Are You Good Enough For Google?
Exactly one month ago I gave up the golden handcuffs keeping me at Google. I left to build full-time, and I haven’t looked back. Except when people have asked, and it happens almost every day. To be exact, 118 people have questioned why I quit and just as many have sought my guidance on getting in. If you want a job at Google or other top companies, here’s my take.
It’s a wonderful life if you can make the cut.
Volleyball, olympic size pools and personal trainers. Rock walls between floors, slides instead of steps and bowling alleys to pass the time. Breakfast, lunch and dinner on demand and masseuses in multitude. Really, it’s Disneyland for adults.
For four and a half years, I worked at Google. First, partnering with websites on AdSense and then building the North American sales strategy for Google’s Ad Exchange. After moving to New York City, I led my team’s east coast recruiting efforts for almost a year.
I’ve reviewed at least 500 resumes, screened more than 100 candidates and hired 12 superstars. In most instances, the candidates didn’t have a fighting chance.
Truth be told, neither did I. You and I have a better shot at being struck by lightning (576K:1) or winning an Olympic medal (660K:1) than getting into Google. What no one will tell you is this:
The odds will never be in your favor
Let’s do some simple math. Google receives more than two million applications per year for roughly 5,000 jobs. Off the bat, your chances are .0025%. And that’s assuming all things are equal, but they rarely are. Politics, people and yes, processes get in the way. Even for a company filled with the smartest people in the world, Google relies on technology to search applicants, surface the best candidates and slot them in the right role.
Learn how to beat the system.
Most of us fill out a form and click submit, completely unaware of how deep the black hole runs. Applying for a job online is akin to playing the lottery. It might work, but chances are you’re just wasting time.
Here’s how you stack the deck…
Forget going to Google. Make Google come to you. It’s a little known fact, but a recruiter’s role isn’t to find talent. Real recruiters only screen qualified candidates.
Let me explain.
If you have 2 million applications then choosing the right one is like finding a needle in a haystack. The task is nearly impossible. Walmart reportedly receives more than 5 million applications a year and Microsoft processes 50,000 resumes a week. Competition at the top is crazy, but don’t think small, lesser known companies are any easier. Although it varies with the company and the job, the Electronic Recruiting Exchange (ERE) reports that on average 250 resumes are received for each corporate job opening.
Even if you had 200 or say 150 resumes, would you review each one? Would you give the 149th candidate the same time and attention as the first? I’m sure most recruiters mean well but, by themselves, they’re not set-up for success. So they leave the heavy lifting to something else.
A Helping Hand
The first person to review your resume isn’t a person at all. It’s likely a software program known as an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). To recruiters, ATS is the greatest thing since sliced bread: it saves them time and the company money.You submit your application, ATS scans your credentials and gives you a score. You’re then ranked against other candidates and a decision is made based on “data.” More about this later.
All good right? WRONG.
For you and me, ATS is a weapon of mass rejection. Job search services provider Preptel reports that 75 percent of candidates’ are instantly unqualified as soon as they submit their resumes. In a matter of milliseconds, a computer makes up its mind and most likely passes on your potential. Like I said, we never had a fighting chance.
You’ve probably heard of web analytics, but what about people analytics? Today, human capital is measured by resume robots and social media scores. This is not to say we’ve taken the ‘human’ out of human resources, but the nature of recruitment has changed.
Everything is tracked, including social media activity and the degree to which you’re already ‘connected’ to the company. Did you respond to an email? Were you late for an interview? Algorithms already predict World Series championships (Go Giants!) and fluctuations in the stock market. Why not forecast the success of one candidate over another?
Success is relative so it can be measured by almost anything, including:
- Internet Presence – Articles, blogs and social media mentions, particularly on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+
- Past Performance – Employment background, work history, native talent and earned credentials from the applications and resumes you submit
- Personality Tests – Skill sets and behaviors can be modeled from your answers to scenario based surveys and tests
Once the data is collected, ATS goes to work. Like Google’s super secret search algorithm, no one knows how data sets are organized and analyzed, but you can bet it differs by employer and role.
Beat the Bot
The gatekeeper blocking your application goes by the name ATS. To beat the bot, you must optimize the keywords in your resume. Google popularized the analysis of keywords to understand the content of web pages. That concept is then placed into context, relative to the competition. The most relevant results appear on top. To this day, the quantity and quality of keywords is still a major factor in Google’s PageRank. Your resume must work the same way.
Every industry has its jargon, slang and colloquialisms. What matters most to ATS is the use, uniqueness and relevance of keywords. To stand out in the system, consider the following tips:
- Selection – Include keywords, phrases and skills repeated in the job description. You can also review the company’s career website, the professional profiles of current employees and similar jobs. The keywords you discover are likely the same exact keywords a recruiter has programmed ATS to pick-up.
- Density – Focus on no more than three keywords, and keep the frequency between 2% to 4% of all words. We call this keyword density. If you find yourself repeating the same keyword over-and-over again, you can always use synonyms.
