How to get a job at Google

Figure out what you want to do, be above average, and demonstrate your eagerness to collaborate

Attention, job hunters. Google is hiring. In fact, it’s having a problem finding enough people with the right talent and skills to fill all its openings.

So what’s the best way to get your foot in the door? When you visit Google’s career page, you’re greeted with the question: “Can one conversation change the world?” To find out what that means, Associate Editor Richard Gincel had a meaningful conversation with Judy Gilbert, staffing program director at Google, who covered the bases for anyone interested in working for a company that, according to its own description, “offers the freedom of a startup with the stability of a large, profitable, and growing company.”

InfoWorld: So, how do I get a job at Google?

Judy Gilbert: The first thing is to figure out what kind of job you want. If you go to our Web site, we’ve got all kinds of opportunities all over the world, and they’re changing all the time. So whatever your area of expertise is, there’s a good chance you’ll find an opening that fits what it is you want to do.

IW: What kinds of cutting-edge work is Google doing to attract top talent?

JG: If you look at our labs page of new products and services, and updates to things we’ve already released, you’ll get a pretty good idea, though you’re still only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of our R&D. We recently announced Google Apps for Your Domain. And that’s just one that was announced in the last three days. In a typical week around here, we may be doing three separate product releases.

IW: What skills and talents are most in demand at Google right now?

JG: Well, we’re always looking for software engineers. But it really varies. We look for folks that can work in groups -- that’s critical to what we do in all departments, not just engineering. We want people who can contribute on their own and, more than pull their own weight, enjoy the collaborative process of making things better.

IW: Am I going to be working 50 or 60 hours a week?

JG: We don’t have a culture where we have people burning the midnight oil all the time. With that said, there are products to be shipped and time lines [to be upheld]. Sometimes you stay late. But the joy in delivering on time can make all the hard work worth it as you’re sprinting toward the finish line. Then, you take a couple days off.

IW: What will make my résumé pop?

JG: We look for people who have a track record of achievement; they’ve gone above and beyond in some way. It might mean that they’ve worked on open source projects, which shows that’s how they want to spend some of their free time. Volunteer work is something that can show real commitment. We’re looking for those who find ways to go above and beyond.

IW: What should my résumé omit?

JG: If people bother to call out that they’re familiar with word processing programs, we’ll be less impressed.

IW: Will Google fly me out to Mountain View to interview me?

JG: If we decide to move forward after a first-round phone interview, we’ll fly the candidate to whichever office is interviewing them.

IW: What are some qualities that almost all Google employees share?

JG: We look for people who take initiative and make things happen. You’re the one who says, “I have ideas how to fix this, so who’s going to help me?” And then you go get the work done.

IW: What should I know about the culture at Google?

JG: There’s a lot to like. There are pictures and things on our Web site that are worth checking out. I guess the thing to understand is that we’re always seeing interesting problems to solve and we want to put smart people against them.

IW: What’s the average length of employment?

JG: I’m not sure. But we’re growing very quickly and have a very low attrition rate. The people who have been here a while tend to stay.

IW: What should I wear to the interview?

JG: You’re going to find people in all sorts of different outfits. Business casual is always good because it’s right down the middle. Pair of pants and a shirt. Shoes are also recommended.

IW: How much should I know about the company before I come in?

JG: If you’re going to spend the time to be out here, it helps a lot to ask questions that pertain to how our business works. There’s a lot of info out there about us. We don’t typically use pre-existing knowledge of our own products as a way to screen out, but then again it’s a good indicator that the candidate has done their homework. I’d recommend opening up an AdWords account. Most of our products are free, so there are plenty of ways to get to know the company.

IW: Would it be wise to bring up Google’s competitors, let’s say Yahoo?

JG: That could be an appropriate topic, especially if you’ve got something insightful to offer. We don’t want anyone to disclose anything they’re not supposed to, but comparing and contrasting products can be a great way to get a discussion going.

IW: I think the interviews went great, but I haven’t heard back. How long should I wait until I follow up?

JG: It’s always fair game to reach out to your recruiter and check in on the process and get an ETA. It depends. Different groups have different processes, so your best route is the recruiter.

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