Hangout On Air: MBA Internship Interview Preparation with Laszlo Bock and Kyle Keogh
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Hangout On Air: MBA Internship Interview Preparation with Laszlo Bock and Kyle Keogh

KYLE KEOGH: All right,
good afternoon everybody. Good morning to those on the
other coast or the other part of the world. I’m Kyle Keogh here
together with Laszlo Bock. We wanted to go to talk about
demystifying the interview process here at Google. It’s a process we’ve developed
and honed over years. I’m actually very happy
to have Laszlo here, who has actually led
the development and all the honing of the process. But we realize it’s
a different process than most other
companies go through. So we wanted to use this time,
hopefully, to demystify it, to talk about why we
do it the way we do it. And more importantly,
what it means for you and what you should expect if
you come through the process. So before we jump into
that, my name is Kyle Keogh. I am a sales director
here at Google. I lead our sales to the
telecommunications industry. Laszlo and I go
way back, though. We actually started
working together 12 years ago at a
different company but have had the
opportunity to work together for the last couple
years as well. LASZLO BOCK: Yeah. KYLE KEOGH: Laszlo, do you
mind introducing yourself? LASZLO BOCK: Yeah. I’m Laszlo Bock. I lead People
Operations for Google. And are we going
to do backgrounds? KYLE KEOGH: Yes, we are. LASZLO BOCK: OK, I won’t
spoil the surprise. But I lead people operations. I’ve been at Google for about
the last 7 and 1/2 years. And it is great to be
talking to all of you. Thanks for plugging in and
tuning in and listening. KYLE KEOGH: Laszlo has a wide
variety of great experiences to come in here. And in particular though, if you
get the chance to talk to him, talk about his
“Baywatch” experience. LASZLO BOCK: Nice. Thanks. Thank you. KYLE KEOGH: So Laszlo,
as we talk about as people are going to
interview in this process and they think
about the process, how should they go through
and prepare themselves when they’re coming through? LASZLO BOCK: OK, well,
there’s a couple things. The most important
thing, actually as you think about preparing for
the interview processes is it’s actually kind of the
most important thing or basic interview
hygiene kind of things. You should know a little
bit about the company. You should know the products. You should think
about how to use them. You should have
some sense of what you want to be when you grow up. So nothing that’s a
surprise to any of you. There’s a few things that are a
little different in the Google interview process, one
of which is we really try to recruit for aptitude,
for the ability to learn, the ability to
take on new things and incorporate the lesson
that you learn into what you’re doing and build on that. And so it’s a little
bit different. We’ll talk a little
bit more about that. But the preparation is
like for most companies, but with a little bit
more focus and thinking about what have you learned
through your career? How have you stepped up
in the leadership roles? And that’s all. KYLE KEOGH: All right. So what types of interviews
would they actually see then? And will they see
different ones, or will it be the
same thing over? LASZLO BOCK: Yeah, there’s
a couple different things. You’ll actually probably have
pretty similar interviews as an MBA candidate across
all the people you meet. In fact, we designed
the process so that we try to get as
holistic and balanced a perspective of you as you can. And part of that means
in the interview process, multiple interviewers
will be screening for the same attribute. And the reason for
that is we want to make sure we actually
have an unbiased view of you. And if one interviewer
is wrong, we want another interview
to actually have a good independent perspective. So as you go through
the interview process, there’s four attributes
we screen for. The first and most important,
as I alluded to before, is what we call general
cognitive ability. There’s a lot of
research that suggests one of the best predictors of
how someone does in their job– and we see this too– is raw
intellectual ability, how well people learn, how well
they acquire new skills. So we screen for that. The second is
leadership ability. And unlike most companies,
what we look for is not were you president
of the chess club? Were you the head
of an organization in your MBA program? Did you have some fancy title? We look for something we
call emergent leadership. And emergent leadership
is characterized not by formal authority
but by somebody recognizing there’s
a vacuum, a void, and stepping in to fill
that leadership vacuum, and just as importantly
stepping back out of it. The third thing we look
for is cultural fit. And the idea there is not
that we want a monoculture. We don’t want everyone
to be the same. But what we do want
is everybody to have a shared sense of curiosity,
of conscientiousness, a little bit of humility when
it comes to learning, and being open to new ideas, and
that they might be wrong. And that they want to have
an impact on the world. And the last thing we look
