It’s been the subject of a feature film, a main theme of a best-selling book, a source of endless speculation and analysis (yielding 21 million results on the search “how google hires”), and a holy grail-like quest for some two million hopefuls per year.
It’s the hiring process at Google.
While the search giant has been known to deploy quirky recruitment tactics, from banners and billboards blazed with a mathematical riddle aimed to entice engineers or the brainteasers about golf balls or school buses. The latter tactics, admitted Google’s head of people operations, Laszlo Bock, were “a complete waste of time,” while the former didn’t net the company any new hires.
Now Google touts a hiring process that is “pretty basic” and follows a traditional trudge along the path through a recruiter, a phone interview, and an onsite interview. Then, it’s up to the candidate to demonstrate her “Googleyness.”
Though incredibly selective, it sounds like it’s just like getting a job anywhere else. Except that Google isn’t always relying on recruiters to find great people. Even for people like Max Rosett, a Yale graduate with a mathematics degree and work experience at a respected global management firm.
In an article for The Hustle, Rosett discovered that Google has a secret hiring process that draws candidates through–what else–their search history, before they even reach out to a recruiter.
Rosett, formerly a management consultant with the Boston Consulting Group, was switching careers to computer engineering. Though he was earning a master’s degree, he writes that he didn’t feel ready to apply for a full-time software role.
In the midst of a project, Rosett Googled a phrase that first brought back the familiar page of results but then brought up a conversation box that said, “You’re speaking our language. Up for a challenge?”
Clicking through put Rosett into another website “foo.bar” where he proceeded to follow prompts that led him through a programming challenge he had 48 hours to complete. Once coded, he received another until he completed six over the course of two weeks. At this point, Rosett was asked to give his contact information. A few days later, a Google recruiter called, and, Rosett writes, “from this point my experience was pretty typical. The only difference is that I didn’t need to go through a technical phone screen since I had already demonstrated some proficiency with coding through the foo.bar exercises.”
He was eventually asked to come out to headquarters to solve yet more problems on a whiteboard. Rosett was offered a job. The entire process from invitation to offer took a total of three months.
“Foo.bar is a brilliant recruiting tactic,” he says. “Google used it to identify me before I had even applied anywhere else, and they made me feel important while doing so. At the same time, they respected my privacy and didn’t reach out to me without explicitly requesting my information.”
Rosett’s experience proves that Google is continuing to evolve to improve its talent pipeline. But the behemoth is simply tapping recent innovations and leveraging its own wealth of data.
For example, according to comScore, Google commands the market for desktop searches in the U.S. at both home and work, with 64% of the share. In comScore’s survey of job seekers, 10.9 million workers searched for jobs on Google via their mobile devices in August 2013, the most recent year analyzed. Why wouldn’t Google want to tap into some of that search frenzy?
Rosett also points out that even though he wasn’t confident enough to start applying for engineering jobs, his sophisticated searches revealed a different picture to his potential employer. The fact that he was anonymously solving challenges gave him the boost he needed because the stakes were low.
Anthology’s (formerly known as Poachable) platform operates on a similar principle, albeit for people who are already employed. They already have a steady paycheck, so why not explore options elsewhere–especially if they don’t have to reveal their identity. Like Rosett, these candidates aren’t technically looking, but they wouldn’t mind having a conversation if the opportunity arose.
According to his post, Rosett hasn’t actually become a “noogler” (a new Google employee) quite yet. Time will tell whether Google will offer the kind of “amazing long-term employee experience” that Anthology founder Tom Leung says is the key to retaining great talent.