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Why Google's hiring process is broken (teambox.com)
293 points by michokest on May 17, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 168 comments



Lots of interesting stories.

Disclaimer, I worked at Google for 4 years ('06 - '10) and interviewed a lot of folks (it was always a part of the job) and did a number of phone interviews too.

The process then (as perhaps now) was broken and some folks within Google understood that. The process and goals were pretty simple, hire smart people that get things done.

The process was aimed at finding smart people who get things done. That, like the phrase "largest integer" is easy to say and rolls off the lips but when you need to actually write out what it means gets a bit squirrely.

The first challenge is what does "get things done" mean? Well for college students it means you got your diploma and at the same time you contributed to some FOSS project. For people with 0 - 5 years experience it means you shipped a product where you did most of the coding. For people with 5 - 15 years experience it means you shipped a product where you did most of the coding. For people with 15 to 25 years experience it means you shipped a product where you did most of the coding.

Did you see what I did there? Google wanted smart people but the definition of smart was "you write a lot of code" and "get things done" was "that code shipped in the product/project." Fundamentally they didn't have any way to judge or evaluate the 'goodness' of what someone did if it wasn't writing code. Designers don't write a lot of code and they don't generally have a good metric for what constitutes good which can be empirically tested. The process has a hard time accomodating that. And if you're "good" at spotting problems in a process or getting folks organized around some better way of doing things? That's not measurable either.

There was a company, BASF, a chemical company which had an advertising campaign around the fact that they were part of the process and materials that made quality products, their tag line was "We don't make the products you buy, we make them better." [1] And I noted that Google was exceptionally bad at hiring "BASF" people, which is to say people who bring the quality of other work up, or products up, or processes up.

The people who did those roles in Google all started out as coders and that is how they got hired. It was only after they were working there that they (and Google) discovered they had this leveraging effect.

In order to keep bias out of the process, Google isolates the steps where bias can creep in; separated the folks who decided hire / no-hire from the folks who decided on compensation; the folks who decide to hire and the folks who decide which project they work for. For all my time there, you could not interview for a specific job, you interviewed to get 'in' and then your name showed up on a list and the allocation process would determine which project got you.

Often a candidate would ask during the interview "What would I be working on?" the only truthful answer was "That is impossible to say."

Before you even get to that point though you get into "the system." Since Google keeps a record of everyone they have interviewed or has shown up as a lead and not interviewed. There is a long, long list of people (I once joked that it was everyone in the market). If you are an employee and you might know that person, common employer, common university, etc. The system could automatically send you an email asking for your opinion on the candidate.

This isn't really any different than any other company, person X shows up in the candidate list, people who work at the company who worked at person X's company are asked if they knew this person when they were there. But it can have unintended consequences.

Lets say there is a person X, who gets hired, from company Y, and person X really didn't fit in at Y and felt really abused by the company. Now new candidates from Y generate an email to X with the standard "You worked at Y when candidate Z did etc etc." Now person X is still pissed off about how Y treated them and so they respond to all of those emails with "Yeah, candidate Z was a crappy engineer, everyone had to carry for them they never did anything useful." Maybe someone else from Y says "candidate Z was great, everyone turned to them for advice." The process of separating the interviewers from the decisions means that this feedback bubbles up all equally weighted. Hard to know that employee X has said the same thing about every candidate that has come from Y, and if the committee sees two comments one positive and one negative and there isn't anyone on the committee who knows any different then how do you evaluate?

The simplest solution if either has an equal probability of being the 'correct' assesment is that you pass on them because you can't know if you have bad data. And that was a part of the process that was fundamentally broken.

Because Google gets a metric crap load of resumes and candidates all the time, passing on someone who is +1/-1 like that makes sense because you can't know which of the two feedback comments more accurately reflects the real candidate behavior. The result is that hiring someone with a grudge can poision the feedback pool for a bunch of possible hires. If you weren't Google and didn't have this huge backlog of candidates, you might dig deeper to find out which one was the more accurate representation, but if you are Google you just move on. Externally that sometimes appears that you just stop answering the phone.

It also means that you miss out on quality people who would be good for the company and ultimately Google will have to find a way to address that issue (if they haven't already) because they are running out of people to interview.

As with most things Google, you combine a data-driven, automata friendly process with fuzzy data and alternate agenda actors, at the scale Google runs at, and you get lots of weird artifacts.

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ksUNyhQjLE


I applied once in 2008. My recruiter was very friendly and did a great job. (I met him and another one at a presentation, and only 3 days later I had 2 onsite interviews). However, one interviewer didn't like me. When we had the open questions, he directly asked me, if the only reason I would like to work at google was because of the money. He clearly had already judged me. Then after 12 days, I got a call from someone from google from Ireland, which I didn't know, telling me that it was a very difficult decision but they wouldn't offer me a job, but I could reapply in 2 months! Naturally, I didn't do that. I still occasionaly get emails from google recruiters, but I decline.

I joined another compnay after that and did quit the job 3 months later to start my own company. If I would have joined google, I might have never done this if I would be for google. Who knows. I couldn't be happier today. And I'm probably as biased in the interviews today ("get things done"), as google was when they were interviewing me.


Had a similar experience. Google recruiter contacted me about security role on Android team, NFC and mobile payments stuff, sounded good up my alley. Sent programming skills email, I honestly said I suck at coding I work on security design and architecture. I do some coding on my own time but not upto enterprise grade. Quick chat with the next level recruiter, we don't really hire for a specific role but we will put you forward for an interview, iterate I don't code. Interview, guy is quite nice, what do you enjoy, I say what I enjoy, you didn't mention coding in that. That's right. You were put forward for a software engineering role. #facepalm. I'll see if I can get you interviewed by a security guy. Cool. About a month later email, no role for you. Lol.


They might also have problems keeping the "BASF" people that somehow managed to get in anyway. If hiring is job 1, retention probably should be job 0.

(BTW, your internal epitaph was posted as requested. Hope things are well with you...)


> The simplest solution if either has an equal probability of being the 'correct' assesment is that you pass on them because you can't know if you have bad data. And that was a part of the process that was fundamentally broken.

This is the same way some have argued elections are broken: you don't end up with the best people, you end up with the least-bad people. Since people aren't one-dimensional, those are very different concepts. Least-bad involves very little risk; you eliminate everyone who displays any risk factors at all. You also necessarily eliminate creative geniuses with a spotty record.


Would you mind if I contact you with some questions? They don't relate to anything confidential, but they aren't the sort of things I can ask a recruiter.


My contact information is generally available in my profile. I realize that permission to contact is only implicit by that, I'll update my profile.


Your email does not appear automatically, you need to write it yourself in your about section


Your email doesn't show up in your profile.


Learn something new every day, I've added it to my 'about' section.


Some string / wildcard Google searches comes up with at least one email.


