Getting hired by Google

google, grab bag, search engines, society, technology, tips, workplace

I recently noticed that a fellow Googler posted some thoughtful tips about interviewing at Google, and — now that I’m a bit more comfortable blogging about Work — I figured I’d contribute to the conversation a bit by offering my own, unofficial tips.

Note the unofficial part. I work in Search Quality; aside from occasionally being asked to interview candidates (like most Googlers) — I have nothing to do with our recruiting, recruiters, etc., nor do I pretend to speak for the HR folks. The stuff below is based on my own observations and opinions.

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Application and interview tips
Broadly: be interesting, be humble, demonstrate outstanding competence in your direct area, briefly highlight your well-roundedness (academically, workwise, and personally), and clarify how you are an excellent
fit with both the position you’re applying for and Google overall.

Admittedly, with an insane number of applications a year, it is a bit of a numbers game.  Some outstanding people get rejected.  And, though I haven’t witnessed this personally, I’m sure some jerks get offers.  Luckily, Google’s been overhauling its hiring processes, and I’m optimistic that particularly the percentage of great people getting overlooked (in relation to the number of apps) will decrease.

Some specific tips and notes:

  • Write a decent cover letter
    • Write with a tone that’s professional yet warm… not stiff or dry.  Your (discernible) voice should come through.
    • Keep it to one page (max!) or less.  Maybe even a lot less.
    • Convince Google of the fits described above — that’s critical!!!
  • Your resume can be in PDF, Word, HTML, or text formats (unless otherwise requested, of course!)
    • But note that it will be ultimately printed out.  This means that reasonable pagination can be helpful and also suggests that a comprehensive 20 page document is perhaps not a great idea.  When you want your recruiter and interviewers to know more about your background & interests, links are your friends. 

  • Respectful persistence can be appropriate
    • If you genuinely have another offer on the table, let your recruiter know! If the recruiter promised to get back with you in [x] days, and in [x+1 or x+2] days you haven’t heard back, politely e-mail them.
  • If you have a friend at Google who can articulately and sincerely vouch for you, that can work in your favor.
    • Your association / relationship with that person matters.  They’ll be asked how they know you and how well they know you (and your skills).
  • Passion matters and is skillfully perceived.  You’re probably wasting your time unless you really are
    excited about a particular position.
  • Getting turned down for one Google position does not mean you’re ineligible to apply for another position down the road.
  • General interview advice that probably applies for pretty much any company:
    • Ask thoughtful questions.
    • Allow time for traffic and parking and finding the right building. Google — at least the Mountain View campus — is a big place!
    • Dress one or two steps better than you expect your interviewers to be.  Less than that, and people may wonder about your judgment. More than that, and people may think you’re clueless or arrogant.
      • The “right” dress at Google probably varies by department. Engineering folks tend to be more informally dressed than sales folks.  If you’re interviewing for a senior management position, I’d probably dress a bit more formally than you would for an intern interview.  But the official advice also really makes sense here:  dress comfortably.  If you feel comfortable and confident, it’ll show.
    • Get a good night’s sleep the two nights before.  Sleep deficits are cumulative.  If you have a
      morning interview, make sure you’re getting up early the two or three mornings before to get yourself ready to be mentally and physically alert during your interview time.  On a similar health note, drink and eat smartly the day of your interview.  Hunger pangs are distracting.
    • Invest in a good pen to take to interviews.  The heft and reliability can be a real-even-if-small confidence booster.  Taking occasional notes can help you remember info or questions for later, and also might indicate a sense of thoughtfulness and interest to your interviewer.
    • On the whole, think of interviews kind of like first dates.  You don’t want to do all or even most of the talking.  You’re there to impress, to learn, to help determine whether there’s a good potential for a relationship.  First impressions are important.  Show you are caring and thoughtful by asking good questions.  Avoid having spinach in your teeth (floss beforehand!).

Possibly-little-known factoid:

No Googler — not even Larry or Sergey — can singlehandedly extend an employment offer to anyone.  While candidates don’t have to go through as many interviews nowadays, most candidates — regardless of level — typically interview with quite a few peers; team-fit is critical!

