How to get a job at Google, interview questions, hiring process

By Don Dodge on The Next Big Thing

How to get a job at Google, interview questions, hiring process
The Google hiring process is designed to hire the most talented, creative, and articulate people in the world who will be the best fit for Google. The Google culture is different. You notice it the moment you walk on campus. It isn’t for everyone, but it works amazingly well for Google. That is why cultural fit is so important. There is a lot of mystery and misinformation about the Google hiring process so I would like to give you my perspective on how it works, and more importantly, why it works.

Google receives over one million resumes per year, and hires about 1,000 to 4,000 people each year, depending on economic conditions. So, in any given year, less than one half of one percent of all applicants actually get hired. That means a lot of people who are very successful in their current jobs, and others who are very talented, will not be be hired at Google this year. That is just the reality of the numbers. As Google continues to grow there will be more opportunities. As of this writing there are about 1,000 job openings.

The Process – In some ways the hiring process is pretty standard, it is the evaluation that is different. This video explains the steps and what to expect. All open jobs are listed on Google.com. Browse for a job that fits you and submit your resume online. Every resume submitted online gets reviewed.

Recruiter screen – In the first step of the process the recruiter screens every resume for technical requirements, education, and experience to make sure there is a potential fit. If there is no fit you will get a polite “no fit at this time” response, but your resume will be kept on file. The recruiter really does look at existing resumes on file when a new job req opens up. If there is a fit, a recruiter will contact you to set up a phone screen interview.

Phone screen – A recruiter will contact you, explain the process, and let you know what to expect. The recruiter may ask for your SAT scores and college GPA, if this is a technical engineering role. Yes, even though I have over 20 years of experience…they still asked for my numbers. The phone screen is usually done by an employee in a similar role, and usually takes 30 minutes. There could be two or more phone screens, and you may even be asked to write code in a shared Google Doc during the phone screen if this is a technical role. The goal is to further assess your technical skills, past experience, and motivation for this new role.

On Site Interview – The first on site interview will be with four or five people for 45 minutes each. The interviewers may include the manager and other employees with similar roles. This interview will go deeper into your technical skills or domain specific knowledge. If this is a technical role you will be asked to solve technical problems in real time, which may include coding a solution or white-boarding a design. This can get pretty intense for the unprepared candidate, or incredibly fun and stimulating if you are into it.

Non-engineering roles will have different evaluations. Marketing and PR people might be asked for writing samples, or asked how they would handle a delicate PR issue. Business people might be asked how to position one product versus another, or how to evaluate competing offers. Others might be asked how they would handle a hypothetical problem and how they would measure success.

You may also be asked some questions like “How many golf balls can fit in a school bus?” or “There are 8 balls. Seven of them weigh the same, but one is heavier. Using a balance scale, how do you find the heavier ball with just two weighings?” I was asked both of these questions in my interviews. There are lots of puzzling questions like this. Sometimes the precise answer doesn’t matter. The purpose is to 1)observe your thought process, 2)test your quick thinking ability under pressure in real time, and 3)see how you articulate your thoughts and ideas.

Interview feedback – Every interviewer submits their feedback in a standard format about the candidate and assigns a numerical ranking to the candidate. The feedback is reviewed by the recruiter and compared to feedback on other candidates for this job and similar roles. There is also a process to collect feedback from former colleagues. All existing employees resumes are in a database. A search is done to match the candidates resume to employees resumes to find matches for schools or companies for the years specified. An email is sent to the Google employee asking their opinion on the candidate. If the consensus is that there is a good fit, and they want to make an offer, it goes to the hiring committee.

Hiring Committee – There are hiring committees for each major job classification. The committee consists of senior managers and directors, and experienced employees from this domain. They see all the potential candidates for all open jobs in this area so they have a very good feeling for the required capabilities and availability of highly qualified people. The committee reviews every piece of feedback as well as the resume and work experience. If there is consensus agreement from the committee to recommend an offer it then goes to the next level of review.