My 2 cents: I was contacted by a recruiter, unsolicited through a referral, and asked if I was interested in interviewing. At the time, I already had an offer from one of the other big companies, which I was upfront about. The recruiter said it was ok, and would set me up for the first round of interviews. After about a week of emails, I just simply stopped hearing from the recruiter. Not a single interview, no reason for terminating contact, just plain dead silence. I tried emailing her a few times and left her a voicemail, noting very politely that they had contacted me and not vice versa, and asking if they were still interested in setting up an interview, but all I got was stony silence. If that's not broken, I don't know what is. For a company that hires the best engineering talent, they either hire substandard HR people, or perhaps most HR people just operate at a different level of efficacy.


I had a deadline to give a yes/no to another company, and my recruiter at Google asked me to get my deadline extended so that Google would have time to interview me.

I asked the other company for an extension, which I got, and told my Google recruiter the new deadline.

Then Google never responded and I never did an interview with them.

I felt really put-off by that.


Went through a dozen super generic interviews for a generic engineer role. Got a good feedback but ended up finding out that the role was filled before my case was presented to the hiring committee and that even though the interviews were generic, they try to use the results to fill one chosen position only. I needed to restart the entire process and do more generic interviews to try for another generic role in one particular opening.


Why didn't you just say "yes". You can always change your mind.


I think his point was that he acted in good faith -- with the expectation that Google would reciprocate -- and was essentially let down without courtesy. Even a simple "sorry, we're unable to interview you, our apologies for asking you to get an extension" would have gone a long way, even if just for the word-of-mouth reputation.


Yep.

Re: Google's word-of mouth reputation:

On the one hand, I feel kind of stupid bitching about my experience with Google, even though it really did happen. I don't like bitching.

On the other hand, as we hackers talk about this kind of issue at Google, maybe they'll eventually listen and shape up a bit if there really are systemic problems, and that's a win for everyone.

I actually tried giving Google "suggestions," though I don't think it made an impact (which is to be expected and understandable).


I think Google does listen and try to improve in response to feedback. Interviews and hiring can be especially hard, because of the number of resumes, phone screens, and interviews involved. For what it's worth, I think the interview and screening process has gotten better over the years, even if we have a ways to go.

Sorry to hear about your experience though.


Once again, Google's Hacker-PR-Department springs into action to mitigate potential damage and to placate Hackers!


Why would you care? Essentially when you boil it down to eesentials (ie what pays for your paycheck) Google is an advertising company with a terrible track record on human rights and privacy.


I guess you're saying, why didn't I just tell the other company "yes," and then reneg if Google accepted me?

For one thing, I don't like pulling crap like this.

I might have anyway, except that it would have damaged existing and longstanding relationships in the other (non-Google) company that are worth maintaining to me.


While your intentions are undoubtedly admirable, and you certainly more than likely have very valid reasons for not "pulling crap like this" (not burning bridges, for one), I hope you're not mistaken by some baseless belief that any company would extend you the same courtesy.


Meh.

I think it's pretty rare for a company to tell someone "Yes, you can definitely work for us, here is a contract for you to sign and a start date and how much you're going to make" and then revoke that.

Which is the equivalent to me telling a company I'll work for them and then reneging.

But of course, yes, they could do it, and you're right that people and companies aren't always courteous.


I've had a company retract an offer after I asked for an extension to accept. I guess they felt like a second choice.


I'm glad your experiences have been so plush. In my past as a graphic designer (this doesn't happen anymore in web development, mind you), I've been hired and then let go in the span of a few months, due to cuts and layoffs. Maybe I'm burned and a bit cynical, but the lesson I've taken away is that business is business.


It's not "pulling crap", as you say. For one thing, until you sign the contract, you're not bound in any way. Even then, the first few months are typically defined as a trial period, in which both parties are free to walk away. Better opportunities always crop up, and you can just say "sorry, a better offer has popped up".


I don't think that's unique to Google. I've gotten the silent treatment multiple times at other large companies, after being accosted by a recruiter. At Intel, it even happened after I received a job offer.

I was on a project that was in crunch mode, so I asked if I could start in three or four months (instead of three or four weeks, like they wanted). Apparently, that was such an egregious breach of etiquette on my part that the hiring manager (an engineer) stopped responding to phone calls or email. And it wasn't as if my start date came out of nowhere -- I mentioned the issue during my phone interview, during my onsite interview, and on the form they sent me where they wanted me to list my availability.


unfortunately externalising costs and risks are just fundamentally part of corporations by incentive than the choice of some hiring managers


Same thing happened to me. I contribute to many projects, I even spent my time for some Google projects. A lot of time actually. I had an offer with another great company, and they told me to let them extend it for another week. I did the interview process at Google, and did two phone interviews and one onsite. I thought I did pretty well, but I was waiting for their reply back for a week, and no reply. Then I pinged them, they apologized and said they are waiting for references. I pinged them again for another week, no reply yet. Then I accepted the other job because Google's Hiring process sucks so much, that it tells you right there that they don't care about their employees. I spent time out of my own work life to do interviews, and they can't bother to email us in the recommended timeframe. They said within 4 days, but 14 days ... Working for a company like that would seem disastrous.


There's a consistency in these stories from different people over the years that tells me this is one of the normal processes at Google. It may not be intentional, but it is known and there is no sincere desire to fix the process. That that is so tells me the process is about asserting power and place, and not about looking for talent.


Well, why would they? Even today, they still have a reputation as the dream place to work (even tho' with what, 20,000 engineers now, they are more like HP or IBM than they are a startup). They have zero need to change until their deluge of candidates starts to dry up.


The original article makes a good case about why they need to change. They have had some serious misses lately, and some of that may be attributed to a broken hiring process that emphasizes coding ability above all other considerations.


All of these recruitment horror stories are starting to scare me about Google, but I wonder how much of it is selection bias. Anyone who has a good experience almost definitionally gets sucked into the G-Vortex and basically never gets heard from again, right?

I have a friend who just accepted a position at Google, and she said the process was long and arduous, but it wasn't a horror story.


I was hired by Google, but shortly after getting my offer my recruiter, who was in charge of getting me placed with a team, disappeared. Presumably he was fired or quit, but no one ever gave me a reason; he simply stopped responding to my emails, and then a week later his voicemail wouldn't let me leave a message.

At that point, I contacted his boss, who thanked me for "letting her know". A few days later I got a call from my new recruiter, who was going on vacation the following day for two weeks. I didn't end up getting placed with a team until about three weeks later.

It's not exactly a horror story, but it wasn't a great first impression either. Other engineers I talked to had similar stories.


Well, I know Googlers pretty well. Even internally, they say their hiring process really sucks. Not one person told me this, 80% of the people I talked to told me the same thing. I personally wont blame the interviewers or the recruiters, they are doing their job. I blame their messed up Hiring Committee. I don't understand why the hiring committee can't collaborate with the interviewers and hiring manager to hire a person. Everything is done through writing, and the hiring committee does everything quietly on their own. I even wonder, is the hiring committee a computer?


That's done to eliminate bias. Remember how a couple days ago, there was a story on HN about how interviewing really sucks, because ultimately, what determines whether you get the job or not whether you happen to have a personal rapport with your interviewer? People end up caring more about how you present yourself socially than what you know.

