Work for Google: 4 Steps to Landing a Job

google office

By now, everyone is aware of all the cool stuff Google gives its employees. Free food, financial bonuses for new parents, on-site gyms, massages, haircuts and vehicle mechanics; the list could go on. They’ll even pay half your salary to your spouse for 10 years should you die while in their employment. Simply put, landing a job at Google can be a pretty sweet gig.

Of course, the downside to this is that every man and his dog (quite literally – pets are welcome in Google’s offices) want a piece of the pie. Getting your foot in the door at a company consistently voted the best company to work for in the world is no easy feat.

But it’s not impossible either. Although the company themselves put the odds of getting hired at around 400/1, Google’s recruiting process is relatively streamlined, and they’re pretty clear about what they’re looking for in potential “Nooglers” (new hires to you and me). So read on, and find out how to get a job at Google…

1. Ask Yourself if You are a Good Fit

Before you decide on any career, you should research the company you are applying to thoroughly. For example, even though the perks are great and the work is interesting, Google has a very unique workplace culture that isn’t necessarily for everyone. The company places great emphasis on any new employees fitting into this philosophy; more so, in fact, than they do on your grades or overall education.

Laszlo Bock, the company’s senior vice president of people operations, has made it repeatedly clear that there are four key areas of a potential hire’s personality that Google are interested in. They are as follows (in order of importance, according to Bock):

General Cognitive Ability

If you are applying for a technical role, then obviously you will need to possess certain technical skills such as coding – and this will be assessed. But for every role, the company is interested more in your ability to learn (and ideally learn quickly). “It’s not IQ,” says Bock. “It’s the ability to process on the fly, and pull together disparate bits of information”.

Emergent Leadership

Emergent leadership is different to traditional leadership. The company doesn’t care if you were “president of the chess club or vice-president of sales”; they want to know that if there is a problem when you are working in a team, can you step forward and lead at the appropriate time?

They also want to know if you are willing to take a step back and let others lead too. “To be an effective leader in this environment,” he says, “you have to be willing to relinquish power”.

Cultural Fit

In the company’s jargon, this is referred to as ‘Googleyness’, which Bock defines broadly as intellectual humility. “You don’t have to be nice, or warm, or fuzzy,” he explains (although you do have to be fun). “You just have to be somebody who, when the facts say you’re wrong, can admit that”. The company believes the capacity to admit mistakes is an essential learning tool.

Expertise in the Job

Although it may sound surprising, this is the thing that Google care least about according to Bock. This is because the company are hesitant to employ people who are specialists in one area. To apply fresh thinking to a problem, Google believes you should have a more general background instead of relying the same solutions each time. “In technical roles, we assess expertise in computer science quite extensively,” he adds. “But even there, our bias is to hire those with a general understanding rather than specialised knowledge in one field”.

If these values match with yours, and you can demonstrate them throughout the recruitment process, then you should stand yourself in pretty good stead.

2. Explore Your Options

Make no mistake, Google is a large company. They currently employ 74,000 people around the world, and these numbers are increasing all the time as they expand into new businesses and technologies. As a result, there are a wide variety of roles available (around half of the company’s positions are technical). The company is split into the following departments:

  • Engineering & Technology
  • Sales, Service and Support
  • Marketing and Communications
  • Design
  • Business Strategy
  • Finance
  • Legal
  • People
  • Facilities


Bock claims that previous education and qualifications are not as important in the hiring process as at other companies. “GPAs and test scores are worthless as a criteria for hiring,” he asserts. “We found that they don’t predict anything”. Indeed, the New York Times noted that the proportion of people without any college education at Google has increased over time – as high as 14 per cent on some teams.

This is a bit of misnomer though, with essentially all non-intern technical roles requiring an undergraduate degree as the bare minimum; some non-technical roles may accept practical experience in place of university education.

Additionally, there may be certain role-relevant requirements that must be met (i.e. legal qualifications to work in certain legal roles).


Google has offices in all the major cities across most of the world, so you shouldn’t have to move too far (unless you want to of course – relocation packages are tailored to the individual). The company are known for their aesthetically striking work environments though – some of the more impressive offerings are the basketball and soccer courts in the middle of the Zurich office, the lush, jungle-like design of the Dublin office, or the huge rock climbing wall that dominates the Washington DC office.