Executive Review – Senior level management reviews every offer. Hiring is taken very seriously at Google. Hiring great people is the most important thing we do. It has lasting impact on the future of the company. If the Executive Review comes out favorable it goes to the compensation committee for that part of the offer.

Compensation Committee – As you might expect the compensation committee determines the appropriate total compensation for the offer. They have the advantage of reviewing all the offers in a specific domain so they have a very good handle on what is fair and appropriate, and the competitive salaries from other companies.

Final Executive Review – Yes, it is true, one of the top execs looks at all employment offers before they are extended to the candidate. This sends a clear message to everyone how serious we are about hiring great people.

The Offer – The recruiter will notify you of an offer, and will explain all the details of the offer. Google offers are very competitive, some might say generous, and very thorough. Google wants you to be happy, motivated, and totally focused.

Why it works – How it works is interesting, but why it works is more important. Communication, no compromises, and consensus are the key ingredients. Communication means the candidate is acknowledged soon after submitting a resume, and is updated when status changes during the process. Given the huge number of resumes, the process sometimes takes longer than we would like, or the communication is less informative than desired, but we strive to keep candidates informed. Maintaining the highest standards with no compromises is essential. Gaining consensus through committees ensures the standards remain high, avoids “blind spots”, and many mistakes.

Hiring is everyone’s job – Nearly every employee at Google has recruiting, interviewing, and hiring as part of their job responsibilities. It is part of the job, and it is measured. Employees get bonuses for referrals that get hired. Most employees do several interviews each month, and all are required to submit written feedback based on standard categories and criteria. The hiring committee looks at every piece of feedback during the decision process.

Feedback on your feedback – Interviewing and feedback is taken very seriously at Google. Employees are coached on how to do better interviews, and how to write more insightful interview feedback. The system keeps track of how many interviews we do, what ratings we gave, if the person was hired, and how our interview feedback was rated by the hiring committee. That’s right, our feedback is rated for quality by the hiring committee. Over time it becomes clear who the best interviewers are, and their best practices are shared with the rest of the team. That is one indication of how serious Google is about getting the hiring experience right.

No Single Hiring Manager – Hiring decisions are made by hiring committees. This means that no single hiring manager can make a potentially bad decision by themselves. This doesn’t guarantee 100% success, but it does reduce bad decisions. There must be consensus that the candidate is a great hire. Doesn’t this slow down the process? Not really, in fact the process insures that candidate status is reviewed by the committee every week. There is no opportunity for the hiring decision to get delayed by personal deadlines for other work. The consensus approach avoids “blind spots” or biases by an individual hiring manager, and results in better hiring decisions. Candidates are compared across several groups to make sure the acceptance criteria remain high.

Compensation fairness – It is important to note that compensation is decided by a separate committee, not the hiring manager or hiring committee. This ensures that compensation is fair across groups and within similar job roles. Again, the consensus approach avoids potential blind spots or biases of an individual manager.

Only hire the best fit – There are lots of job openings at Google. Some have been open for a long time. Google would rather leave a job unfilled than hire a sub-optimal candidate. The hiring committee will not allow a less than great hire just because the hiring manager is anxious to fill a slot.

Google also has a very different approach to setting goals and rewarding achievement. We set goals and measure progress every quarter, not once a year. We set impossible goals and achieve many of them. Even when we fall short the results are impressive. Achieving 60% of the impossible is better than 100% of the ordinary. Read “How Google Sets Goals And Measures Success” for more details.

Google has a very different culture than most companies. You notice it as soon as you walk on campus. You see it in the employees you talk to. You feel it when you attend internal meetings or TGIF company meetings. It starts with Larry, Sergey, Eric, and the senior management team. The culture remains strong and true because the hiring process requires hiring only the best fit, the people who have that unique “Googley” character. The secret to Google’s success is its people. That is why hiring is everyone’s job at Google. See if Google is right for you. Check out open jobs here. Send me an email if you need help.

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