for, the least important thing actually, is your
actual expertise in the area you’re
interviewing for. What we found is generally
you can learn that on the job in most cases. And it falls to the
bottom of our list of things we screen for. KYLE KEOGH: Very interesting. So leadership, cognitive
ability, googliness or cultural fit, and
role-related knowledge? LASZLO BOCK: That’s right. KYLE KEOGH: Very good. How did we determine that
role-related knowledge was actually the lowest? LASZLO BOCK: Well, it’s funny. When the company was small–
and I’m talking about 1999, 2000– the view
was, we were going to be taking on a bunch
of different areas that nobody knew how to solve. Nobody knew how search worked. Or companies knew how it
worked, but it was still an unsolved problem. KYLE KEOGH: Totally. LASZLO BOCK: Nobody knew how
to make money at doing it. And so the idea was,
if you hire people who have done the same
thing again and again and again, they’re
going to see a problem and apply the same solution
they have seen in the past. If you hire somebody who doesn’t
have experience in that area but is bright and
curious and can learn and is willing to step
in when needed and lead, they are more likely to
come up with a new solution that the world
hasn’t seen before. And so this looking
for cognitive ability stems from wanting
people who are going to reinvent the
way their jobs work rather than somebody who is
going to come in and just do the same thing that
everyone else does. KYLE KEOGH: So that
rolls back a lot to the cognitive
ability question. LASZLO BOCK: Yeah. Absolutely. KYLE KEOGH: And we used
to look more– we still look at GPA for people
coming out of business school because it’s the most
recent experience. But in general, we’ve
changed a lot the way we look at cognitive ability. LASZLO BOCK: Yeah. The easy way to look at
this in a lot of places is just to look at test
scores, look at GPAs, and to give brain teasers
or case interviews. And we’ve actually
moved away from that. What we’ve found is that for
your first couple years out of school, that stuff
is a little predictive. But after that it’s not. And so we instead have
developed a way of screening for cognitive ability by
using structured behavioral interviews. It’s a specific
interviewing technique. And that actually is
much more predictive than asking somebody how they
did on the GMAT or an SAT or asking for their grades. It’s also much more predictive
than case interviews, more predictive
than brain teasers. So you will be faced with some
of those in all likelihood as you interview at Google. Some people still
like to use them. But at the end of the day when
we review the offers and all the applications
from every student, we really actually discount
the case interviews at the final review
levels and focus more on more general demonstrations
of cognitive ability. KYLE KEOGH: And does every
offer packet still go before you before it goes out the door? LASZLO BOCK: Half of them. So actually what happens
is all our offers, all our candidates,
before we make an offer, get reviewed by
Larry Page, our CEO. There’s a step before
that where there’s two hiring committees,
one that screens all the technical applications
and one that screens all the non-technical, sales,
and finance, and business development. And I’m one of the
folks who reviews all the non-technical ones. It’s a lot each week. But it’s actually
important because it’s a way of keeping the
process objective and making sure we keep a high,
consistent bar for the kind of people that we
hire at Google. KYLE KEOGH: Fantastic. So we talked a little bit
about role-related knowledge. We talked about cognitive
ability and the fact that GPA is still important,
especially for someone coming out of school, but
it’s definitely not the be all, end all. We’re looking for mental
athletes, if you will, people who can take on new
challenges as they go forward. Can you talk a little bit more
about emergent leadership, and how that differs, and how
someone coming from business school might look at that? LASZLO BOCK: Yeah, sure. One of the things
that often comes up when I talk to
students on campus is they say, well, you know,
I was at a small company, and so I didn’t have
this exalted title. Or, well, all my
friends were in banking. Everyone was a vice president. I wasn’t. Does that count against me? None of that stuff matters. What we really care about
is not the title, the level, how many people you
supervised, none of that stuff. What we care about is can you
articulate examples of times where you have stepped into a
leadership vacuum, where you have identified
that there is a gap and come in to
solve the problem? And just as importantly been
willing to relinquish power, because that’s the way we work. We divide our problems into
small, family sized teams. And nobody’s going to have
the answer for every problem. And the team is
much stronger when you’re able to call on
the best of everyone whenever it’s needed. So that’s what we look for. KYLE KEOGH: Very interesting. Is there an example that you
can think of that you’ve had someone– I know I’m
putting you on the spot– that someone’s come in and
you’ve interviewed them and they talked about something
