Google's recruitment process revealed

Tips and tricks from Google Australia’s head engineer

Want a job at one of the hottest IT workplaces of the century? Well, Google is still employing. Even after declaring a massive worldwide growth in employees during the past financial year, the company is advertising vacancies in its engineering, sales, and operations teams.

In fact, according to Lars Rasmussen, Head Engineer of Google Australia, the company has been finding it difficult to find enough people for the positions it is trying to fill.

"I think Google worldwide would like to grow faster than we are - it's [manpower] probably our scarcest resource," he said. "Even though we're growing at quite a phenomenal pace, we're always short of engineers and we always want to find more."

But it's not simply another case of the nationwide skills shortage that has recently come to the attention of employers and institutions in Australia. Google maintains a high hiring bar, Rasmussen said, and there is generally a shortage of people with experience, academic background, and enough intelligence to reach the required standard.

Rather than search for one particular skill set, Rasmussen explained, all Google asks of potential employees is that they be "smart".

"We don't look for people with particular skills; we don't look for people with C++ experience or Java experience," he said. "We look for people that have excelled. And just by the nature of that, there is a shortage of people like that."

Notorious for its time and intellectual demands, Google's recruitment process is based largely on a series of interviews with a series of different interviewers. Through a range of interview topics from programming questions to general logic puzzles to personality checks, Rasmussen expects to be able to size up how skilled and intelligent a person is.

"The interview process is... 'intense' is a word I often here from people that get interviewed," he said.

Rasmussen said that while interviewers try to avoid "trick questions", they do aim to ask "unusual" questions that are not geared towards any particular skills or experiences in an effort to measure how well a candidate does on something they haven't worked on before.

It may take anything from four to a dozen interviews before Google hopefuls get a shot at working at the search engine monolith, but for those after a challenge, even the recruitment process can be an experience to remember.

Adam Schuck was recruited by Google Australia soon after graduating from the University of New South Wales with honours and a University medal in Computer Science in 2006.

"The recruitment process was like nothing I had ever done before," he said. "For my first round, I was interviewed by Operating Systems legend Rob Pike, and two of the Google Maps inventors, Lars Rasmussen and Stephen Ma. They asked me stimulating technical questions, and I can't remember having ever walked out of an interview so excited."

Schuck is now a software engineer at the Sydney Googleplex, working on Google Maps, which is estimated to have about 55 million users around the world.

"Google Maps is a really exciting product, and there are a lot of interesting problems which need solving in order to figure out what users want and how to give that to them in a fraction of a second," he said. "It is very satisfying to have written code which is being used by millions of people around the world every day."

Besides having worked amongst the colour and the cheer of the Sydney Googleplex, Schuck has also worked, played and enjoyed catered lunches at Google's offices in New York and Sillicon Valley.

"It is great to be part of a community of like-minded people all around the world," he said. "I am constantly impressed by the intelligence and enthusiasm of my colleagues. Everyone at the company seems to really enjoy what they do, and people sincerely believe that they can make a difference. It is extremely motivating to show up each day to the office knowing that your work will be seen by millions of people."

It may seem like the Wonderland of workplaces, but gaining admission to Google is far from child's play. According to Rasmussen, there is no way of grooming oneself into a position at Google, so the only way to get a job is to submit a resume and hope for the best.

"People often ask us how to prepare for an interview," Rasmussen said, "and apart from obviously encouraging people to look at Google's products and try and understand why Google has been so successful, really the thing is to not prepare at all; just be yourself and come in here, and we'll try and ask you questions you're not prepared for."

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Liz Tay

Computerworld
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