- Formatting – ATS might not understand fancier fonts so stick to Arial or Times New Roman. Also, avoid white text and shades of grey. Black is perfect. And, unless otherwise instructed, submit a Word doc instead of a PDF. In all ways possible, you want ATS to read what you wrote. Otherwise, what’s the point?
When everything is said and done, what recruiters receive is a list of qualified candidates. From here, they go to work screening potential hires. I told you recruiters don’t focus on finding talent! They focus on vetting the cream of the crop, and they look to the world’s largest professional network for further help.
The One Stop Shop
This may come as a shock, but LinkedIn is the largest ATS around. Think about it. You and I create online resumes in the form of a profile, they’re searchable and then we connect. Mostly with other people looking for a job, but then there’s this secret matrix reserved for recruiters interested in reaching top talent.
Remember when I told you to make Google come to you? Well, LinkedIn is your number one tool for turning that dream into reality.
94 percent of recruiters use LinkedIn to vet candidates. They’re checking your professional background and gauging your level of online activity. More than anything else, they’re direct sourcing. They’re fishing for talent, and when they catch wind of a candidate it’s time for the approach.
Tell me you’ve received a similar message in the past:
Hi Michael, How are you? I hope you don’t mind me reaching out to you directly, but your profile looks great! We are searching for a “rock-star” performer for our team and your background is stellar. Do you have time to chat on the phone tomorrow or this week? Your background is stellar. Thanks!
As spammy and generic as it sounds, companies are paying LinkedIn up to $8,000 per user per year for the right to message you. Recruiters are combing through your work experiences, skills, education and other credentials. Sound familiar?
Just like ATS, LinkedIn looks at the keywords in the headline, job titles and summary sections of your profile. Then, you’re given a score and that score determines your rank. If you want to appear on a recruiter’s radar you need to think about keyword relevance, the quality of your connections and whether LinkedIn is worth paying for.
LinkedIn first offered premium accounts to sales professionals and then recruiters. As the professional network has evolved they were gracious enough to offer similar services to you and me. Now job seekers near and far must ask themselves one question: should I pay for LinkedIn?
LinkedIn promises to bump your profile to the top of search results. Just like Google’s sponsored ads, your profile will appear at the top as a ‘Featured Applicant.’ If LinkedIn search behavior follow’s Google, 75% of recruiters will never visit the second page of search results. So it goes without saying that it’s even more important to be on top.
It’s flattering to be contacted, but why wait for an opportunity? Go get it! If you believe in taking the proactive approach to LinkedIn, you can ask for introductions from mutual parties, join groups to contact any member and network your way to new connections. Plus, you’re saving $48/month. Sometimes, the “scrappy” approach inspires a level of creativity that money can’t buy.
Like most things, there is no right or wrong answer. Personally, I pay for LinkedIn but it’s not for everyone. Try the free way first and, if you find you want to be featured in front of recruiters, give premium a try.
From HR to Sales
For LinkedIn, premium accounts are apart of their business and a key component of how they make money. For recruiters, you are their business and they pitch you like any other product or service. In that sense, think of recruiters as saleswomen and what they’re selling is you.
Like more traditional sales, recruiters have quotas. Their performance is judged by the number of hires they get through the door. They’re looking for the best candidates to pitch to hiring managers. Ultimately, it’s the team’s decision who they hire. Your recruiter is only making an introduction. It’s up to you to close the deal.
In the case of Google, hiring decisions are made by a hiring committee that includes the CEO. After 4 to 9 interviews, on average, feedback is submitted and a candidate is further vetted. Those that pass face a final review by the hiring committee, consisting of senior managers and directors. They review every candidate that’s hired into Google, taking into account interview feedback, work history and the infamous hiring packet.
The hiring packet is your portfolio: it’s all the reasons why you deserve the job. It’s your final pitch.
The Brand called YOU
You are a brand, and like any business, it’s your job to sell yourself accordingly. From the moment you make your first contact to the final round interview, promote yourself. If Google is the end, then you are the beginning. You, Incorporated.
What do you have to offer a company? How will your colleagues benefit from having you around? Your brand is more than the impression you leave behind. It’s the fruit of your labor, and nothing speaks louder than your work. Henry Ford said it best, “You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.”
They key to building your brand is doing work that creates value and strengthens credibility. To measure your meaning, consider the following:
- Market – Who is your audience? Who stands to benefit from your skill set?
- Message – What makes you unique? What is your dramatic difference?
- Medium – How do you share your story? In what ways are you standing out?
- Messenger – How does your online and offline persona match your brand?
- Money – How do you measure and capture your value?
Software engineer, graphic designer, or AdWords account manager, when it comes to Google, or any any top company, you’re an All-Star. What you’re selling is beyond your capacity to work well. It’s intellectual curiosity and a desire to overcome business challenges and solve problems.
Hiring managers are looking for solutions and it’s your job to come up with an answer. The first test is ATS and those that pass move to the front of the line. We’ve always thought of friends and former colleagues as sources of referrals, but recruiters refer candidates too. In fact, they’re the number one source of referrals to hiring managers. Get on their good side.
The way to get noticed by Google and other top companies is simple: be the best and sell yourself at each stage of the game. It takes competence and confidence, and no one can market your brand better than you can. Start today!