Are You Google Employee Material?

A strong brand, hot IPO and an intense engineering culture help make search advertising company Google a dream employer for a lot of people. Now, a new aptitude test Google is circulating purports to find the best and brightest. But is it really a brilliant ad campaign?

On Thursday, Alan Eustace, vice president of engineering and research for
Mountain View, Calif.-based Google,
published an aptitude test for “uber-geeks.”

The 21 GLAT questions include engineering brain-twisters such as,
“Consider a function which, for a given whole number n, returns the number
of ones required when writing out all numbers between 0 and n. For example,
f)13)=6. Notice that f(1)=1. What is the next largest n such that f(n)=n?”

One question asks: “What’s the coolest hack you’ve ever written?” Another says: “What’s broken with Unix? How would you fix it?”

The test is also heavy on the sort of twee humor that characterizes
Google’s public persona. “This space left intentionally blank. Please fill
it with something that improves upon emptiness,” one question implores.

A question with multiple choice answers states: “You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike. There is a dusty laptop here with a weak wireless connection. There are dull, lifeless gnomes strolling about. What dost thou do?”

“We’re a little obsessive about digging into hard computing problems, and
we love finding more people like us,” Eustace said in a note on the corporate
site. Acknowledging that such tests often “suck,” he offered, “What if there
were a standardized test that led, like, immediately to the really cool

The test also ran as an insert in print magazines, leaving some observers
to conclude that the GLAT is an extremely clever ad.

“Pre-employment testing is a science, and [the answers to these
questions] are not very objective data,” said Sean Lally, an Encinitas,
Calif.-based technology recruiter. Lally said he saw the GLAT as a recruiting ad for engineers. “It’s a help-wanted ad designed to show they have a sense of
humor and are not just about making tons of money,” he said. The ad is
designed to show that “Google is very much an engineer’s company, but
they’re still irreverent and fun.”

Lally doubted that Google hiring managers would pay much attention to the
answers — even though they could uncover people without a sense of irony.
“[Hires] are going to be based the quality of the resumes,” he said.
“Somebody who has real cultural issues might not get half of the jokes, but if
he has a Ph.D. from MIT in the specific type of technology they need, they
won’t care if he doesn’t get any of the cultural stuff.”

Wannabes are invited to print the Google Labs Aptitude Test, or GLAT,
complete it, then mail it back with their resumes. “Score high enough,”
Google promises, “and we’ll be in touch.” In other words, don’t call
Eustace, he’ll call you.

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