Business Essentials: 'For Googliness sake, join our firm: you don't have to go to California'

It may be one of the world's coolest companies but an image problem is hampering its recruitment efforts
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The Independent Online

Something about Google's central London offices in Victoria makes you want to give up your job and work there instead. It's not just the offices themselves with their bold splashes of colour and cool minimalist design, or the fridges and buckets packed full of edible goodies. It's the "Googliness".

This is defined as a passion for the internet and bringing about real change, and all the staff are so enthusiastic that they practically smell of it.

But in spite of this, the company is struggling to fill all the vacancies that are arising as it continues its phenomenal rate of expansion.Google is after the best of the best in engineering - that is, exceedingly high levels of technical expertise - coupled with that "I want to change the world" philosophy. And it's proving harder than anticipated.

"Our growth is exceptional in current market conditions, so in order to stay abreast of new innovations and indeed the competition, we need to continuously seek the best talent across the world," says Rian Liebenberg, the information systems director for Europe. "That's why we recently took the decision to set up an engineering presence in London to accompany our existing sales force."

Four months on from the London opening, it has found that the biggest obstacle to recruitment is a general perception that Google's key engineering staff work exclusively in its headquarters in California. The reality is that it is looking to fill posts in London, Zurich, Dublin and Norway, says Mr Liebenberg. "But people seem to think that to work for Google, as an engineer, they'll have to sell their house, take their kids out of school and traipse to the US."

In addition, he believes, there is a lack of awareness about the range of products at Google. "We're not just a search engine but are involved in a host of exciting projects - Google Earth, Froogle, Google Local and Google Desktop, to name just a few."

Perhaps also not understood is the extent to which Google encourages its engineers to be creative. He points to its "Twenty Per Cent Time Project", which enables staff to work on personal ideas outside their day-to-day jobs. "On occasion, those ideas turn into consumer products," he says, providing as an example Google News.

Among the company's recruitment efforts so far, it has hosted open house events. "This involves inviting selected people in the industry to come to an evening of talks at our offices, where they get to have drinks and canapés and hear more about what Google does."

In addition, it has used mainstream advertising and been involved in various PR events. "We are also reaching out to key universities and campuses both in the UK and the rest of Europe, where we are giving talks to students and alumni on some of our latest technological developments," says Mr Liebenberg.

Google is not after a specific number of candidates, he insists. "Unlike traditional companies, we don't set ourselves a headcount in any given financial year. Nor do we look for specific skills. Candidates may range from recent graduates to experienced professionals. Our approach is to seek out the best and smartest engineering talent, and if we find them, we'll hire them."

www.google.co.uk/jobs

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY

David Clarke, Chief Executive, British Computer Society

"One of the problems of creating a very strong market image is that this is often all anyone will believe about a company. Google has had an awful lot of media coverage and all of it has created the picture of a California-centric organisation. I didn't know Google did any development work in the UK, and I'm sure that goes for most of the people it would like to recruit. So there is a big marketing job to do in creating an image of Google UK.

"Most technical people are driven by what they can achieve in their work, so Google needs to talk up what the UK part of the company has accomplished and get this into the kind of media its target people will read. It should enter local developments into UK industry awards and get its corporate people to emphasise the UK's input when they talk to the media on technology issues."

Rebecca Clake, Organisation and Resourcing Adviser, The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development

"Google has already taken positive action by speaking to university students, but the problem it faces is the shortage of people studying engineering. The company needs to think long term, therefore, and try to change perceptions of the profession among the young.

"Uploading information on to the recruitment area of the Google website - a typical day in the life of an engineer, say - will help ensure applicants are aware of the full range of exciting projects managed by employees. It might also be worth targeting A-level students, attending graduate fairs and providing work experience.

"The name is central to its success, and the brand and location of offices/roles must be communicated clearly in recruitment ads."

Tom Hadley, Director of External Relations, The Recruitment & Employment Confederation

"The demand for skilled engineering workers has increased continuously for over two years. In such a tight labour market, initiatives to promote a company's 'uniqueness' are important but must be backed with a strong PR strategy. This could include placing articles in the type of trade and lifestyle magazines that potential applicants are likely to read, having a presence at industry events, and seeking entry on to the 'great places to work' lists that exist in a number of sectors. Using engineering or IT recruitment agencies that 'go after' suitable candidates is also an option.

"While professional development and company culture are important considerations for potential candidates, Google should also make sure its salaries are competitive."

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