TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: What its Like to Work for Google

What its Like to Work for Google

Business Week Online (
Sun, 23 Jul 2006 21:09:05 -0500

With fun perks like free lunches, on-site massage, and weekly roller
hockey games, it's no wonder that Google is high on the list of where
college grads want to work. After all, the company was launched from a
Stanford University dorm room, and Staffing Programs Director Judy
Gilbert says working at Google is still a lot like being at a college

While most of the Internet company's undergraduate hires are in
technical fields like software engineering, she says Google is also
hiring top-notch candidates for positions in sales and marketing. She
spoke with reporter Kerry Miller about what it's
really like inside the Googleplex and revealed the one answer students
shouldn't give when interviewers ask, "Why are you interested in

Google ranked No. 2 in this year's Universum Survey of where college
grads most want to work and fourth among undergrad business majors
(see, 6/4/06, "They Love it Here and Here and Here")

Certainly, we have a very visible brand, as a company as well as an
employer, and I think it's very difficult to separate those. But, at
the end of the day, we don't know quite what drives it. We're just
flattered to be near the top of the list. We like being popular.

And does that make it easier to find good talent, or does it actually
make it harder -- since you have so many people clamoring to get your

It's a good problem to have, but there is a little bit of both. We're
very selective about the people that we hire. It's very important to
us to find the right match. There are some very smart people who are
enormously capable, but for various reasons, they're not likely to be
very happy or successful at Google. Part of what we try to do
throughout our hiring process is to spot that, so that candidates can
get to know us and understand what it would actually be like to work
at this place vs. what it's like to experience Google as a user or as
a customer. But we're more than happy to wade through piles of resumes
and applicants if they're coming to us.

How fierce is the competition?

For most of the positions for which we would hire entry-level people,
we're not looking to fill a particular number of chairs. It's not like
there's one position that's up for grabs and we're going to look at
five candidates and pick the one we like best. We want to try to hire
everybody that we find who we think would be a good fit for that
position and successful, long-term, in this company. It's one of the
things that's hardest to talk to students about because there is this
sense that the guy who goes in to interview right after is someone
you're competing with, and that's really not the way we think about it

What types of jobs are open to undergraduate business majors?

Most of the undergrad hiring that we do is for software engineering
positions, so it's technical. But there are positions available for
people who do not have a technical background and who are interested
in the business side of things. The biggest groups into which we hire
business-oriented undergrads are in our online sales and operations
world. So these folks come in and they support our products like
AdWords and AdSense, and they learn the tools inside and out. They
work in small teams, and they interact with customers and prospective

What's the career path like for a new hire in online sales?

A new hire would start as a coordinator, and they move up from there.
They're given progressively more responsibility as they demonstrate
that they can handle it. And many of the people who come up through
that program move into roles where they are managing teams that are
not just a batch of grads within two or three years. There's a very
structured training program, with clear objectives that you hit at
different points in your career, and there's a fairly well-established
promotion track.

So what would a coordinator be doing on a daily basis?

Depending on which product they were working with, they might be
dealing with inquiries that have come in from, for example,
advertisers who were trying to understand why their keywords were
showing up in certain areas or where the clicks were coming
from. Basically, a coordinator is helping our advertisers use the
product more effectively and get the most value out of it.

As a coordinator moves up and gets more experience, he or she might
work with individual customers to help them optimize their ad program
by helping them understand how to select keywords, how to bid more
effectively, and other placement strategies. We're very focused on
providing clear metrics on the outcomes of the products that we sell.
And the AdWords coordinators are really on the front lines in
delivering that kind of service.

Are there other types of positions open to undergrads?

We're also a product marketing organization, so we hire associate
product marketing managers (APMMs) who work on increasing acceptance
and usage of our products worldwide. For example, we have a set of
APMMs who work on marketing our products to a college-student
audience. There's a section of our web site called College Life
Powered by Google, and those APMMs work with products like Gmail and
Picasa, and highlight how college students might find that set of
things particularly useful.

How many people will you be hiring this year?

I would say for undergrads, it's going to be more than a hundred, and
most of those will be primarily at our headquarters in Mountain View.
We've also got a big center in Dublin, and we've got folks at a few
locations in India. You may have seen in the papers that Ann Arbor is
about to be a much bigger place for us. We're opening an office there
that will support our advertising businesses, and and I would say a
good chunk of our undergrad hires will be at our new facility in Ann
Arbor. The AdWords coordinators, for example -- we'll be hiring lots
and lots of them in Ann Arbor.

What kind of long-term like career development opportunities does
Google offer?

