Advice for MBA Students who are interested in working for Google.

See the full document at the Google Docs Link here.

First, Know Thyself and Figure Out What You Want

Remember: the goal is not to get hired at Google per se; the goal is to cultivate a fulfilling, meaningful career, ideally working on something that excites you. The first step in embarking on your next career move is to reflect on your experiences, and figure out what you want. It’s easy to gravitate towards money or perceived prestige[1] (I’ve been guilty here), but I would caution against this approach. You’ll probably be more happy and productive doing something that more closely matches your unique skills and passions rather than just working for a company that others may think looks good on the ol’ resume. Life’s too short for that anyway.


Prepare

Download the latest “Getting Down to Business” and actually work through it. Do the self-reflections, fill out and practice the PARs, and work with the CMC if you have any questions. Practice, practice, practice your pitch and interview question responses with your CWG. Most people (myself included) have boring and unintelligible responses at first. It takes work to learn how to tell your story.


Understand Google Better

Google’s hiring process is an important part of its culture. Learn how Google hires. Take a few minutes to browse our company blog to get a sense of what we care about. When applying to a specific part of the company (called “Product Area” or “PA”), you can learn about that product here, if you would like.


Craft Your Resume

Your resume is the most important document in your job search. Continuously improve your resume. Read other people’s resumes, and reflect on what you think makes those samples either good or not-so-good. Solicit feedback on your resume from others, and evaluate that feedback objectively.


Overall, I would encourage applicants to make sure their resume communicates their qualifications and impact in an easy-to-understand way; the simpler, the better. Your resume should be clear, concise and specific. Whenever possible, refer to quantifiable, uncomplicated metrics of impact. Avoid jargon and vague puffery. Yes, it’s a pain to edit, iterate and adapt your resume to the specific role in order to highlight the most relevant experiences. Yes, this is time-consuming and tedious (BTW, you can develop organization and systems to become a lot more efficient at this), but I would still recommend this practice.


Referrals

If you’ve worked directly with a current Googler, and you feel they can speak positively about your qualifications, you should ask for a referral. A good referral can improve your odds; however, an uninformed or weak recommendation can backfire. Googlers cannot refer mere acquaintances, friends or fellow alumni unless the Googler has direct personal knowledge of the applicant’s work and credentials. Meeting with random Johnson alumni may bring benefits[2], but a referral to Google is not one of them. [3]


Applying to Specific Roles (not the general resume drop[4])

For specific roles, you need to align your skills and experience with the job description. This sometimes means emphasizing the most relevant aspects of your experience rather than what you spent the most time doing. Your resume needs to clearly reflect the requirements of the role. Most roles have a "Minimum Requirements" section; those are effectively treated as legal requirements. In other words, if your resume doesn't plainly communicate that you satisfy them, you will not be considered for that role, period. Because you can only apply for three positions a month at Google, taking this seriously will spare you futile effort and potentially conserve application opportunities to other positions. Additionally, you can set alerts for specific roles on careers.google.com.


On Product Management Roles Specifically:

MBAs frequently indicate they’re interested in Product Management (PM) roles. [5] Google rarely hires PMs who have not already worked as a PM or otherwise lack applicable highly-technical experience. Moreover, because PM roles at Google tend to be very competitive, I often advise MBA candidates without PM experience to consider starting as a PM at a different company (it seems that companies such as Adobe and Cisco offer excellent "starter" PM roles from which Google recruits heavily) to gain experience and then apply to Google. Most Johnson MBA PMs at Google came indirectly from other companies–not directly from the MBA. If an MBA candidate is less committed to PM, I recommend applying for Program Manager (PgM) roles–which tend to be more generalist positions–or Technical Program Manager (TPgM), if you have some specialized skill set. As a Program Manager, you might discover non-PM passions OR you can work to eventually transfer into a PM role through what’s referred to internally as a “PM Rotation” or “PM ladder transfers.”


Whether you’re submitting for the Fall drop or a specific role, don’t include a cover letter unless you actually have something important and relevant to say that is not already conveyed in your resume. In my view, cover letters are for only truly exceptional information (random example to give you an idea of what I mean by “exceptional”: you’re applying for google.org crisis response position, and you were at one point a refugee).


Google works to treat every applicant in an unbiased and equitable way. If you need assistance applying for a role due to a disability or special need, please let us know by completing this form.


The Interviews

The first step in the recruitment process will probably be a phone screen, typically conducted by an HR representative. Based on my experience, the phone screen questions tend to clarify aspects of your background, be basic or generic behavioral questions and assess whether your background makes you a good fit for the team. Relax, be friendly and follow these tips. If you applied during the Fall drop, make sure you understand what team or role you’re being considered for by the end of the phone screen.


