Another form of web literature is emerging: stories of job applicants rejected by Google (GOOG). Google makes all applicants sign NDAs, of course–can’t have future applicants boning up!–but unlike the standard Googleplex NDAs, these apparently don’t bar tales of office furnishings, candy banquets, and interrogators who look like Chewbacca:
[B]y the day of the interview, I was emotionally unsettled. Where I really felt it was in the lobby of the Google office waiting for the interviewer to come and get me. The decor of the lobby and the office in general relies on Lava Lamps (a Chicago product). Hundreds of Lava Lamps The thoughts I had while waiting were, “How juvenile to think that owing a particular product makes the owner cool!” and, as a bill-paying father of teenage boys who never turn off the lights, “How wasteful to be spending all that money for that wattage!”…
I knew these judgments were being fuelled by my unsettled emotional state. I knew that if Google were to make me an offer, I would accept it. I mean, hey, it’s Google, the Angelina Jolie of tech employers.
It was the Subversion guys who were scheduled to interview me. These guys are somewhat public figures. They blog. Here’s where maybe I made a mistake: I spent time reading their blogs and sent them emails about what I had read, pointing to some of my work which related to their writings and which reflected on me favourably. One of the guys had blogged about his favourite Chicago restaurants and I shared with him my list (He had tried and hated one of my recommendations….) I wonder in retrospect whether my actions were, to them, kind of creepy and uncomfortable? Like, I was some sort of stalker. Hey, see what I’m doing here? See the angst-ridden self inquiry? That’s what you do to yourself when you get rejected by Google…
The worst part of the process was my fourth and final interview of the day. The guy was from Moscow, and he had a very thick accent. All of my life, I’ve had immense trouble with accents, even slight ones. My project manager at work has a thick accent from Italy, and she basically sounds like Chewbacca to me. I’m not complaining that Moscow Guy had an accent (all tech companies have folks with accents), but it sure made the rest of the interview process challenging for me. My interview with the Moscow Guy resembled one of those satellite interviews on the news. He’d say something to me, and there’d be this long pause before I responded. To make matters worse, he told me his first question was going to be “an easy one”, so when I barely understood what he said at all, I imagine I looked like a complete imbecile. “What was that? You want me to WHAT two numbers together? Mo de ploy? Mah dah bu? Oh, multiply! Right, two times two is four. I’m obviously partially retarded.”
Dr. Seuss land! Yes, that was my first thought. I think the door was green, the reception area was very colourful. The receptionist was very nice and asked me to sign in on a computer, which printed a name badge for me. They had some research papers by Google employees on a wall, so I grabbed a couple (their hard drive failure study, and map/reduce). After a few minutes, my Boston recruiter came out and greeted me, offered me a drink from their free fridge, and took me to a small conference room, furnished, it appears, from Ikea. It was simple, clean, and very nice. There was a white board. I would get to know that whiteboard very well.
My first interviewer came in and we got started. I talked about my projects for a bit, they answered my questions, and then we got to the problem. Each interviewer asked me to solve a single problem (could be some sub-problems involved), and I had to do it on paper or on the board. I wrote C/C++ code. They take note of what you write and ask you further questions, especially if your first solution isn’t optimal…
I had three interviews before lunch. They then handed me off to someone else who would not be evaluating me, but would just be an escort for lunch. The Google cafeterias in Mountain View are legendary, but the Boston office is far too small to warrant such lavishness. Instead, they have a catered lunch every day. It was wonderful. They also have all the free drinks and candy you could want, available all the time.
They have a process which intentionally filters out people who are single minded and focused on a goal in favour of people who like to spread around and tinker with things. At some point in the process you end up in a room with gadgets and things. The room actually has either a CCTV camera or a double mirror (no idea what is the actual technical implementation). If you open your bag and read a book so that you do not lose concentraion at that point and ignore the shiny gadgets you are most likely going to fail the interview. If you tinker with the shiny trinkets around you, the likelihood that you will pass will vastly improve.
[One] 45-minute session after another, with the interviewer firing off rapid-fire questions like “How would you boost the GMail subscription base?”, “What is the most efficient way to sort a million integers?”, “How would you re-position Google’s offerings to counteract competitive threats from Microsoft?”
But the interviewers didn’t actually look at me as I answered, since they were busy tapping nonstop notes onto laptops.
The whole vibe was eerily like I felt when interviewing on Wall Street years before: arrogance personified, with the brusqueness coming from certain knowledge that they are the Masters of the Universe and you are very lucky to even be in their presence.
The interview was going swimmingly until I met up with one interviewer who was apparently anti-military. Using the Google “Do No Evil” mantra as a pretense, he asked me how many people I’d killed when I served. When I explained to him that I was MI, he then asked if I could estimate how many people were killed because of the intelligence I’d gathered. The implication was I was either an evil, efficient killer or an incompetent one – a real no-win situation.
Photo credit: Absolutely No Machete Juggling. Have a fun Google-interview tale? Let us know! ([email protected])