Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Working for the real-world Willy Wonka

Somehow in the back of my mind, I've always thought Google to be an entirely different kind of company, the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory of the internet domain. And, just like the unique way Mr. Wonka chose his successor, Google uses some outlandish testing to weed out the thousands of prospective employees from the wash of MBA's that apply every week:

The success of Google Inc. is such that it is now part of the American cultural vocabulary and consciousness. The Google search engine has tamed the vast resources of the Internet allowing users to access pertinent information with lightning speed.That success, and the company's generosity to its staff (read, stock options), draws hordes of eager prospective employees. Although Google has grown from 700 employees in 2002, to 2,700 in 2004, the company remains highly selective. One way Google weeds out the best from the rest is by publishing a 21-question aptitude test in a number of magazines. The questions alone are enough to confuse those who are not technologically and intellectually elite.

For example:

"How many different ways can you color an icosahedron with one of three colors on each face?" and "On an infinite, two-dimensional rectangular lattice of 1-ohm resistors, what is the resistance between two nodes that are a knight's move away?"The test also includes more subjective, tongue-in-cheek requests like "Write a haiku describing possible methods for predicting search traffic seasonality" and "What is the most beautiful math equation ever derived?"


Alien Shaman said...

I recently interviewed a number of candidates for a position we had open. My boss had warned one candidate of my "Google" questions.

When I was graduating college - it was Microsoft that asked the tough questions, now it is Google, but in reality people ask these questions for many reasons.

How does this candidate handle unknown situations?

Are they going to BS, get mad, or ponder the questions?

How does their mind work?

Working in a field such as mine - I need people that can solve problems. I am not hiring someone to make a coffee, mow my lawn, or drive a bus. I need someone that can look at a system that they have no depth in and know the critical concepts of how to go about learning that system and solving the problem at hand.

Critical thinking is a talent that few people possess and weeding people out with questions such as Google poses are great so that you don't waste your time talking to people that don't have that talent.

And if you are curious here are a couple of my questions:

How do you stop a virus outbreak?

How do you decipher the following string cipher?

[;rsdr jotr ,r

*In english, spaces delineate words

Tim Lewis said...

I believe the answer to that last question about the string cipher is "with more information".