow.”

Hiring Strategy

One key to getting Scott’s attention is your previous work, whether it’s something you’ve posted on GitHub, your contributions to open source projects, or projects at your current company. He wants to see that you’ve demonstrated something.

He also has two pet peeves: candidates who come in for an interview but haven’t spent time to understand the company’s products. For example, a candidate for the mobile team who hasn’t played with PayPal’s app. The other is a candidate who’s too focused on job title and who they’ll report to.

“I’m looking for kind of a John F. Kennedy model: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,’” he says. “I’m really looking for are people passionate about solving problems and being curious. If they have that, it’s more important than the titles they have on their resume.”

Other characteristics that will get Scott’s attention: showing initiative; thinking creatively, even if you’ve not been a position to implement your ideas; and the ability to work with a team. Those examples come out in behavioral interviews — the questions that begin with “Tell me about a time…”

“We have our tactical sessions, where if you say you know JavaScript we work through some JavaScript problems in a collaborative manner. If they get stuck, we work them through it. We’re not trying to play the gotcha game,” Scott says. “We’re trying to see how we’d work with this person, if they were struggling with a problem, how would they respond to challenges or changes in the requirements. You have to demonstrate those basic technical skills.”

Advice to Experienced Pros

Scott talks about the transition from being a maker to becoming a multiplier as your career progresses. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got to want to rise into management. PayPal offers a pure technical track.  “It could be that you’re creating frameworks and technologies that other people use — or you’re being a mentor or coach,” he explains. “There are a bunch of skills that make you multiplier, that take other people around you and make them better.”

He’s also interested in the kinds of people you attract. If you’ve been in a leadership position, what do people say about your leadership?

“There comes a time when you realize you can’t directly make people do stuff, you have to create an environment for people to flourish and do the right thing. So we’re looking for that subtle difference,” Scott says. “It needs to be that leadership quality that’s more about inspiration and less about control, and the confidence that they can affect the change without forcing everybody to do everything that they want.”

For New Graduates

If you’re new to the workforce, PayPal’s going to look beyond the classes you took and the grades you earned. The key here is to demonstrate that you’ve gone beyond what was expected of you in class. “You easily demonstrate going above and beyond by contributing to open source projects or having a GitHub repo,” says Scott.

“One of the guys we hired recently has won probably a dozen hackathons. He’s just a bundle of ideas about consumer experience. He demonstrated that because he had a startup in college,” Scott continues. “Not everyone’s going to have a startup, but you can certainly be seeing problems and solving them. You can blog about it, write about it… One piece of advice is to partner with somebody – spend some time with a charity. There’s all sorts of things you can do to really stand out.”

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