Computer Science University

What I Learnt From My Application to Google

If you are aiming high career wise, for example Google, you will need more than academic prowess to net the job.  For example, In Brown et al., we read a quote from one human resources manager:

Academic qualifications are the first tick in the box and then we move on. Today we simply take them for granted. [1]

Over the last 3 months, I have been closely involved with a number of Google events, including a mentoring program and an internship program.  In this blog post, I am going to talk about what I learnt from the experience that may help when trying to get a tick in those other ‘boxes’ at Google.

The first thing on the ‘Life at Google’ page that they look for in a potential employee is Leadership skills.  Most interestingly though, they are as interested in how you lead as how you can “[help] a team succeed when you weren’t officially appointed as the leader” [2].  What are they looking for then?  Todd Carlisle, Staffing Director for Google’s Business Teams, explains, saying that:

You have to want to take them out to lunch after the interview. It’s important to hire leaders who play well with others, so ask about their experiences working on a team. Their bragging that they convinced everyone else that they were right or taking credit for everything are big red flags. [3]

When I was going through the application process, the piece of advice I was given many-a-time was “take part in Open-Source projects”, and I can see from the above why it’s so relevant.

So, they are not looking for leaders so much as collaborators.  What about academic skills then?  Are their requirements more traditional for this area?  Well, perhaps more so, but again to quote their website, Google are “less concerned about grades and transcripts and more interested in how you think.” [2]

Carlisle again explains that he looks for trajectory rather than results in academic achievement:

“I look for a trajectory in background stories, … because that’s a far better indicator of focus, intelligence and experience than what you can glean from a résumé. For instance, an Ivy League alum with a high GPA is great, but even better is the person who was the first in the family to go to college and did well while working an extra job.” [3]

Google say the ideal candidate will display ‘Googleyness’, but what on earth is that?  On their website, they say they will “be looking for signs around your comfort with ambiguity, your bias to action.” [2].  I think it is more than this though – employees go on trips with each other (for example, three days to Disneyland and hiking expeditions) and have very different facilities in their offices (for example, slides, climbing walls and vegetable gardens).  What does this mean for us?  Take part in some active societies and try something really different, the chances are your personality will start to resemble something a little more ‘Googley’.

After going through the application process and researching this piece, the following is what I think you need to do to get a job at Google (or any other similar high-end tech company):

  1. Show your leadership skills in a way that also shows your passion about Computer Science.  The best way of doing this is to take part in Open-Source projects.
  2. Strive for the best.  Whatever your background, Google want to see you doing more than would be expected of you.  Challenge yourself to work on a difficult project.
  3. Do something ‘quirky’, whether an unusual sport or hobby, that will get a Recruiter interested.  Remember, Google Recruiters process hundreds of CV’s daily and you need to stand out.



A Hesketh, S Williams P Brown, “Employability in a knowledge-driven economy,” Journal of Education and Work, pp. 107-126, 2003.


Google Inc. Google Jobs. [Online].


Jennifer Wang. (2011, January) [Online].

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