Why Google is doomed, redux

Tim Bray, on how he got hired by Google:

“The process started with Dan Morrill who led me to Mike Winton who led me through the notorious Google Interview Process. I think I talked to eleven people in the course of my day there, failing one logic puzzle but acing the what-does-a-browser-actually-do test. Then they made an offer and I accepted and here I am. By “here” I mean Vancouver; I’ll be working remotely.”

Think about that for a second: Tim Bray, a man who co-edited the XML and XML namespace specs, who is smart enough to have been Tim Berners-Lee’s appointee on to the W3C Technical Architecture Group, who co-chaired the Atompub Working Group of the IETF… had to do some logic puzzles to get a job at Google.

Either they were serious, and he could have failed the tests and not got the job, in which case they are stupid; or they made him jump through hoops for form’s sake, in which case they were wasting the time of a super-smart guy (as well as their own).

Words actually fail me.

(Photo by Rob Goodlatte)

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  • http://vitriolix.com vitriolix

    Personally, I don’t think it would be proper to give people special treatment based on their name? Sure, everyone knows he’s smart, but the point of these interview processes is to check not just that the person is smart, but that they will work well in the Google environment. If someone is a prima donna that can’t work collaboratively, who cares what their name is or how long their resume is, or even how smart they are. They are a bad hire.

    That said, personally I find these hoop jumping interviews to be pointless and ridiculous. But if you have a policy, stick to it. Even for the geek-famous.

  • Ian Betteridge

    Not sure about that, vitriolix. Considering what Bray’s done, I’d be surprised if a bunch of fairly high level people in Google hadn’t worked with him already, via the IETF and so on. Certainly, he could dig out enough character references to satisfy any sane company.

  • http://insomniaaddict.com/ seventoes

    “Everyone knows I’m smart, so don’t make me take the same tests as everyone else.”

    He doesn’t seem to have been bothered by the process, why are you?

  • http://nicksweeney.com nick s

    “He doesn’t seem to have been bothered by the process, why are you?”

    Because that kind of Procrustean, software engineer-centric process is going to bite Google on the arse, and arguably already has on multiple occasions. I bet the guy(s) who came up with Buzz’s auto opt-in passed those tests with flying colours.

    It’s becoming really hard not to talk about Google’s corporate culture without throwing out terms like “insular”, “blinkered”, “devoid of empathy” or “socially dysfunctional”, and while I’m uncomfortable with some of Joe Clark’s characterisations, you can go back to a post of his from 2006 where he points out that putting candidates for an accessibility position through the standard algorithmic or programmatic challenges basically neglects and disrespects the skills for which they ought to be hired.

  • http://nicksweeney.com nick s

    Adding this: there are a ton of blog posts on the Google interview process, and I just scanned a few of them. One comment stuck out:

    “Basically, Google does not care about your current skills, what you have done or even who you are. They have some sort of a glass shoe and try to see if your foot fit into it.”

    Peter Norvig also said a few years ago that “we decide which candidates are above the hiring threshold, and then we decide what projects they can best contribute to.”

    That’s a recipe for monoculture, and monoculture is at the heart of every Google misstep. Too many geeks spoil the broth.

  • AC

    What if Google were interested in how well their recruitment system worked? If their current process rejected him, they’d be sure to adapt the system! I applied to a major software company recently, and received two interviews: one real one, and one to calibrate a new manager who hadn’t done many interviews before. What’s to say Google weren’t doing this to Bray?

  • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

    Hmm… doesn’t sound like the kind of thing that would happen at Google, to be honest.