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I expect to offer some more Google-thoughts in the future, but — as a reminder — this is my personal blog, and as such, I expect to generally blather on about anything I feel like discussing, ranting, dissecting, punning, lamenting, etc… which is more likely than not to be boring to the impatient sort.

Oh, and one last thing: please keep comments on-topic as a courtesy not only to me, but to the cool folks reading my blog. Thanks!

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Related entries:
A blunt note to HR folks and interviewers
How to evaluate your current job & career… and thoughtfully consider future options

and lastly, for a blast-from-the-past… some perspective & a bit of cranky ranting…

What do you do? (self = job?) And how are you?

16 comments… add one
  • Rocky Agrawal Apr 20, 2007

    Some good tips there, Adam.

    Does Google train interviewers on interview techniques?

    I recently took a class AOL offers on behavioral interviewing. It covered how to get interviewees to get specific, detect b.s. and discrepancies, questions to avoid.

    I wrote up some advice on interviewing.

  • Paula Neal Mooney Apr 23, 2007

    Interesting.

    I’m sure everyone wants to work at Google every since Oprah did that feature on you guys with the yummy free food and such…

    Paula Neal Mooney
    http://paulamooney.blogspot.com

  • Adam Apr 25, 2007

    Rocky, yep, we get interview training here at Google as well… and are also encouraged to shadow more experienced interviewers.

    Paula… I didn’t see the Oprah feature, but we do get really good food 😀

  • Greenflash Apr 25, 2007

    I would like to work at google, but i need some extra skills.

  • Zack Apr 27, 2007

    Adam, awesome tips. I got my first contact from a recruiter in response to a resume I sent awhile back. Was curious what to expect from this point forward? .. Several email xchanges? Telephone Interview, Personal Interview etc? Of course if you are bored, you can drop me an email so I can send you 2000 question reply about Google and the hiring process! 🙂

    And if you want to thwart spambots .. ask the recruiter for my code samples .. (got a nice one in there that doesn’t require CAPTCHA’s)

  • Ken May 18, 2007

    I wish I could work at Google or Yahoo.

  • Teo Jun 4, 2007

    Why does a bright guy like you end up spending time stating the obvious and then called it the “getting hired by google..”
    I am not being funny, but things like, don’t party the nite before, or avoid eating while talking, and how about don’t be late…thanks anyway

  • James Feb 19, 2008

    Excellent tips,
    Google is going to start it’s own SEO/SEM firm,
    So let me ask you does Google hire SEO experts?

  • Jose Mar 25, 2008

    I Wish i could work for Google.
    But just think when Microsoft will take over Yahoo.
    Which company will pay more salary to employees?
    MS or Google?

  • Online Shopping May 21, 2008

    Hey Jose, If you think salary is important. than you are wrong, in each field you need to have job satisfication. that will brings happiness for you, well ms now not going to buy yahoo, so i don’t think any recent competiton may occour in se field.

  • SEO Florida Jul 31, 2008

    Any MNC requires onpage experience rather than having excellent knowledge in any field. It’s a dream of every webmaster to work with Google.
    Whenever Google starts it’s own internet marketing firm, it won’t hire SEO’s/SEM’s.
    Google will going to hire SEO/SEM companies.

  • Land For Sale Sep 15, 2008

    Getting hired by Google is itself a great achievement. Every one wants to be a Googler, But one can only expert like you reaches there. Congrats.

  • Liz Voss Oct 3, 2009

    Great article.  I found it especially helpful since I was turned down by Google only 2 weeks ago.  I’m now planning my new strategy.
    Thanks.

  • Ismet Dumlupinar Oct 3, 2009

    Adam, looks like you have a problem with captcha, it basically displays your name 🙂

  • Ismet Dumlupinar Jan 3, 2010

    Captcha problem seems like resolved…

  • Why China Sucks Jan 2, 2011

    Good luck getting hired in any huge internet based corporation. Their applications per day are in the hundreds if not thousands. You’d have to have cured lag in order to get hired by them haha

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