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Rejected by, and Rejecting, Google

I’m doing some pretty cool stuff at the moment – I’m not looking for a job – but a few months ago I got emailed by three different Google recruiters, inviting me to apply for three (different) specific jobs, in different parts of the company, almost all at the same time. 2 were in London, 1 was in Zurich.

(I guess that all departments were given the go-ahead to increase head-count at the same time – hence hearing from 3 people at once. They didn’t co-ordinate, either – at least one of the recruiters failed to notice that I was already being interviewed, and asked in her opening email: “would you consider working at Google?”, the day before my scheduled interview with a different department :))

I took advice from current and ex Googlers – I wasn’t looking for a job at the time – and they gave estimates of up to 3-6 months to complete the process, so I might as well go ahead and see what happened.

I had an excellent first-round interview. I have the written feedback here (which Google point-blank refused to let me have, until I served a legal notice on them, and forced them to pony-up … more on that later):

Adam is probably the most interesting, experienced, and “Googley” candidate I have ever interviewed. I am excited about the mere possibility of him joining Google: he would bring entrepreneurship, product design acumen, incredible passion for technology, experience at a big influence, and other critical skills.

Yeah, it’s way over the top, and hard to believe. I quote it here for reference against what happened next…

I had four second-round interviews, back to back, starting at mid-morning, and carrying on through the afternoon with no break for lunch. By the end, I’d not eaten in 8 hours (why no lunch? Ask the Google recruiters; they never gave me an apology or explanation). I’d caught an infection the day before, and felt like crap throughout. The interviews went from poor to terrible, and overall it was a disaster; a rejection soon followed. (NB: with hindsight, even had I been compos mentis, there’s a good chance I’d have been rejected – I’m not blaming the rejection on this)

It was immediately followed by another request from one of the other recruiters re-inviting me to their job instead – including attached paperwork to progress the application.

There were a handful of small but mildly offensive – mostly passive-aggressive – actions by Google staff along the way. Overall I was shocked, I felt that the way I was treated was poor. I was also concerned about the process itself. They admitted they had detailed feedback on my rejection, but refused to divulge any of it (legally, they had to; I forced them to pony-up). I decided to wait for the legal process to complete, and for me to get the feedback, before making any further decisions.

Once I’d read through the 12 pages of feedback, I wrote back with this:

Thanks, [name removed].

After my experience in the 2nd-round interviews, and reading the detailed feedback from the Google interviewers, I’ve realised I’m not suitable to work at Google right now.

The role-specific things were fine, but I did terribly in the 2nd-round. Reading the feedback, it seems you want a certain type of person, and that doesn’t seem like me.

Also, it’s not the company I thought it was. I want to work at companies which live and breathe an open culture, and that was part of my attraction to Google, but the reality is very different from the public image.


(UPDATE: it’s been more than a month now. Just so you know – I never got a response. Maybe there’s now a great big “DO NOT HIRE” mark on my file ;))

I forwarded the detailed Google feedback to a handful friends and ex-colleagues, and it’s been food for some interesting discussions so far. One ex-Googler confirmed that I was rejected by not just one, but all four, of the second-round interviewers. A dubious honour, perhaps? :)

A couple of people have remarked that Google USA differs substantially on at least some of the key issues that came up.

One thing’s for sure, though: I would certainly not want to work for Google Europe right now. They and I seem to disagree on some fairly basic issues of work and people. Neither is right, nor wrong. But I – personally – just don’t want to work at a company that works like that. So … mutual rejection! :) I’m certainly not following-up with any other Google jobs.

Unfortunately, the whole experience left me quite shaken: I’d been using Google as a shining example of various recruitment and employment practices, at least some of which I now know to be untrue. Maybe Google used to act better, but they certainly don’t today – I know this first-hand. I’m hugely disappointed.

I apologise to anyone I’ve accidentally deceived over the years. I’m also wondering what other examples of humane and open companies I can use instead – I’m no longer confident in citing Google. I’ve seen a few come up on VentureHacks twitter feed/blog-posts (awesome resource that VH is).

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