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

  • TikTok has emerged this year as one of the most talked-about companies in tech.
  • The app's user base has continued to grow in the US despite threats of a ban or forced sale by the Trump administration.
  • The ByteDance-owned company has tripled its US employee headcount in 2020 with plans to add thousands of more roles going forward.
  • Earlier this year, Business Insider spoke with Kate Barney, the company's head of HR for TikTok America's global business solutions team, to learn more about how TikTok has adjusted its hiring process during the pandemic, what the company looks for in new hires, and how to stand out as an applicant.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

TikTok has continued to staff up this year despite political pressure from the Trump administration.

The ByteDance-owned company tripled its US headcount in 2020 with plans to add thousands of more roles going forward. The company is offering six-figure salaries to some of its new hires, according to a Business Insider review of US work-visa disclosure data released by the US Office of Foreign Labor Certification.

The company's continued growth in the US will depend on favorable court decisions, a possible co-ownership deal with Oracle and Walmart, and avoiding the ire of the Biden administration (the president-elect told Reuters in September that he sees TikTok as a "matter of genuine concern"). And it's yet to be seen whether the recent revelation that ByteDance has been processing job applicants' data on a China website will have an impact on the company's US hiring pool. 

But ongoing political uncertainty doesn't appear to be scaring off new applicants so far. The company is still drawing in thousands of job seekers for roles in the US, according to applicant counts listed on LinkedIn. 

"We're growing really quickly," Kate Barney, the company's head of HR in the Americas who focuses on hiring for TikTok's sales and marketing organization, told Business Insider in June. "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."

Business Insider spoke with Barney in the middle of the company's explosive year to learn more about how TikTok has adjusted its hiring process during the pandemic, what the company looks for in new hires, and how to stand out as an applicant.

Barney leads the company's efforts to hire for roles that TikTok needs to earn revenue — namely sales and marketing jobs — an area of increasing focus for TikTok since it released its suite of ad solutions out of beta.

How TikTok has adjusted its interview process during the coronavirus pandemic

Because employees at TikTok's US offices have been working from home — the standard for most non-essential tech workers across the country — prospective applicants 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 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."

Palek has since emerged as a mid-tier TikTok influencer herself with around 200,000 fans. 

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 Toosie 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.

According to ByteDance's website, the five tenets of "ByteStyle" are: 

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

"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."

This post was originally published in June and has been updated with new information.

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