1 Aug 2011 Skud   » (Master)

A note to Google recruiters (and on Google hiring practices)

Writing this in part to let off steam, and in part so I can point the next recruiter at it.

Time from my leaving Google til getting the first unrelated contact from a Google recruiter: 6 days.

Interest I have in going through Google’s hiring process again: zero.

When Metaweb/Freebase was acquired by Google last year, we came in as part of the Search team. As a community/developer relations person, Search didn’t really have a place for me, but they brought me in on a fixed term offer, giving me a year to figure out how I might fit in at Google, perhaps by transferring my work to a more appropriate group or finding another role that made more sense.

I’m going to handwave a bit, but in short, we shuffled things around so that I could continue doing my job by moving to a more appropriate part of the organisation. And then I got to interview for my own job.

Now, I’m 100% confident that Google wouldn’t have hired me straight off the street. I knew when Metaweb was acquired that that was the only way I was likely to get in there, and I certainly appreciated the opportunity, but I wasn’t fooling myself: I’m not the sort of engineer that Google usually looks for.

You see, I don’t have a computer science degree from an elite university, or indeed any degree at all. I don’t have any pretensions toward being a computer scientist, though I’m familiar with enough of the concepts and terminology to be able to work with them. I’m more the type to know and use tools — preferably popular free and open source tools — that other people have built, but of course Google’s not very interested in that. I’ve also spent a lot of my time in the tech field on teaching, mentoring, encouraging software teams to adopt best practices, building relationships with other teams and with users of our software, advocating openness and transparency, and so forth, none of which Google’s hiring practices care about or look for. It’s all algorithm pop-quiz, and I’m crap at those.

I guess that’s why when I interviewed for my transfer, I was told I was “not technical enough” to do the job I’d been doing for 3 years already, supporting the Freebase community.

(True story: in my interview I was asked how I would extract entities from an HTML page. I suggested using OpenCalais (a free-as-in-beer API that does just that, and returns Freebase identifiers). If someone in the Freebase community wanted to do something like that, that’s exactly what I would have recommended. But the interviewer wanted to know how I would implement it myself. I told him I wouldn’t — that that’s why I was leaving the Search group for Developer Relations! Wrong answer, apparently.)

Look, it’s Google’s privilege and prerogative to hire whomever they want. And when your data centers are as huge as Google’s, and CPU time is quite literally more valuable than engineer time, hiring people who can optimise an algorithm to the Nth degree makes sense. (At least in core engineering roles; whether it’s necessary for developer relations, product management, or any of the many other roles where Google generally wants computer science grads is much less clear.) There are plenty of fresh-faced kids from Stanford and MIT and whatever other elite universities are on Google’s preferred list, who can solve stupid puzzles and tell you the O notation of anything you want. Go hire them. They’ll have a great time working for you. They’ll probably be so excited to interview at Google that they won’t even care that the people interviewing them aren’t the people they’ll be working with, that they won’t be told what projects they’ll work on, or that their passions and interests and abilities outside of solving Sudoku in linear time will be flattened out by a hiring process that represents them as interchangable cogs in the machine.

But if you are a Google recruiter, and you want me to interview for SWE or SRE or any role that has an algorithm pop quiz as part of the interview, if you want me to apply for something without knowing what team I’ll be working on and whether it meshes with my values and goals and interests, if you want me to go through your quite frankly humiliating interview process just to be told that my skills and qualifications — which you could have found perfectly easily if you’d bothered to actually look before spamming me — aren’t suitable for any of the roles you have available, then just DON’T.

If you’re any other recruiter, then you should read the following:

Mural: Capitalism is over if you want it

ObMural: a new one in Clarion Alley (Mission District, San Francisco), spotted a week or so ago, though I don't know when it went up.

Syndicated 2011-07-21 21:44:56 from InfotropismInfotropism | Infotropism

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