Getting a Job at Google

Google NY Office

Google NY Office

Earlier this month, New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman switched from writing about globalization and international politics to a topic much closer to many a reader’s heart: how to get a job.

Friedman’s interview subject for his column was Laszlo Bock, who serves as SVP of “people operations” at Google—he’s the one ultimately in charge of hiring. And according to Bock, snagging a job at the search-engine giant involves a combination of grit, cognitive ability, adaptability, and creativity.

From college students and freshly minted graduates, Bock wants to see an academic record that indicates “a rigor in your thinking and a more challenging course load.” Taking an easier course in order to score a higher grade is a “mistake,” he told Friedman, suggesting that it was better for a student to score a B in computer science than an A+ in something less challenging.

Google also wants employees who can learn and solve problems: “I’m not saying you have to be some terrific coder… but to just understand how [these] things work you have to be able to think in a formal and logical and structured way.” Throw in a dash of creativity (particularly when it comes to problem-solving), and an applicant is much likelier to advance in the interview process.

Friedman wasn’t just concerned about what it takes to get an engineering gig at Google; his readers (especially concerned parents) have asked him endlessly about the best ways for new graduates to score a job—any job.

So Friedman pressed Bock to offer some general advice to those polishing a resume or online profile. The key, Bock said, “is to frame your strengths as: ‘I accomplished X, relative to Y, by doing Z.’” In other words, rather than simply stating where you’ve worked (“Developer for a small mobile-apps company”), framing previous employment as an accomplishment (“Created three apps that drove majority of company’s revenue”) is a better way to get noticed by potential employers.

With regard to job interviews, Bock recommends the use of stories to better illustrate skills: “What you want to do is say: ‘Here’s the attribute I’m going to demonstrate; here’s the story demonstrating it; here’s how that story demonstrated that attribute.’ And here is how it can create value.” One of the biggest problems with the interview process, he added, is that most interviewees neglect to talk about their thought process in a way the interviewer finds compelling.

Whether or not you’d ever want to work for Google, those last bits of advice could prove useful for anyone seeking a job in a hyper-competitive market.

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