There are two main entry points into the company: either as an entry-level or experienced hire, or through the company’s internship program. For freshers or those with no experience, it is recommended that you try an internship first. There are currently 7 technical and engineering programs available:

  • Software Engineering
  • Engineering Practicum
  • STEP (Summer Trainee Engineering Program)
  • User Experience
  • Associate Product Manager
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Hardware Engineering

As well as 5 business (non-technical) programs:

  • Business
  • MBA (you must already be enrolled on an MBA program)
  • BOLD (Sales, Marketing & People)
  • Legal
  • gCareer (aimed at those on a career break)

There are resources available on Google’s career site to aid with applications, including software engineering practice tools, a resume writing guide (as well as a brief guide on what questions to expect in your interview), and even a virtual careers fair where you can learn more about the roles on offer.

Additionally, Google run a wide number of events and programs aimed at all levels that can enhance your application, including summer schools and residencies in coding, advertising and other engineering skills. Many of these courses can be completed from home.

3. Submit Your Application

When you apply, ensure you pay particular attention to your resume and tailor it accordingly. Don’t just submit a general CV; align your skills, experience and achievements with the job you are applying for. Google pays particular attention to the following things:

  • Be specific about projects you’ve worked on or managed, and explain the outcomes and how success was measured.
  • If you’ve had a leadership role, expand on it. Talk about what the scope of your work was.
  • If you’re a recent graduate or a fresher, or don’t have a lot of work experience, talk about school-related projects that are relevant.
  • Keep it short and sweet (if additional information such as a portfolio is required, you will be told).

Once you have applied, a recruiter will get in touch with you if they think you could be a good match, and offer you an interview.

4. Ace the Interview

The interview process is split into two stages:

Phone / Hangout Interview

Generally, your first interview will be over the phone or via Google Hangouts. For non-technical roles, you can expect your interview to last between 30-45 minutes, with an emphasis on behavioural, hypothetical, or case-based questions that cover your role-related knowledge. Prepare for this interview as you would any other.

If you are applying for a software engineering role, the format is slightly different. Your interview will be slightly longer, and when answering coding related questions you’ll be expected to actually write around 20-30 lines of code in a Google Doc that will be shared with your interviewer (you are allowed to work in your strongest programming language). Additional questions will also cover data structures and algorithms.

Onsite Interview

If you are successful, you will be invited for a second interview, face to face. Google’s interviewing techniques were once the stuff of myth and legend; brainteasers about tennis balls in swimming pools or hypothetical self-epitaphs like “if you could be remembered for one sentence, what would it be?” But don’t panic. The company doesn’t do this anymore, as their research showed it was a poor indicator of an employee’s suitability.

Instead, brush up on the more traditional interview techniques. Google advises taking the following approach:

1. Anticipate

Most of the things you’ll be asked are standard interview questions – nothing zany or leftfield. Therefore, you can prepare a number of answers in advance. Practice answering the questions by yourself or with a friend.

2. Explain

The interviewers will want to understand your thought process and decision making, so clarify what is being asked of you and openly explain your thought process as you go. Many of the questions are deliberately open-ended; the interviewer wants to know how you engage with the problem and your primary method for solving it. Remember, there is no right or wrong answer necessarily, as long as you can justify why you are doing something.

3. Use Examples

If, for example, you are asked how you lead, don’t just say “I am a collaborative / decisive / authoritarian leader”. Back your statement up with an example or a story where you demonstrated this.

For technical and engineering roles, you will be quizzed on your technical knowledge too – specifically, the following topics:

  • Coding
  • Algorithms
  • Sorting
  • Data Structures
  • Mathematics
  • Graphs
  • Recursion

Decision Process

After you’ve interviewed, an independent hiring committee of current employees will review your overall application, taking into account every step of the process. This includes your interview feedback and scores, your resume, your references and any work samples or additional tasks you were asked to complete.

If this committee approves your application, their feedback is added and it is then submitted to a senior manager who provides one last layer of objectivity. If it’s a yes, the application is submitted for executive review and an offer will be made to you.

This process typically takes around 6 weeks but always remember – for any position, Google will be interviewing at least 100 other people simultaneously. If you’re not successful, you won’t be told why; Bock claims this is because people aren’t open to receiving feedback. “They’re not in a place where they can learn,” he claims, “because they really wanted the job”.

And that’s it! At this point it’s either a “congratulations, you’re hired”, or a “sorry, it didn’t work out”. Unsuccessful candidates are not prohibited from applying again in the future, so if you don’t get in then don’t worry; use your experience of the process and ensure that the next time you apply you’re an even better candidate. Although of course, if you followed the tips in this guide, then that shouldn’t happen…

Have you gone through this process? Let us know your experiences in the comments below…