The Silicon Valley Voice

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Your New Job at Google

I know! You love your job. It may be boring and dreary, but you’re loyal. You’d never leave a solid, horn-rimmed, school librarian of a company for a sexy, starlet-type temptress of a firm that promises you wild salaries, sizzling stock options, and all the limelight of a Hollywood premier.

But just in case you’re curious what it would be like to live on the employment red carpet, let’s talk about your chances for getting a gig at Google.

For the average Joe or Jane, the chances aren’t particularly great. According to “How to Ace a Google Interview,” a William Poundstone essay in The Wall Street Journal, Google receives a million job applications a year. And while I am 110 percent certain that you would stand out in any crowd, the sobering statistic is that only about 1 in 130 applications results in a job.

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Fortunately, you have an attribute that should make it quite simple to beat those odds — you’re pretty darn odd yourself.

Yes, at Google, weirdness works. The company is looking for oddballs, and the hiring process is based on bringing out the weirdo in you. If you doubt it, consider one of the questions recently asked in a Google interview:

“You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and thrown into a blender. Your mass is reduced, so that your density is the same as usual. The blades start moving in 60 seconds. What do you do?”

For the average applicant, this is a tough question to answer. For an oddball like you, it’s a piece of cake. The other candidates have to speculate. With your twisted brain, you’ve probably been preparing for this eventuality for years! (In fact, your plan to swim to the top of the banana smoothie being prepared in the blender is not an acceptable answer to Google. They prefer their applicants to calculate that even in a shrunken-down state, the density of your muscles would be sufficiently powerful to let you jump out of the blender. This may be the right answer if you believe the so-called “laws of physics,” but you would never get to suck up all that free banana smoothie.)

It’s not surprising that an out-of-the-box company like Google is trying to cull out-of-their-minds candidates. What is truly weird is when the same tactics are adopted by very much in-the-box companies like AT&T, Johnson & Johnson and Bank of America.

According to a survey on Glassdoor.com, cited by author Poundstone, AT&T is asking candidates “If you could be any superhero, who would it be?” Considering the 20 calls a week I get from AT&T, I would imagine that correct answers are “Rude Man,” or “Super Pest.”

Johnson & Johnson’s question du jour is “what color best represents your personality?” I don’t know a lot about the corporate culture of this big player in the world of big pharma, but the company recently admitted to bribing European doctors and agreed to pay $70 million in civil and criminal fines, so I’d say that the best color to be might be prison-jumpsuit orange.

My favorite weird question is from one of our least favorite companies — Bank of America. The bank is reported to be asking candidates, “What animal are you?” Considering all the controversy over B of A’s lending and pricing practices, I would think the best answer would have to be a “weasel.” Of course, this is very unfair to weasels, to whom I apologize.

As Poundstone explains, the shift from straightforward to twisted interview questions comes at a time when many people are questioning the effectiveness of traditional human resource recruiting techniques. It seems that despite the rigor of a traditional resume and reference review or an insightful interview with a highly trained HR professional, “the deep, dark secret of human resources is that traditional job interviews don’t work very well.”

This may be big news to the HR department, but to the rest of us viewing the cavalcade of clowns brought in as managers, the failure of the current system is no surprise. Of course, in your current company, actually working for these losers will not be a problem. Just as soon as you submit your application and ace the job interview, you’ll be working at Google. Imagine — you and a bunch of people who think they can jump out of a blender.

By those standards, a wacko like you will feel right at home.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@funnybusiness.com.

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