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My Application at Google

2. September 2008 von Christian Imhorst

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Searching a new and interesting job I noticed the job offers of Google Europe. For their headquarters in Dublin they were looking for 600 new employees. Google is considered to be one of the best employers in the New Economy: They are supposed to have fascinating career opportunities and a really good staff restaurant where nearly everything is gratis, not to mention that they are supposed to pay good wages, offer a really good working atmosphere and that they use the latest Internet technologies. Besides, I myself would like to leave Germany for a while to live in an English speaking country. Is there something to be said against an application at Google? No, so I got started to apply for a job.1


The fuse is lit

In contrast to applications in Germany the start is simple: You put your resume in an email body and send it to Google. In Germany you have to spend about five bucks for a job application file because you need a covering letter, a resume, a photo and letters of references plus a neat portfolio in which everything just mentioned has to be stapled together nicely. In the covering letter you have to bring in your personality as much as possible. You have to demonstrate why you are the right person for this job. For an application at Google sending your resume is sufficient until a recruiter from Ireland calls you. In my case I will call him Patrick. Patrick told me, how the conditions for the job would be and that I would get a test in the following days. The test was a Microsoft Word based document and it was sent to me via email. Patrick said that I would need about three days for the test and he was right because I had to work in my job during the day. The questions dealt with Google, Google products, with the website of the “New York Times” and with technical skills in JavaScript, HTML and MySQL.

After those three days I sent the test back to Patrick, along with my Word based CV. Another two days later Patrick called me again and he said: “Christian, good news, you passed the test. Now we need an appointment for an interview.” At the first moment I thought that I had failed the test. I always think this, if someone tells me that I have passed something. The same probably would happen to me after I would do my first HIV test. When they would tell me, that I would be negative I would think at the first moment: ‘Oh my God’. After this first moment of shock I would probably remember that in this special case negative is a really positive thing. For me it is a mystery why I am always thinking that the word ‘passed’ means a negative thing.

Hamburg looks forward to your visit

Patrick scheduled an interview in Hamburg two days after his call. I bought a ticket for the I.C.E. and I got into Germany’s fastest train in a very good mood. Patrick had prepared me thoroughly for the interview. He had told me some possible questions they could ask and he had checked my answers. Unnecessary to mention that my phone calls with him had been in English of course. The interview in Hamburg would be in English, too. At the end Patrick gave me a really good tip: He told me that nearly 50 percent of my chances of success would depend on my ability to convince them of my skills. The other 50 percent would depend on how enthusiastic I would be. The latter one could be a problem because I tend to be more reserved in such situations than normally. I do not like to show my emotions, but Google just likes to hire sheer enthusiasts because they want people who are out-and-out pleased with a job at Google.

I arrived Hamburg in time and I did not have to wait for a long time until I was called to the interview. The lobby was warm and cozy and in contrast the weather in Hamburg was snowy and wet. The girl at the reception looked gorgeous: well dressed and with her red hair and green eyes she was adorable. She did speak German with an Irish accent. There were only young people in the lobby, some with their dogs. At Google it is explicitly desired to bring your pet to work with you. And above this small homelike world the neon colored Google logo was enthroned.

The atmosphere during the interview with the two Googlers – that means two employees of Google – was relaxed but not as laid-back as Patrick had told me on the phone. He said that the atmosphere would be more pleasant than interviews with people of human resources departments of German companies. In conclusion I thought that we would be sitting in comfortable armchairs and would have a nice conversation since I had given proof of my abilities in the test and that several refreshments would be served. Actually the interview had approximately the same atmosphere like interviews for German companies except for the fact that there was no dress code. We sat at a conference table and the two female Googlers – one was from the human resources department and the second one was the team leader of the job I had applied for – hid behind their IBM Thinkpads and made notes when I had said something important. Some of their notes were accompanied by an “excellent”. “Excellent” seems to be the most important word at Google. Googlers say it three or four times in a sentence. The team leader was German with a funny northern German accent when she talked English. I could understand her very well. The woman from the human resources department talked English with an Irish accent and she talked very fast. Even if she would have talked German I would have hardly understood her. When I talk to foreign customers on the phone, I attempt to articulate myself clearly and I try to speak not too fast, at least not as fast as I would talk to a native German speaker.

