"Everyone knows about the crazy benefits at Google," I said, "but the truth is I'm only interested in one benefit, and that's 20% time. I'll take a job as janitor if you let me spend 20% of my time working on a research and development project of my choice."
So began my series of conversations with Google. I knew that would be a good selling point, but it was also true. I had some ideas and could think of no better place to develop them. Access to the resources, talent, and knowledge base within the Gooogleplex was my #1 reason for wanting to work there. All the other stuff you hear about - free food, car washes, volleyball, the purpose of that is to make it a good place to stay and code 24 hours straight.
I like smart people, and I like solving computer problems, so the all-day on-site interview was very enjoyable. The HR recruiter greeted me in the lobby and asked if I'd ever been to the Googleplex before. I replied that I had actually been there the previous Tuesday. In fact I'm down there probably once or twice a month just through my involvement in the developer community.
I'm not going to discuss the interview itself or say anything in violation of the NDA I signed, but let me answer the most common questions. First, I did not get a tour of the Googleplex. Through the entire day I saw the lobby, the cafeteria, and a conference room. Like I said, I'm in Building 43 often, the one with the model of Spaceship One hanging from the ceiling. I do have a funny story involving Spaceship One, the X Prize, and William Shatner that I didn't get to share, but that's my only regret there. Second, no they did not ask goofy questions. I know Google has a reputation for doing that but it wasn't the case. The questions were very good, relevant to the job, and clearly tested my knowledge and skill. Third, being grilled all day was not stressful. It was fun. At the end of the day I felt great. I got to show off and fill up whiteboards with drawings and show that I know how to solve the kinds of problems they need solved. Finally, to answer the big question and remove any remaining suspense, I did not get the job.
I got a call a week and a half later and knew that was too soon to be a yes. They said it was a close decision. It's okay. I know more or less where I went wrong, I'm in good company, and I'm convinced I could get the job if I interview again. Also this was during their big stock slide and they had an unofficial hiring freeze and were laying off contractors. In any case I feel good enough getting as far as you can possibly get without actually getting an offer. It tells me they think I'm good enough to work there, and that's good enough for me.
The day after the rejection I called back and said if I can't have the job can I at least have a free t-shirt.
I got it.
Do I know how to negotiate or what?
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