How to Land an Interview for a Software Engineer Position at Google?

Google is one of the most valued companies in the world and is well-known for the perks they offer their employees. They pay some of the highest salaries in the tech industry. As a result Google receives more than two million resumes, but hires only around 4 000 employees every year.

With these kind of numbers it is hard to imagine the actual size of the company, but it is even more fascinating how the company recruits and keeps its most talented employees motivated over the years.

Considering the fact that of the 72 053 full-time employees (source: annual report), more than 40 000 work in development and operations, it is clear that the most important Googlers are the engineers and technicians.

So, how does Google search, screen, aggregate, and recruit the most talented professionals in the world?

What is a Googler?

The hiring process is designed to hire only the exceptional programmers.

That’s why competitive programming is never part of the criteria when making a decision.

A thorough person is not competing with a particular skill, but rather a whole skill list that includes communication, technical abilities, interesting qualities, taking risks, intellect, working carefully, being client-oriented, and most important, displaying a curiosity for technologies. 

Being able to read large amounts of code, even for sales and marketing employees, is important. Being able to think about customer value when you are an engineer is beneficial.

Deep and broad knowledge of technologies is crucial. Any employee needs to have a huge understanding of the core algorithms and data structures of computer science. So, if you have competitive programming skills, it is not enough.

However, Google more than anything values people with practical experience and an entrepreneurial spirit, people who have faced chaos while growing a startup. This kind of experience lets people enter the TL5 and upper levels, instead of the standard L3 or L4.

Google Levels

Not many people leave a company, but plenty of people move between teams and projects so that they do not get bored and get trapped by routine. If you are performing at the next level, you will get promoted. 

Levels At Google:

L0: Member of technical staff

L1: Data Center Technician I (the entry-level role)

L2: Does not exist any longer since Software Engineer I was canceled in round about 2008.

L3: Software Engineer II

L4: Software Engineer III

TL5: Senior Engineer

TL6: Staff Engineer

TL7: Senior Staff Engineer

TL8: Principal Engineer

TL9: Distinguished Engineer

TL10: Google Fellow

TL11: Senior Google Fellow (added in 2013)

Almost every new hire receives a temporary “Member of technical staff” title until a level is assigned in nine months (it depends on the performance).

Most developers then start at L3 as the software engineers and it takes a year or two to go to L4, where you team up with other L3 and L4 employees for one assigned project. On average it then takes about 2-3 years to progress to the next level. 

Of course, you might be promoted after a single quarter or you could spend many years at the same level.

Above the L3 and L4 levels are TLs (Tech Leads) who run one or more teams of engineers. They spend less of their time writing code and more on business and project development. In other words, they manage other software engineers.

According to Bruce R. Miller, an engineer at Google:

“If you have been at Google a long time and you are not T5, then Google is going to start asking why you are not reaching the level where you independently handle your own projects. After you reach T5, you are not expected to move on, though you have plenty of opportunity to do so. Also, going beyond T5 takes significant effort, leadership skills and many successful project experience.”

There are almost a dozen levels in Google, but even so the company hires more than 4 000 of the most talented engineers in the word each year and almost all of them start working at the first levels.

How to Get Noticed by Google

In the past, Google used such job boards as Monster and Glassdoor but stopped to use them because too many users were sending out generic job applications.

Now Google has its own career platform and the department spends most of its time searching for active workers. Hiring Managers use many tools like LinkedIn, Google+, alumni databases, and professional associations to discover talent.

According to Kostadis Roussos, a Principal Engineer who has 18 years of hiring experience at Google:

“We spend more time scouring GitHub for people to hire than we do scouring lists of winners of competitive programming. If you want to add value to your resume, go build something on GitHub.”

So, if you really want to get noticed, spend your time coding on open-source projects because that’s the most relevant working experience you would also have at Google.

Spend your time coding, impress them by your achievements and you will be called for an interview, just like Jessica Su who spent 600 hours on algorithms before being noticed by a big company.

Also, you can participate in an annual algorithmic competition, Google Code Jam. GCJ is a not-so-hard way to get noticed by Google and you don’t need to be the finalist (there are 42 contestants). For example, if you reach Round 2 (around 3 000 contestants), you might be contacted by Google.

The best way to practice for Google Code Jam is by solving old problems on websites like TopCoder, Codeforces, or HackerRank. There are some interesting cases where engineers get in touch with Google just by searching for how to solve these problems.

Another way to impress Google recruiters is to have done fascinating work at another tech company — which could be either a startup or a big tech organization. If results are impressive, you can be invited to work straight at the TL5 level instead of L3.

Besides the coding, there are other active ways to get noticed. To let the world know what you’ve done, you should publish articles. Do anything to advertise your best skills and experiences.

Finally, instead of waiting for a call, do what marketing, sales and administrative job-hunters do – go to conferences and start networking.

Conferences are all about meetings. So, prepare a list of who you want to target. Google employees often speak at conferences, and they’re very approachable. Chat with them after their talk and impress them with your top achievements and professional attitude.

There is no better way to get into a company than to be recommended. So, becoming friends with a current Google employee is one of the many approved strategies.

Resume

Google is one of the most competitive and technically advanced companies in the world. They create a working environment and many other employee benefits that are above the standard. By working in such a company, employees increase not only their professional value but their experience as well.

More than two million people around the world are trying to get a job at Google every year and that shows that even the biggest corporations can be great and employee-friendly. Not to mention about all the extraordinary and the most talented co-workers who will surround you every single day.

So, work hard, share your knowledge with open source communities, build a great resume, and one day you will get that personal call for an interview.

Written By
Azuolas Oak Lomonosovas works at smart resume builder Wozber. Besides that, he is interested in science, business logic, and arts. You can connect with him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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