The hiring committee is Google's answer to that. The idea is to completely divorce the hiring decision from people who have personally known the candidate. Instead, there's a very broad written information channel between interviewers, references, recruiters, and the hiring committee. But it remains written, so that all your unconscious biases about people stay out of the decision, and at least in theory, it's all based on hard data.


But this an overly-academic approach to the problem. Your interviewers will still write in whatever they write, as colored by their perceptions and rapport with you. If they write that you had a bad interview, then that's going to poison the HC. There's no way around this.

The HC appears to serve only as a layer of noise/a random selection filter to determine who is actually offered a job.


It forces you to back up your opinions with data, though.

As long as the decision is made by humans, you will never get a completely unbiased result, because humans have biases. It's the same in every field - people pretend science is objective because it relies on data, but if you read Kuhn, you'll see that a lot of science is personality cults and subjective opinions and schools of thought. People pretend Google's search algorithms are objective because they rely strictly on numbers and data, but they're written by humans, and humans choose which data is important.

But that doesn't make the data useless. The act of being forced to support your opinions with data makes you dig much deeper into them, and surfaces relevant information that'd otherwise be ignored immediately because it doesn't fit your preconceptions.

Think about science vs. polemics. If you're actually doing original research in a scientific field, you'll realize that there's a lot of uncertainty hidden behind "the scientific consensus", and a lot of other ways of interpreting that same data. But that doesn't mean that the scientific consensus is wrong. It may be wrong, but it's probably less wrong than whatever vitriol Ann Coulter or Glenn Beck or Michael Moore is spouting at the moment.


That's done to eliminate bias... But it remains written, so that all your unconscious biases about people stay out of the decision, and at least in theory, it's all based on hard data.

Impossible. The interviewers, just like us, are human. They come with a bunch of built-in biases that will show through in any contact they have with the hiring committee, whether it's verbal or written.

I just don't see your "theory" holding up in reality.

And I don't see this as a bad thing. As someone making a hiring decision, I want the emotion. I want to personally talk to the interviewer and get full impression of what they thought of the candidate. You're not going to get that through an email. Technical competence is only one part of the equation. If one of this person's potential teammates doesn't feel good about the prospect of working with the candidate, I want to know that.

Of course, Google has this ridiculous idea that they can hire people and only later decide what they'll be working on and which team they'll be working in. So you end up hiring people who don't even meet their team until after they start. I just can't imagine working for a company like that -- from the perspective of the existing employee, even.


Did you read my response to gergles? No, you'll never get a perfectly unbiased process. But having to justify your opinions with written data forces you to delve a little deeper than you otherwise would, and expose facts that might qualify or disqualify a candidate, not just impressions. It's still wrong, but it's less wrong.

Culture fit is one of the dimensions that candidates are evaluated on. But again, feedback needs to have supporting data. If you didn't like a candidate, you have to say "Didn't have a firm handshake" vs. "Appeared combative and arrogant when faced with a problem he couldn't solve; said 'Google's interview process is a bunch of technical trivia bullshit' before stomping out of the room", so that the hiring committee can judge whether this is just a nit specific to the interviewer or an actual problem that will impact the candidate's prospective teammates.

The reason why new hires don't know their teams is because of Google's corporate secrecy policies: most of the time, the projects they're working on haven't launched, and therefore can't be talked about outside the company. Even then, there are exceptions. When I was hired, I was told which department I'd be working in before I signed my offer letter, who my manager and his manager were, and was given the option of working elsewhere in the company if I really disliked that. My teammate actually negotiated the specific project he'd be working on, and they created the project for him. You need to have negotiating leverage to do this, though: they not only have to want you enough for you to get hired, they have to want you more than the vast majority of other hires, enough that they're willing to bend the rules a bit.

The recruiting/interview process at Google has a lot of problems, but I don't think that either the interviewer/HC split or the whole-company teams-later approach are part of them. Both of these were created to solve specific problems that have crept into the hiring practices of other big companies, and by and large, do a better job at it than the alternatives.


What about the bias that comes from having worked with someone for a few years, and knowing without any doubt that they are awesomely gifted, loyal to a fault, and willing to dive into the breach for the common cause? You cannot figure that out with a sterile interviewing process.

A company does not have to guard against 'bias' other than racial, religious and that sort of thing. 'Bias' towards (or against) people you know is called knowledge.


Just to counter the negative bias :)

I had an awesome hiring experience. Extremely responsive recruiter (I understand that's not always the case given the number of temps). Took me two weeks from on site to getting an offer. Everyone I referred so far had a similar experience.


> I even wonder, is the hiring committee a computer?

That information is well above your classification level, citizen.

Are you a communist?


My first day at Google was yesterday. The interview process was a typical full day affair with questions ranging from algorithms to large scale systems design. I had a blast, and definitely stumbled on some questions, but I found it infinitely enjoyable. HR was responsive and helped me find an Android plushie for my girlfriend.

To be fair, I definitely believe all of these horror stories are true and deserved. I think that Google just operates at such a ridiculous scale that it's hard to get everything working together just right. I believe "the system works" in the majority case, but that outliers are particularly bad.


From my point of view, they or someone inside clearly thought I was "good", and I obviously passed the minimum clearance test from HR. Since I didn't even get a single technical interview, they could not have developed their opinion on my abilities further. I can therefore be possibly valuable to the company in the future, but as a result of this idiocy, am completely put off by them, especially since I've got offers from the other biggies.

A better approach would be to vet me thoroughly before contacting me. In other words, only contact me if you're sure that you can at least put me through a single interview.


I'm a Googler. I found the hiring process exhausting, but I felt it was thorough and fair. My recruiter did a fantastic job of walking me through the process and letting me know what was going on. I'm sure Google has made lots of mistakes hiring people, but there's always a bias towards complaint. Most people don't have the energy to type up a "everything went fine" reply.


I second that. I'm a future Google SwEng intern, my recruiter was always kind and helpful, even in tasks that wouldn't strictly be her duty, and the whole process (4 phone interviews x 45 min. each) was a bit lenghty (2-3 months) but fair, challenging and enjoyable. Interviewers have also always been kind and helpful.


A long and arduous process with a job at the end makes it a long fought battle that you were victorious in.

Getting a rejection after that (and all the psychological baggage that comes with a company "rejecting you") makes it a bitter loss.

Same process (just as broken), but the outcome is hugely influential.

I think you're spot on, tho -- the squeaky wheel is the one that complains to internet forums.


My hiring process at Google was reasonably long and rigorous, but it certainly wasn't a horror story.

I left about six months ago, and while there were things I didn't like about the hiring and interview process, it was still significantly better than any other place I've worked.


Really? I went through the Google interview process back in 2006, and I had a fantastic time. The level of transparency was a little frustrating, but everyone I was in contact with was polite and responsive, and I never found myself waiting for replies. The on-site interviewers were really fun to talk to, and I left with a great impression.

But I wouldn't call the process significantly better than anywhere else. I've had plenty of other interviews on par with that, some better, some worse.