that would be relevant for those folks, not I led
a 3,000-person organization. Because I know you’re going
to get a lot of senior folks. But something where you’d
look at a tenable example that they could
hold their hat on. LASZLO BOCK: Yeah, the
classic example, you see this with folks out of
consulting all the time. And it’s funny, because
the canned narrative is, I was a junior
person on the team, and the partners
weren’t listening, and I worked with the client
and came up with a great answer. So you get that kind
of thing all the time. What really makes those
kind of stories distinctive, I remember interviewing
one candidate who was a fairly
recent MBA grad. And what he talked
about was a situation where the client didn’t
want them around. The client literally
said, we hired you. We know you have to be here. Go sit in that corner. We don’t want you here. And the partners basically
said just get your job done. Just keep billing. Whatever, just do what they say. Just go. And this person actually wanted
to have more of an impact. And so what ended up happening
was this person slowly built relationships, made
friendships with everybody and found ways to add value. And in the interest
of time I won’t go through all the
details of the answer, but the short version is they
found ways to insert themselves into a lot of
small conversations where they were able
to add a little value, and from that built enough
credibility to have broader impact. But what was interesting
was they then stepped back and let the client be the
star in each of those cases, and other people on the teams. And when the project ended and
they were doing debriefing, they weren’t the person that
the partner looked at and said, you were the hero. You saved us. And they didn’t care. What they cared about was
they had done the right thing. KYLE KEOGH: That’s
actually very true. I’ve actually seen
a lot of folks I’ve worked with in our job. We’re in sales. It’s helped the
client be successful. And then the credit winds its
way back to the right spots eventually, right? You can’t directly attribute it. LASZLO BOCK: Well, in a
way, even if it doesn’t. Your career is a long game. And some things you’ll
never get credit for. And that’s kind of OK. And what we really
want are people who, regardless of
even long-term benefit, they just feel
there’s a right way to think and act and contribute. And that’s what
motivates them, rather than being the hero or the star. KYLE KEOGH: Intersting. So finishing off on
leadership, emergent leadership is not about how you led
something directly yourself, but how you had an
impact on something and made it bigger
than yourself. Your contribution was more than
just an individual contributor. You make the whole better
because you were part of it. LASZLO BOCK: That’s right. And then you also stepped back. And that willingness
to relinquish power is actually an
important part of it. KYLE KEOGH: Because that’s a
good transition to Googliness or cultural fit,
is the cultural fit of not wanting to
always be the star. Can you talk a little bit
about the Google culture and how someone can think about
Googliness as they interview. LASZLO BOCK: Yeah,
so, it’s funny. Everybody at the company
has a different definition of what it means to be googly. And I actually I tend not to
use the phrase itself that much. KYLE KEOGH: I
noticed you didn’t. I did. Sorry, but they’re going
to get asked it that way. LASZLO BOCK: It’s fine. It’s a good question. I think it’s one of the rising
ones on the moderator list, so it’s good we address it. I think most people look at
it and say– at most companies they look for something
special in a candidate. And something special will
be, oh, they run marathons. Or they’ve done a lot
of volunteer work. Or they’ve won a certain award. And for us, it’s less about
that discrete accomplishment. And it’s more
about how you think about your place in the
company and the world. The people that are most
finely attuned with our culture tend to demonstrate that they
are motivated by a mission. There’s something meaningful. The company has a
mission that’s not about making money, that’s
not about selling ads. So people who are motivated
by something deeper than traditional MBA metrics
tend to be more finely attuned. People who are
incredibly curious and have a lot of
intellectual resilience, so they like debate. They like argument. And they’re OK with being
proven wrong and learning. And then people who have a very
strong, as I mentioned before, dose of conscientiousness, the
sense that it’s not just a job. Their goal is not just to
hit their quarterly goals. Their goal is not just
to sell a certain amount. That they have a greater sense
of ownership for the company. It’s one of the reasons
why everyone at Google is eligible for stock. Because Larry and
Sergey believe all of us should be thinking like
owners, not employees. And so people who have that
ownership mindset, that conscientiousness, are more
attuned with the culture. KYLE KEOGH: Interesting. So yes. So a lot of it is do you have
the right long-term mission? Is it consistent? Is a cultural fit there? Rather than, here is
my short-term goals. I love the focus,
