Google consistently ranks as one of the world’s best employers, and it’s for a reason. Some put their internship acceptance rate at only 2%, and many have said it’s harder to get an internship at Google than it is to get admitted into Stanford University. Anyone that’s watched The Internship knows their fun and quirky culture including the amazing perks that come with it.
Sure, if you’re amazing enough, you can probably get an internship by just sending in your CV. But 9 times out of 10, and don’t quote me on this, you’re better off setting up a proper game plan.
To become a Googler, you have to not only show that you are the right fit, but also that you care about Google’s mission and about the internship position… Being qualified is simply not enough.
What follows is a 9-step guide on how to get an internship at Google. It led me to my internship and I recommend it to my fellow prospective students.
Step 1: Get to know the company and its people
It’s important to get to know the company you’re applying to and who you’ll possibly be working with.
I first met a Google representative in February 2017 at a career fair in Lund, Sweden, and we instantly clicked. Maybe she saw something in me, maybe not, but she took out a sticky note and wrote down BOLD Immersion (I still have that sticky note somewhere) which is a 3-day insight program where participants get to “immerse themselves in a culture where great minds, cutting-edge technology and smart business intersect to make a difference”. She insisted that I apply and said the application opens sometime in March. So I put reminders every Sunday of March, until it opened.
Google representatives are present at many career fairs and events, like Google AdCamp. But if it’s hard meeting them in person, try to do some research on the company and what it stands for.
Step 2: Adapt your resume to the job
The Google representative and all the chatter online pointed towards one thing: Google likes numbers on CVs. Google is a data-driven company, so add numbers to your resume. I went back to my CV and desperately tried to add numbers and results to the few things I had there.
Googlers love applying this formula to their resume’s bullet points: “Accomplished X, as measured by Y, by doing Z.”
The second thing I did was look for any and all work-experience or opportunities I could get my hands on. I reached out to an entrepreneur I had interviewed for a business class, and he added me to a local Facebook group for startups. There I posted that I had very little experience, but was good at social media and math and wanted something to do over spring break. Luckily an entrepreneur reached out, wanting me to do some research on Instagram influencers and make contact with them. I knew the role at Google was somehow related to digital marketing, so this would hopefully look good on my empty CV.
So don’t be afraid to ask friends, family, or local entrepreneurs for small internships to bolster your CV. It’s hard as a first-year student, but it’s far from impossible.
Step 3: What is your goal?
Know your goal before you do anything.
This year’s BOLD Immersion prompt is, “In 500 words or less, please tell us about your long and short terms goals and how the BOLD Immersion program may fit into that.”
You’re lucky that this is your prompt, because you should ask yourself about your goals before any application. What really is your goal, and why are you doing this? My favorite LinkedIn personality Annette Hudson Nguyen, who was a 2017 BOLD Immersioner and was offered an internship, said this when asked for tips regarding this year’s topic:
“What is your end goal… other than to work at Google? Everybody wants to work at Google. And everybody that says, “I want to get a job at Google” instead of something like “I want to do great work in influencing decisions from a marketer’s perspective that can impact billions, and I think that working at Google will allow me to accomplish that” will likely not get hired.
Google is not the goal. The goal is the goal. So what is the goal?”
Step 4: Don’t just “be yourself,” but spill your guts in the application
The title of this step speaks for itself. There is no point trying to be someone you’re not in the application. These recruiters are good; if they don’t find it in your essay, they’ll see it in your CV. If not, they have 2 or 3 interviews to see that you’re fake. Don’t try it. Just be yourself.
I knew I’d be nothing compared to the others who were applying.
So I decided to be my most vulnerable and truest self. The prompt was to choose leadership, diversity, or development, and why it’s important to you. This is what I wrote:
“I’m Zakaria, and I’m an egoist”
“It started when I was a child. My parents must’ve given me too much attention, because I had to be best. Football and school, music class and running. Girls, friends, being strongest, jumping highest. Singing solo for Christmas assembly. Winning international science competitions, free international trips, and captain of the football team. Admiration became an addiction. Acknowledgement became an absolute.”