Sorry, I wasn't particularly clear there.

From the viewpoint of interviewer and hirer rather than interviewee, I thought the process was better than anywhere else I've worked.

I liked the expected level of rigor, I liked the decisions being made by a separate committee, and I liked the salary package being set by yet another group.

The main problems I saw were: * recruiters dropping the contact chain with the candidate * interviewers not preparing enough * not enough of a feedback cycle to interviewers about their performance.


The recruiters are usually contractors, and they have a lot of turnover. Not that you should have gotten silence, but it's possible that's why.


That doesn't excuse them. These days we have databases. There's no reason that an entry can't be made for each applicant which is handed off to other recruiters when one leaves. That the process seems so tied to individuals is surprising to me.


despite the very high tech and unique looking appearance of their hiring process, it's actually very typical. It's different rather by its scalability and the extend to which it is industrialised than by its cleverness to find people's creativity and potential. It's a very well oiled machine to weed out people with a bad grasp of the fundamentals en mass rather than a tuned process to find a few shock trooper geniuses it needs.


I had the same experience. It's unlikely I'll take one of their HR people seriously ever again. A Google engineer or PM would have to speak with me directly for me to bother.


Good point, their HR department has lost all credibility with me too.


Also the "a googler mentioned you" thing doesn't count. I mean direct contact.


A similar thing happened to me. A Google HR staffer sent me an unsolicited offer for a job at YouTube. I accepted, and...

A week later I sent an email asking "how long is the usual turn-around time on this?" Google's HR person said she would let me know by the end of the day, and that was that last I ever heard from her. All further communications were black-holed. I suppose I was unusually lucky to get that last message.


You know who complains about Google's hiring process... people that don't get hired by Google. I've never heard anybody who WAS hired by Google complain about anything.

Maybe you all just weren't good enough. That's OK, not everybody is the creme-a-la-creme. Look at Google's market cap and Android and Chrome's growth (not to mention their dominance in search and advertising)... Google doesn't need you, and that's why they didn't hire you.

You can cry a river about how Google is "failing" because they didn't hire you... but I think their shareholders (who Google makes very rich) would laugh right in your face and be glad that they didn't hire a whiner like you.


Google cannot find people to hire fast enough even by its own admission. I have personally never applied to work at Google but I can understand why someone who never anything heard back from a company with over 20,000 people would be a little pissed.


If they have over 20,000 employees and "they cannot find people to hire fast enough"... then perhaps they should impose even stricter hiring standards so they they don't end up with 10's of thousands of employees who are of such low value that they need to keep hiring more.

Google's main problems are not in hiring more people... it is in putting the (extremely high calibre) employees that they already have to work on concise and appropriate projects that will advance the future of the company in the right direction. Google needs to focus on its management decisions and project creation / execution strategy much more heavily that it needs to focus on the hurt feelings of coders who didn't have what it takes to get in the door.


    Google's main problems are not in hiring more people
There's also some incentive for them to get good people before the competition does. It's not like they can't afford the salaries.


"I've never heard anybody who WAS hired by Google complain about anything."

Yeah, I don't badmouth my employer in public either.


So market cap size legitimizes poor etiquette and borderline anti-social behavior?


No, being a company that is built upon and successful due to its engineering culture does. Engineers are notoriously the most anti-social and lacking in etiquette of almost all professionals. Anti-social behavior is what drives most of us into engineering in the first place.

Google's hiring practices are simply a reflection of the type of people that they have to hire in order to be successful as the organization that they are: By engineers, for engineers, of engineers.

There are plenty of other (GREAT) companies out there to work for if you don't like the way Google does business or hires for that matter. The only reason people are whining is that they know exactly how AMAZING it is if you are lucky enough to work at Google (great pay, benefits, food, massages, etc, etc, etc)... and they are embittered by the fact that Google said they weren't good enough.

Rejection is always painful... but its best to take your dignity with you and move on when it doesn't go your way.


I think if you read the comments here and elsewhere closely, it's not that people are complaining Google said no -- it's that people are complaining that Google said nothing.


Google folks I happened to work with, do exhibit "noticeably higher than average" standards of social behavior. This is in addition to being world-class engineers.

OTOH, there is different spectrum of people in every big company - so maybe there are beasts sitting in the caves somewhere that bite everyone passing by too close :-).

You're right in one thing - one should not put the emotions into the process. A little research of past experiences reveals makes this very obvious.

Treat the whole process like a light cocktail-party flirt, and there's no disappointment afterwards. It's a free tour to the $interview_destination_of_choice, after all :-)


Engineers are notoriously the most anti-social and lacking in etiquette of almost all professionals. Anti-social behavior is what drives most of us into engineering in the first place.

Engineers also prefer data to hokey stereotypes and sweeping generalities. Got some?


Counter-example: I got an offer from Google 10 years ago and I turned it down in part because the hiring process was awful.


It's creme-'de'-la-creme, baller.


That's simply false. Lots of googlers complain about the hiring process they went through (common complaints: way too slow, not enough communication, getting tossed around between groups, too many rounds of interviews, stalled process in hiring committee). That's why the process keeps changing, usually for the better.


You know who complains about slavery? Slaves. I've never heard of a plantation owner who complained about slavery.


Thomas Jefferson complained about slavery at the same time that he owned slaves, and he wasn't the only one. It's easy to condemn them for that now, of course. But we no doubt have our own such contradictions.


I haven't had an interview in over 6 years, but I have been approached by multiple recruiters in the same time span.

I actually dread the day I choose to switch jobs and have to face another technical interview - considering that my knowledge of college-level CS has declined over time. It's not because I am less skilled now than I was before, it's because you don't have to constantly create fantastically fast algorithms on a daily basis (at least in my job!).

The skills that I have developed over the past 6 years - designing complex components that interact with other complex components in a hugely complex product, making improvements in the design of a 20 year old codebase, deciding between fixing a bug and compatibility etc., intuition about design choices and how they fit in the product, and yes, debugging (!) - none of these are covered in technical interviews these days.

Sure, I could explain how a b-tree works - but that's not going to help me resolve my next bug.


Same here. I would have to study up for the interview and that seems pretty silly considering I spend every day writing code and have for years. There's a lot of irony in that too considering that when I need a b-tree, I Google it.

It would be funny to bring an Android phone to a Google interview and then proceed to Google answers for questions they ask like this to point out how outdated the question is.

If it's anything like interviews at my company, we just aren't really trained on how to interview, so these questions come up because the interviewer may not know what to ask aside from things like this, and their last interview experience may have been when looking for a job straight out of college when this was all they really knew about, so this is what interviewers asked them about. In a way those questions may just be "what you're supposed to ask someone in a CS related interview".


I'm sure you would do fine based on your experience and boyishly good looks.


Um ... thanks!?


FYI, my comment has 4 upvotes.

EDIT: now 8 upvotes...??


this is how HN should work - reddit your post to keep people updated on your upvote count.


