As part of my Brazil Scientific Mobility Masters Cohort Program (what a mouthful), I have to engage in research or an internship related to my field of study during the summer - no 3 month vacation. This isn’t as terrible as it sounds, particularly if you consider my summer will be spent working at Google.

You don’t get that much desired offer letter before going through quite a battery of “entrance exams”. The selection process isn’t easy - or at least I didn’t think so. I thought I’d write about somthing I concerned myself much about: the admission timeline. Hopefully this can be of help to people currently going through the process or for those who’d like to know what they’re getting into.

The Timeline

You’ll hear about this in most blogs. The intern selection process is usually divided into three parts: phone interview, technical interview(s), matching. From what I researched, my process took longer than usual. This may be because it happened over the holidays/end of year. This was nerve-wracking for me, so I thought I’d share my case so others worry less. I used my email history to get dates, so this should be pretty accurate.

0. The First Application: As I was looking up old emails, I found an email dated ~ Feb 2013, the end of my junior year in undergrad, kindly informing me that I was not chosen for an internship at Google. I’d forgotten I’d applied way back when. But they said they’d keep my resume on file and turns out they actually did. One year later in June 2014, I get an email from a recruiter. She wanted to interview me for a full time position. My resume included my June 2014 expected graduation so I’m guessing that’s why I got a callback.

By that time I had already accepted a grant funding my MS at Columbia, so I explained I would only be free for a summer 2015 internship. My recruiter was great about it, said she’d recommend me to the U.S. internship recruiting department, but suggested we go ahead and have a phone interview. Lesson here, getting a ‘no’ doesn’t mean you’re no good. It could be the wrong time, or maybe you just need to work a bit more, learn a bit more and try again.

1. Phone Interview - June 2014: The phone interview is no biggie. A few tech-related questions, but all the kind you can answer in one sentence. Mostly to get to know you, your experience, interests, etc. ~30 min.

After the call, I wrote thanking my recruiter for the opportunity. She wrote back that day giving me prep material for the technical interview, which I assume meant I passed that part. As I was only applying for summer 2015, she informed me she’d be in touch after the summer which is when the technical interviews would take place.

2. The Second Application - September 2014: In mid-September, the Google recruiter contacted me again, asking for an updated transcript, resume, the works. I think I applied around then to a summer 2015 software engineering internship. I don’t remember if I was instructed to, or if I simply did it on a hunch.

By the end of the month (26th to be exact), I got an email from another recruiter scheduling the technical interview. The interviews were to take place about a month later. The recruiter gave me a window of time to have the interviews, I gave them several days I’d be free and he chose one.

3. The Technical Interviews - October 2014: Both my technical interviews took place on the afternoon October 22nd. I got a very sweet, “you can do it” email from my recruiter with tips and helpful suggestions. I should take the time to mention how incredibly nice all the recruiters I interacted with were. They really only get the best people to work at Google. It was an A+ experience.

The interviews were held over a video call, each 1 hour long, all coding done on Google Docs. This done, I patiently waited, or at least I tried very hard to be patient. I wasn’t. Not my forté. I refreshed my inbox every 5-10 minutes.

4. The Technical Interview Turnout - November 2014: Near the date of the technical interviews, I was informed I would get an answer in 1-2 weeks. I interviewed on a Wednesday, October 22nd; I got the call back on a Monday, November 3rd. Almost exactly 2 weeks. Felt like a year. If they’d waited another day I think I would’ve developed an ulcer I was so anxious.

It was great to hear I passed the technical interviews, but as they say, it’s not over until the fat lady sings. The metaphorical ‘fat lady’ was not singing. Once you pass the technical interviews, you go into a matching phase. You fill out a candidate profile with your skills, location preferences, strengths and interests, then the teams needing an intern contact your recruiter should you seem like a good fit.

5. The Matching Phase - November 2014 to January 2015: I was told that if you don’t get matched in circa 6 weeks, you bow out of the intern selection process. This isn’t an urban legend, one of my fellow students did make it to the matching phase but didn’t get matched (he did land a killer offer later on though). He’s an excellent engineer, but there is such a thing as wrong place and/or time. Rumor has it he received a full-time job offer from Google upon graduation.

I learned I passed the technical interview part in the first week of November and on the second week of December I received news of a possible team match. That was more or less 6 weeks, yikes. We scheduled a call between me and a member of the team. This isn’t a technical interview, just a ‘getting to know you’ talk, to see if you’re a good fit. I think a day or two later I heard back from the team, they wanted me! The team seemed great, I got to meet them when I flew out to the West Coast, but the project itself was not in a domain I was particularly experienced in. I asked my recruiter if I could wait a bit before making a decision. Bold move, Cotton.

Apparently the 6 week deadline isn’t necessarily a hard and fast rule. About three weeks later in the beginning of January I heard about another possible match. This time the project was perfectly aligned to both my strengths and my interests. I could not hide how interested I was in working on the project. The kind of thing I’d do for free, heck, I’d pay them to let me work on the project. A couple days later, I heard back from the team lead confirming their interest in working with me.

6. The Offer Letter - January 2015: On January 17th, 2015, I got that awesome offer letter, then spent the whole day smiling like an idiot. Actually that went on much longer than that, now and then I remember I’m heading there soon (in two weeks) and I smile stupidly again.

I had two weeks to accept/rejct the offer, needless to say I signed it the same day. So that was that. I think usually the phone interview is usually right before the technical interviews. Even so, my entire hiring process took about 3 months. If this happens to you, don’t take it as a bad sign. I hear good things come to those who wait.