“Tell me more”
“I started feeling that it wasn’t enough. I could recognize the depression. Around that time I listened to a podcast, and they said write down what you are grateful for.
I am grateful for my religion. It doesn’t have to be true, but it gives me a sense of belonging and purpose that nothing could replace. I always have someone to turn to. Praying five times a day gives me a pause from this daily routine of a marathon.
I am grateful for my family. My father having made it from a village in the desert to becoming an esteemed cardiologist, my mother getting married at 18, moving abroad, and maintaining a stable and well-cared for family of seven.
I am grateful for my friends. Having gone to international schools all my life, first in the West, then in the East, I now have friends from all kinds of backgrounds. Wherever I go, I’m a mere snapchat story away from having a place to crash.”
“The diversity that has made me the person I am today will not let you ruin me, ego. You can depress me all you want, you can make me unsatisfied anytime. But I’ve seen how important the diversity in me is. I know, all these different components might seem trivial alone, but together they make a whole that you will never bring down.”
The intended meaning here is that diversity helps me overcome my weakness, just like how diversity at Google makes them a strong company. By writing about my ego in a symbolic and literary way, I showed recruiters not only why diversity is important, but also that I am comfortable with identifying my weaknesses and sharing it.
Step 5: Ace the phone interview
A typical thing for Google is to do what they call a phone screen: a 15 to 30-minute phone interview. Before your phone screen, just ask as many people as possible to do mock-interviews with you. I prepared a lot with anyone I could and practiced long anecdotes for the typical “Tell me about yourself” and “Why do you want to work at Google”. This is what I think you should do:
- Don’t overdo the anecdotes. The recruiter interrupted me at one point and asked me what was the point of this long story I was telling
- Know your CV inside and out, and be able to relate your experiences to skills that are useful for the job
- Ask questions, and show your curiosity. You should know about the role you’re applying for, but sometimes it’s hard to understand. I told the interviewer that I honestly didn’t know exactly what the job entails, and asked him to explain.
- Practice practice practice
Step 6: Get your foot in the door by any means possible
As a reminder, all of this effort I went through was just to get into an insight program, not even the internship itself just quite yet.
But that’s how it works. When you get a foot in, not only will they get to know you, but you will also get to know them.
There is a reason a large percentage of BOLD Immersion participants (around 60% in the US BOLD Immersion Program according to insider 2017 sources) score internships.
Sure, the company has already expressed interest in them. But, more than anything, these participants perform well at the interviews because they already know Google well.
P.S. Don’t be all passive at the program. Turn off your phone during those three days, and expose yourself to as much Googleyness as possible. Soak it in. You’re going to need it.
So here’s how we take breaks at Google
Step 7: Ace the interviews
What, more interviews?? Yes.
I’m not going to lie. That second interview had me shaking.
Googlers are so nice though. As soon as I walked in, it was more like a friendly hangout than anything. We were laughing and talking, and really just conversing and answering friendly questions about how I would teach someone who’d never used the internet what the internet is. I was asking her questions too, and making her elaborate more on what she meant for some of her questions. It turned out to be some very pleasant 30 minutes.
After that, the third interview, went very smoothly. We were even mentioning common friends.
Again, prepare a lot and you won’t need to be afraid of anything. Just don’t overdo those anecdotes, and remember to be yourself. They want to see your TRUE self.
Step 8: Sit tight
This is the worst part of my game plan. It literally sucks.
No matter what I tell you, you’re going to be looking at your email inbox more than all your social media combined. It took me 4-5 weeks before they got back to me with an answer. Some of my friends in the US waited 9 weeks until they finally received a call.
Step 9: Reflect
No matter what the answer, look at what you’ve already accomplished by now. Your CV is definitely not empty anymore. You got some new awesome contacts on LinkedIn. Your interviews are now just conversations. And you’ve got no problem scoring an internship for next summer, trust me. Maybe by now, you feel so confident that you decline Google’s internship offer because you have your eyes on something else.