You could always get a "back door" hire -- build a product that Google acquires and simply become part of the staff that way. Oddly, that kind of hiring selects for people who see the entire product and can build something that works and is successful vs. somebody who keeps flash cards with complexity stats for oddball algorithms in their back pocket.


I went back into tech interviews recently after a 4 year break. It only took two weekends of skimming my old books to get enough up to speed to pass some whiteboard tech interviews, although I don't think I was quite ready for Google level challenges, I'd have probably wanted another week of brushing up for that. If you don't have a few weekends, the quick course is give yourself a graph problem and code it in 30 minutes, critique yourself for 30 minutes, repeat 4 times, go interview. You won't find anything harder on a whiteboard than a graph search, and the practice will be good for you on easier problems.


I disagree with article's conclusion that they are selecting for "backend" engineers. They are selecting for people that think over-engineering every little data structure is the way to build good programs. The skill software companies need is the ability to get a hundred subsystems tested and working together, which is totally different.

I know someone who recently interviewed with Google and he told me about the algorithms question he "got wrong." After he came up with a simple solution to a simple problem, the interviewer told him the better, googley-er algorithm, which was: a) far more complex and difficult to implement, b) had far more corner cases that would need unit tests, c) had more overhead in the expected case, but d) technically had a better big-O in the (extreme) worst case.

In other words, the interview was screening for people who have been to school but haven't ever built anything.


That was the impression I walked away with too: much CS ivory tower thinking, little real-world relevance. But they're only interviews, everyday life at Google is probably (hopefully!) different.

As a counterpoint to the HR horror stories: my recruiter was a friendly woman who always responded quickly and politely. No complaints here.


Google is considered (or at least was, by other tech companies) to have a very poor sourcing and general recruiting experience. It was assumed to be because they contract out the work.

As a contrast to that, at MSFT, we had full-time recruiting staff generally split into college and experienced recruiting (there are some extra bits not important to this). The experienced recruiting staff was assigned to divisions and worked for usually a couple of years at a time sourcing candidates specially suited to their area. The college recruiters carefully handle and ensure that only one person is in charge of each candidate, they're marshalled through all the steps, know when they'll hear what piece of info back, and are absolutely brutal with us hiring managers about making timely decisions (not that we ever drag our feet <grin>).

While working at MSFT, I was contacted several times by different Google recruiters. Each time, I was left sort of half-indifferent e-mails or voicemails, which I was informed was the desired style of contact. I'd fire them off to my sourcing manager to forward around the recruiting org for a good laugh and jokes about where these people had been before (it's a small industry, and they often would point out ex-Cisco recruiting washouts, etc.).

That said, you can certainly go far on name alone for your recruiting, especially when your options are expected to pay out well. But it's unfortunate to have to try to build teams despite your recruiting efforts. I'd hate to have been a hiring manager there.


Your information is incorrect. Google does all its own recruiting. It is not outsourced.


Thank you for this clarification! That was not the case in 2002-2004 (when I was a hiring manager at MSFT).


Every few weeks or so I'm contacted by the same Google recruiter asking if I'm interested in an engineering opportunity.

After a while, I responded by asking who had referred me. He answered: "Referrals are confidential, but this person knows you from your days at <proceeds to list out my LinkedIn>."

Awful. Plus I'm a shitty programmer.


Pretty ridiculous to try and hire a founder fresh off a VC round for an engineering position. That's enough of a tip off right there.


Google's process is broken because it generally presumes job candidates know what specific job they want, and they don't. To put it in contrast, I also applied to Microsoft and they immediately assigned me a specific recruiter that I could email directly. Google needs to give job candidates a person to contact rather than expecting talent to go online and do that weird "job shopping cart" thing they have on their website.

The other reason the hiring process is broken is because it's totally backwards. The hiring process doesn't indicate any appreciation of talent. Talent in this industry consists of wanna-be rockstars. Talent wants the company to say "Hey, you're great. We want you. What's it going to take to get you here?" Google's approach, like many other companies, is "Go online, email us a resume, and we'll get back to you whenever we feel like it." Most people with talent are going to say "Forget that. You got it backwards. You need me more than I need you."

To put it in perspective, think of how professional sports teams recruit college athletes. The professional teams do every damn thing they can to get college athletes to agree to join the team. They send out recruiters that pay for meals, make the candidates feel special, and everything else to make the talent feel appreciated. That's how you recruit talent. Taking the approach of "Go online, do our rinky-dink job shopping cart thing, email us a resume, and we'll get back to you when we feel like it" doesn't attract talent and never will.


Google's counter to that is that since they tend to target only people from top companies and top schools (by their particular perception of what is "top"), so they'll tend to sweep up talented people anyway.


I re-read my comment. The flaw in my reasoning seems to be that Google still needs a way to know the talent exists. So you still gotta get Google's attention somehow before they can recruit you.

Still, though, that "job shopping cart" thing is lame. As somebody that's actually tried it, having to look all around the site and find a specific job just doesn't work. In simple terms, it would be better for Google to have a form that says "Tell us everything you know", let people just write everything they know and submit it, and then let Google match the skills up with a set of jobs that might be a good fit for the candidate.


This 'job shopping cart' thing is interesting to me, as is your desire to 'let Google match the skills up with a set of jobs', because basically I had the complete opposite experience when (successfully) applying for an internship with Google (Europe Middle East Asia (EMEA), btw, not American).

I was essentially unable to reply for anything other than "Software Engineer Intern". They took my resume, and a cover letter (which I am fairly sure was never read.) I then had two telephone interviews, after which I received an email asking me to choose two interests from a list of about two dozen (which was not an easy task!). From there, I was placed in a "pool" of possible candidates, and I believe that teams from within Google would browse through the pool and find a candidate they liked. Myself, I was in the pool for two and a half months, and had pretty much given up on getting anything when I suddenly heard back that I had a place.

So, it might be different for "real" jobs with them, but in the case of my internship they did exactly a skill-set matching (in a way), and there was no "job cart".


FWIW, when I applied to Google, a recruiter gave me a personal phone call within about 2 hours after my resume was submitted, and then guided me through the whole process. I suspect that "talent" gets similar treatment.


Google still think it's the Google of old days where stock options were plentiful and Google ruled the press. But the truth is that their stock isn't moving anywhere, so you are working for a paycheck in a has-been company with over 20,000 employees. And just Bing "Google is evil" ;)


I had a similar experience. Same letter from the recruiter, back-and-forth with rate-your-skills, but then nothing. It's strange because the position they had in mind seemed directly aligned with my proven interests and abilities. Hell, my cover letter was pretty much describing the job they wanted before they even told me about it.

I really see it as strange that I never got a call back. (Maybe it's not over yet, it's only been a few weeks.)


You applied at google? I remember a few months ago you asking why anyone would want a lower paying job at google when they could work in finance. Have the rates changed that much?


I doubt those were my exact words. I said if you can get more in finance, then do it.


My own personal "horror" story.

Google reached out to me, unsolicited, for a web developer position. I wasn't looking, but I thought cool, I'll at least talk to them. The recruiter kept asking me about how good my Java was. I repeated what it said on my resume, that I only used it in college, but that my OO skills were strong and transferable. Afterwards the recruiter emailed me, and said I wasn't a good fit because I didn't have enough Java experience. I didn't even get a technical phone screen.

