Tags: | Posted by Admin on 10/31/2008 9:18 AM | Comments (2)

A year ago, I interviewed with Google. Google has been my ideal employer for a while, and I greatly appreciated the opportunity and enjoyed the experience.

Unfortunately, my algorithm skills were not quite up to par. I was told to work on them and interview again in a year. Based on my own analysis of how well I did with the questions, I walked away from the experience with the impression that I was very close to getting the job, but not quite up to snuff.

When I had applied to Google in the first place, my attitude was that I probably wasn't good enough for Google and I would send my resume along just to "see what happens." After coming within inches of the job, I realized that I actually was good enough for Google (or at least, almost good enough). Discovering I was almost good enough for my dream job gave me a great deal of motivation to improve and try again.

The year following this experience was All About Google. I left my job to take a new job that I felt would help make me a better candidate at Google. I began doing TopCoder sessions in my spare time. I took on some extra projects. I purchased and read a number of books to help me become a better engineer, and I focused specifically on books about algorithms.

The past year has kept me focused, laser-sighted, on a second interview with Google. The plan was to be so well-prepared for the second interview that I'd obliterate it and speed right through to my new desk at Google.

One year and seven months after my first interview, in July of 2008, I sent my resume along. I talked with a recruiter, who told me my resume looked good and she'd submit it for me.

A few days later, what happened? I got my first phone screen interview? I nailed the phone screen and went to the in-person interview? I got the job?

No. I was denied by the pre-screener. I didn't even get a phone interview.

A year ago, I made it through the pre-screening, the first phone interview, and the second phone interview. I did well in the all-day in-person interview, but not quite well enough. Since that time I've only improved my skills, gained more experience, and bettered myself as a programmer and a job candidate. Yet, my efforts didn't even result in a single interview.

What happened?

I've been mulling over this, trying to determine what resulted in such a dramatic change between my experiences. Considering that my resume was the only thing the pre-screener looked at, it seemed the likely culprit.

The main difference between my resume a year ago and my resume today was that I had an extra job on it. The only thing I can imagine hurting me was the fact that I have been doing Ruby on Rails professionally at my current job, and Google uses mostly Java.

The only thing other than my resume that could have possibly changed between last year and this year is Google itself. I did some research, and discovered a lot of internet buzz about a 'hiring freeze'. Google still has job postings all over the place, so it seems weird to me that they'd be in an actual freeze, but my buddy Jake suggests that maybe they've entered into "genius only mode".

My best guess is that it's a combination of these two factors. Google is being far more discerning about candidates than they were a year ago, and I wasn't as great a fit because I haven't done Java in a year.

I'm still trying to decide if I want to try again in a year. Part of me still considers a job with Google to be my dream job, but what I realized was that planning my life around Google for a year led to crushing disappointment. At this point, I'm not even thinking about applying again.

Devoting the last year to the narrow focus of Google employment was a tremendous mistake. This is not to say that all of the training itself was worthless. I am a far better programmer today than I was a year ago. I can solve more complex problems with greater ease, and I have an improved grasp on engineering topics. TopCoder has been fun, and I believe I will continue doing it even though it didn't help me land the Google job. All of the books I've read are highly recommended. Looking back, I wish I had done those things for me instead of for Google, which is why I won't make the same mistake again.

Moving forward, I will continue to improve my skills, but I will do so for myself, the way I used to before I got caught up in all of this Google business. I'm removing 'Get a job at Google' from my life goal list on 43things, not because I don't still want to work there, but because I don't still want to let that goal consume my life. If I decide to apply to Google again, it will be on a whim, rather than some kind of carefully planned training program.

We'll see what happens.

Original story

Comments (2) -

Edan on 10/31/2008 6:42 AM I agree. I said as much in the post. The training was definitely of value. The mistake was doing it for Google, rather than for myself. That led to disappointment.
Austin on 10/31/2008 9:00 AM You have a good attitude about the skills you learned being transferable. I think it’s probably too harsh to say it was a ‘tremendous mistake’, at least from this standpoint. On another note, I’ve made a similar mistake in the past of wanting something like this so much and focusing on it the way you did that when it did not turn out exactly as I had imagined I wanted it to, it was sorely disappointing. That, plus, when you hold something like this up to such a high regard, I’d bet you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment even if you do get it, because you’ll eventually find out that farts still stink even inside the walls of Google (or whatever the situation happened to be). At any rate, I wouldn’t view the time you spent and skills you learned as a waste, they’re far from it - they’ll just be helping you somewhere else.

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