My Google Interview Experience

Earlier this year a friend of mine asked if he could give my email address and/or resume to recruiters at Google. Google set aside half of a day for engineers to look for resumes and contact friends who might be the type of person good would like to hire. I’d been happy with my current job so I was hesitant but I relented and said he could give them my email address. Over the next 3 months I experienced a level of disorganization that I never would have expected from a company with Google’s reputation. The experience has soured my opinion of the company and it has given me insights on what to avoid when I take on the role of interviewer.

If you happen to be reading this and you work with me at my current job don’t get too excited. I told my manager that I was interviewing with Google. I didn’t want him to hear it from somewhere else and get the wrong idea. I was completely honest when I told him that there was very little chance I’d accept an offer if given one.

Contact 4/09/2007:

On April 9th, 2007 I was contacted by a Google recruiter whom I will call Cathy. I made it clear that I was happy with my current job but that I would consider Google. It was an opportunity that I was willing to explore even if it was unlikely that I would accept an offer. At the very least I’d gain interview experience and see what the Google hiring process was like.

Contact 4/12/2007:

I emailed Cathy my resume and three days later (4/12) she called me to verify my resume. She asked me what locations I’d be most interested in as I would have to relocate if I were to work for Google. I told her I was interested primarily in Mountain View because if I were to accept a job with Google I’d want to go “all out” and work at their headquarters. I said I’d also be interested in their Atlanta development office. This was the first time that I told Google where I’d be interested in working, it wouldn’t be the last. The phone call was short and fun. Cathy said she’d be arranging a 30-45 minutes technical phone interview with an engineer.

Third Contact 4/30/2007:

As I said I wasn’t terribly interested in leaving my current job and uprooting my family to move to the expensive Sunnyvale, CA area. Still my wife and I have grown tired of the weather and the all too common BANANA attitude in Rochester so I decided to play along until the end. On 4/25, nearly two weeks from the time Cathy said she’d arrange an interview I decided to email her. I assumed she had forgotten about me. I heard nothing from her until 4/30. It had now been three weeks since Google initially contacted me.

To give Cathy some credit she did apologize for taking so long about contacting me. She said she was traveling for work. Wouldn’t she have had access to work email while on travel? She asked me if I’d be interested in working for You Tube. I really didn’t care so I told her I’d be willing to pursue that. The odd part is that You Tube is located in San Bruno. During the initial conversation I said I’d be interested in Mountain View or Atlanta. Maybe she didn’t write that down.

Contact 5/21/2007:

That’s right, three more weeks passed with absolutely no contact. I didn’t bother emailing Cathy because I was annoyed enough at this point that I was more than willing to drop the whole thing. Luckily I wasn’t actively seeking a job or I would have been very angry. Finally she got around to scheduling a phone interview. Remember this is about 6 weeks from when I was originally contacted.

Contact First Interview 5/29/2007:

My daughter Cassie was born on 5/28/2007. I took my first phone interview on very little sleep in the outdoor courtyard of the hospital. Still it was a good interview. I had fun and the interviewer seemed honest and interested in performing an interview. I expected positive feedback.

Contact 5/31/2007:

Amazingly Cathy got back to me only two days after the phone interview. She told me there was positive feedback. She also asked me if I was interested in working at Mountain View or just New York or Boston. Remember that I told her Mountain View when she first asked this question and I never once mentioned New York or Boston. I would have expected a detail as important as location would have been recorded for future reference. She never mentioned the You Tube thing again.

Contact 6/6/2007:

Cathy tells me that the interviewer thought I’d be good as a Software Engineer or as a Software Engineer in a “platforms” position. A “platforms” position at Google is working with embedded systems (or computing appliances as I tend to call them). After reviewing the job description I told her that I would very much like working in the platforms position but I was lacking the hardware experience that was listed in the job description. I reminded her that this position was very much like the position I held for quite some time at Harris RF Communications.

