Passion and impact are two key factors that elite colleges look for in applicants, Duke University's director of admissions told parents in a speech we attended a couple of years ago. He said college recruiters want to see that the student has found an area that he or she really feels strongly about and that he or she has worked to make a difference.
Facebook has said it will hire thousands of workers this year as it prepares for an IPO, and GeekWire's John Cook, as part of a larger interview, recently asked Jay Parikh, Facebook's vice president of engineering, about the traits the company looks for in engineers. His response echoed those themes:
First and foremost, it is just the passion and energy and drive to be successful and to do great things. We measure and qualify everything that we do in terms of impact. If you focus on the type of impact you can make - whether it be on building some new feature for our iPhone apps or building some great tool that increases the productivity of the engineers or solving some really hard-core distributed systems problem for our caching tier - that's all ways to make big impact. And people who are ambitious that want to make a big impact, that's the top line or the first order bit in being a great engineer. Obviously, technical competence - whether it be in algorithms or if you are a kernel expert or you are a network expert - that will certainly help.
And then a third bit of this is teamwork. We are very much a team-oriented culture and come together across many different functions, because we have to, because we have to solve these insanely hard problems that haven't been solved before. ... We have to have people who are ambitious and can experiment and can come up with ideas for how to build that stuff.
No doubt teamwork is the hardest part. In a recent poll by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, "ability to work in a team structure" was cited as the No. 1 attribute college recruiters were looking for. To that end, a Resume Bear post offers five ways to demonstrate "works well with others" on a resume.