New media: Google’s search for top brass

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When Google visited Insead’s French campus in 2005, Jason Chuck was not the only MBA student to be impressed by the US internet search company. “They were the company that everyone wanted to see, to find out what they had to offer,” says Mr Chuck. “They had the biggest amphitheatre, and probably got the largest crowd.”

Google’s recruitment team are now used to this kind of response at business schools worldwide. “We turn up on campus and are told we will get 80 students attending, but that turns into 250 or 300 regularly,” says Alison Parrin, head of MBA recruitment for Google in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “It’s wonderfully, wonderfully overwhelming.”

Canadian-born Mr Chuck, aged 28, now works as a product marketing manager for the company in Hong Kong.

With an engineering degree, an early career that included a spell as a telecoms engineer, and a strong continuing interest in technology, he sounds right up Google’s street. But it was the broader range of skills and knowledge acquired on the MBA that also attracted the company to him.

“We are definitely a technology company, but as we grow in other areas we recognise that some of the skills learned in MBA programmes are really critical for us in a variety of different functions,” says Yvonne Agyei, Google’s director of global university programmes.

The company has had MBAs on its staff since its inception, she says, but in the past three years it has had a global programme to recruit them regularly. It appreciates their analytical skills and their ability to come up with new strategies. Also, the fact that they normally have work experience before doing their MBA programmes, and can then apply what they have learnt, means that they enter the company with management skills, says Ms Agyei.

For current MBA students, Google’s popularity as a career choice may be due partly to its not being directly exposed to the volatility of the financial markets. However, first and foremost, it is the opportunity of what MBAs can achieve at Google that attracts them, says Ms Agyei.

“A lot of people who get MBAs want to be entrepreneurial, to run their own companies,” she says. “Google is not a start-up any more, but does offer an opportunity to do that within various areas of the business, so there is a lot of appeal for MBAs.”

Beyond the diverse opportunities offered by their regular jobs at Google, Ms Parrin sees a further attraction for MBA students in Google’s “20 per cent time” policy, encouraging staff to work on ideas that interest them personally and which may later develop into a Google product. Google Mail (Gmail) is an example of just such a product.

Mr Chuck had been attracted to Insead in part by the strengths of its teaching on entrepreneurialism, and was able to apply the skills he had acquired when he joined Google’s London office in 2006. “The office was quite small then and still had a very strong start-up feel to it,” he says. “It was really up to us to shape the strategy.”

Insead is one of a group of leading schools that Google particularly targets, because of its diverse mix of students and its achievement record. When they arrive on campus, Google’s recruiters function as one extended team, presenting a global face in terms of the opportunities available for MBAs.

Being able to understand what the company is looking for in different geographies is vital, says Ms Agyei. Many of the roles on offer are the same but are in different locations, so a candidate from India attending a business school in France may have an opportunity to work in India, France or elsewhere.

The recruitment team is supported at campus events by existing “Googlers” – including alumni and others from the business units – who recognise the importance for the company of getting the hiring process right. This enables the main presentations to be complemented with more intimate conversations or “coffee chats”.

For potential recruits who cannot get to a campus event or who prefer to find out about opportunities online, web conferences are held, and the company has also been making use of YouTube, the video sharing website it owns, says Ms Parrin. It has, for example, posted videos of its Zurich office on YouTube, so that students from the US and elsewhere can learn more about potential opportunities there.

European business schools say Google’s MBA recruitment has become more formalised and comprehensive over the past two to three years, and along with other switched-on recruiters the company is engaging with the schools at different levels.

At Cambridge University’s Judge Business School, for example, alumni who now work at Google have talked to a strategy class doing a case study on the company, while Google also participated in the school’s inaugural Silicon Valley Comes to Cambridge conference last November.

The US company is a corporate partner at London Business School, taking part in full-time and internship recruitment events, and getting involved in conferences and student clubs. Students have made treks to company headquarters at Mountain View, California and – less ambitiously, perhaps, but a trek nonetheless – a few stops on the London Underground to the London office.

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