For most people, getting a job at Google almost seems unattainable.
I mean, who actually gets to work at Google? That one nerdy genius kid from high school that you never talked to…but perhaps should have befriended, right? It’s unfortunate because such assumptions deter many people from applying since they feel as though they don’t stand a chance.
The summer before my senior year in college I received an offer to intern at Google. It was hands down one of the best experiences of my life. I had a blast and worked my tail off.Although I had an internship, the process of landing a full time job is almost identical. I am here to give you the low down on what it takes to land a job at one of the top companies in the world. There are tons of stories and myths about what occurs in a Google interview. I have heard many myths such as them asking interviewees how many grains of salt are in a salt shaker. Some of these rumors need to be taken with a grain of salt (no pun intended). Needless to say, when I received an email that they wanted to speak with me about the internship position, I was terrified. They wanted to interview lil ole me and not an ivy leaguer or super genius? How did I slip through the cracks? Was this a mistake?
Well, I am here to dispel the common assumptions that people have about working at Google, and give you objective inside tips on how you can increase your chances getting of in. Landing a job at Google is not as hard as you may think. When I applied, I literally thought I had no chance, but lo and behold I got it. Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means trying to downgrade the competitiveness of getting an internship or job at Google. It is difficult. However, I hope that by sharing my experiences and useful information it will encourage you to believe that you have a shot as well.
According to the recruiters, landing an internship at Google is harder than getting into Stanford and Harvard University. The year I applied, they accepted about 2% of their applicants ( 1600 people applied). When I heard those odds, I was baffled. As I mentioned earlier, I am no genius. So what separated me from the 1600 other people that applied that year?
Good question, but first, let’s get a few things out of the way. Interning at Google is not as competitive and cutthroat as they portray it in the movie the internship:
It is not like a mental Hunger Games, and the kids are definitely not that douchey.
On the contrary, Googlers are quite nice. The environment is more like this:
What did I do at Google?
I worked in the Small and Medium Business department.
Role description from the recruiters:
Small and Medium Business (SMB) Services:
Our mission is to engage and prosper North America’s small and medium-sized businesses, through best in class consultation and service, powered by Google. We are dedicated to supporting the company’s expanding base of North American advertisers, while providing outstanding customer service and helping our customers be successful online and grow their businesses. Our team provides both product support and consultation via phone, chat, and e-mail. Our team is located in both Ann Arbor, MI and Mountain View, CA. SMB Service team members are extremely proactive, motivated, organized, team and customer-oriented, and enthusiastic about our fast-paced environment.
Intern responsibilities include:
- Develop and build expert product knowledge on Google’s core advertising product, AdWords, via a structured multi-week training curriculum, including AdsPro certification
- Directly support and consult advertisers via phone, chat, or e-mail on account performance, technical troubleshooting, analytics, billing, or policy issues
- Drive economic growth across North America by helping businesses grow via intelligent return on Google investments
- Participate and foster an environment of innovation, collaboration, and developing fellow interns and Googlers
Needless to say, I had no idea what that meant. I was just happy to have a position. In layman’s terms, the job required me to help business owners with their Google Adwords accounts. For instance, let’s say a small business owner named Bobby that owns Bobby’s Plumbing Service is running an AdWords campaign (i.e advertising on Google). He would call for support on his AdWords account, with questions relating to anything such as keyword optimization, analytics, location targeting, or mobile. It was my job to troubleshoot the problem. Needless to say, there was a huge two week ramp up period since there was a TON of information we had to learn.
Let me first take you through the process of getting job at Google based on my experience. Then I am going to provide inside tips, and information shared amongst Google interns that will increase your chances of landing a job at Google.
A recruiter from Google came to my college and spoke to my advertising class, which prompted me to go online and apply. When applying, I made sure to include relevant work experience, as well as fun and interesting facts about myself on my resume.
- Pitched business idea to Mark Cuban
- Rang the NYSE Euronext closing bell
Ok so you may be thinking, c’mon now Alicia, I don’t have anything cool like that to put on my resume. On the contrary, you might. Talk about your hobbies and interests. Perhaps you have been an avid rock collector since age five. Maybe you have every single beanie baby ever released. That’s interesting. They want to know a little bit about you, and what you can uniquely bring to Google. This is your time to shine, and share some of the quirkier aspects of your personality that other traditional jobs may not appreciate.
Round 2 & 3: Phone interview
Approximately a month later, I received an email back from Google saying they wanted to interview me for their Small and Medium Business Services position. I was ecstatic to hear from them. They wanted to interview me over the phone! This was both exciting and scary at the same time. I have to talk with someone from Google??? OMG what am I going to say? I don’t speak genius… What if they ask me some outlandish question that catches me off guard? I was terrified, and spent a lot of time reviewing relevant information.
I had two phone screens: a preliminary one and one with a more seasoned Googler. To my surprise the interview was nowhere near as scary as I thought it would be. The interviewer asked me questions about myself, and of course what I knew about the advertising product. They also asked me to discuss some of my favorite websites/blogs. My questions weren’t too wacky. I was asked what I would do with 100 million dollars. I recalled saying that I would invest in a major franchise like McDonalds and gave my explanation why.
I got my hands on a super secret cheat sheet from past interns, in which they share some of the questions they were asked:
Question: What’s the next big thing?
Answer: Mobile payments, mobile banking. Mobi9QAle/internet explosion in 3rd world
Question: Tell us about a non-Google product that you like. How would you improve it? In what ways would you re-market it? What strategies would you use?
Answer:EasyBib.com – make it more seamless, less options, simpler, more elegant
Question: How would you explain AdSense to my grandmother?
