There's the woman who designed her cover letter like the Google's ad materials (she got an interview, no job). There's the man who created an entire website to land a job there (he got an interview, no job). Forums are filled with frustrated applicants to Google, with Ph.D.s and decades of experience, who did the dance for months, only to get a "no thank you" message in their inbox.
Tales of "world-shaking innovation" and "free sushi" lure a million applicants a year, but only 0.5 percent of them make it through Google's mystical gate. Some applicants have had multiple interviews, only to be told that they'll be contacted when a job becomes available -- sitting for months on the waitlist for the hippest party in town.
It's a party with golden goody bags: Software engineer interns at Google can earn between $5,000 and $8,800 a month, according to Glassdoor.com, and those engineers who go on to become employees can earn as much as $250,000 yearly. Even less-technical jobs, like those of account manager and AdWords associate, are handsomely compensated ($68,000 and $53,000 a year, respectively).
To find your in, Google hopefuls should scan their alumni networks for current employees or try to hunt down recruiters on LinkedIn -- the personal touch never hurts when a company receives thousands of applicants a day. And Google has a soft spot for the unconventional resume and cover letter, if it's done well. Just don't make it "too big, too bulky and too boring," advises Gayle McDowell, a former Google recruiter and author of "The Google Resume."
The process usually involves two phone interviews, followed by one or more interviews on-site -- although sometimes applicants go through five or six rounds of grilling. In the earlier stages applicants are lobbed Google's notorious brainteasers, like "How many cows are there in Canada?" or "How many tears are shed between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. in the Southwestern United States?"
Fearlessness is the key to these questions, according to McDowell. There's no point stuttering and squinting and squeezing your brain for the right answer -- there isn't one. Applicants should just open their mouths and start talking through a reasonable way of solving the puzzle.
Yes, Google has a predilection for Ivy Leaguers, and a stellar grade point average will give you a bump. But McDowell emphasizes that Google just wants to know that you're smart and hardworking, and a lofty GPA is just one way to prove that. Another former recruiter, writing on Indeed.com, says that applicants from top tier schools need at least a 3.0, and from less well-known institutions, grades that are a notch higher.
"It is frustrating to find the 'perfect' candidate," the former Googler writes, "only to be told by the hiring manager to not even bring the person in to interview because a 3.2 from San Jose State is not hireable."
Depending on the position you're vying for, you may receive a writing and logic test, or be asked to scribble up some code in a Google doc or on a whiteboard, so your interviewers can watch the way that your brain cogs turn. And unless you're a wunderkind software engineer, ushered into the fold on a unicorn-led chariot, you also need to prove your "Googliness" -- an intricate combination of quirkiness, passion, ambition, wacky creativity, and obsession with Google.
Interviewers will often ask applicants to give examples of a time they led a team or influenced people, according to McDowell. "I led through fear and threats of violence" and "I influenced my team by running to upper management" are not Googly answers.
Not all Google employees wax romantic about their time there. There's the ex-Google engineer who slammed the company on Microsoft's blog, and it's evolution from an "innovation factory" to "an advertising company" fixated on competing with Facebook. And there's the former contractor who was traumatized after a year of watching the most heinous, illegal smut on Google products, only to be given one free therapy session and shown the door.
But your average Google employee is very happy, and getting happier. Employee satisfaction there in fact leapt up by over a third last year, according to CareerBliss, more than at any other U.S. company. This may be partly due to a generous new death benefit -- paying 50 percent of the deceased employee's salary to the spouse for a decade -- and changing it's maternity leave from three months partial pay to five months full pay.
They say the acceptance rate at Harvard is so impossibly small that scores of qualified applicants won't make it out of sheer bad luck. The same could be said of Google -- except the company's acceptance rate is nine times smaller.
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