too, on resiliency. As much as Google is
successful many times over and has had
success [INAUDIBLE] other markets, a lot of
that comes from resiliency. The early efforts are actually
not usually successful. It comes back in the time after,
and the third and the fourth and the fifth effort
when we actually finally really succeed. I think sometimes people forget. LASZLO BOCK: It’s funny. I was having a conversation this
morning with [INAUDIBLE] who leads our social area,
and we’re talking about how we’re looking
forward to the end of year because it’s been
a really hard year. A lot of hard work, a lot
of hours, I’m sure you know. You do the same. And we both paused. We’d both taken a little
time off at Thanksgiving and came back realizing, from
the outside you look at Google and it seems like this
great, gleaming, shiny thing, and all these products
launching, and all this focus. And from the inside, you’re
constantly working and busting your butt and trying
to have impact. And you fail more often
than you succeed internally. And so you need people who
are able to learn from that rather than have their
learning shut down. KYLE KEOGH: Yep. We are definitely an
introspective, challenging culture. Kind of like hey, that was good. That wasn’t great. To always do better, and
it’s a great way to learn. It can be a little
exhausting at points, but it’s a great way to learn. Very good, so I think we covered
off on the main four areas. We covered off on the
cognitive abilities looking at how you
actually really think. You’re looking for mental
athletes, if you will, folks who can do
something more long term. We covered off on
leadership that’s really emergent leadership, not, hey, I
was the head of the chess club, as you mentioned. But something, I had an
impact well beyond my role. And I knew when to
step forward and when to step back, essentially
the New York Yankees style. You play for the name of
the front of the jersey, not the name on the back. LASZLO BOCK: That’s right. KYLE KEOGH: We talked
about Googliness, in particular having a
long-term view, consistency with the mission, resiliency. And then talked about
role-related knowledge. It’s probably less relevant,
especially coming out of business school. Thanks so much,
everybody, for joining us. Sorry Laszlo had to leave
for another appointment. We had a couple
technical difficulties. You can imagine that at Google. The technology is still
not quite perfect, but hopefully this will work. What we want to do is
go through and answer a few of the questions that
came up on the Google Moderator. These are some of
the common questions we hear as people go through
the interview process. And so we just want to
go through the top five, if you will, if this is helpful. The first question is, my
previous work experience was in a different capacity and
industry than I want post-MBA. As far as internships,
is it better to leverage my prior
work experience, or should I do something
differently and go directly after the new
option that I want? What we’d say is,
on the one side, it’s very important to
make sure that you’re going to do something a field
that is where you want to work. You don’t want to go and do an
internship somewhere in sales if you want to be in engineering
or in product management. On the flip side, you do want
to make sure you set yourself up for success. So let’s think about the
balancing act of that. Is making sure you’re going to
have 12 weeks to really prove yourself and prove the impact
that you can have at Google. So I would balance
off making sure that you can have
an impact, but then also making sure that you
don’t wind up getting an offer and doing well in
one area and saying that’s actually not
where I want to work. I want to work in a
totally separate area. Google is fairly integrated,
but it’s still somewhat large. So if you want to work
in large client sales but you do smaller
client sales, that’s probably workable and fine. But if you’re in
sales and you want to go to product
management, I would encourage you go straight
to product management if that’s your long-term passion
and only what you want to do. Because you want to make
sure that should you have a successful
summer, you get an offer and you get excited
about the opportunity you have afterwards. Second is, how does
the referral process work for summer
internship applications, and what does the
referrer need to do? The referrer just needs to
put you in the system online. We do find referrals
to be helpful in terms of market validation. As much as we can
interview well, having other folks who have
worked with you recommend you who are successful
Googlers cannot hurt. It’s only going to help
you get in the door to get the interview and
maybe a little bit thereon. So don’t worry if you
don’t have referrers here. But if you do,
it’s always great. It’s always a good,
helpful data point for us as we make decisions. And as you know, we’re
really big on data. Third, in your experience,
what have top candidates done to demonstrate their Googliness? So Googliness is an
interesting word. And really it’s about
the cultural fit. We want folks who are excited
to come into work every day, who don’t see work as a paycheck
