Gone are the days of job offers delivered over handshakes. For candidates interviewing at technology companies, expect multistep interview processes that span weeks (four to six) and occasionally months. Narrowing the scope of technology companies, here's an in-depth look at Google's interview process for Software Engineers. The following represents the process for general software engineering candidates who apply directly to open job requisitions or candidates referred by current Googlers. If a Recruiter proactively contacted the candidate for an open role, or they applied for a specific team or domain, the process can be slightly different.
Contrary to popular belief, all resumes are reviewed by actual humans at Google. The magic ATS does not weed certain resumes out arbitrarily. In fact, there are teams of people whose sole responsibility is to review resumes. They assess resumes against the minimum and preferred qualifications of the job description. All resumes that meet the minimum requirements of a job description are considered. If a particular role has an overwhelming number of applicants, and most do (Google received 3.3 million applications in 2019. Up 18% from 2018.), one or two preferred qualifications may also factor into a candidate's progression to the next step. In most cases, this is the only time the resume is considered (although all information will be verified if an offer is received). Many interviewers do not review resumes prior to meeting with candidates. They are more focused on determining technical ability than reviewing accolades. If the resume is filled with fluff, it will become apparent later.
First, a Recruiting Coordinator will organize a phone interview with a Software Engineer (SWE). The interview is scheduled to last 45 minutes, which allows approximately 40 minutes for a coding exercise and five minutes for candidate questions. On the day of the phone interview, A SWE will call the candidate (TC) on the phone, ask them to open a shared Google doc, and instruct TC to respond to and complete an algorithmic coding exercise.
Post phone interview, the interviewer is asked to submit written feedback within 48 hours. The interviewer gives a rating of:
- Strong Hire (SH)
- Hire (H)
- Lean Hire (LH)
- Lean No Hire (LNH)
- No Hire (NH)
- Strong No Hire (SNH)
Ideally, candidates want to receive a SH or H. These ratings almost always move forward in the interview process. Lean Hires and LNHs may also move forward, depending on the supporting written feedback from the interviewer. No Hire and SNH rarely progress.
Google uses a "structured interviewing" approach, which means all candidates are assessed with a clear, standardized rubric so there is no confusion regarding interview feedback and scores. While technical ability is paramount to success in the interview process, lack of conscientiousness or poor communication skills may also hinder TC's progression. Google focuses on hiring well-rounded talent that works well autonomously and in teams.
If TC's scores merit moving on to the next step, a Recruiter will invite them for onsite interviews (as of April 2020 all onsite interviews are now digital and conducted via Google Hangouts). The Recruiter should offer an Interview Prep Call to help TC prepare. If they do not, ask for one. The Recruiter will have insight regarding the areas of assessment, and will help TC understand the framework the interviewers use to grade answers.
There are five, 45 minute interviews at this stage in the process and an informal lunch meeting. Level dictates which assessment areas are covered.
Level 3 and 4 Interviews
- 4 Data Structures and Algorithms
- 1 Googleyness and Leadership
Level 5 and 6
- 3 Data Structures and Algorithms
- 1 System Design
- 1 Googleyness and Leadership
Usually, there are two or three interviews, a break for lunch, then the final two or three interviews.
Onsite interviews tend to be more in-depth versions of the phone interview. Instead of one coding question, it's common for interviewers to ask two. The lunch meeting is not evaluated or graded by the Googler. It's meant to give candidates the opportunity to ask questions in a more relaxed environment and see what campus life and Google culture is like.
Similar to the phone interview, interviewers are asked to submit written feedback within 48 hours after the onsite interview. However, it tends to take a bit longer. Seven days appears to be the average time frame. Interviewers use the same rubric and scoring system outlined above to assess candidacy. After the interviews are completed, the Recruiter will review the feedback, and determine if it makes sense to move forward to the next step. Candidates with mixed feedback, or inconclusive results, may be asked to do a follow up interview.
Candidates with promising interview results are submitted to the Hiring Committee. The Hiring Committee (HC) is a group of senior SWEs who review candidate packets (Packets can include: resume, interview scores, internal Google employee recommendations, hiring manager's statement of support, etc.) HC is instructed to screen the packet for inconsistencies, bias or any other red flags that the interviewers may have missed. Each SWE on committee (there are usually three) reviews the information and gives the packet a Hire, Hold or Reject rating. Committee members have the opportunity to discuss the reasoning behind their decision, and often debate amongst themselves. HC is mediated by a Recruiter who is instructed to also point out bias in HC members' comments and positions, while adhering to specific hiring guidelines. Committee members may change their rating while in the HC meeting, but ratings cannot be changed after the meeting closes.
All committee members must support a candidate being hired. If one member is not convinced, the candidate may be asked to do a follow up interview to address the area of concern. After the follow up interview, their packet will be sent back to the committee for a second review. However, if a packet is approved, TC is on to the final steps in the process!
Fit Calls and Team Matching
After Hiring Committee approval, your Recruiter will identify open roles according to your level and location preferences. (If you were interviewing for a specific role/team you will probably skip this step). The Fit Call is a 30 to 45 minute phone call with the Hiring Manager. Essentially, it is an informal call giving TC and the Hiring Manager an opportunity to connect, discuss the team/projects and determine if there is mutual interest from both parties. It's common to have several fit calls until a match is found. Occasionally, Recruiters cannot find a team or appropriate role for approved candidates immediately. Interview scores are valid for one year, so in the event of a hiring pause or delay, candidates should not need to complete additional interviews to be matched for a similar role.
Offers are generated by a specific compensation team that reviews TC's level and location to determine the compensation package. Once an offer is generated, the Recruiter will call to deliver a verbal offer, and follow up with an email confirming the information in writing. Once both parties agree on a compensation package, a formal offer letter is sent for signature. Finally, it's time to celebrate!