Now I have got your IP address, excellent

During the interview I mentioned my weblog in order to show that I am familiar with modern Internet technologies. Maybe it was a mistake to talk about my blog. The year before I applied at Goolge’s, Marc Jen was fired because of his weblog. Jen reported more or less interesting Google internals about his job. The woman from the human resources department seemed then to be distracted and she muttered “excellent, excellent”. Her steel blue eyes stuck to the display of her Thinkpad. At home again, I saw on the basis of the IP address that she had surfed my blog during the interview. At the same time somebody was on my website with the IP address 213.61.101.1 and with Internet Explorer 6 on Windows NT 5.1 (also called Windows XP). There is a program called “whois” for UNIX, which can help you to find out who owns an IP address. The command “whois 213.61.101.1” in the command line shows that Google Ireland Limited is behind this IP.

Finally the two Googlers asked the same questions which are always asked during interviews for jobs in German companies. It seems that staff managers were taught the same questions all over the world: “What will you do when you have problems with a co-worker or if you see that he or she is not motivated enough?” Well, the answer is easy: “I will invite him for a cup of coffee and I will ask directly, what’s up?” After that the unavoidable question to one’s experiences will follow: “Have you ever had such problems? Please give an example.” Also they did ask me if I had an eye for details and if I could give an example. Sure, I had spotted a mistake on Google’s German website. They did not want to know what kind of mistake I had found and so it is still there. The best question of all is a trick question: “Where do you see yourself in three years?” An adequate answer would be that in three years you hope you will have watched all episodes of Star Wars in the correct chronological order including the Clone War animation. The preferred answer of course is that you hope you will still be working in an amazing job and that in three years your employer would be still Google. Fortunately they did not ask questions like “where do you see your strengths, where your weaknesses”. As I said before the atmosphere of the interview was relatively nice but I was under pressure. The whole interview was in English and I have little practice in having long conversations in it. When the interview came to an end I had problems pronouncing the “te aitsh” correctly. Finally we briefly talked about the further procedure. I should talk to two other people and after that my application would be sent to Google in Mountain View, California, where it would come to a decision about my potential employment.

There is no light at the end of the flagpole

Well, it never came to further interviews. I do not know the reason. Maybe I was not enthusiastic enough at the interview, or I failed to prove my skills and abilities, or my English was too bad, or maybe because I am a blogger, or maybe it was something completely different. I do not know. I have never heard from Google again. A week after my interview I sent an email to Patrick and I asked him, if he did hear something new. He answered that he did not either, but he would send me a message if he would. Then the contact broke up. I do not know if this kind of behavior in application processes is normal in English speaking countries.

Nevertheless, I think it is a pity that Google cannot give someone a negative reply in a proper way. Google ranks itself among the best employers of the world and they want to be the best in customer care. I had invested time, money for a ticket, and I had to take a day off from my job to go to the interview, but Google had no need to give me a personal reply. In order to show you a positive example: I applied to a German company named Mobilcom. They invited me to an interview and because it had went well I had a second one. After this the young female staff member from the human resources department gave me a call to tell me that I would not get the job and she told me the reasons for their decision. She explained explicitly what was good and what was bad in the interview and how I could do it better in the future. Despite the negative reply this application was really a positive experience. I cannot say this about Google. Google sets very much value on customer’s satisfaction and they present themselves as world’s best employers. I am Google’s customer. Furthermore I am able to cope with bad news, at best on the phone in a personal talk. This would be the right way to get high customer’s satisfaction with applicants they cannot offer a job. It is also possible to send an email or a letter, but both should be without ready-made phrases and text modules. To give no feedback is a no-go and it casts a poor light on Google.

Endnotes

1 Unless you ask the people of google-watch.org. Probably they would say yes, there are some good reasons why you should not do this.

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