If you want to get hired by one of the most prestigious, profitable and high-paying companies in the world, be prepared to face some fierce competition. According to The Guardian, 2 million people worldwide apply for a job at Google every year. They interviewed Laszlo Bock, head of people operations, who is in charge of deciding which 5,000 of those applicants are hired to find out what it takes to work for the “World’s Most Attractive Employer.”
Working for Google certainly has its perks. Employees are rewarded with amazing office spaces, free shuttles to work, meals, laundry, gym access, on-site childcare, high salaries, barista-served coffee, dog sitting, mechanics, flexible hours, life insurance, massage rooms, haircuts and of course working in an exciting, innovative environment that allows a glimpse into the future of technology.
“Google uses science, collects data, and runs experiments internally to determine how best to make employees as happy, healthy, and productive as possible,” said one employee
The four most important things Google looks for in an employee
According to Laszlo Bock, the four qualities most likely to get your hired by Google are:
- Cognitive ability – not just “raw [intelligence] but the ability to absorb information.”
- Emergent Leadership – and a willingness to step down. Block describes it as “when you see a problem, you step in and try to address it. Then you step out when you’re no longer needed.”
- Cultural fit – or “intellectual humility.” Google values employees who can admit when they’re wrong.
- Expertise – it goes without saying that any Google employee has to be good at the job they’re applying for.
How can you demonstrate that you have these qualities?
The Google careers page gives clear advice on how to make your application.
- Firstly, find a job that matches your skills and interests on the Google job page
- Write a CV that specifies how your skills and experience match that job, which projects you’ve worked on, any leadership roles you’ve had, your qualifications and any other relevant knowledge.
- Wait for the recruitment team to schedule a call on Google Hangouts to learn more about you.
- If you’re successful, you’ll be invited to a face-to-face interview with four current employees where you’ll be assessed on your cognitive ability, leadership, role-related knowledge and cultural fit and be given an opportunity to ask questions.
- You then wait for your offer.
This sounds very similar to the hiring process for most jobs you’ll ever apply for with companies of every type. So what makes the Google hiring process different?
Firstly, the review process is very thorough. Google says: “After your interviews are done, independent hiring committees made up of Googlers at various levels of the company review your candidate packet, which includes your interview feedback and scores, your resume, references, and any work samples you submitted.” This, they say, is intended to keep things fair and to ensure they keep consistently to their own standards.
Secondly, the fierce competition. Bock claims that the sheer desperation of candidates to get hired by Google results in some very outlandish applications, including threats, pleading, a discount on a motor home, and even a shoe – masquerading as a “foot-in-the-door.”
In the past, Google has been reported to ask some tough questions at interviews, such as:
How many haircuts do you think happen in America every year?
Tell me a joke.
How many cars travel across a bridge each day?
How would you improve a shoe factory?
Estimate the number of tennis balls that can fit into a plane.
What do you think has more advertising potential in Boston, a flower shop or a funeral home?
Google now claims that they no longer use brainteaser questions in interviews, as Bock describes them as a “complete waste of time. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart. Instead, what works well are structured behavioural interviews, where you have a consistent rubric for how you assess people, rather than having each interviewer just make stuff up.
Success at getting hired by Google, once you’ve ticked the boxes of skills, experience, cognitive ability and leadership, seems to boil down to innate “Googleyness” which Bock describes as:
“Attributes like enjoying fun (who doesn’t), a certain dose of intellectual humility (it’s hard to learn if you can’t admit that you might be wrong), a strong measure of conscientiousness (we want owners, not employees), comfort with ambiguity (we don’t know how our business will evolve, and navigating Google internally requires dealing with a lot of ambiguity), and evidence that you’ve taken some courageous or interesting paths in your life.”
If this sounds like you, maybe you should take the 1/500 odds and apply.