The day of the second phone interview found me nervous again. This time the call came as scheduled and we got started promptly (there's no "so tell me about yourself..." in these interviews). A few of the questions focused on testing and required me to list as many components of various QA-related documents as I could. I did what I could from memory. The coding question focused on creating a small utility to perform a certain task in Linux.
I chose Python as the language and set about creating the function. I felt there was plenty of room for optimization and making the program more robust, but time was passing quickly. I noted some improvements and we moved on.
One of the final questions involved writing a somewhat well-known algorithm. As it turned out, he didn't expect me to actually implement the whole thing, but some prior experience with the topic provided the opportunity.
You hope for times like these--it can just as easily go the other way. Or it feels like it can.
He told me he was surprised we got through two coding questions in the allotted time. My other answers felt reasonable, but by no means exhaustive. I openly questioned some of them to myself. Still, having surprised the interviewer left me feeling pretty good. (You must know that I once had a 3-minute interview with Microsoft at Georgia Tech in which I failed to write a function that could determine what type of triangle was passed in. I couldn't remember "scalene" and fumbled with finding a quick rule to make sure a triangle was valid. I was curtly kicked to the door. I laughed to myself at how bad it went; three minutes. I didn't even have time to talk to him about the RSS reader I wrote in C#)
Three days later I got an email with the subject "Google - Onsite Interview Requested". I started to feel a lot more confident--maybe the new hiring process had something to do with it, and maybe the on-site interviews would be about the same as what I had already been through.
As for the probability of being invited on-site, I browsed for some data, more curious than ever about the process. From Joel's essay and a Microsoft recruiting blog I discovered that a "good" hiring rate is 1 per 3 invited on-site. I also knew that Google hired about 17 new people per day, meaning that about 51 candidates interviewed per day. From a Joel on Software forum post, it appeared that Google received about 1,500 resumes per day. My estimate was that about 3.4% of applicants made it on-site.
I worked with the recruiters and set the trip up. They reserved a hotel for two nights, a nice thing to do since I don't fly out of a major hub. They also reserved a rental car, though I had the option of using taxis. After I confirmed the airline tickets and the date, I had about two and a half weeks of waiting.
On the day of my flight, I arrived in San Jose at around 8:00 PM. I made my way to the rental car desk and found my way to my Saturn. It was dark and I had only a previously printed Google Map to get me to the Hotel Avante in Mountain View. As I pulled out of the rental lot, a car sped by and nearly took the front end of my car off. You could only turn left and the view to the right was obscured by a concrete barrier. Whatever. I bolted out and looked for the highway signs. It took all of about two minutes to miss my turn. Raindrops hindered me. I kept going with a determination to turn around and catch my turn again. It wasn't possible. Instead I ended up on some other highway, mostly devoid of traffic. I decided to just drive and find the highway at some other junction, which I did a couple miles down the road.
When I arrived at the hotel the guy behind the counter asked me for my name. He typed it in and pulled up some information. "Ahh, representing Google!" I smiled at the knowledge that I was representin' up in Mountain View at this late hour. He typed some more and informed me that I would have to settle for an upgraded room. "Not a bad sign, is it!?" he told me and wished me luck as he handed me the key. The room was nicely decorated. I settled in, called Michelle, and set up my computer on the desk, which had puzzles and brainy toys embedded in it. Notepads were placed beside the bed, just in case I had important realizations that woke me. I appreciated that, but they proved to be of little use. For Ze Frank fans, rest assured: each room has a bonnet de douche for your use. Knowledge wants to watch. The morning of the interview, I left an hour early, around 9am. It didn't take long to get to Amphitheatre Parkway, and soon I was passing clean, white office signs with the bright Google logo. Interesting people were emerging from cars, from the trees, the ground, crossing streets and making their way to work. Google seems to own most of the buildings along this road.
I parked outside Building 40 after being guided by a security guy that checks all the cars entering the parking lot. I had heard parking was hard to find, but here I was right outside the building. I had time to burn.
A steady stream of big black shuttle buses rolled in and dropped off the commuters from San Francisco. I had read about this. I always pictured little shuttles like those at airports though. Not shiny black bus limos with tinted windows.
stay tuned for part III (but we know how this ends...)