The Pros and Cons of being a temp or contractor at Google

We’ve put together answers to these questions to help guide you in deciding if a temp or contractor position is right for you.

January 10, 2022

Landing a temporary position can be a quicker way into Google – but is it worth it?

One of the hidden side doors into working at Google is to apply for a contracted, temporary position. There are a wide variety of prestigious roles (from project managers engineers to paralegals) in which you can work on projects that have a 1-2 year lifespan with the potential to be extended depending on how the project evolves. Plus, Google works with third-party recruitment agencies to fill these positions which means that you have more chances of your resume getting evaluated and support for prepping for the interview.

While working as a contractor is not the first thing that many people consider when applying to Google, you might be surprised to know that Google has more contracted workers than they do full-time employees. As of March 2019, Google worked with roughly 121,000 temps around the world, compared with 102,000 full-time employees.

But is working as a temp or contracted worker the same experience as working as a full-timer?

Is everyone treated the same way and receive the same benefits?

And if you decide to get a foot in the door at Google by being a temp…is it even possible to transition to a full-time position?

We’ve put together answers to these questions to help guide you in deciding if a temp or contractor position is right for you.

For starters…how’s the pay?

When you compare the salaries of temp workers to full-timers at Google, there’s definitely a gap. In the US, the median pay for Google’s full-time workers across departments is estimated to be $128,000 on Glassdoor. That’s 42 percent more than the median pay Glassdoor estimates for Google’s US-based contract workers: $90,000.

But those figures might not really tell the whole story.

In general, the numbers might be skewed because there tends to be a higher amount of temps in admin-related roles that are paid lower than executive level roles which are exclusive to full-timers. It’s hard to know a side by side comparison of what a temporary worker and a full-timer make who are in the same roles, but take it from Bob here about his experience as an engineer:

“My hourly rate as a Contractor, annualized, was actually higher than my base salary when I converted and first became an employee. More than 50% higher. Of course, I didn’t receive Google’s performance bonus or equity, which ended up being far more valuable.”

The pay at Google in general is very competitive compared to other companies, which means you’re likely going to receive a lucrative salary as a temp worker at Google than you would as a temp worker in another firm.

“I was surprised to see how high the salaries were for temp workers at Google compared to temp workers in other companies who were in identical roles,” says Catherine, a former accountant at an agency that places temps.

In a nutshell, if you’re looking for a prestigious position that happens to be available as a short term role instead of a full time role, you can expect to be paid well, even though it’s unclear if it’s the same as a full-timer.

Another thing to note is that temp or contract workers are not paid their salaries via Google. Instead, they receive their salaries via the third party agency that placed them into the role. As a temp or contractor, you’ll need to track your hours in a timesheet to submit to your agency for payroll in order to receive your salary.

Do you get access to the same benefits and perks?

Google Amsterdam’s Kitchen – Image from Decoist

Yes!

And no

The key difference between a temp or contractor and a full-timer is that temps and contractors are working at Google via third party agencies. In other words, your employer is technically your staffing agency, not Google.

On the surface, when it comes to things like enjoying the snacks around the office and having access to certain events and training, then temps and contractors have the same experiences as full-time workers.

However, when it comes to other HR-related legal benefits, your experience will depend on your agency.

“There is a distinction when it comes to benefits for FTE and contractors. On the surface you will not notice these when you are on campus – you can go to the gym, food etc. In the small print there are some things like contractors aren’t supposed to bring dogs into the office…but those are not enforced. The health, 401K etc. are things that will be handled by your contract agency and not Google so that is different,” says Matt.

The differences between what kinds of benefits employees receive can also depend on location as described here:

“Vacation? No. Health insurance? No. Free cell phone? No. Free food? Yes (but might be restricted to certain cafes). Gym access? Maybe (depends on what kind of contractor you are). Google’s a huge organization. Coming up with a one size fits all description would be impossible. For instance, the contractors in India have very different access than if you’re a SWE contractor in Mountain View. And of course, for book search, the people who were paid to turn pages for the scanner don’t have access to buildings outside of where they’re supposed to be, so it’s definitely not at the same level as an employee,” says Piaw.

At the end of the day, if you take on a role as a temp at Google, then you’ll be able to work with Googlers and experience the workplace environment, but your overall experience and rights will be limited in comparison to full-timers and the scope of that limitation is in the hands of your agency.

