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article imageRevealed: Google's coder recruiting tool hidden inside search

By James Walker     Aug 27, 2015 in Technology
Google has secretly hidden a tool inside its search results that recruits talented new programmers for the company. Searching for some complex programming terms can lead to access to a series of online puzzles. Solving the puzzles can lead to a job.
The Inquirer reports on the unusual recruiting technique, revealed by newly-hired Google employee Matt Rosett. Rosett wasn't looking for a job at Google but Google was looking for people with programming skills like his.
Writing on his blog, Rosett says "If Google sees that you're searching for specific programming terms, they'll ask you to apply for a job. It's wild." Those "terms" aren't things that an average programmer would necessarily be searching for, let alone an ordinary Google user. The recruiting tool is very well hidden and only reveals itself to the select few that it thinks could make the cut.
It decided that Rosett could fit into Google when he searched for "python lambda function list comprehension" in the search engine. The results were displayed as normal before "something unusual" happened.
Google s secret  foo.bar  programmer recruiting tool  built right into search
Google's secret "foo.bar" programmer recruiting tool, built right into search
Matt Rosett, The Hustle
Rosett describes how the search results page split and folded inwards slightly. It revealed a box saying "You're speaking our language. Up for a challenge?" He writes: "I stared at the screen. What? After a moment, I decided yes, I was most definitely up for a challenge."
The link went to "www.google.com/foobar", a hidden and protected page that doesn’t seem to display unless you've clicked through from the search results. A UNIX-style terminal interface appeared and Rosett took the hint to begin experimenting.
Typing "ls" - the UNIX command to view a directory listing of files - a single text document called "start_here.txt" appeared. The file displayed a paragraph that outlined Rosett's challenge, giving him a total of 48 hours to complete and solve it in either the Python or Java programming languages.
Google s secret  foo.bar  programmer recruiting tool  built right into search
Google's secret "foo.bar" programmer recruiting tool, built right into search
Matt Rosett, The Hustle
Rosett proceeded to solve a total of six problems over the next two weeks. He was then prompted for a phone number and email address, "fully expecting that to be the end of things."
It wasn’t. A couple of days later, a Google recruiter emailed and asked to see Rosett's resume. He was given a formal job offer two weeks later after a few phone calls and office visits. He started work at Mountain View three months after the search results had asked if he was "up for a challenge."
Rosett seems to think very highly of the unusual recruiting process he went through. He writes: "Foo.bar is a brilliant recruiting tactic. Google used it to identify me before I had even applied anywhere else, and they made me feel important while doing so. At the same time, they respected my privacy and didn’t reach out to me without explicitly requesting my information. Overall, I enjoyed the puzzles that they gave me to solve, and I’m excited for my first day as a Googler."
It’s unknown how long foo.bar has existed for or whether it has even recruited anybody else in the past. Google has not described how it works and only a few references can be found to it online.
Re/code notes that a post on Hacker News from nearly a year ago shows that at least one other person, also searching for information on Python lambdas, has seen foo.bar in action but it's unclear whether they ever got a job or even completed the puzzles. It seems as though Google is currently most interested in recruiting talented Python engineers.
Rosett says that his programming friends, including people who already work at Google, have never heard of foo.bar's existence. How it chooses people to offer itself to has not been determined; it could be purely random when advanced programming phrases are searched for or based on previous queries too.
At least some people inside of Google know about foo.bar though. A spokeswoman send a string of hex codes to Re/code in response to the news site's query. When translated into English, it reads as "Puzzles are fun. Search on."
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