but see work as an opportunity to really have an impact
and to develop themselves. So we think about
usually things like are you’re really interested
in the Google mission? Does organizing the
world’s information and making it universally
accessible and relevant excite you? Because everything
we’re going to do is really going to be first
and foremost around that. Secondly, do you enjoy
getting up and making sure you have an impact? And can you do that within a
team rather than individually? While individual
performance is important, we really care about how does
this person make Google better. So I’d focus on those
areas that are really going to showcase how you can
help Google achieve its aims and how Google is a better
place because you’re here. That can be things like you’ve
done things in a nonprofit. Can be things that
you’ve done at work, but really showing that you’re a
team player as well as a leader and that you focus on
impact, not on process. And the fourth one,
what does Google look for for potential
product marketing internship candidates? The first and foremost thing
is technical expertise. We’re looking for folks with
an engineering background. From a product
standpoint, we are still a very engineering-driven
company. We want people who can create
tremendous, simple, beautiful products for people. We’re not interested as much in
a me-too product or something that compares directly
relative to the competition. We look at an unmet
need in the marketplace and try to build
products that do that. When we look at
anything from Android to Chrome to Google
Commerce and other areas we’ve gone into, it
has not been, hey, someone else is doing this. And we should do it too. And there hasn’t
been a consumer need that you can look down and say
exactly this is the need state. What it has been is an
unmet need or an opportunity we look at and we see
from consumer behavior. And then you build
an amazing product that solves that seamlessly. So we’re looking for folks
who, one, from an engineering standpoint can do that. And two, from a thought process
and innovation standpoint can develop, conceive,
and actually deliver on projects that are going
to fit an unmet need or even an unknown need. Lastly, the structural
behavior interview sounds like a great way to gauge
cognitive ability, leadership ability, personal
fit, and expertise. How does Google gauge these
elements before the interview? Before the interview,
we’re going to look at, from a cognitive
ability standpoint, what you’ve done recently. If you graduated from
college 10 years ago, that’s not as important to us. But if you graduated
three years ago and went straight
to business school, probably is more
important to you. What we’re looking for is a
history of continued success. Or if you’ve had
challenges, that you’ve been able to
overcome some of them and you’ve learned
tremendously from it and we would benefit
from that experience. So we may look a grades
for those schools that offer them up. But we’re also going
to look at what are the things you’ve done to
go above and beyond to have a greater impact. So general cognitive ability
can be grades and test scores if they’re more recent. Leadership ability can really
be about what did you do, and how can we show
from the resume that you’ve done things that
show you go above and beyond, and that the team
or Google is going to be better
because you’re here. And then personality
fit and expertise, we’re going to look
for other experiences that you’ve had that are
very consistent with Google’s values. From an expertise
standpoint, we’ll look for what we call
role-related knowledge. But it is, as Laszlo pointed
out, one of the lower things on the priority list. Because we want you to be
successful on the job straight out of the gate. We also know that you can
learn a lot of those things here at Google. And if you’re going to be
at Google for a long time, we want to care that we build
your career successfully over years, not just deliver
in the first six months. We want people to be successful
at Google for 5, 10, 15 years. And that takes a
look at the long term and looking for folks who can
adapt and continue to move on. So thanks so much
for taking the time. Hopefully that addresses
many of your questions. And look forward to hopefully
seeing you at Google.

About Ralph Robinson

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4 thoughts on “Hangout On Air: MBA Internship Interview Preparation with Laszlo Bock and Kyle Keogh

  1. In December we hosted a Hangout on Air with Laszlo Bock (SVP, People Operations) and Kyle Keogh (Director, Sales) about our MBA internship interview process.

    They discussed how to prepare for an internship interview, what types of questions to expect and our overall evaluation criteria. The final recording of the Hangout is now up on our YouTube Channel. Check it out for some valuable insights:

  2. Great Hangout Guys.  I'm really glad you covered what Google is looking for since it only confirms my Googliness.  Very informative.  I'm very excited to see how my application process goes.  Thanks again.

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