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Referrals from your friends do little to nothing at those companies. At Microsoft, for instance, all it does is assign a "handler" to the applications you put in. They just let you know if anyone is looking at them. Which, as you can imagine, is useless.

Almost no one, except for maybe very high level hires, get a pass for the initial weed-out interviews.

Not true. I'm a run of the mill developer. I had another offer, I called google, told them I had another offer. They skipped all the rounds but the final.

They skipped screening and whiteboarding because you simply said you had another offer?

You can't get into the interview pipeline without a referral.

I've gotten into the interview pipeline without a referral in other places. My friend got into the interview pipeline in Microsoft without a referral.

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