Want to land a job at Google? A lot of people do.
The tech giant is a highly desirable workplace, with average salaries of more than $116,00 according to the compensation site PayScale, along with annual bonuses and signing bonuses in some cases.
Then there are the company's legendary perks, which included things like lavish food and free massages before the pandemic struck. More recently, Google gave its employees who work remotely $1,000 each to spend on their home offices.
No wonder the company regularly makes it onto lists of the best places to work--it's number 11 in Glassdoor's ranking this year. And the company is constantly filling both technical and non-technical jobs all across the United States and around the world.
What does it take to get hired at Google?
You need to be skilled at the job you're applying for, but that only counts for 25% of the company's hiring decision, according to Jose Pinero, a career coach who helps job seekers land jobs at Google and other tech giants.
Twenty-five percent is based on general cognitive ability--in other words, how smart you are--and another 25% is based on what they call "Googleyness," or whether your personality is a good fit for Google. A final 25% is based on an assessment of your leadership abilities, even if you're not applying for a managerial role.
But since many of the leadership traits Google looks for are the same as the Googleyness traits, Googleyness really accounts for a lot more than one-fourth of your score as a potential hire.
In a video at the Life at Google YouTube channel, Brinleigh Murphy-Reuter, a business recruiter at Google, describes Googleyness as "comfort with ambiguity, bias to action and a collaborative nature."
That's not a lot go go on, but fortunately Jeff H. Sipe, an interview coach at Practice Interviews and a former recruiter who spent five years hiring people for Google provides a lot more detail in a video of his own.
Sipe identifies 21 qualities that make up Googleyness, including positivity, humility, friendliness, playfulness, being a life-long learner, having a high EQ (emotional intelligence), courtesy, and valuing yourself and others.
So how do you display these desired traits during the interview process?
1. Be nice to everyone and stay positive.
Remember that all your interactions, including with cafeteria employees and receptionists (if the interview is on site), may be included in your evaluation.
So will your answers to questions that may seem like small talk, such as "How are you doing?" or "Did you have a good weekend?" Pinero says.
You will likely be faced with questions designed to elicit negativity, such as, "Tell me about a time you encountered a problem?" or "What do you dislike about having a manager?" he adds.
Don't take the bait--keep your answer upbeat.
"They are testing your Googleyness," he says. "Will you speak negatively about your former manager or blame other people?" Doing either will raise a red flag at a Google interview.
2. Highlight anything unusual about your career.
Google is looking for people who follow an unusual path, Sipe says, so left turns in your career that you might normally downplay can actually help you.
For example, did you quit a high-level job at a large company to launch a startup that failed? "Good!" he says. "That is a Googleyness item because Google will understand that first of all, you're not risk-averse, and secondly, you probably learned a ton."
You can also get Googleyness points if, for instance, you had to drop out of high school, but got your GED and then learned coding on your own.
3. Show comfort with ambiguity.
"Googleyness is really about embracing and finding joy in and appreciating the unknown," Sipe says in his video. "The interviews will challenge your ability to problem-solve with limited information."
With that in mind, he says, "It's going to really, really show up if you don't show frustration, if you continue to work through and problem-solve."
You can also display your comfort with ambiguity when the interview doesn't go as planned, for instance if you're moved from one conference room to another or if your video interview runs into technical difficulties, or if your interviewer is late.
"When candidates got shifted around and had to move around during their interview days and they didn't let it bother them, it really, really showed up positively in the feedback," Sipe notes.
4. Don't pretend you know more than you do. Ask for help instead.
Transparency is part of Googleyness, so this is the wrong time to fake it till you make it.
"To pretend you know something you don't is a red flag. It's essentially inflating your experience or knowledge," says Grechen Jacobi, head of career services at Flatiron School, which teaches people to code and helps them land jobs at tech companies, including Google.
"It's really important, if you're going to pass the Googleyness test, when you don't know something, don't say nothing," she says.
For instance, if confronted with a coding language you don't know, say something like, "I'm not deep on that but I know about this, is it similar?" she advises. "Ask clarifying questions. Ask for help. They'll probably help you."
If you really want to shine, win extra points by following up later about whatever it was, she advises. "To show you're curious, go do a bit of research. Build something with it or write a blog post about what you've learned and then send it to your interviewer. Say, 'I was curious about that thing we talked about and I wanted to show this to you.'"
Keep in mind that the purpose of the interview is not for you to have all the right answers, it's for you to demonstrate how you handle situations where you don't, she and other experts agree.
So, even if you're frustrated, stay positive, talk through your thinking as you try to solve the problem, and just do your best.
Remember that Google is looking to hire lifelong learners, not know-it-alls. "They want to help you," Jacobi says. "They're interviewing you because they want to find a great teammate."