Wednesday, December 19, 2012

How to Get an Internship at Google

Getting an internship at Google would certainly be a bright career stepping stone for any student. Not only would you perhaps build a doorway towards a long-term, full-time career with the search engine giant but you’d also have an impressive position on your resume that would help you land positions at many other companies.
You might imagine getting a Google internship is a competitive process with lots of steps. But once an understanding of its recruitment and hiring process is made, getting into Google as an employer would not be seem as an impossible undertakings.

Read the Directions Carefully

The hiring process for Google internships can be found the company’s official students/internship website, and the instructions are quite extensive. You’re being evaluated on your ability to follow instructions and think creatively from the moment you turn in your resume or CV. These guidelines are extremely specific on every count, and if you don’t follow them to the letter you’ll kill your chances before you begin.
For example, Google wants to you to report on every job you’ve ever held whether you think it relates to the Google position you’re applying for or not. For each position you are expected to offer a bulleted list of “concise, key accomplishments” as well as a description of “the impact your efforts had on your company.”
Here’s where the creativity comes in: trying to describe your “impact” at your summer McDonald’s job might be something of a challenge. You might have to think about how you stacked up to key metrics and find ways to phrase mediocre experiences in ways that read in impressive ways. Perhaps you didn’t just make burgers and fries. Perhaps you “routinely beat the clock to provide hot, quality food that exceeded customer delivery expectations, ensuring that our location became a preferred McDonalds store in our local area.” It may seem silly, but it’s all part of the game.

Be Prepared for Skills Tests

Every internship that Google offers has specific duties, just like a regular job. You’ll be working with a specific team. These positions aren’t just technical in nature, though many are. As you read each internship description try to get a handle on the specific skills that the interviewing team may be looking for. Work hard to practice those skills. Brush up on them. Read about them. If you’re looking for a sales internship read up on your Tom Hopkins and Jeffrey Gitomer. If you’re looking for a programming internship brush up on your algorithms and practice coding on a whiteboard.
Your very next interviews will be phone interviews where your skills will be tested, because Google’s hiring process is heavily slanted towards weeding out the unskilled. If you fumble the ball here you’re not going to get hired. When and if you finally get an in-person interview you’ll again be asked to demonstrate your skills. You’ll have to defend your skills even more often then you’ll need to defend your behavior, personality, or qualifications.
Study! If you’re applying based on skills you learned in one of your college courses three years ago make sure you brush up before you begin. If you’d like an example of how the skills tests might work you might try referencing Evan Carmi’s article, How I (Almost) Got an Internship at Google, which details the questions he was asked on his phone interview. While every interview will be different his article offers a clear demonstration of Google’s emphasis on really “knowing your stuff.”
In fact, it might even be a good idea to have a friend or professor in your field try to conduct some test interviews for you so that you get used to demonstrating your skills “on the spot.”

Know What Google Values

Google values creativity and initiative, and you should know this as you’re going in. They don’t just want to see you solve a problem: they want to see your process. It’s not a bad idea to ask your interviewer qualifying and clarifying questions about the problems they want you to solve so that you can ensure that you fully understand what you’re doing before you begin. You don’t have to wait for them to give you specific instructions to show your stuff, either.
Google insider Steve Yegge mentioned putting an algorithm on a whiteboard as one specific example, noting that the interviewer might expect you to pick up a pen without ever telling you, specifically, that you are expected to put the problem on the white board. You’d simply do it as part of demonstrating your commitment to getting the job done right. He even mentioned that it’s okay to ask for hints or input if you’re stuck. It seems counter-intuitive, but you should stop and think about it: that is, after all, what any employee would do in the real world. You wouldn’t just stand there struggling, you’d do whatever it takes to get the job done! You can read Yegge’s excellent articlehere, though be aware that it’s heavily slanted towards IT professionals.

Be Patient and Persistent

If you really want an internship at Google you’ll need to be both patient and persistent. You’ll need the patience because even if you pass through the entire interview process successfully you still have to be matched to a work group, a process that takes 1-4 months. You’ll need to be persistent because it’s not uncommon to be rejected the first time you try.
Google’s process is heavily slanted towards what is called “false negatives.” That is, it tries to catch people who are unskilled but sometimes, as a result, overlooks people who are highly skilled. Google is actually well aware of this problem so they wipe your slate clean the next time you apply. If you give it six to twelve months and come back again you may find you land that plum internship the next time. Don’t think that failing to land the internship the first time means that Google recruiters never want to hear from you again. In fact, your chances might actually be better the second or third time around.