Java experience is serious business.


I don't know anything about their recruiters, but in my own experience with other companies, the recruiters know eff-all about what is really required for the job.


I actually ended up turning down a google offer for this precise reason -- the questions are biased in favor of a `theory` person over a `practice` person.

Having been through a real interview (where the interviewer went through my resume before the interview and prepared real thoughtful questions that would only be known if you actually worked on the language), I took that offer and now interview others more intelligently.


> the questions are biased in favor of a `theory` person over a `practice` person.

Reminds me of a phone-interview I had with Adobe for a Python job. The guy at the other end of the line asks me to sort of implement an algorithm, on the phone, I ended up solving his problem using a dictionary, getting its keys and then sorting it. That of course wasn't what the guy wanted, but it solved the problem.


My Google offer experience: I turned down a offer from Google last spring. Long story, but my reasons can be summed up as having a more challenging opportunity in a leadership position at a small company versus having to enter the "engineer" lotto where you don't know what team and project you get placed on.

Funny thing is, I had a call from one of their recruiters today. A couple times previously somebody contacted me by email and I said "sure, call me", and didn't hear from them. But this guy was out of the blue and from a different office and had a different approach to it.

The message was that things are different at Google and they at least from his office's perspective, they treat each recruitment uniquely.

My take away is that Google is a big company and you'll get different experiences depending on how you enter the HR process (college grad applicant, versus sought after name). The OP in this case is doing a lot of generalization.


Asked me to rate my skills in a list of 14 programming languages.

Really? I'd love to know what they did with that data. It seems almost completely useless except to say "Tim does not know any Javascript, indicated by his zero score on that."


Well, one thing it means is don't bother asking Tim any Javascript questions during his interviews.


I often ask a similar question such as "Your top 5 languages". It does not negatively affect the interviewee, it just helps me target my questions better.

Though if you say that you are a 10 but perform at a 5, then who knows, it could affect you negatively as my expectations are set high at that point! :)


Also, doesn't this fly in the face of Google's heavy reliance on internally developed tools?

In my Google interviews, they made it clear I should just name a language I know to solve the problems on the white board, not because they particularly cared about the language, but because they wanted to see my thought process solving a problem in a real programming language. Of course, it had to be one of Google's "approved" languages, but I just thought that was so they could assign an interviewer who could assess the quality of the solution.

When did they start caring about "X years experience in language Y" just like all the ignorant technology recruiters out there?


Its not X years of experience in language Y, but rather rate your self from 1-10 on these 14 languages. They'll then pair you up with someone who knows the language you're working with well enough to understand the code in your interview. Also, I've always been told that for the people who rate themselves a 10 in a given language they'll occasionally pull out the big guns to interview (Gosling interviewing a Java developer?).


From what i remember you could rate from 0 to 5(or 4) but each level represented something, e.g. 0=no experience, 1=limited exp on personal projects, 2=good knowledge and used for "production" projects, etc... It was (few years ago) not just a simple (useless and subjective) rating about your knowledge of the subject.


I think the point is to get an idea for what your skills are to determine if any open positions would be a reasonable fit for you.

Theres also the whole theory about what languages you know indicates what kind of person you are. Even if you are looking for a Java programmer, the guy who took the time to learn languages that weren't required in their class indicates they have drive to learn on their own. Obviously it's not a perfect metric, but it's not unreasonable to use it as an indicator. I'm sure they didn't come up with that question just for him, and I don't think its too unreasonable of a question as long as they don't weigh it too heavily.


Theres also the whole theory about what languages you know indicates what kind of person you are. Even if you are looking for a Java programmer, the guy who took the time to learn languages that weren't required in their class indicates they have drive to learn on their own.

Not a fan of that indicator. I actually know quite a few mega-polyglots. They learn every langugage they can find. But I also know people who know a couple of languages pretty well, but spend their time learning other things. In my spare I rarely want to learn a new language. I'm much more interested in, how did this app solve problem XYZ. I spend a lot of time digging through code that solves problems. In some cases I have to learn a language to learn a solution, but I rarely just grab a book on esoteric language Z, but I know people who do.

If you ran the NY Times would you hire people based on how many languages they spoke? It might be interesting, if that's their thing, but in general its no more useful than asking someone to rate themselves on how many operating systems they know well, how many different kinds of mice they've used, or how many text editors they're familiar with.


They don't ask applicants this.

Given a list of 14 programming languages, they ask you to rank your best three for the purposes of conducting technical interviews.


It matches you with interviewers that know the languages you say you know well.


It doesn't take a designer or user experience expert to note that google products lack consistency and don't interopt with each other very well. I think this stems from larger issues that are much harder to fix, or through 20% projects and acquisitions that were developed independently of a common set of standards. I doubt they are ignoring it.

Perhaps the lack of a "Google standard" enables eager developers to create amazing new products, like Gmail.


I don't think that having a hiring system that's not fucked up and actually researches the guy would set a "Google standard".

You can also keep launching amazing products with a recruiting process that makes sense, and doesn't analyze the guy with semi-random stupid questions.


The lack of google standard was my alternative reason for some google products hurting in experience and consistency.


To be fair, Google doesn't just interview guys..

People constantly using "guy" and "programmer"/"computer scientist" interchangeably might be part of the reason why so many women avoid computer science.


This "Google can't do design" meme is really getting old, imho. At best, this is a story about one recruiter in a giant company not doing his job well in matching the requirements with the skill set of the candidate.

It is easy to conclude preconceived notions.


It's not that, it's that Google's candidate referral or search is really poorly targeted when they contact a candidate. They've talked me twice, about the same job that's really not a good fit for me. They talked to him, and totally missed the designer thing and went straight into CS101.


FWIW I've had the exact same experience as the author for (I kid you not) a Visual Design opening. Now unless we somehow had the same recruiter, I doubt this is a "one-time" incident.


I'll be happy when someone else writes an 'I'm leaving Google design because' rant other than Bowman's from 2009. That single post is probably pretty tired from all the constant traffic to it every time this meme comes up.


Sometimes I feel like the only person who was not hired by Google that didn't become bitter. I was treated with respect, was put up in a nice hotel, met very smart people, answered (and didn't ;) very tough questions. In the end it didn't work out. I had a blast nonetheless.


Same here. I had two solid phone interviews, then they flew me out, put me up in a cool hotel, rented me a car, and put me through a good day on campus. Of the five interviews, I think I nailed four and blew one of them. Oh well, heard back around a week later that I didn't make the cut.


I've done 2 set of interviews, and I'm not bitter.

I wasn't impressed with their process the first time, but the second time (2 years later) was a lot better.


Google manages not to hire someone who didn't want to work there in the first place. Sounds like the process is working just fine to me.