To prepare for the team interviews, do your research. In addition to the general websites listed above, most parts of the company have informational public websites. For instance, I work in Sustainability and we have a main site, and separate sites specific to more narrow functions (example: Hardware or Cloud) along with reports and research papers on sustainability. Such resources may help you “speak their language” during an interview.


PM interviews require additional preparation because they often include technical case interviews. Similar to consulting case interviews, there are general “patterns” or interview-flows that you should know and follow. If you’re unsure how to prepare, have the CMC connect you with people or resources.


Lastly, there should be no trick-questions or shenanigans. Google’s past infamous brainteaser and trivia questions have been banned (data showed such questions don’t predict how well someone will do on the job). In short, there shouldn’t be any curveballs and Google’s intent is for you to have a positive interview experience.[6]


Other Context: What Google Generally Looks For

Every interviewer is asked to evaluate MBA candidates on four attributes: general cognitive ability (GCA), role-related knowledge (RRK), leadership and Googleyness. In short, GCA is problem solving, analytical ability, strategic thinking and intellectual curiosity. RRK evaluates whether you’re proficient in the skills needed for the role. Leadership is all about impact, influence, being a “team-player”, mentoring and ownership of results. Googleyness refers to whether you can thrive in ambiguity, support others and collaborate, whether you have drive and curiosity and whether you’re willing to put others first, be considerate and “do the right thing.”


To be honest, hopefully this context is interesting, but it probably isn’t actionable, IMO. It’s great if this information helps you craft your PARs. But more likely (if you’re like me), you’re uncertain how exactly you’re supposed to demonstrate “Googleyness” or some other quality in an interview. Don’t sweat it; just put your best foot forward and these qualities will naturally display themselves.


General Advice

  • Develop a “growth mindset” and an intense curiosity. Focus on progress, not perfection.

  • Just do your best and don't overthink all this. I didn’t know what I was doing when I went through this process; I made mistakes along the way, and it turned out fine.

  • Don’t sell yourself short. I almost didn’t drop for Google because I was convinced that I wasn’t qualified enough, and that pretty-much everyone else was somehow better than me. Don’t let self-doubt stop you from trying for anything in life. Really, what have you got to lose?

      • …especially if you’re from an underrepresented background. Tech needs talent from all sorts of backgrounds and abilities. Besides the basic value of treating people fairly; diversity, equity and inclusion are clearly valuable business strengths. [7] To learn about Google’s efforts, see here.

  • Don't get hung up on rejection, setbacks or failures. If Google–or some other company–doesn’t give you an offer, it’s all good. It’s probably not a reflection on you, and you can always try again later. I was rejected from Google four times before I was offered a job. I’ve been rejected from countless other companies–including what were my top target companies. [8]


Best of luck in your job search! Feel free to email me or stay in touch.

-Ted


[1] Fun Fact: the Latin origin of the word “prestige” means “illusion” or “playing a trick”

[2] Networking with alumni at Google can mainly provide helpful information and encouragement. During Google’s recruiting week at Johnson, alumni may be asked by recruiters to highlight strong candidates from “coffee chats.” This may help certain MBAs (particularly those with non-traditional or under-represented backgrounds), but my understanding is that all Johnson MBA applicants will eventually get a look. I was never able to get a “coffee chat” slot, but I still got a summer internship.

[3]This advice does not apply to other companies and industries where referral policies may differ. Consulting, for example, generally relies more on alumni interaction and “weak tie” referrals compared to technology.

[4] “Drop” refers to the “resume drop-off deadline” that companies set in their summer internship recruiting processes at many feeder schools. Resumes that arrive before the deadline may be considered earlier, but probably aren’t otherwise advantaged at Google.

[5] PM roles–which didn’t really exist not long ago–seem to be all the rage. Google’s current CEO, Sundar Pichai, and other notable tech leaders came up through PM. First, you should know that the PM Role varies widely at different companies. Although I knew I wanted to work in technology, I wasn’t sure exactly in which role, so my default answer was “PM” when asked what I wanted to do as an MBA student. I now realize I’m better suited for non-PM roles, and I suspect most MBAs who answer “PM” to that question are too. That said, if you’re interested in PM, really go for it and learn from current PMs. Here are some resources to get started.

[6] Our aim is always to treat you with respect. If you feel like you were mistreated, please email me directly or immediately have the CMC reach out to Google’s campus representative on your behalf.

[7] See this report from McKinsey. More personally, I work on Google’s Pixel smartphone, and the real-world benefits of representation are literally too numerous to list. My favorite example is how representation helped our Pixel have a better camera. In terms of accessibility and people with disabilities, I see a bright future for how technology can empower the disabled community and how the disabled community can improve our products. Pixel, for example, has helped the blind navigate and the deaf communicate, but we need MORE people with disabilities to help us build for everyone.

[8] Autodesk, Adobe and Emerson Electric, if you’re curious.