How To Work For Google: An Interview With a Current Employee
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Landing a job at one of the largest tech giants in the world is a dream come true for many aspiring college graduates.
According to Payscale, the average Google, Inc. salary is $115,000 per year (that’s an average hourly rate of $34.91).
Not only does it pay very well, but Googlers get to work in a productive and innovative environment where they are surrounded by some of the brightest minds from all over the world.
With such a large variety of opportunities and benefits, who wouldn’t want to work for Google?
As of 2018, Google had approximately 98,000 employees and generated roughly 136 billion dollars.
Google receives about 2 million job applications every single year, and only 1 in 130 applicants make it to the final interview.
But a majority of these applicants still don’t know what it takes to get hired by Google.
So how can you set yourself apart from other applicants?
To provide you with valuable insight, Mayra asked her friend Matt Goodrich to share his story with our Smart-Noodle community and walk us through his journey to becoming a Googler.
So for those of you who have a burning desire to work for Google, stay tuned because you have come to the right place.
Find out how you can improve your chances of working for Google by understanding what it takes to get there and how you can stand out among other candidates.
*Thank you once again for taking your time answering all of our questions, Matt! 🙂 We’re sure a lot of our subscribers who are interested in working for Google will appreciate your honesty and valuable insight. We wish you the best in all your future endeavors.*
Okay, let’s dive into the interview questions:
1) Tell us a little bit about yourself: who you are, where you grew up, where you went to college, what you studied/got your degree in, a fun fact, etc.
Hi, I’m Matt! I grew up in Colorado and went to Cal Poly, SLO for Computer Science. A fun fact is I just earned my private helicopter pilot’s license.
2) What is your current position at Google?
I’m a Software Engineer on Platform UIs within Payments in Boulder, Colorado. I work full-stack building web apps and tools for mostly internal employees to manage financial operations. For example, two tools I own are for viewing billing information and summarizing customers. Previously, I worked on credit and collections.
3) Was working for Google a dream job or goal for you?
In my junior year of high school I was playing a game called Minecraft with one of my friends. Minecraft lets you set up and run a server on your computer, which you can then join to play with friends.
I set one up for us to use, which didn’t require any programming.
However, servers allowed adding plugins of code, which would change the behavior of the server, such as making an in-game economy.
I began by using public plugins written by other developers. There were also websites where you could list your server.
After lots of customization with plugins, I randomly listed our server on these websites. People joined and began to stick around.
By the time the server reached about 25 concurrent players online, my computer would run out of memory and the server would crash. Also, this required my personal computer to be running (and hot) all the time.
I purchased cloud hosting to run the server in a remote data center, but it was expensive.
In order to help pay for these expenses, I used existing plugins to create a store and allow players to “donate” real money in return for virtual items.
Players began to buy virtual items, which was super exciting.
I really wanted to add an item where the player would receive a random item. We called these “mystery boxes”.
I reached out to a developer who taught me how to write this code. Mystery boxes didn’t exist on any other servers and we sold a ton. This was my first taste of programming.
At about this time, I signed up for AP Computer Science. I referenced the mystery box and used skills from this class to write various other plugins exclusively for our server.
It became one of the most popular servers of its kind with over 300k unique players.
Through the store I earned enough money to pay for a couple years of college.
This showed me the magic of computers. I could think of anything and make it come true, such as setting up cities on the server where people could buy land only they could edit.
There was minimal overhead, unlimited supply, and high demand, so nearly 100% profit. On accident I found what it felt like to be an entrepreneur.
I chose to study computer science in college. I worked on side-projects through college, such as making mobile apps. They were my opportunity to freely build ideas similar to the Minecraft server.
Throughout college I also worked as a Junior Software Developer at Amazon in SLO, which taught me how to write professional code. I interviewed with Google for an internship one summer, but wasn’t given the position.
A year later Google asked if I wanted to interview for a full time job, which I ended up receiving.
Working at Google wasn’t a dream job or goal for me until I began interviewing for the full-time position, but I knew I wanted to pursue a software engineering opportunity from around the time I started college.
4) How did you go about applying to work there? Did you have any help/guidance?
Their recruiters contacted me to interview, since I had shown interest by interviewing for an internship the year before.
I didn’t know anyone working at Google, but I read a few books about software interviews in the week leading up to the interviews.
(This is one of them: Programming Interviews Exposed)
Another strategy I used was writing a ton of code in the week before the interviews, even if it wasn’t code I needed.
And I actually printed Javadocs / APIs and highlighted them on the plane to the onsite interviews, which definitely helped.
5) How tough were the interview questions and process overall? Is there anything specific you did to prepare?
The questions were very challenging, but I felt prepared through my degree, the internship with Amazon, the books I read about interviews, and all of the extra coding through side-projects.
Here’s a few sources with good examples of questions:
6) What did you do when you first found out Google offered you a letter of employment?
I called my parents and shared the good news with them. 🙂 Then I quickly accepted before Google changed their mind.
7) Can you walk us through what the hiring process was like for you?
If I remember correctly, there was an online test, a phone interview, and five on-site interviews. They flew me from California to Boulder for the on-site interviews, which were all in one day.
8) In your opinion, what factors do you think separated you from other candidates in landing a job with Google?
