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How I Got a Google Job With No Tech Background, Part 3

Part 3 of a 3-part series shares how this first-generation college grad got into Google with no tech background and virtually no contacts.

If you haven’t already, read Part 1 and Part 2 before proceeding.

In my last post, I shared how I got past the second hurdle that led to me GETTING a job at my target company and what I did to prepare for my phone interviews with the hiring managers. I covered two different types of common interview questions; technical and behavioral. I also shared how staying open to job opportunities at Google doubled my chances of getting hired.

This concluding post will cover the final steps in the hiring process and how I SCREWED UP the salary negotiation and left at least $100K on the table.

Key takeaways

  • Companies like Google have an intense hiring process that involves multiple interviews.
  • You will need to submit to a thorough background check and furnish several references.
  • It’s a challenging journey to get into your target company and receive the pay you deserve, but it is worth it!

Going Through the Interview Loops & Cycles

I reached out to Ben – the guy who referred me – after discovering I would be stepping foot in Google’s office for the first time. I wanted to know what I should wear.

My interview attire plan was a suit and tie since that’s what I’d worn at American Express, UBS, and pretty much all my interviews. Ben pushed back, “No way. Google’s pretty informal. The tie is too much.”

So, I decided to wear a sport coat which –– in hindsight –– was also probably too much. The only reason I don’t regret the sport coat is because no one saw my pit stains of nervousness.

Google NYC Office

Next, Ben dropped a bombshell: I would be interviewed by four different people at Google that day. 

Are you keeping track? That’s three phone interviews with Anant, Lindy, and Jen, plus meetings with four more people. Welcome to the interview loops!

Interestingly — even though this was slated to be a day of in-person interviews –– only one of the four people interviewing me was there at the office. The first three interviewed me from Chicago and California via video conferencing.

1. First Virtual Interview: Stress-Based

When I walked in, I saw huge Lego pits for kids (and the Googlers). People walked around in jeans and T-shirts. Dogs went in and out of conference rooms. Meanwhile, there I was in nicely pressed slacks and a sport coat.

My first interview was at 1 pm with Joe, the Director of Media Services. And, as someone later confirmed, his specialty was “stress-based interviewing.”

Joe stressed me out a lot! First, he asked me about Google’s philosophy on making their Google Play store open or closed. It was relatively new back then –– Apple’s App Store was huge, and Google was trying to compete with its Android operating system.

I had no freaking idea what the correct answer was. I didn’t even have a particularly strong opinion! Put on the spot like that; I said, “Well, I think it’s more in line with Google’s values to make it open source and more available and not in a walled garden.”

And then he pressured me, “But then we would lose so much money!”

It didn’t take me long to realize Joe’s schtick: there was no “right answer,” No matter which position I took, he was ready to pounce on me with the drawbacks. 

He went several levels deeper with these types of stress-based questions on all kinds of different scenarios and business issues. This was when I started sweating, and I didn’t stop until I went home around 4 pm.

I didn’t know what I was talking about for most of the interview, and I felt sure I had screwed this whole thing up. I thought that interview went terribly.

2. Second Interview: Breezy

The next interview was with a potential future peer of mine. The way Google (and many top tech companies) do interviews is to have you talk to people who are senior to you and people on the same level. 

Frankly, this guy was a breeze compared to Joe. He didn’t seem like a very seasoned interviewer, which (after the gauntlet I had just gone through) was fine with me. We talked through some of the role-related knowledge in a fairly relaxed manner, and it was mostly stuff I had already spoken about with Lindy and Jen. 

Nothing from this interview added to my self-doubt, but I had plenty of that. 

3. Third Video Interview: Listening

The third interview was with a cerebral man named Oren. He was intellectually intimidating, but he also liked to talk a lot. Our discussion mainly aimed to talk about the team I would be running.

He turned out to do most of the talking. I spent 75% of this interview listening to Oren and only about 25% of the time responding to questions he asked. Listening benefited me because I was able to glean a lot of valuable nuggets about the people on the team and what the team was being evaluated on. 

Oren and I also connected over our Jewish heritage (I dropped some hints about Passover coming up, which I was not shy about doing in the least) and the fact that we both had kids. 

I related to Oren as a human being, which proved to be a big positive.

4. Fourth Interview: In-Person

Finally, I sat down across a conference table with someone named Ken. I sat at the far end of the table so he wouldn’t smell my sweat as much. This was my first in-person interview with someone who was actually there at the office.

Ken came from Conde Nast and had moved to Google two or three months ago, which set the stage for a great discussion about me possibly coming in from another traditional, slow-moving company – American Express.

He talked about what the culture shock had been like for him coming in from the magazine business. We talked a lot about advertising. And he asked a bunch of questions about how I would adapt to the culture, given how much faster-moving it was than what I was used to.

My responses were truthful. I had been disturbed for a long time by how slow American Express was. I was tired of people telling me, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” I liked to move fast!

We talked for about 45 minutes, focusing primarily on cultural fit and related issues. When we wrapped up around 4 pm, I felt good but also exhausted (and so damn sweaty that I will never forget it for the rest of my life).