Answer: Let’s say you own a store. AdSense lets you put posters on your window advertising other companies, and they pay you for every person who stops to look at the poster and visits the store.
Question: How would you explain AdWords to my grandmother?
Answer: Let’s say you have a store. AdWords lets you put posters on other people’s stores, and you pay for every person who stops to look at your poster and come to your store.
Question: Tell us something about yourself that is NOT on your resume
Answer: Karate – state champion. Bruises. Dedication. Fun.
Take note that knowing the product of the company you’re applying to is crucial. You should know it so well that you can explain it in its simplest forms. This shows that you take initiative and have a genuine interest in the company.
Round 3: Onsite
The onsite was by far the best part of the interview process. They paid for me to come to New York and put me up in the ultra fancy Gansevoort Hotel.
Video of me the night before my onsite interview:
I had the opportunity to check out the New York office. They have fully stocked mini kitchens, scooters, cafeterias and nicely themed rooms. Chances are, if you made it this far in the interview process, you’re pretty much golden. You would have to royally eff up to not make it past this part. From what I can remember, the majority of the people that made it to the onsite got the internship.
The purpose of the onsite is to check for “Googliness”. Essentially they are checking out your personality to see if you play well with others and uphold the mantra of Sergey Brin and Larry Paige (the founders), which is “Don’t Be Evil.”
After completing my internship with Google, it provided me with insights as to what they specifically look for.
Be a fast learner:
During our first two weeks we were absolutely slammed with information and expected to pass a certification exam to test our knowledge. You need to be able to pick up, internalize, and apply new information quickly. Here is a link to the Google exams. If you have a certification before applying that will give you a leg up.
Be a proponent of change:
Google is a company that is constantly changing. There are always new features being developed. You have to be okay with continuously learning and adopting new products and processes.
Be freaking interesting:
Have interests outside of school and work. This is what saved me. I did not have a 4.0 GPA, but I had impressive accomplishments. Therefore, it balanced out and made sense as to why my grades may have been a bit lower.
Be a leader:
Show that you take initiative. Get a leadership position on campus, in an organization at your job or in a local meetup group. Most Googlers do something outside of their core role, it’s encouraged. You have time in the day dedicated specifically to that. You are expected to go above and beyond your core role and daily duties.
During my internship, I also had a summer project that I had to complete with the other interns. The project was outside of our core responsibilities, but like I mentioned above, typically at Google you are expected to take on tasks that are outside your core role that will help contribute to the betterment of the company. It is like being an intrapreneur. They give you a platform to bring your ideas to life within the organization.
For instance, a guy that was working in advertising taught himself how to code, and was now building plugins for the entire Small and Medium Business Services team to help streamline the processes of the department.
He was not officially a developer, but he was rewarded and encouraged to build and take on a tasks outside of his core role. Taking a leadership position is also important because they ask you specific questions about what roles you’ve had and what you did in those roles:
Here is an excerpt of an email from the recruiters:
Please set up the format into 2 sections: 1) Other job offers, awards, Dean’s List, scholarships, study abroad, languages, computer skills, etc. and 2) Freshman, Sophomore, and Junior year activities (for each year of college, please list the role you held and one sentence describing what you actually did/do for that role):
•For any scholarships/awards/honors – please write a 1 sentence description of the scholarship/award/honor, how many people applied, how many received it, and what the amount of the scholarship/award was that you received for each.
•If you were on the Dean’s List (or equivalent), please list the semesters.
•If you have done a study abroad program, please list the months and confirm the school name, location, and GPA for your study abroad.
•List any computer programming skills/language skills if they apply.
Section 2: For each year of college, please list the role you held and one sentence describing what you actually did/do for that role.
•Frosh/Soph/Jr year: Please list all jobs/activities/leadership roles/volunteer work/large class projects/involvement. This is a great place to list anything and everything you have been a part of – go ahead and brag about yourself! (Even if you put it on your resume, please add it again under the specific year in college.)
Know pressing topics in the industry:
Stay abreast of pressing topics. If you are interested in working at a company, it’s your job to be up to speed. When I was applying, net neutrality was a big topic of discussion, and it still is today. Understanding what net neutrality was and how it could affect Google was important.
Clean up your social media:
This one is self explanatory. However, it is surprising that people still think that in this day and age companies don’t check your social media.
Back in college, I was shocked when a guy in my class said that companies don’t check your social media before they hire you. According to him, since he still got a job at a company he applied to, his theory must hold true. He believed companies don’t have enough time to do that.
Well he is wrong…and you want to know how I know he’s wrong? Because I heard it straight from the horse’s mouth (i.e a recruiter from Google). They mentioned during our orientation that they looked up all of us on Facebook. Google is one of most competitive companies, so they would obviously screen their candidates thoroughly.
Personally I research people all the time, so I would only expect other people to do the same. Especially if they plan on hiring me.
Know why you want to work for a company like Google:
Besides the superficial reasons such as free food and massages, know the company’s mission, for instance Google’s mission is to: “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
Leverage your network:
Google is big on referrals. Their way of thinking is, since you’re amazing, you must know other amazing people. This reminds me of a great quote by Jim Rohn:
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
Incredible people hang around other incredible people, so dig through your network. Do you know anyone that already works there? Do you have a friend that knows someone that works there? Any connection even if it’s a third party connection is better than none.
Go ahead and apply to Google or any other tech company you’ve been dying to work for. Nothing ventured, nothing gained right?
Alicia T. Glenn shares her best inspirational content, business ideas, and life hacks every week on her blog.
Image Credit: www.telegraph.co.uk