In all seriousness, there may be some issues with their hiring process, but I think the Google hiring practices would best be analyzed by using the aggregated data, rather than the trickle of anecdotes we tend to hear about in public. Even if Google got their hiring right 99.9 percent of the time, there would be hundreds of people, if not thousands, who were perfect for the job, and still didn't get hired.


Except that the anecdotes that are being heard suggest that their HR practices are broken, through and through, rather than fitting the pattern you described.

For example, people just being dropped from contact with Google for no given reason (not as in, "We don't want you," but as in... they just never heard from them again).


If she doesn't call back, it means she's not interested...


It depends on how you define "hire right". They can make two types of errors (as any binary classifier ;) ), false positives - wrong hires - and false negatives - wrong rejections.

They tend to err on the false negative side.


I recently talked to a colleague who was hired as a developer by Google.

He went through 3 rounds of "hiring committees".

3 different committees to make a developer hire is obviously broken. The ability to evaluate culture and skill fit should be possible with a hiring manager and a few prospective peers.


While there are 3 levels of approval, it's not exactly as crazy as it sounds at first glance.

After your phone interview with an engineer, you go in for your on site interview and talk to at least 4 people, both managers and engineers. They each write up their impressions of you without discussion between them. They pass their impressions on to a hiring board that reviews those, your resume, and what positions are open.

That board passes the recommendation onto a final board who I suspect is largely a financial gatekeeper, just to approve stock grants and controls company-wide hiring rates and company wide strategy.


It's 3 committees + Larry. This was the case in December 2009 when I interviewed there.

Local hiring committee, regional hiring committee, HQ hiring committee then final sign-off by Larry himself.


It does seem like Google is more focused on the programing side of things and design is an afterthought for them. Which is a pity because I feel overall look and design dramatically changes my perceptions of how good something is.

Another beef I have with Google is the sorta half-assedness of some of their products. They seem to release things early to get them out there, which isn't necessary a bad thing but now I've started to realize this it's soured me to using some of their api's and products


I've also had a bad recruiting experience with Google, but for very different reasons. Personally, from what I can see (i.e. outside looking in), I think they have major systemic problems in how they do recruiting.


Care to provide some insight into those different reasons?


I just posted a comment about it elsewhere in this thread, but let me list my gripes here, in order of decreasing annoyance. This was actually for an internship, but for a PhD-seeking grad student who can code (me).

(1) I had a deadline to accept/deny with another company, and I told Google the deadline. Google asked me to get an extension, so they'd have more time to interview me. I got the extension (the other company wasn't delighted to give it to me, and I was embarassed to ask, but I did it anyway). I told Google. Then, Google never scheduled the interview for me, and I ended up just having to accept with the other company. I wrote Google to tell them I had accepted with the other company on that company's deadline, and they acknowledged my email, but did not offer an apology or explanation for making me get an extension and then not actually scheduling an interview.

(2) The process they used for me and my colleagues (grad students) was to have PhD engineers interview us as an initial filter, then to have HR people actually place us in groups. This placement process seemed pretty abysmal, for me and for everyone else. Which isn't surprising. The HR people aren't qualified to understand a student's area of research, expertise, and interest, and match them to groups. I would imagine their level of insight, as non-hackers, is basically "This student like Python, this group needs Python." In order to do this right, they need people who can actually understand the students' research and skills and the groups' needs at a much more fine-grained level.

(3) The sort-of-rudeness I experienced with HR described in #1 happened to more of my colleagues than not (in various forms). Honestly, I wonder if the HR people are just super over-worked.

Anyway, not long after this Google very publicly announced that Sergey was taking over as CEO and shaking things up to try to return the company to its roots. I was surprised by how "un-Googly" the whole recruiting process was, and I guess the company has really been struggling to maintain its culture across the board. I consider the experiences I described above to be one likely symptom/manifestation of this.

Overall I'd say I saw a combination of big company bureaucracy problems, with a "holier-than-thou" pretentious attitude that seems to allow rudeness to creep in. Their attitude is, "We know you'd die to work for us," which is just so untrue, and it'll be very hard for them to ever recruit me in the future after this experience.

Maybe Google has gone from "Don't be evil" to "Evil, but unlike other companies, we still act like can can do no wrong."


(Posting anonymously because I'm in the middle of interviewing with Google)

My experience so far has been very different. I was contacted by a recruiter a few weeks ago. I had a phone interview within a week of the initial contact. Within three days, they got back to me to schedule an onsite interview.

The one negative I've encountered so far: Google has an office near where I live, but will not interview me there. This will require significant travel on my part.


I'm going to guess you probably work near a Google office which does different things than your target role. I live in Chicago, where Google has an office, but they flew me out to Mountain View to interview for a software engineering spot.


I couldn't agree more with this one. I have trouble talking to people about this because I failed their interview so I come across as bitter (which I am). But this problem is not just Google's problem. It's systemic. Someone a long time ago decided to turn interviewing into a formula - a bad one - and it stuck. Drives me crazy.


I need no evidence beyond the fact they didn't hire me when they had the opportunity ;-)


Please share more about your story!


I was half joking. I was interviewed once, a couple years ago, and I wasn't really a good match to what they were looking for (they wanted a C programmer, my C is very rusty, I am much more an evangelist than anything else). There are very few technical positions where I live and I was not willing to move to Belo Horizonte (which is where most of Google's tech staff are in Brazil) for personal reasons.

Not a lot of drama in this story.


What position was the author interviewing for? Google (and most big companies) seem to pigeonhole candidates into a certain slot, even when it is obvious they'd be better off in a different title.

The real way in which their process seems broken is the wildly different experiences people have seemingly at random, depending on who their arbitrarily assigned recruiter is. When I interviewed I had none of this weird "rate yourself" questions, and a mostly positive experience. But it seems like if I had randomly been assigned a different recruiter, or someone tried to fit me into a different bucket, I would have had a wildly different experience. How can you compare candidates evenly when their experiences seem so randomly different?


Google probably expects that all designers/product management folks that they are interviewing to be good at programming too. There are good programmers, good designers and some people who are really good at both. Since a lot of people want to work at Google, they are using that to their advantage and hiring good designers who are also good programmers.


I've interviewed for a summer internship at Google twice: this summer and last. The first time I interviewed with them, they emailed me the same day to tell me that my interview went really well and they'd like to proceed to host matching. Unsure of the way the process worked, I emailed the recruiter a week later to ask what the next steps were. She called me back half an hour later to ask if I had any deadlines, which I didn't. The reason for the delay, she said, was that Google tried to first match returning interns with hosts before new interns. A couple weeks later, I had a phone interview with a host, it went well, and I was assigned to work with him over the summer. That was that.

This summer, I decided I wanted to return to work at Google again, but I had a specific project in mind I wanted to work on. I filled out a form stating my project interests (which were very specific this time around), but no recruiter reached out to me. I talked to one of my colleagues at Google from the previous summer, he talked to HR or something, and I got a new recruiter. Then I went through five host interviews in three days, picked my favorite, and that was that.

So in my experience, the hiring process at Google isn't that bad. It's just that if you have a delay that's too long, you need to follow up.


> It's just that if you have a delay that's too long, you need to follow up.

