Google taps career fair for top collegiate talent

The company recruits students from a variety of fields while also engaging in University research.

Parker Lemke

A familiar name in the computing realm made an appearance on campus last week — for the first time, representatives from Google camped out at the College of Science and Engineering’s career fair.

Besides wooing University of Minnesota computer science students, the company engages in research and participates in other campus-wide events — efforts Google and school officials say reflect the company’s growing presence in recent years.

Among the steady stream of students who lined up in front of Google’s booth was high-energy particle physics doctoral student Alexander Gude, who praised Google for its success.

“They’re sort of at the pinnacle of their game right now,” Gude said. “Working for Google is like … getting drafted in the first round of the NFL.”

The new high-profile industry booth sat alongside 186 other companies at Mariucci Arena last Tuesday — a debut that University officials said followed the Internet giant’s increased presence on campus.

“A few years ago, they were mainly reaching out to our students via LinkedIn … reaching out more to individual students,” CSE Employer Relations Coordinator Angela Froistad said. “Now, they’re on campus, engaged, coming to our fair [and] hosting some events.”

Brendan Collins, a university program specialist at Google, said company ambassadors travel to the best engineering schools to recruit world-class talent. The University, he said, had already contributed an impressive slew of alumni to the company’s roster.

“We’ve just seen so much positive impact from those people, we decided to dedicate a lot of our time and energy to come into campus,” Collins said.

Google, worth more than $380 billion, currently employs more than 150 University alumni — some of whom returned to campus last week to staff Google’s booth, Collins said.

“These are not HR professionals,” Collins said. “They’re just super-smart, really passionate alumni.”

The CSE career fair draws students interested in exploring careers and finding internships, Froistad said. At the event, students can share resumes and pitch their skills during quick interviews with companies like software developers, food industry businesses and medical equipment manufacturers.

“Really, Google is just an addition to an already stellar list of companies,” Froistad said. “Any time we can have a huge company, a huge name like that on campus, that’s just a win for us.”

Industry-institute relationship is growing

Although software engineers remain Google’s main recruits, Collins said, the company searches for applicants from many backgrounds.

“If there is a typical Google applicant, it’s someone who’s smart,” Collins said. “It’s someone who is really passionate about working at a company that has impacted millions, billions of people around the world.”

Doctoral student Gude said he initially heard rumors that Google was exclusively looking for programmers at last week’s career fair. As a physicist who works with databases, he said he wanted to demonstrate that he could help with the company’s data-driven projects, like self-driven cars.

“Those are projects that need somebody who can take a lot of data,” Gude said, “and reduce it down to something useful.”

His conversation with a Google representative proved the rumors false, he said.

“We don’t just look at a GPA or what school [you attend] or what major you have,” Collins said. “We try to look as wide as possible.”

Google’s relationship with the University extends beyond recruitment.

For the past few months, the company has partnered with University researchers to work on Project Tango, a 3-D sensor technology that allows cellphones to self-locate without a GPS and sense nearby objects.

Froistad said she thinks that work fueled the company’s involvement in this year’s fair.

The University also seeks feedback from big companies like Google when it makes curriculum decisions, Froistad said.

“We have frequent meetings with them, asking, ‘What are your forecast needs? What are you looking for in terms of your students that you hire?’” she said.

Google hopefuls

The diversity of Google’s products — from its search engine to its Internet browser and mapping systems — attracted a slew of eager University students at the career fair, like computer science doctoral student Zahra Eslami.

“[Google] has a lot of different variety,” Eslami said as she came out of an interview at the booth. “I am very hopeful that I can find a job there.”

Computer engineering senior John Evenstar came to the career fair hoping to find a job at a big company. He said he was excited when he saw Google’s logo emblazoned among the event’s stands.

“They’re a pioneer in all computer science-related areas,” Evenstar said. “They’re always pushing new boundaries, new technologies.”

Computer science senior Thomas Smith said he’s intrigued by what he’s heard about the company’s employee culture.

“I was surprised when they weren’t here the previous years,” Smith said.