‘Internship’ may help Google land employees

Hollywood buddy movie pitches corporate culture

  • Google-Waze-Acquisition

    FILE - In this May 30, 2007 file photo, a Google sign is seen inside Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. Google is buying online mapping service Waze in a deal that keeps a potentially valuable tool away from its rivals while gaining technology that could improve the accuracy and usefulness of its own popular navigation system, the company announced Tuesday, June 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)


  • The characters played by Vince Vaughn, left, and Owen Wilson land internships at Google in Mountain View, Calif. Google  lent its brand and its campus to get more people to feel good about it.
    The characters played by Vince Vaughn, left, and Owen Wilson land internships at Google in Mountain View, Calif. Google lent its brand and its campus to get more people to feel good about it.

    SAN FRANCISCO — As soon as the credits rolled on The Internship, Rachel Kang, a 20-year-old University of California-Berkeley sophomore, headed straight back to her apartment to Google jobs at Google Inc.

    “I have always loved Google. I think everyone does. The movie just cemented my appreciation even more,” Ms. Kang said after seeing a sneak preview of the film last month. “I do think a lot of people will be even more drawn to the company than they are now.”

    That’s just what Google wants to hear.

    For years, summer internships at Google have been some of the technology industry’s most coveted. Now a 20th Century Fox film is selling a new generation on working at Google.

    In The Internship, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson play middle-aged watch salesmen who, finding themselves suddenly obsolete in the digital age, crash Google and with a bit of old-school charm and hustle, triumph over a group of 20-year-old summer interns to land full-time jobs there.

    Chief marketing officer Lorraine Twohill said Google lent its brand and its campus to the feel-good buddy comedy to get more people to feel good about Google. The movie hit theaters June 7.

    “We are a company that is very serious when it needs to be, but we have always had a great sense of humor,” Ms. Twohill said. “We wanted to show that side of us to a very large mainstream audience.”

    Google isn’t just selling the world on its products, which are prominently featured in the movie. It is pitching its corporate culture. Google’s perks such as free gourmet food, nap pods, and beach volleyball courts get plenty of screen time too.

    Observers say being cast as the young, hip place to work could help Google battle other technology giants such as Facebook Inc. and start-ups such as Dropbox Inc. for top talent.

    “Google has an incredible hunger for talent. It needs to continuously consume talent,” said marketing expert Andy Smith, co-author of The Dragonfly Effect. “This movie will build awareness with a mainstream audience.”

    This year, Google will hire 1,500 summer interns in North America from a pool of 40,000-plus candidates. The summer internship program is the No. 1 source of new hires for Google, which has nearly 54,000 employees.

    Google is taking full advantage of its role in The Internship to promote itself to college students.

    With its high salaries, perks, and collegelike campus, Google has long been a top destination for summer interns, who recently rated Google the nation’s best place to work, according to career Web site Glassdoor. The highlights: A software engineering intern can expect an average monthly pay of $6,463, plenty of face time with managers, and autonomy on projects, the Glassdoor survey found.

    With three wellness centers and a seven-acre sports complex with a roller-hockey rink, basketball courts, bocce and shuffle ball, and horseshoe pits, Google for the fourth time was named by Fortune magazine this year as the best company to work for.

    “Everyone wants to work there,” said Jeff Ma, chief executive of San Francisco start-up TenXer Inc., which competes for job candidates with Google and tries to recruit Google employees. “This is probably just an additional factor to help it seem cool to work at Google.”

    Mr. Ma knows all about the attention a Hollywood film can bring. The 40-year-old former MIT student was the inspiration for 21, the film about a reluctant whiz kid recruited by his MIT math professor, played by Kevin Spacey, to join a team of card counters.

    “It won’t necessarily increase the overall volume of people or the quality of the people applying, but it will help Google remain very relevant as a young person’s elite place to work,” Mr. Ma said.

    Others at Google say being a Google intern isn’t quite the way it appears on the big screen.

    Mr. Vaughn and Mr. Wilson definitely pass the “layover test” for new hires — as in, who would you like to be stuck with in an airport. But it’s a far-fetched idea that the two goofy washouts would land internships at Google in real life.

    In the movie, their characters enroll in the University of Phoenix — they dub it “the Harvard of the West” — to qualify for internships at Google. In order to get an internship at Google, students have to be enrolled in a full-time degree program or in a graduate program.

    The leads get an offer from Google after taking part in a Google Hangout video chat at a local library. In real life, interns go through at least two 45-minute interviews, and engineering interns are asked to code or solve a technical problem.

    Unlike in the movie, interns are not placed on teams and pitted against each other to compete for a small number of full-time jobs. Google has no quotas for the number of summer interns it hires, Mr. Ewing said.

    By and large, the movie shows Google as a fun — and meaningful — place to work, Ms. Kang said.

    She was won over by a scene in which a tireless Google employee, played by Rose Byrne, underscores the corporate philosophy of “Googleyness,” a combination of intellectual curiosity and a passion to change the world that the company says motivates its staffers. “I actually believe,” Ms. Byrne’s character tells Mr. Wilson’s character, “that what we do here helps make people’s lives a little bit better.”

    “It’s true. What Google does is very beneficial,” said Ms. Kang, the student who uses Chrome as her Web browser, Gmail for email, YouTube to watch music videos, and Google Drive to share college lecture notes with friends. “Watching the movie gave me a sense of hope that I can find a job after graduation,” she said.