Please read some of the comments and anecdotes here a little more closely. A lot of people (including myself) followed up on the silence, often in multiple ways, and still got absolutely no response.


Yes, and I was just sharing my own personal experience to try to counter some selection bias.


I think an underlying reason for so many anecdotes of the sort in the comment threads here is the sheer number of hires the Goog is trying to make right now -- according to http://investor.google.com/financial/tables.html, they've grown headcount by close to 10% in Q1 alone so far.

Life for their recruitment folks is probably fairly interesting these days.


They are self-selecting for a certain type of person and that will likely hurt them in the long-run (may even be hurting them in the short-run).


Microsoft had the same problem in the late 90s, though I wouldn't want to attribute causation to that for how MS has wound up. However, I do think it provides an object lesson that the use of abstract interviewing might indicate a company that is very popular to work for but has possibly jumped the shark (or hit a plateau) businesswise.


The OP is doing a lot of generalization and extrapolation to make the judgement contained in the title, considering he doesn't even seem to have made it through stage one of the process he's attempting to judge. I'm pretty sure there's some folks who get rejected at the preliminary screening stage of my company's hiring process (some, I'm sure, for the wrong reasons) but I hardly think that would justify condemning our entire recruiting strategy and process.

This seems mostly like a standard recipe for baiting traffic from HN to a blog: make up a sweeping generalization about a company people are deeply interested in (e.g. Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter) based on a very limited data set, put that in your headline, then have your article talk about how much better your company is at XYZ by comparison. It's the HN version of the humblebrag tweet.


I'd like to work at Google, but I have no interest in going through the embarrassment of their [seeminly] stuck up interview process. No doubt this is my loss, and not Google's.


I had a relatively good interview experience with Google. I wasn't hired but I felt that the process was fair. True, it was long and I had to invest some significant time to freshen up my algorithm skills. But overall I was left with a good impression.

I do think that Google puts too much accent on algorithms and college-level CS. I consider myself a good programmer. I created two moderately successful Micro ISVs in my free time. I contributed a huge chunk to the product at my corporate job. I get things done. However I felt that this is not what Google looks for even if the say they do.


"User are not As and Bs."

Reminds me of working at MS as a designer. It's challenging for an engineering-focused company to suddenly try to integrate design into their products--especially one so focused on metrics. This often leads to "duct-tape design" instead of a clear unified design. User testing no longer validates design, but completely drives it. E.g., because our study found that users clicked more buttons when they are bright red and blinking in their faces, let's make all buttons blink red! Brilliant? No.


I haven't interviewed at Google, but I've interviewed at a few other companies that seem to follow a similar style.

I'd agree that the hiring process may be broken, but that these companies don't completely realize it. I have no problem with the intensely rigorous emphasis on CS (and math, sometimes), but I've been on these interviews and realized that (after seven hours of interviewing) we still haven't discussed what the company actually does.

Here's the thing - when you're interviewing a very experienced candidate, the candidate may know more than you do about how to write the software. They may know things you haven't even thought to ask about. This isn't a reason to skip the technical grilling, that's a critical background. My problem is that these companies heap it on and on and on, and then they make an offer based on compensation for someone who can survive a technical grilling.

What if this candidate has experience writing software in your domain? What if the candidate has a deep understanding of the business space and knows a lot about what those customers are looking for? What it there's a completely different approach that you haven't even considered?

A candidate like that is, quite frankly, probably worth much more than someone with a strong theory background but no real domain knowledge (though I would still hire that guy). So I suspect that these interviews are good at establishing a high bar, but aren't so good at identifying certain types of developers who could be absolute game changers for the company.

Ironically, the only time a company did do this for me, I didn't get the offer ;) It was at netflix, and (after the obligatory data structures grilling), they talked to me about all their data mining needs. I told them I didn't have much of a data mining background, but discussed how they might approach these problems a completely different way.

A few days later: thanks but no thanks, they wanted a data miner. Oh well ;) Still, it was one of the best interviews I've been on, actually fun and energetic. And I felt that if they'd made me an offer, they'd know why.

This is what may be missing from a lot of these interview processes, which is why they may be "broken" in the sense that they don't really get at why you'd want to hire a specific person, beyond the fact that he cleared a high technical bar.


Hahaha, today morning I was thinking about why startups manage to leech millions of $$s selling services that Google actually offers for free.

And I reached the same conclusion - Google doesn't focus on users and thus completely misses the mark. They focus on engineers but not designers or market researchers.

This is why, I think, App Engine will be a huge success and why Wave failed. It was an excellent product, IMO, but it wasn't built with a particular user in mind.


It sounds like you were going through the software engineer interview process, when what you wanted to do is product management. This is a recruiter-fail: when someone expresses an interest in product decisions, it makes sense to send them through the PM interview process. But it's not really representative of what it's like to interview for all the different job families that one might apply to.


They asked me how to rm a file named -f. Seriously. I thought to myself what a silly question. That's like 20 year old Unix trivia. I was dumb-founded. This was the second phone interview. I knew then I did not want to work for them and I told the recruiter I was not interested. They called me and they initiated the contact.


Easier to get bought than hired?


Design decisions powered by A/B testing are a great way of incrementally improving your product, but trying to use them to drive the overall product direction can lead you to decisions that fly in the face of common sense.

Good lord do I agree. At a certain level, you just have to trust your gut.


I submitted my resume to Google and filled out their top X language survey, but never even so much got back an email from them after waiting for over a month.

Oh well, there's plenty of other companies who were happy to talk to me.


This reminds me of the saying: To a man with a Hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Google's Hammer is its (admittedly great) expertise at Algorithmically solving Hard Webscale Data Problems. Unfortunately some problems cannot be solved by the Hammer of Algorithms - Social Products is one of them and Great UI is another. Think about any Google Product (Search, Maps, Youtube, Groups,..) that is the very best in either of these two areas.


I was contacted by a recruiter for a security test engineer after some crazy stuff I did which got out into the international press. I meet up all their requirments besides strong coding in c++, java, python. My main is PHP, JS and python at the level of exploit development. I have a lot and strong experiences described in the CV. No response from the recruiter yet ...


Another interesting view on why Google's hiring process will bring it down sooner or later - http://geekrage.tumblr.com/post/5237818153/why-google-or-eve...


Call me old fashioned but I think Google keeps having slightly embarrassing failures because it tries to copy ideas, without significantly improving on them, where the dominant player has already gained a critical mass of users.


Instant search - copied Background image - copied Search display - copied

Panda? Still a freaking mess

Oh, 7 years after FB Google wants to get in the action.


Problem is they can't even copy well. Wave, Buzz - they were terrible.


Related question, how easy/hard is it to move around internally once you are "in"?


If you google "google job interview", my nightmare story is #2 or #3 - read shmula.

I eventually received a job offer, but by that point, I wasn't interested.

Anyways, the details of my story are in that blog post.


In a nutshell: Google has developed a reputation for interviewing skill sets, as opposed to interviewing people. Sadly, that's common practice industry-wide.




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