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How to Land Yourself an Internship at Google (by People who Already Did!)

Google’s application process for their internship programs looks pretty straightforward - submit a PDF version of your CV, your transcript to demonstrate your results to date, and in some cases a cover letter or other short note. Simple, huh? 

But we all know, that with such a competitive field, getting an internship somewhere like Google is not going to be a walk in the park! Public information is thin on the ground, but there are something like 40000 applicants for 1500 summer internship places, making this one of the most over subscribed summer jobs on the planet. Hardly surprising when you start to look at the long list of perks everyone at Google - including the interns - is able to access. Try free food, team building trips and onsite gyms, massage and medical support, and add in (for interns coming from out of town) free, prearranged accommodation, and you can see the attraction. 

With such a huge number of applications, it is unsurprising that the good people of the World Wide Web have taken it upon themselves to advise all comers about how best to get a foot in the door in Google. Here are some ideas and resources if you are tempted to try your hand.

The application

The process for applying at Google is pretty simple - however, the team assessing applications have exacting demands. Naturally, your grades count for a lot if you’re trying for a technical intern role. But recruiters will be looking for other evidence of fit, too. Essentially the CVs received will be scored according how well they match the role profile, with more points being given for a closer match.

According to previous Google intern, Austin Wells, writing on Quora, tech companies like Google offer the highest marks for candidates who have experience in student led tech organisations, compete in hackathons, are startup founders, or have previous internships with major tech companies under their belts. So if you have not managed to land an intern program at Google yet, then getting into another large company in the same field can be a smart move.

For the purposes of your application, there is little you can do to massage the details in your CV, but do make sure they are clearly articulated and laid out in a logical and appealing fashion. If you have the option of submit a cover letter, then make the most of it, showcasing your passion for the company and role. Take your time with your Google application, get it properly checked over by a friend, and as soon as it is submitted, hit the web again and start applying for more opportunities. It’s always smart to keep your options open, and getting hung up on such a tough internship gig is not a good idea.

The interview

If your application is attractive to Google, then you will be contacted by one of their recruiters. Expect a series of phone (or Google hangout) interviews, before ever meeting the team face to face.

Although the Google recruiters were known for asking deliberately difficult, and wacky questions (just how many cows are there in Canada, anyway?), to test the thought process of the candidates, this practice has been dropped after negative publicity. That said, the point of these off the wall questions is to test the thought process of applicants, and make sure you can think on your feet. The interviewers have simply found different ways to achieve that - so do not expect the interview process to be easy!

If you get through the technical questions on the phone, then you will be invited into the Google office you’re applying for, to meet the teams face to face. Those who have attended these events say these are not technical, but more about getting a feel for team fit, and figuring out which areas would suit your skills. If you have got this far you’re doing brilliantly!

Preparation is key!

If you are going for a technical role, then you will have at least two technical interviews over the phone, in which you will be asked to solve problems and write code. Google themselves offer some advice videos, and say the best thing you can do in advance is to get used to talking code over the phone and working on code on a whiteboard or a live doc sharing system like Google docs.

Online you will find a great wealth of information about possible questions and coding challenges, which you would do well to practice. Glassdoor allows people who have been in interviews with Google to list their experience and rate it - including some candidates who have shared details of the type of questions asked and the approach of the interviewer. Or if you have time on your side, try the whole book on the subject - Cracking the Coding Interview. Forewarned is forearmed!

It can feel a bit overwhelming if you’re preparing for any big interview, so do prioritize the time you have to address the subjects you feel are most likely to come up, or where you think you might have holes in your knowledge. There is a great volume of resources online to help you figure out what questions to address - try this Quora answer as a starting point.

Getting an internship at Google is really living the dream for many people - have an awesome summer working in an inspiring environment, and even try to turn your summer internship into a permanent job.

But it’s not an easy ride. In fact, the overwhelming majority of applicants will not even get a call from Google, so it is really important to be realistic in your thinking. Do your best at every stage in the application and interview process, but do not lose hope if you don’t succeed first time. Get straight back on the horse, and get applying for more opportunities straight away.

Having other quality internships in your CV is a key measure of fit for a prestigious opportunity like Google’s programme - so keep on looking, line up something equally impressive, and have another shot next year. Good luck!

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