Press "Enter" to skip to content

I went through Google’s secret interview process and broke my sacrum in the final ball pit interviews

By Jason Gromdowski

Working at Google seemed like a dream job: a high six-figure salary and unlimited wasabi almonds. But, was that “dream” worth shattering my sacrum in the final ball pit interviews? In hindsight, no.

Like most stories that end with a hefty medical bill, mine began with a phone call from a recruiter.

I should have seen the red flags: the use of an obviously fake name, form letter speak, knowing my exact location in my home, but I was blinded by the promise of working at Google, much as I am now partially blind in my right eye.

After blazing through the phone screen via a well-crafted lie about managing up, I was invited to an in-person interview on Google’s campus. It was a week my seventh vertebrae would never forget.

I arrived on a Google bus with a brigade of 20 other candidates. We were greeted by a high-ranking product manager first class who corralled us into lines by our rank and years of JavaScript experience.

The hiring officer shouted, “Look to your left! look to your right! One of you will not be a good culture fit! I don’t know what hole or second-rate Penn State satellite campus you crawled out of, but my money’s on you, O’Shaughnessy!” The state school recruit next to me burst into tears.

The subsequent rounds only got harder, but I made my nap pod so perfectly my gunnery officer was able to bounce a quarter off it. I was also able to disassemble and reassemble a Chrome extension ad blocker blindfolded while underwater after running 8 miles in full tactical gear.

By the 8th day, only 6 of us remained, sleep-deprived and malnourished from a liquid-only kombucha diet.

Then came the Final Ball Pit Challenge. For the uninitiated, it’s exactly what it sounds like: A fight to the death between you and an H-1B employee in a sea of multi-colored spheres.

As is Google tradition, I was able to select any of the 6 presented champions who stood before me. I chose the scrawniest among them.

The rest was merely flashes: a giant cue tip baton sweeping my legs; my eye gouged by a Pixel 3 stylus; the final stomp upon my spinal column by an unforgiving Allbird.

Then, my entire browser history flashed before my eyes.

I woke to bright lights in a hospital room with my pelvis in traction and Sergey Brin standing over me. Before I could speak, he put a finger to my lips; “Are you feeling lucky?” he whispered.

My offer letter arrived the next day. I had to pass on the opportunity. There’s no chance in hell I was going to do that 45-minute commute from Burlingame.

Disclosure: In 1972, Jason Gromdowski shared a bunk with Alphabet CEO Larry Page at Honey Hills sleepaway camp. Page was a quiet boy and small for his age — but his unquenchable hunger for silica gel desiccant packets was unsettling. This does not impact his coverage.