Contact Second Interview 6/8/2007:

For my second phone interview there happens to be a thunderstorm in my area. There was a poor connection and I had trouble hearing the interviewer. I think he may have been on speaker phone as it sounded like he was typing in the background. Normally I have fun with interviews. For this one I did not. It may have been due to lack of sleep from my new daughter. It may have been the thunderstorm. It could have been that the interviewer didn’t seem completely engaged. I didn’t expect positive feedback from this interview because I didn’t have fun.

Contact 6/13/2007:

Cathy tells me that the engineers that I worked with thought I’d be best as a Software Engineer in their test group. I was immediately disappointed because Software Testers are not nearly as well respected as Software Engineers. I nearly told them to forget about it but I decided to play along.

Contact 6/25/2007:

Nearly two more weeks pass by without a word from Cathy. Finally Cathy writes to me to tell me that a new recruiter, whom I will call Jessie, would contact me for the rest of the interview process. She told me if I had any questions before Jessie contacted me to email her. I immediately wrote back asking if the next interview would be on site or if it would be another phone interview. I never heard from Cathy again. Thanks a lot Cathy.

Contact 6/27/2007:

Jessie contacts me to schedule another phone interview. She said internet access would be required. I was very annoyed at this point as it had been nearly three months since I was first contacted and they wanted to do more phone interviews? I guess a Software Engineer in test is different than a Software Engineer to them because they wanted to subject me to even more phone interviews. This must be because it was for a different department. But why do more phone interviews? The engineers that interviewed me before weren’t from the same department. I had already been assured that a Software Engineer in test is still a Software Engineer so why start the process all over? Again I nearly told them to leave me alone. I decided to play along only in the hopes of getting a free flight to California.

Contact 6/29/2007:

After expressing some of my annoyances with the interview process Jessie wrote back to me. She asked me if I was interested in the opportunity in New York City or just Mountain View. Where are they getting information from? I never once expressed interest in New York City. You’d think Google could store that information in a database or something and possibly make it searchable. That same day a different person (not Cathy, and not Jessie) arranged for a third phone interview.

Contact Third Interview 7/05/2007:

I was in a bad mood and very tired from dealing with a newborn for two months. The third phone interview did not go well at all. I suspect a lot of it had to do with my mood and lack of sleep. It also didn’t help that the interviewer very obviously didn’t want to be doing the interview. He completely avoided all chat and asked canned questions. For this interview I had to write code using a web based word processor. Ugh. They asked me a simple questions and I came up with a horrible solution. I can admit that. My solution was horrible. I knew after the interview was done that the interview process would be over. I was right.

Contact Rejection 7/06/2007:

Yet another person (not Cathy, not Jessie, not any of the interviewers, not the person that arranged the third interview) wrote to tell me that they weren’t interested in continuing the interview process. They cited my crappy code that I wrote in the third interview. I couldn’t blame them for that. This person wrote that I could re-apply in one years time. I took major offense to that. THEY contacted me. I did NOT contact them. And how is 1 years time defined? Is it one year from when the process started or one year from when it ended? That’s a big difference as you’ll notice that the interview process had gone on for a full 3 months. I didn’t bother replying to the email.

What I Learned :

The number one lesson that I learned through this ordeal is that asking a candidate to write code in an interview setting is almost certainly a bad idea. I’ve done this in the past and I no longer think it is a fair way to assess a candidate. You simply are not in the right frame of mind to write code in an interview setting. In the future I will present candidates with code and ask them to talk about the examples but I will not ask them to write code.

I also learned that the best time to look for a new job is when you don’t necessarily want a new job. There’s no pressure in that situation and you can be highly critical when examining opportunities.

What Google Needs to Learn:

Google has their heads up their asses when it comes to recruitment. I’m no coding rock star but I can’t imagine that any experienced developer would accept an offer after putting up with so much crap. In fact I think most candidates would have stopped the interview process long before I did.

Google is in serious trouble if they keep this up. If I had been actively pursuing another job I almost certainly would have found another job in the three months that Google dragged this out for and they would have lost the chance to recruit me.

As I said, I’m no rock-star programmer. I seriously botched the third interview and I completely agree with Google for not pursing me after that. However they won’t be hiring anyone except people directly from college if they continue to recruit the way they currently are.

…In “one year” I will not be “re-applying” for a job that I never applied for. Nice job Google.

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