Tags: | Posted by Admin on 9/2/2008 1:59 PM | Comments (0)
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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