The company is growing and so, historically, the answer on career
development has been the thing that you're doing now is probably going
to grow out from under you, and that automatically gives you larger,
more complicated, more interesting things to do. It also creates

For example, we're going to open a big office in India, and one of the
guys who's over there running that joined Google not too long after he
finished his MBA program. He was in the online sales and operations
program, and was very successful as a manager there. So he went over
to start the India office, and he will have been over there for about
two years now. So those kinds of international assignments are
definitely part of the growth path.

One of our initiatives right now is that we've hit a point in growth
where we as a company see the need to become more systematic about
developing career paths and giving people more visibility into what
the options are. People get promoted here very regularly, but we're
trying to provide more of a road map to help people understand how
this might work over a period of a few years.

So, right now, is there such a thing as a typical career path at

There really isn't, and I actually don't think that will change once
we have things formalized, because we hire people with such broad,
interesting skill sets, and we hire people with the idea that they
might grow and do a lot of different things, and we don't want to try
to bet on it too much up front. So I think soon we'll have a clearer
set of what the range of possibilities might be, and we'll have that
somewhat better defined, but there will continue to be exceptions.

Do you offer internships for college students?

We do, though not every group offers intern programs. And to be
honest, on the undergrad side, we don't have a lot of programs for
business students. They tend to be more onesy-twosy projects, where
some group said, "You know what? I could really use some help on this,
and this would be a good project for an intern."

We actually have an intern in my team right now -- she's a statistics
major, and she's doing analysis of various factors that contribute to
hiring decisions, looking at some of the science behind hiring and
helping us figure out what the attributes are that we should be
looking for.

We're sending a whole bunch of interns on a scavenger hunt to San
Francisco one day next week. And the idea is to put them on teams with
people who are also interns but they probably haven't worked with. And
so it's a fun, sort of silly team-building exercise and a good example
of the kind of sort of nutty team events that are a really important
part of the culture around here.

There's a kind of aura that surrounds the culture of Google and the
work environment there, with the free lunches and everything
else. What's it really like working at Google?

I've got to say, it's really all true -- it is an amazing environment.
With some of the perks, like the frozen yogurt machine, say, it really
does feel like a college campus -- and I'm certainly not the first
person to have said that.

I think because the company has such trust in the fantastic people
that we bring on board, we want to give them the tools and the
environment they need to do their very best work. We prefer to let
them run free, not to constrain them with silly things that they
shouldn't have to deal with.

Silly things like dress code?

Dress code is certainly one thing. You want people to be comfortable,
and that means a variety of different things depending on who you've
got. So, you know, just looking out the window of this conference room
here, there are people walking by in shorts and flip-flops, somebody's
got their dog. But people do wear suits here, too. People wear shirts
with collars. It's very much what the individual is comfortable with
and feels that he or she needs to do to do his job best that day.

What do you wear to an interview with Google?

Whatever you like. It really is whatever people are comfortable
in. It's likely that when you come in, your interviewers will be
wearing an array of different things. Business casual is a pretty safe
bet. Some of the software engineering candidates we get in here are
wearing tank tops, shorts. For a business role, I would probably wear
long pants. But it really is about the content of what you've done and
of your ideas rather than what you've got on.

So when you're when you're talking to students, what is it that you're
looking for?

We look for a track record of accomplishment. We look for a history of
being effective in environments where the rules aren't necessarily
clearly defined and you've got to make it up a little bit as you go
along, which is a big part of what we do here. And we look for
different signs that point to the fact that the person isn't somebody
who takes the easy way out.

With people who are coming straight out of school and often haven't
had a lot of work experience, we're looking for people who have
consistently demonstrated that they're willing to take on tough
challenges, wrestle them to the ground, and come out either on top or
having learned something.

Academics are also a big piece of that for people who don't have a lot
of work experience. So, here's a tough program, did you take some
classes that were outside your major that forced you to stretch
yourself? At some of the schools where we do a lot of recruiting, we
actually look at what courses a student took, and we'll say, we know
that this is part of a particular major and this is a really hard
class, and when we see someone who did very well in that class, we
know that that's a really strong marker. In places where we've gotten
good data about what a certain piece of information might predict, we
definitely will look for it and we try to get it.

What are the major campuses where you do recruiting?

We went to 80 different schools in the U.S. last fall for campus
recruiting, so it's a long list. Obviously, Stanford is right in our
back yard, Berkeley is just across the bay. We certainly go to
Harvard, Princeton. We get a lot of engineers out ofCarnegie Mellon
and MIT, and, while we're there, we also are looking for the
non-technical students, as well.

Are there certain things that people do when they're interviewing that
they think will really impress you but just totally backfire?

One question we ask when we interview people, is "Why are you
interested in Google," and an answer that we don't think is so great
is, "Well, because it's Google." But you'd be surprised how often we
get that answer.

Copyright 2006 BusinessWeek Online.

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