I asked where I stood in the interview process, but I was still waiting for someone to give me a clear answer.

Luckily for me, I was closer to the finish line than I realized at the time.

Background Check

After the day of interviews, Ben reached out to me the next day, “Which of the two roles that we talked about would you want most?”

I gave him my answer, which was the Rich Media role since it didn’t involve as much technology management.

To which he instantly replied, “How about the other one?”

By this point, I was feeling antsy and kind of frustrated. I wanted to say, “Just give me whatever! I just want to work at Google!”

Instead, I went along with Ben’s apparent preference for me to take the Product Ops role I first applied for. 

Two days later, Punit, the recruiter, emailed me saying, “We need some more information from you.”

  • Google wanted to know all my extracurricular activities.
  • They wanted to confirm that I was indeed the captain of my bocce team.
  • They needed my college GPA down to the second digit. I graduated 16 years ago!

I was thinking, “Are you kidding me?” I didn’t even know what that number was! I had to call Binghamton University and get that information. 

I also had to furnish several references from past employers that Google could follow up with.

I even had to specify my current salary ––which I stupidly did, again, after having told Punit way at the beginning of the interview cycle. Thankfully companies are no longer allowed to ask for this information.

Punit confirmed that he was putting my information through to the hiring committee.

Interview Follow Up

And then I got the news: I had to meet with Anant again.

I was asked to come back to Google’s NYC office on April 1st to video conference with him. That’s right: my hopes for getting hired at my dream company all came down to what would happen on April Fool’s Day.

It was slated to be an informational interview. Sort of a “last step” before Google would extend me an official job offer. This interview would also determine whether I wound up on Anant’s team (Product Ops) or Jen’s team for the Rich Media role. 

So, I returned to Google’s office at 6 pm, left at 6:45, and was a little freaked out by how many people were still there that late on a Friday. I wanted a step up from sleepy American Express, but this was pretty intense!

The Job Offer & Salary Negotiation

Finally –– on Wednesday, April 13th, at 10 pm — I got the job offer email to lead a 14-person global team out of that magnificent NYC office!

$154,190 salary, 20% annual bonus, and $132K of Google stock.

First, I couldn’t believe it. The fact they were emailing me at 10 pm was another “Holy shit. They work hard there” wake-up call.

Second, part of me couldn’t fathom that after all these interviews, I was finally looking at a real job offer letterfrom Google. 

Now, I would love to tell you that I negotiated like a Shark Tank pro and tacked another hundred grand onto my salary. And in fact, I later learned that I could have done just that. But I was so excited to work at Google that I didn’t push for one dime more. 

Look –– it was a $62,000 jump in total compensation from my job at American Express. That’s a 37% raise. At that time, my attitude was, “I’ll take it!”

Later, I became much savvier at negotiating salary offers –– I learned how to figure out, in advance, what a department or a hiring manager has allocated for a particular role.

Check out salary negotiation tips here!

One More Meeting

There was just one step left for me to take before saying yes. I wanted a final phone conversation with Anant, who would be my new boss. He and I talked on Friday of that same week so I could ask questions about opportunities for growth in the role.

Remember, this wasn’t my first choice of the two roles Google put in front of me, so I wanted to do at least a little last-minute homework.

By that point, Anant was trying to close me, and he wanted me to start as soon as possible –– on May 4th. I was going to be in Belize for a vacation with my wife, though, so I told him that May 11th was the earliest I could do.

I also asked him some stupid questions about vacation time, which seemed to get on his nerves a little bit. But I figured, hey –– the offer is in, I can ask that stuff!

Anant wrapped up the call by telling me how to prepare for my start date, and he set up a call with Lindy, who gave me some additional info on getting ready to lead this large team.

After that, I finally emailed Punit to say, “I’m in!”

Moving on to my Target Company

The next day I gave American Express my notice, which felt incredible. They held a going-away party for me that a surprising number of people attended. I wasn’t the most popular guy there, which was really moving. 

Although, quite honestly, half the people who came ended up cornering me to ask if I could bring them to Google too!

As you can see, it can be a pretty challenging journey (not to mention sweaty.) I remember drinking a cold beer towards the end of the night and feeling proud of myself like I had truly “made it.”

  • Was I happy to get hired? You better believe it.
  • Did it change my life? 100%.
  • Did it live up to the hype? Overall, yes, it did. 

Google seriously takes care of you. It was a H-U-G-E step up in responsibilities from anything I had done in my career.

But this isn’t some fairy tale story where everything was perfect from then on out. After the first month, imposter syndrome set in, and I had to really dig down deep to get on Google’s level of productivity and performance. 

Honestly, even that was rewarding. Looking back now, there’s no way I would be where I am today without those six formative years at Google. 

But you can do it, and it’s AWESOME when you break through! If you’re ready to take the next steps, sign up for our Job Acquisition Method course and get ready to:

  • Increase your annual compensation well into the six figures.
  • Look for a fun job with brag-worthy perks.
  • Begin accelerating your career!

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