Many computer programs are known to contain "Easter eggs" -- hidden games, jokes or other features that can be launched by secret commands -- and Google has been found sneaking many such surprises into its searches and other apps over the years.
Data scientist Max Rosett, though, recently became the latest programmer to discover a different feature Google also hides deep in its search engine algorithms: an automated invitation to apply for a job at the company based on the search terms used.
Rosett described his experience earlier this week in a piece on The Hustle, a publication for "entrepreneurs, self-starters, and the curious." The title of his article: "Google Has a Secret Interview Process . . . And It Landed Me a Job."
Previously a data scientist with the San Francisco-based real-estate search firm ApartmentList.com, Rosett is now a newly employed software engineer at Google. The move to his new position all started when he recently Googled the term, "python lambda function list comprehension," he noted.
'Up for a Challenge?'
After clicking "enter" on his search, Rosset writes, "The familiar blue links appeared, and I started to look for the most relevant one."
But then,"something unusual happened," he said. "The search results split and folded back to reveal a box that said, "You're speaking our language. Up for a challenge?"
Rosett had discovered a hidden-to-all-but-a-chosen-few place on Google: a page with the URL http://www.google.com/foobar/. Mere mortals who type in that address uninvited will see only a black screen with a pinkish square graphic and the cryptic message, "Been here before? Log in." However, computer-savvy pros who unwittingly type in complex terms that interest Google will instead see the message Rosett saw, after which they are invited to take a series of challenges in a programming language like Python or Java.
"I stared at the screen," Rosett recalled, and thought, "What?" But after that, he decided yes, he was "most definitely up for a challenge."
'Puzzles are Fun'
Other reports from programmers with similar Google encounters have cropped up elsewhere over the past year. Last fall, for instance, a user on Hacker News reported being served a similar page after Googling some Python topic. Several users responded about the page being a recruiting tool for the search giant.
Another user reported receiving an interview invitation from Google after posting something about Python code on the Github repository, adding, "others I know have had similar invitations to interview as a result of Python experience."
We reached out to Google's press office for a further explanation, and received a copy-and-paste of a line of hex code. The spokesperson then added cryptically, "Hint: you may want to read up on ISO/IEC 10646 :)."
That string reads, "Puzzles are fun. Search on," according to a hex code translation.
Image credit: Google; Artist's concept.