Here are some other notable differences:

  • You cannot publicly display that you work for Google. For example, on your LinkedIn profile, you have to put that you work via your agency at Google
  • Temp workers have a red colored badge whereas full-timers have a white badge.
  • Temps and contract workers are not invited to company-funded social events such as trips to external venues and holiday parties. Having said that, they do have access to other events in general, and if they’re invited to a company-funded event then they can go as a plus 1 of a full-timer.

What’s the experience like?

Temporary and contracted workers have revealed having a wide variety of experiences at Google. Some have felt frustrated and treated as “not a Googler”, whereas some have had wonderful experiences and have even converted to full-time roles.

If you’re an engineer like Jeff, the experience might be really exciting:

“For consultants and contractors to Engineering team, our contractors were often MORE experienced engineers than the employees. Many were specialists in their field. For example, some teams had Agile coaches brought in from Kent Beck’s company, so that we could learn Agile methodology from the horse’s mouth. We also had Douglas Schmidt, a prominent expert on Distributed Systems, consulting on protobuf and MapReduce design. I suspect if we needed a course on ethics, Google could bring in the Dalai Lama as a contractor.”

What’s it like to transition from contractor to full-timer (and can you?)

Yes, you can transition to being a full-timer. However, there is no guarantee that an opportunity will present itself, and you will likely have to go through a stringent hiring process as anyone else who is applying for a full-time role.

A temporary software engineer said, “I got hired as a temp with the understanding if all goes well would convert me. However, as many others have mentioned, it’s quite the uphill challenge…I know one person who got converted, but he went through the same onerous interview process which he spent an entire 6 months preparing for, and had to join a completely different team. Don’t join as a [temp worker] thinking you’ll have a better shot at getting in the door [as a full-timer].

While some have expressed the same feelings of the process being a challenge, others have actually been offered full-time roles:

“I had a friend who contracted with Google as an engineer. He kept turning down offers to convert to full time until they raised their offer enough that he couldn’t justify staying a contractor any more. He didn’t have anything negative to say about the contracting process,” said Piaw.

“I started at Google as a contractor (technically, I was a temporary employee — on the payroll of a company named Workforce Logic). After about 9 months I was offered an opportunity to go through Google’s conversion process to become a Google FTE, was successful and was extended an offer, and accepted it. I remained a Google employee for another 7.5 years after that….The conversion process is highly selective; simply being able to do the job isn’t the conversion selection criteria…Only about the top 10% of performers successfully make it through — but the vast majority of employees today in the staffing org (I’d estimate 80+% of them) are all converted contractors,” said Bob.

The Bottom Line

Your experience as a temp worker will be unique to you. While temp workers are at Google under different contracts and circumstances than full-timers, there is definitely something to gain from working at Google – be it the learning experience that can be added to your resume, or the opportunities to be more involved with the company down the line.

“Having Google on your resume will open doors and advance your career. I wouldn’t have made as much progress in such a short period of time had I stayed on after my contract ended. Three years later, I’ve been hired by Google as a full-time employee, armed with real-world experience from a startup and perspective that is often lacking at in the highly sheltered confines of Big G. Had it not been for the contacts I made during my contract job, I’d not be working at Google today,” says Matthew.

Saurabh might not fully agree, but there’s one thing for sure: you’ll gain a lot of learning:

“I worked as a contractor for almost three years. You will get to work on similar projects with Googlers but you will not get perks and salary as they get. You will always have a voice inside which will say why you are working there when you work similar to them but not get rewarded. In terms of learning, you will for sure get a lot of new things in your bucket.”

Meanwhile, there is one advantage to being a temporary employee:

“One odd pro about working as a contract[or] is that you don’t have to go through the performance review cycle. Some have complained that this perf process has caused some perverse incentives at Google: teams or employees launch new products mainly to get promoted, or people who deserve promotions don’t get them for unclear reasons.

Another one is that you probably will be able to focus on one thing and do that well. Some other roles have to deal with a variety of technologies and they end up knowing a bit about a lot, but lack deep expertise on any topic,” said Dan.

So, there you have it – the pros and cons of being a temporary worker at Google. What path will you choose?

Want to talk this through? We have coaches who are former Google Employees – come learn about our coaching program here and gain insights into strategizing your next application to Google.