Understanding Googleyness - How do you pass the Googliness interview?May 27, 2021
There is a lot of confusion about Googleyness and how it shows up during the Google interview. It really starts with Google’s motto — Do the right thing, formerly Don’t be evil. Specifically, some concepts you will want to consider when thinking about Googliness are:
- Team Player
- Life Long Learner
- Valuing Yourself and Others
- High Standards
- Having Fun
- Emotional Intelligence
Let’s start by focusing on the motto — Do the right thing. Google strives to hire people who are honest and kind, so the biggest item/concept to focus on, is being a good person. This shows up during the interview in a couple of ways. The first item is based on interactions, not only the way you interact with the interviewers, but the way you interact with the receptionist, the person serving you a coffee or lunch in the cafe, the people you pass in the hall, etc. Make sure all of your interactions are courteous, friendly, and positive. Second is your interview answers, these answers should demonstrate how you have done the right thing throughout your career.
A critical aspect of interviewing is the use of words, let’s explore a few items:
Positivity — I personally encountered something completely new when I worked at Google, people who would only respond to positivity. Anything negative, words, pitch, or tone would shut them down, literally anything. And while you need to be positive in all interviews, when interviewing at Google and thinking about Googleyness, take it to the next level. And by next level I want you to focus on turning the negative, positive. For example, change negative words like failure, conflict, and weaknesses by rephrasing these items as an opportunity. Because in all instances when something does not go according to plan it is our opportunity to learn from it and apply that learning in the future.
Gender — All workforces are made of he’s, she’s, and people that identify as gender neutral or non-binary. So it is important to not constantly refer to an Engineer, Salesperson, or CEO as he. It will instantly communicate gender bias and downtick your success rate, switch it up. It shows that when you are working with others you are always considering inclusivity.
Political Correctness — I know this term is a little dated, but do not skate the line on this item, it likely will not end in a positive result. Do not take chances with controversial topics because it will strongly impact how you are viewed from a Googliness perspective. Google is an incredibly liberal company where everyone is accepted, this is the environment, and they will be looking for that match during the interview.
Well, it wouldn’t be an article about Googleyness without mentioning the famous Lazlo Bock, Google’s most well known Human Resources employee. Of all the articles written on Googliness (besides this one of course), Lazlo’s is the best at truly defining this concept. Lazlo highlights five important concepts in his definition of Googleyness
Attributes like enjoying fun (who doesn’t) — Google employees work hard, but they also are playful and like to have a lot of fun, from going to cafe and grabbing lunch with a friend, to taking a break to shoot a quick game of pool with a colleague. I used to blast Rebecca Black early on Friday mornings to get people energized and pumped up for the day for example. During the interview, be able to provide these anecdotes/examples about having fun and overall implement a little bit of fun into your answers.
A certain dose of intellectual humility (it’s hard to learn if you can’t admit that you might be wrong) -
Having intellectual humility will show up in your interviews in the form of being humble, admitting you had an area/s of growth, needing others to take the lead, needing advice/guidance from others, and trusting that others are acting in your best interests. This last item is critical, if we operate from a place of thinking positivity about what others are doing, it will make the way we communicate with them that much stronger. Lastly, a constant focus throughout the interview on learnings and the application of those learnings. Intellectual humility is about your ability to learn and grow, talking about it will greatly increase your chances of success.
A strong measure of conscientiousness (we want owners, not employees) — Have high standards and NEVER make an excuse in an interview. Own everything and talk about how you improved. Focus on how you worked really hard to get better in that specific area through continuing education, how you worked to improve your listening skills, whatever it might be.
Comfort with ambiguity (we don’t know how our business will evolve, and navigating Google internally requires dealing with a lot of ambiguity) — This specific concept is called out by both Lazlo and Google on their carers page. Comfort with ambiguity is all about soft skills, like questioning, listening, empathy, collaboration, consideration, etc.
Evidence that you’ve taken some courageous or interesting paths in your life — Part of creating an inclusive environment is recognizing the value of people coming from different backgrounds, people that have taken different career paths, etc. This could be about taking a non-traditional path, this could be about leaving the cushy job to run a startup, or switching focus/areas skills in the middle of your career. Whatever it might be, focus on how that path has helped you thrive and will help you provide a unique/interesting lens if given the opportunity to work at Google.
Go to the source, and what better source for figuring out this Googliness thing than Google. Remember, do not rely on third party sources, they often aggregate data that is completely false/incorrect. Trust the information coming directly from the organization and those that have been in the arena, those that have actually worked for or with the company. Google defines Googleyness as four items:
How you work individually and on a team — This shows up in focusing on what you did, but always recognizing and giving praise to those that supported you/were critical to your success. You always want to highlight the strength/s of your team, whether these were collaborators, stakeholders, vendors, etc. And don’t forget to talk about what you learned by working with others, how they helped you grow/develop.
How you help others — Whether you are interviewing for an individual contributor role or people management position, caring and helping others is a core function of Googleyness. This could be business or personal related. People experience life events during their career, so when you talk through your examples of helping others, talk about how you listen, show empathy, have compassion, and what you personally have learned by helping others.
How you navigate ambiguity — Googliness is about appreciating and finding joy in the unknown, welcome to Google! The interviews will challenge your ability to problem solve with extremely limited information. It is important that you respond to questions that explore this unknown with positivity and that you have a little fun too. How to overcome some of the ambiguity in the interviews is to make it conversational and ask clarifying questions. Build in pauses and space to interact with the interviewer, and check in with them often during your solution.
How you push yourself to grow outside of your comfort zone — Most often this shows up as taking on projects outside of your core function, mentoring and leading others, having challenging conversations, and pushing yourself when it is uncomfortable. Have great examples of times when you have done these items, prepared for your interview. This could also be about growth related to the role outside of work, such as you took a Python class to get better at your job or you read a book on leadership to become a better people manager, etc. And lastly, are you demonstrating growth during the interview. I would look for this when I interviewed potential Googlers, could this person evolve and get better during our 45 minute conversation.
I want to end by briefly touching on the power of emotional intelligence, defined as the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict. Think about this concept/definition and how it directly correlates to all the other items discussed in this article.
If you want to get hired by Google, you will have to demonstrate Googliness throughout all your interactions and you will be tested on it in the interview process. Good luck and I hope this article helps!