Executive Feature, Interviews

What You Absolutely Need to Know to Score a Job at Salesforce

If you work in sales, live in the San Francisco Bay Area, or keep on top of the latest tech trends, odds are you’re familiar with Salesforce. But even if none of those things applies to you, there’s still a good chance you’ve heard of the company behind the world’s #1 Customer Relationship Management platform. With over 150,000 customers, a revenue of 8.39 billion dollars in the 2017 fiscal year, and offices on six continents, the company has certainly built a name for itself.

But Salesforce hasn’t just earned a reputation as a strong business — it’s also consistently been recognized as an incredible place to work. The company has made Glassdoor’s list of Best Places to Work in the U.S. seven times since 2009, and the list of Highest Rated CEOs every year since the award’s inception in 2013. With an overall company rating of 4.2 out of 5, a 98 percent approval rating of their CEO Marc Benioff, and 86 percent of employees willing to recommend the company to their friends, Salesforce is highly attractive to job seekers. And Salesforce, for their part, knows how to treat those interested job seekers. On top of their many other accolades, Salesforce was just named among the top five Best Places to Interview in 2017.

Want to be a part of this hot company? Glassdoor’s Emily Moore recently chatted with Ana Recio, Senior Vice President of Global Recruiting at Salesforce, to get the inside scoop on what kind of candidates the company’s looking for, which questions you can expect to be asked in an interview, and what the best interview answers she’s ever heard were.  

Glassdoor: How do you define a great interview experience?

Ana Recio: A great interview experience for a candidate is when they feel really well prepared. They know what to anticipate and have context for the role that they are being interviewed for. They understand what the goals of the role are three months, six months and nine months out. We prepare our candidates in multiple ways to have a great experience by providing them with demos, videos, competitive information and product positioning, all while seeking to understand what motivates and inspires them. We ask candidates to consider their successes, their failures and to be able to articulate why this role makes sense for them in their career journey.

On the flipside, we make sure that our hiring managers are prepared to speak to candidates and we do that by reminding our hiring teams that our candidates are also interviewing us — that they have lots of choices, and that we need to both speak to our value proposition on why Salesforce is a great environment as well as demonstrate it during the interview process. We often ask our hiring teams not to hyper focus on candidate assessment, but to speak about their personal journeys with candidates; why Salesforce has been impactful to them and their careers. Talk about what milestones they [achieved] and what they have learned and share that through an anecdotal conversation versus an interview format.

Glassdoor: What’s some of the common advice or feedback you give to candidates who don’t move forward in the next round?

Ana Recio: Honestly, it’s just really a matter of timing for most candidates. It may be that we don’t have the right role for them right at that very moment, but we’re growing and hiring like crazy, so it really is just a matter of time. Often the role is filled by an internal individual because we really do try to promote our employees first and consider our employee base before we extend an external offer. Because this often is a factor, I advise candidates to continue networking. The right role will materialize. It really is just a matter of time.

For candidates trying to transition into the software industry, we advise that they hone in on their applicable skills or try to get more experience in a particular domain. This could be done sometimes with exposure to our products via volunteering at a non-profit that uses Salesforce, or by attending our world tour events or Dreamforce events. It’s all about networking, learning, and becoming part of our ecosystem, so when we do call that candidate back in the near future, they’re prepared and they’re ready to shine.

Glassdoor: What are a handful of questions that you almost always ask candidates in interviews?

Ana Recio: We’ve all had work challenges when projects didn’t quite go as planned. We want to know about what would they do differently in retrospect. This is a great question because it unveils a candidate’s humility, honesty and ability to reflect and analyze a situation. We also like to ask, what do your colleagues say about you? Which can often elicit funny and illuminating responses. What is your greatest strength? What are you most proud of about your current [role]? Who was your best boss, and what did they give you that has shaped you today in your career? What is next for you, and if you stay where you’re at today, will you get that? We may ask people about how they overcame challenges in pursuit of a goal. And we always close with a gentle reminder on how the opportunity at Salesforce is going to help advance their career.

Many recruiters on my team like to ask what motivated a candidate to respond to them when they reached out. This gives us a little insight [into] what the candidate is looking for in their next career step. We ask candidates to describe the type of projects they worked on, the scale of those projects, what collaboration was involved as well as the outcome. Salesforce is very much a team sport, so examples of collaboration are important. We always ask of course, why do you want to work for Salesforce? That is always enlightening as well, because it often highlights what inspires them: our scale, sophistication, collaborative culture, or perhaps a desire to give back to the community, which is really paramount to our company’s values. We always ask what people’s career aspirations are in three, five, ten years, and where do they see themselves at Salesforce in this timeframe. That is also a great opportunity for us to say, “We could help you get there, and here are the tools, resources and path.”

Glassdoor: Do you have any unique, out-of-the-box questions that you ask at Salesforce?

Ana Recio: Some companies are known to ask [questions like] “How many gas stations can you find in California?” We don’t have those types of questions… we’re really into storytelling, and we want individuals to tell us their career journey and what inspires and motivates them. We try to engage in a conversation versus a hardcore assessment. We don’t readily employ those kinds of knockout, bizarre questions that candidates don’t really know how to answer.

Glassdoor: I personally have never been a fan of those. I feel like it’s kind of a “gotcha” question which is not a great experience for the person interviewing.

Ana Recio: I couldn’t agree more. As an interviewer, I’m always like “What is the purpose of that question?” If we want to show our personality, [it’s] better to do it in a more congenial, authentic way versus in a way that feels like we’re tricking the candidate.

Glassdoor: Absolutely, I’m with you on that one. What are some really memorable or amazing answers that you’ve received from candidates?

Ana Recio: I asked a candidate once if there was one thing that they could do differently to become more efficient and more collaborative in their work environment what would they do? It made me laugh — he said that he would attend more happy hours with his teammates. He wasn’t being funny, he was serious about it! He said because that is where you build relationships and get to know people and you’re able to speak in a little bit [of a] less formal environment. He felt that while you’re going out for lunch or spending time with people outside the office was really the best way to become more efficient and to get things done.

I actually had another individual who in an interview process had been asked, “What would be your biggest challenge if [you] took the role?” Somebody said “containing my excitement” which I thought was also pretty awesome. I know that that individual was absolutely sold, and to this day always tells me it was true, that has been his biggest challenge at Salesforce because it’s such an exciting place to be.

Glassdoor: [Laughs] That is such a good answer.

Ana Recio: I also had a candidate once who we asked if she was ready for her interview… and she responded with “I stay ready,” which was also a great answer… Anybody who is that witty needs to be at Salesforce. The recruiter thought it was great.

Glassdoor: Last question: How do you evaluate whether candidates are aligned with your values? I know that spirit of Ohana and your commitment to giving back is very important to you.

Ana Recio: Ohana means family, and that is the foundation of our values. We ask for examples of teamwork and collaboration and how candidates have worked towards collective goals. Candidates [should] demonstrate that they’re a part of a larger community — a family — so [we look for] those themes in their responses and if they have a desire to make an impact both internally as well as in their community. It is always great when candidates are able to speak to our values, understand what resonates with them the most [and] provide personal examples of that type of contribution. We’ll ask candidates for examples of their Ohana spirit; for example, if they’re passionate about giving back to the community or promoting equality. Those values, along with teamwork and collaboration, are really important to us at Salesforce. We ask lots of questions and prepare interviewers, but we also prepare the candidates too. We make sure that candidates understand our values so when they walk into our environment, they’re ready to give relevant examples and to shine.

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