Chris: Tell us a little bit about what you do and how do you define success?
Jeff: At Google, I work on the Global Industry Relations Team. I work with various industry partners, most commonly trade associations, and figure out how Google should be partnering with these groups to advance our business and policy objectives. I serve as the main point of contact with these groups and work across all of Google’s divisions (everything from YouTube to Google Translate to Driverless Cars). Success for my team is when Google is working closely with industry partners of all kinds to address the most pressing issues facing the tech industry and having a meaningful impact on the dialogue.
Chris: What skills, characteristics or personality traits are required for a new hire to excel at Google today?
Jeff: I’ve seen a lot of different types of people be successful at Google, but I’d say the most common traits that make someone successful are being a team player, being flexible and being intellectually curious. Being a team player means volunteering to take on the seemingly menial tasks that no one else wants to do, picking up slack for teammates when they have too much on their plates and putting the interests of the team before the interests of yourself. Change is a constant at Google and being flexible means being ready and willing to take on new types of challenges which may not be in your official job description. Being intellectually curious allows people to come up with innovative approaches to a problem and ensures that person will constantly be learning and improving, gaining new skills and challenging his or her teammates to do the same. While specific skills vary widely from team to team, it certainly helps to have experience working with ambiguity or imperfect information, launching and iterating projects efficiently and working cross-functionally with multiple stakeholders.
Chris: How do you find your best candidates when recruiting for Google?
Jeff: One thing we like to do at Google is hire people from seemingly different industries who will bring a fresh perspective (but also transferable skills) to the business. We certainly hire from more traditional channels but we love to hire smart, passionate people who have interesting backgrounds are good at a lot of different things. The philosophy is that if you hire smart generalists who are quick learners, they will easily be able to adapt and shift to new business units, down the road, that may not even exist right now. Naturally the cultural fit needs to be there as well but we find that this approach works well, especially in the rapidly-changing tech sector.
[SIDENOTE FROM CHRIS: This is such an important point! While hiring managers are comparing candidates, we’re mentally digging for clues as to how one person is unique or different from another. Maybe it’s a hobby, maybe it’s your alma mater, or a particularly interesting story you told during an interview. Bottom line: serve this on a silver platter. Put your “I am unique because…” statement up front, proudly and clearly for hiring managers to hear.]
Chris: Now think about the best resumes you’ve reviewed while recruiting. What made them so memorable?
Jeff: The best resumes are clear, concise and paint a picture of who the person is. It is obvious when someone has given careful consideration to every word on the page versus someone who is just trying to fill up space. My favorite resumes are the ones that are memorable and contain really unique experience, hobbies or interests that instantly make me want to find out more about them. For example, if you list that you are a national thumb wrestling champion, you can guarantee I will ask about that in an interview. Often times the weirder, the better. It’s important to remember that the purpose of a resume is to convince someone that it’s worth taking the time to speak with you in person and if you convey an interesting and unique story through your resume, you have a much better shot at getting that opportunity.
Chris: Think back to when YOU were interviewing for jobs as a recent college graduate. What was the worst job interview experience you had and what did you learn from that experience?
Jeff: The worst job interview experience I ever had was during my junior year in college, while interviewing for finance internships. It was the first time I was ever asked a brain teaser (I think it was, “How many airplanes fly in the US each day?”) and I totally froze. Up until that point, I was doing very well and from that point on, I was so rattled that none of my answers came out right. While I’m still not sure how many airplanes fly in the US each day, what I learned from that experience is how to recover from a slip-up. You won’t always have the best answer to every question, in an interview or in work meetings, but I have learned to redirect the question to a place where I am comfortable and can offer some sort of insight. I think this comes with practice but is a very helpful skill to have for interviewing and beyond.
Chris: What’s one common mistake you’ve seen young professionals make during the job search process?
Jeff: I think many college students get hung up on finding “the perfect job” after they graduate, which can actually end up being counterproductive. While it’s important to be thoughtful about your first job, the truth is it will not single-handedly dictate the course of your entire career. Instead of searching for the perfect choice, do your best to make a good choice and understand that nothing is forever. It’s helpful to learn something from each job you have– which aspects of the job you like and don’t like — and to use that knowledge to guide the decisions you make in your career.
[SIDENOTE FROM CHRIS: I’ve seen lots of young professionals fall into this trap! In college, I worked back-of-the-house in four different restaurants. I had many friends who would sit around, for years, waiting for that “perfect” job that would be exactly in line with their career. I picked up a ton of transferrable skills, from knife skills to the ability to organize dozens of ingredients and dishes in a rapid, sweaty, high-stress environment. Meanwhile, my friends waited… for the right job. But Jeff’s absolutely on point. Learn something from each new job, from a variety of experiences, and it will make you stronger and more well rounded. Besides, you’d be surprised how well knife skills translate into high-speed precision office tasks.]
Jeff: Network! Virtually every single job I have had has been the result of networking or professional connections in some way, shape or form. Continuously work on strategically building your professional network, whether you are looking for a job or not. It’s an easy thing to neglect but one of the most important things you can do in your career. An effective approach is to set aside a certain amount of time each week or each month to devote to expanding your network. You never know when it will come in handy. It’s always smart to start with your college or alumni network to begin building connections. Student groups, professors and career centers can all be helpful to varying degrees and it’s worth exploring each one. LinkedIn can be a useful tool to find alums in various specific industries or at certain companies. Lastly, it’s important to frame your communications in the right way– setting up informal coffee chats to learn more about what someone does is definitely the way to go.
Thanks Jeff! We covered a lot of ground and unearthed tons of great tips. Here’s a few takeaways I learned from this interview…
- Amplify your unique attributes. As Jeff said, if you’re a national thumbwrestling champion, wear that proudly. Whether you’re networking with guests after a university event, or in an interview room with a panel of hiring managers, make sure each and every person you meet knows this fact about you. In a world where people don’t even remember what they ate for breakfast yesterday, people will likely remember you based on your unique attributes.
- Be curious and tinker. If you want to work at cutting-edge companies, show them that curiosity and a never-ending thirst for knowledge is in your DNA. Build stuff. Dismantle things. Learn to code. Email your heroes and ask them big questions. When you’re curious about something, do more than just read about it on Wikipedia – go out into the world and seek it out. Your resume is a written collection of educational and professional experiences. Your interview is a chance to showcase your collection of unique anecdotes about the times you tried something, failed, and learned something new.