Use Google to look up weird coding terms? You could end up working there by Max Nisen

Google has many ways of sourcing talent. It has a highly developed in-house recruiting organization, and gets a staggering number of external applications. But if you’re in the habit of looking up obscure coding terms, you might see one of the company’s more obscure recruiting methods, a message from Google letting you know that you’re “speaking our language,” and asking if you’re “up for a challenge.”

Max Rosett, a former management consultant who was in the process of finishing an online masters in computer science from Georgia Tech, came across the challenge while searching a Python term, he wrote on The Hustle. After completing a series of six problems, he was asked to submit his contact information and got an email from a recruiter a few days later. He was able to skip the standard phone screening, and three months after first seeing the challenge, says he is a Google employee.

You can click the link to the challenge any time, but can only log in and attempt it if it “finds you.”

This has cropped up in the media before. A poster at Hacker News, a link sharing site popular among programmers, came across it last year. Phil Tower wrote about it more extensively at Ello, and revealed a (since removed) cryptography problem that also offered a way in. David Yanofsky, a reporter on Quartz’s “Things” team (also hiring!), ran into it earlier this year.

But Rosett’s post suggests the tool is more than just a fun project someone at the company started and left on the internet—it’s a way to get a job.

It’s also encouraging for people looking to break into the tech industry or switch careers that there’s an unconventional path into the company as a programmer.

Here’s what Yanofsky ran into:

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 6.55.41 PM

And the screen he got to after clicking “I want to play”:

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 6.55.51 PM-2

Some search terms and topics that have led people to the challenge include “angularjs directives,” and “mutex lock,” according to Hacker News posters. Rosett searched “python lambda function list comprehension.”

We’ve reached out to Rosett and will update this post if we hear back. As for Google, a spokesperson responded to Quartz about the matter:

\u0050\u0075\u007a\u007a\u006c\u0065\u0073\u0020\u0061\u0072\u0065\u0020\u0066\u0075\u006e\u002e\u0020\u0053\u0065\u0061\u0072\u0063\u0068\u0020\u006f\u006e\u002e
(Hint: you may want to read up on ISO/IEC 10646) 🙂

To translate from unicode, open the terminal on your computer, type “python,” and hit enter. Then paste the above in, bracketed by single quotes, tack on “.decode(“unicode-escape”)” (no quotes) then press enter. The translation is at the bottom for the busy.

The tactic is reminiscent of cryptic billboards the company put up in Boston and California in 2004, which had a math puzzle that led to a website. People who went to the site found another puzzle. If they solved that, they were invited to send their resume to a specialized inbox.

According to HR chief Laszlo Bock’s recent book, it resulted in a blitz of resumes and inquiries, zero hires, and a waste of resources. He wasn’t a fan. From the book:

Most visitors didn’t make it through both puzzles. In interviewing those that did, we learned that doing well in solo competitions doesn’t always translate into being a team player. And while people who win this contests can be brilliant, it’s often only in one field. Or they are accustomed to solving problems with finite ends and clear solutions rather than navigating the complexity of real-world challenges.

In this case, recruiters have more control; they can reach out to if they choose, rather than facing a deluge of resumes.

Google’s statement, translated, is “Puzzles are fun. Search on.”

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