I think the programming skills I gained through my degree, my job at Amazon, and my experience working on side-projects separated me from other candidates. Also, I was excited to be there, professional, and confident.
9) Are there any extracurricular activities or organizations you were part of in college that you think helped you prepare for this position?
In college I participated in hackathons, where a large group of people would meet for a weekend and break into small teams.
The teams would be given a prompt and think of tech ideas, such as apps or websites, and build prototypes and presentations of their ideas.
At the end of the weekend, the teams would present their ideas to all of the other participants and judges.
There were usually really enticing prizes, like scholarships, which gave the participants extra motivation.
10) What exactly does Google look for when picking the right candidate?
From https://careers.google.com/how-we-hire/interview/#onsite-interviews, all candidates have the chance to show strength in general cognitive ability, leadership, role-related knowledge, and Googleyness.
Here’s a few more links for reference:
11) What has your experience been like working for Google? How would you describe the company culture and overall atmosphere?
I’ve really enjoyed working at Google over the past two and a half years. There is a surprising amount of trust, such as how I’ve already been able to conduct interviews and design relatively large projects.
There are also accessible ways to be creative. For example, I work on a 20% project with the Google Drive team, even though my primary team is Payments.
I like the amount of impact my work can have on our large number of users.
The atmosphere is a nice mix of serious work and fun. We have weekly office-wide get-togethers and other enjoyable team events.
12) Can you walk us through what a day’s work at Google is like for you?
As a Software Engineer, most of my day is spent writing code. When I’m coding, I usually listen to music, since it helps me focus. I sit near teammates and often solve technical issues through verbal discussion.
I use chat frequently to interact with Googlers in other offices. I’ll have a few meetings per day, which include routine project updates, meetings with stakeholders, and meetings with larger scope for the organization.
We have a cafe in my office with free food for employees, so I eat breakfast and lunch each day at the office. My team gets lunch together. We also have a gym, so I’ll often end my day with some exercise.
13) What benefits does Google offer their employees, and which one is your favorite?
Google offers lots of amazing benefits to its employees beyond the base salary. I mentioned the cafe and gym above, which are two of my favorites, since they make my daily routine much more efficient.
But there are other monetary perks like regular bonuses, vested stock, insurance, and 401(k).
We also have other benefits, which are described here:
14) Any tips you’d like to offer college students (in regards to what skills they should focus on developing to prepare for the workforce)?
These are my tips for somebody studying Computer Science. It could be different in other fields.
I’d recommend finding a balance between studies for your degree, side-projects, professional work, and extracurricular activities.
Your degree is important for learning the content and not scaring your future potential employers. I honestly can’t remember my GPA.
In my opinion much of the value of college is outside of classes, such as the people you meet and the opportunities that become available.
Side-projects should be something you enjoy so much that it’s hard to stop. They’re a great way to be creative, learn new skills, meet new people, and improve the lives of others.
I strongly recommend finding teammates, especially ones with complementary skill sets.
For example, I enjoyed writing the code for an app, which my friend designed as a UX designer. I still work on side-projects now, even though I have a full-time job, since they’re so fun and I learn so much.
Professional experience is important. For example, through my job in college at Amazon, I learned how to write readable code. I also learned how to work with a huge codebase.
These skills would be difficult to learn (but not impossible) without an internship or similar role.
Extracurricular activities can be valuable. Here (and with side-projects) I’d emphasize choosing activities you enjoy, especially if they help others.
Don’t join a club just to improve your resume.
Good employers (or at least companies I’d want to work for) will care more about what you learned from the activities or clubs than what’s listed on your resume.
15) If you could give some advice to your freshman self (or other students reading this) what would those words be?
Classes will sometimes seem irrelevant to your career, but eventually they’ll pay off.
At times you may want to give up, but it will be over before you know it. Persevering is good practice for challenges later in life.
Focus on learning, since your grades are just a numeric result.
Work on lots of side-projects, since you’ll grow significantly (skills, friends, happiness, memories, sometimes money).
Quickly try new things, but start by just dipping your toes. analyze your progress along the way.
Take risks, but make sure they’re calculated and you can afford the worst possible outcomes. Balance is important everywhere.
Make lots of friends, but let them come naturally. Understand there’s only so much time in a day. Say “no” can be hard, but it often improves your situation.
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We hope you enjoyed reading this article and that Matt’s experiences provided you with insight on how to become a desirable candidate if you apply for a position at Google.
You probably caught this already, but Matt had a TON of relevant experience throughout college.
Not only did he work on side-projects he was passionate about, but because of his drive and work ethic, he also landed an opportunity to work at Amazon prior to Google.
Aside from relevant work experience through internships, volunteering, and projects, you should also keep in mind that it’s important to know the right people.
Get out of your comfort zone. Attend career fairs and networking events. But don’t just network to accept business cards that collect dust.
Take that extra step to build meaningful relationships and connections. Then write down everything you can remember about the person on their business card.
And make sure to reach out a few days later, such as connecting on LinkedIn with a personal message or sending an email.
We are always interested in your feedback:
What information from the interview resonated with you?
Is there something else you would like to know about working at Google? Or are there other companies you would like us to write about?
Share your experiences and thoughts with us below!
Yo! We are Marcos & Mayra
We help college students and millennials with ways to save & make money, eliminate debt, scholarship advice, resume & interview tips, and to achieve financial freedom to help you
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