Interviewing for a UX Designer Role with Google...

Spoiler: I didn't get it.

After the Recruiter Call

I have a phone interview with Google. I'm stoked (STOKED!) but trying desperately to play it down because, let's be honest, the success rate of getting through (from what obsessive compulsive research I can find) is low. So looow.

So, this might be the high point. I'm good enough to interview with Google, and perhaps I go no further. I don't know yet, the anticipation is killer. It feels a bit like Schrodinger's cat, you know? That at this point, I'm both good enough and not good enough for Google.

Still, in the interest of not putting all my eggs in the Google basket, I've been applying for other jobs. When they ask what else I've got going on, I always trot out Google casually at the end, like it's no big deal. Yeah, I'm talking to big name companies and I'm worth the slightly higher salary I'm asking for.

I haven't told that many people, only a handful. Every time I do their eyes get big, and they say 'Oh, Elly. Gosh! Google!'. I feel like a fake though, because I haven't even had the interview yet. I don't know if I'm up to scratch. I can see how working for the Google prestige could be addictive. What if I bomb out?

The Phone Interview

I just did an interview with a girl from YouTube. She was lovely. Nervousness and then relief. I heard back the next day. I was sure I'd done terribly. What do you know? I'm in to the next round! High five!

The Design Task

I've been asked to do a task. I've been given a few scenarios and assigned a few deliverables. They gave me a guideline of three hours and a week to do it in, which was fine.

Except that I was nervous about doing it (don't fuck it up, El), so waited till the end of the week while Zee was away to get things started.

I'm not sure exactly what they were looking for, or whether I'm up to grade but I did the task. I fretted over it and went over the suggested time frame by an hour or two. It's hard to pare it down, because while I know they want to set a reasonable time frame, it's GOOGLE. You obviously want to put your A Game forward. In the end I stopped fiddling with it and sent it out, and now the waiting. Oh the waiting!

After the Design Task

I'm in the next round, bring it.

On the train to the face-to-face interview

Ahh, I'm nervous. I have a presentation (it's a fricken hour long, how am I going to talk about myself for an hour??) I've been asking myself prep questions. I'm prepared. Mostly... I always feel at this point I probably could have done more. Still, I'm prepared.

Just not for the writhing mass of butterflies hanging out in my stomach. Interviews aren't new to me, I'm a contractor. I do them all the time, I show up, I smile, I make them laugh... So why am I nervous? Pfft, big multinational technology giant nothing... Right?

Urgh. A full day of interviewing. Perhaps I should have had breakfast.

Sitting in reception...

... And it's fucking balla. Big leather couches, jars full of tic tacs and gum. A fancy check yourself in kiosk. A chandelier, fridges full of water and sugary drinks... A wall of frames photos (the queen, Winston Churchill) interspersed with screens in frames with video scenes of the beach. Is very Dumbledore office esque.

So fun. Very impressive... which I suspect is half the point. We are Google, look at how impressive we are. Yes, the hype is absolutely more than just reputation.

After the presentation

Holy fuck that was intense. An hour is a long time to talk. Six people is a massive panel, and they didn't give anything away. These guys? Best poker faces ever. I have no idea if I did well or not. Ahhhh. And straight into interviews. Ahhhh!

After the whole day of interviews

Holy shit that was intense! A full day of being on, I didn't get a single minute to decompress by myself. You always have a host with you (seriously, a host even waited outside the bathroom when I was in it). Still, the hosts/interviewers were really lovely. Asked a lot of questions about my past roles and design skills. Did a two design tasks (one about virtual cash exchange and the other about improving a google product).

There were a few questions I probably could have answered different, and because a lot of them asked the same questions over and over there clearly was a theme. I answered them differently with each interviewer too, hoping to bang on one clearly best answer, but I'm not sure there was one.

I really fucked up the technical section. That really did me in. Despite the recruiter telling me not to worry, and that coding wasn't a priority, it clearly was. I code basic html/css stuff with an editor. One that populates the syntax and variables for me. I also almost always refer to The Internet when I'm pulling a prototype together... so having to code some stuff in a Google Doc with no help? *pulls face* I really wanted to argue that this wasn't a realistic view of my coding skills considering no one codes under these conditions. Buuut you're not meant to do that in an interview, so I didn't.

It was a really really really long day, oh man. I'm shattered now.

Interesting to see the offices, really impressive (so much food it's ridiculous. The cafe rumours aren't even close - they have cafe yes. They also have kitchens on all the floors. There is no way that there is any desk in that office more than 200 metres from a kitchen stoked with food at any point. I snacked at each kitchen we came to on the tour. Fruit in this one. Pastries in that one. This one has the better coffee machine, but this one here is really good for sandwiches... Seriously. So much food. The office overall was really fun and relaxed. If nothing else, I'm glad to have got this far. Fingers crossed!

Apparently now all my interviewers put in their report and it goes to a panel of people in Mountain View. We'll see how it goes.

After the call

Bummed. Bummed is how I feel right now. Just got off the call with the recruiter who said I was borderline. In terms of Googleness (that's the actual phrase she used) I'm awesome, I'd fit in with the team, I've got all the skills, my portfolio was strong...

Except apparently I'm borderline. And they said no.

There was concern that because I haven't worked at Google scale company before, so I'd take a while to ramp up. Because my technical skills out of my brain aren't up to scratch. Because I recycle code and use stack overflow.

They're looking for succinct and precise think on your feet design decision justification, she said. Not that you weren't, she said (except that I didn't get the job, I thought).

They loved you, she said. The London heads were definitely supportive of your bid.

But I didn't get the job I thought.

Try again in 11 months, she said. Because if it had been a different committee on a different day you would have got in, she said. A slightly different set of people, you'd have been in.

I understand, shopping decisions have taught me that if it's a maybe it's a no. But a different committee on a different day? That comment had me in tears. You're good enough for Google, just not today. Try again tomorrow.

So. I'm bummed. I know that three of my better graduating peers have tried and didn't get in. I'm in their club now. I never dreamed I was good enough at what I do for Google, but the hope was a buoyant bubble that was addictive.

Eleven months is marked in my calendar. You can bet that between now and then I'm going to be an awesome fucking web dev so I can prototype the shit out of anything. Then their stupid technical interview can suck it. I didn't apply for a web dev role, but if that's the only real feedback I can act on, you can bet I'm going to.

Eleven months and then I'm applying again. I'm in it. Also, still bummed.

Side note: next time make sure I'm alone for the feedback call. Not in a house with Zee's well meaning folks, who catch me as I'm processing all the 'your not quite good enough' emotion.

Six months later

Meh. I'm less bummed now. I'm happy with the contractor route and woah buddy, how did I not realise how lucrative this is? I couldn't have become a contractor and gone to Google. I'm not sure I will try again next year, so far I have the opportunity to pick and choose my projects, and I have been. This variety is awesome! My bank accounts are looking wonderfully healthy, and with no leave restrictions I'm quite enjoying the contractor lifestyle. Maybe I'll try Google, maybe I won't. At this point? Contracting is definitely winning out. We'll see what happens in the next 6 months or so.