Things in the past that don’t go away – my job interviews with Google

Talking with friends last evening over a late supper the subject of jobs and interesting companies to work for came up. In the last few years I have only applied for a few jobs, my non-profit being one. Google and Friends of the Earth were others, I was over-qualified for the FOE position but I really liked the organisation.

Google was a different matter, I like Google, not really because of their business success as you might imagine, instead for their philosophy, I particularly like the equity they give to small business and non-profits through search marketing as well as products like docs and speadsheets and the Google mini (remind me to post my PHP script for parsing Google mini XML). Anyway, I have not really been hands-on in IT for some years, actually I have never been a real techie, so I am very poor on IT detail. I have been told often that my strengths are problem solving, working in teams, and making use of whatever is it hand. So many people told me not to bother with Google, they would not want my broad but not ultra deep knowledge.

I found a role at google that described working with partner organistions to help them make best use of Google various services. As I have quite a bit of confidence about discussing technology and I have quite a bit of experience working with partners to make technology work for them, it seemed a good fit. And indeed when I started to interview with Google it seemed that my fears about the role being too technical were unfounded. I had telephone interviews with a couple of nice engineers, granted that they were absolutely interested in my technical knowledge, which was very rusty! Still , the interviews went ok and I subsequently spent the day at Google where I met quite a few people working in the Partner Services Group. They were all very different, and I think defied the sterotypes so often described.

They asked tough questions about business and technology, and again on the technical side I was quite rusty but did slowly start to shake it off. I really enjoyed meeting those people, they had a lot of energy and were very warm. A few weeks later I received contact from google that all went well and I felt quite happy about it, I spoke with my family and close friends and they agreed that perhaps I had been right and Google would be a good fit for me. I was asked for my references, now I am very cautious about such things, my friends are quite serious people, they mainly work in Petrochemicals, where I have spent my lions share of commercial working time (another story!), they are under a great deal of stress so I do not ask for things unless it is important but I went ahead and they duely wrote the refs. Then Google decided that I had not spoken with one of their hiring managers, and apologised perfusely but asked me to come back in, this was quite a few weeks later.

This was one of the worst interviews I have ever had, it was a strange day for me, I did not eat before the meeting at lunchtime, which is never a good thing for me, and the person I met was unsure about. We had briefly met on my previous visit and I wish we had longer to speak that first day. It was made pretty clear to me that they had not decided which position in the organisation would suit me. Eventually he decided to ask me some technical questions, gosh they did take me back, for example, asking how I would update dates in an apache log file, or if I had ever installed apache, well I mentioned a few tools I remembered using awk and grep (which of course is for finding rather than replacing), I did not mention sed which was of course a mistake, and said that I had installed apache once! And then he asked me to divide a million by a thousand, and my brain went into outer space and I said I could not do it (perhaps not the hardest sum in the world!!) He also asked a business question about a partnership negotiation, and I failed to grasp his point, he asked the question in a very terse way and did not want to work through the scenario together, frankly his approach did not suit me. it seemed that had a completely different set of requirements than all of the other people I had met.  Slowly all the trust I had placed in everyone’s claims that the job was not going to be primarily techie was disappearing, maybe my friends had been right all along.

Gosh, I was so demoralised by his questions that I pretty much wanted to leave there and then. He asked me almost nothing about myself, or my motivation (which on my previous visit, they had). I had been prepared to refresh my use of those technical tools to work with so many good people., I had been prepared to put aside my responsibility to work in their team. I had been prepared to do whatever was required. But instead I was made to feel really worthless, my two experiences in those two days could not have been more different. To this day I look back at that as a wasted opportunity and one that left me feeling pretty upset.

It was a long time ago now, but I really hope that other people have had better experiences with their searches for good groups of people to work with.


One Response to “Things in the past that don’t go away – my job interviews with Google”

  1. Laura Says:

    Hi there –

    I’m working on a similar Google Mini project and am interested in your php solution. Will you post your script? Or feel free to contact me. (I’m assuming, of course, you have access to the email I had to enter to post this.)

    thanks so much,

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