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How Google Voice Saved My Interview

February 9, 2011 11:55 am by
Google Voice

Last Friday, I was scheduled for a phone interview with a small startup called Arrayent (they are doing some pretty exciting stuff though, check it out).  A series of unfortunate events that almost led me to miss my phone interview.

This is a story of how Google Voice saved my interview.

EDIT: This article got featured on Lifehacker!

Google Voice can be boiled down into one sentence: One number for people to reach you.  Keep this idea in mind for later.

With Voice, gone goes the need to spam all 648 of your friends on Facebook with a public event (“HAYY GUYS I HAVE A NEW NUMBER!”) to tell everyone your new number and ask for their phone numbers such that anybody on Facebook can see who was dumb enough to post their phone number on a public, searchable event (/rant).

So how exactly did Google Voice save my interview?

First, if you do not fully understand what Google Voice does, scroll down and quickly read what Google Voice is – that way, what I am about to say will make more sense.

I had a phone interview scheduled for 2pm with a small startup called Arrayent.  Problem was, the day before, I issued a request to port my old ATT number to my phone.  The reason for this was because I do not know my actual Verizon phone number (I have been exclusively using Google Voice), and I wanted to keep my old phone number (that I actually do remember).  In any case, the Verizon rep said the process would take 1-2 days.  The consequence of this procedure was that my phone would not be able to connect to Verizon’s network.  I was not completely notified of that, and as such, I began to worry as the time for my interview was coming up and my phone was still not able to send/receive calls.

I thought, well, since I gave my Google Voice number to the interviewer, I can just pick up the call on my desktop through GMail right?  Sounds like a great plan, except when I came home at about 1pm, Comcast decided to just fail (seriously..again?) and there goes my genius solution.  Comcast was actually down just a few hours before the Super Bowl last Sunday, nearly two days.  Sigh.  Both Verizon and Comcast were not working for me, and my interview was scheduled to start in about 15 minutes.

As things started looking grim, I remembered my friend had an Android smartphone.  I was able to sign into Voice through his phone, temporarily adding his phone number as one of mine on Google Voice.  Such that when my interviewer called promptly at 2, I picked up his call to my number through my friend’s phone.  I explained my situation to the interviewer and he chuckled at my situation.  In the end, everything went smoothly (I think) and well, we’ll see what goes from there. :)

Had it not been for Google Voice and its ability to dynamically add and remove phones to your Google Voice number, things might have turned out differently, for the worse!

Note: My other idea was to actually wireless tether my laptop to my friend’s smartphone and receive the call through my laptop because Google Voice had a pop up warning that it was going to delete all data from my friend’s Voice account when I was trying to sign out of his account.  I tested the call quality on the laptop tethered to the phone with a friend but he said the voice quality was really bad (However, I used this setup after the interview to call somebody and he said it was fine!).  Turns out signing out of Google Voice on your Android smartphone seems to only lose your settings for the Google Voice app.  All the texts and call logs are still synced with the cloud.

For those who do not know what Google Voice is:

I like to explain that Google Voice is like a “router”.  It serves as the hub that all your telephone devices can connect to.  All incoming and outgoing calls are made through the “router” so that even if your actual phone’s number changes, you don’t need to worry about telling everybody what your new number is.  What are the other cool features of Voice?

  • Free, unlimited texts – I use a Google Voice number exclusively, and don’t have to pay for a texting plan at all!
  • Free calls through 2011 – Google was generous enough to continue offering free calls through 2011 when you call through GMail.
  • Synced to the “cloud” – I can’t stress how awesome this is.  When I am in a place with no reception (basement of Soda Hall), I can go to Google Voice’s website and still text my friends.  When I am on my computer, I can quickly reply to a text through the Google Voice Chrome extension, rather than unlocking my phone, and pecking (or “swyping”) on the tiny screen.  I can go on any computer with an Internet connection to text and make calls (as long as the computer has a microphone) through my phone number.
  • One number rings multiple phones – When I am on my computer, I can pick up my call through my GMail, or my phone.  Sometimes it is more convenient to just pick up the call through the computer, or maybe a land line (if those still exist!).
  • Voicemail transcription – If you are unable to pick up your phone and the caller leaves a voicemail, Voice will attempt to transcribe the voicemail.  Although it is not perfect by any means, usually it gets enough words correct to get the gist of the voicemail.

These are the best features of Voice, and the cool thing about all this is it’s free.  However, the biggest roadblock for people who want to convert is – well, I don’t want to change the number I have now!  I want to use Google Voice but I don’t want to change my number. Fortunately, that was one of the most requested feature, and as of a few weeks ago, it has been implemented.  You can now port your number to Google Voice but beware of the possibly early termination fees that your carrier might charge.

Google Voice is a great product, but in order for it to gain traction, it needs to guarantee uptime.  Last November, Google Voice was having major downtimes and made people realize that if they completely rely on it, when Google Voice goes down, their ability to send and receive calls would also go down.  If Google wants more people to jump aboard (and businesses alike), it is in their best interests to have a guaranteed uptime, make it scalable, and eventually have a fully-staffed customer support.  As of now, it is a free phone service and as the saying goes, “you get what you pay for”.

EDIT: the Lifehacker effect!

Holy crap! Almost 6,500 views on my article!

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About

Jesse is a software engineer at Facebook, who just graduated from UC Berkeley. Passionate about mobile technology and entrepreneurship, he started his own blog as a home for his tutorials, projects, and random thoughts. Follow him on Facebook to stay updated on his latest tutorials and projects.

16 Comments »

  1. The only catch is that had you still been using the cell phone number in the intended way, you wouldn’t have needed Google Voice. You would have had service, given that phone number, and been fine!

    Comment by Lillian — February 9, 2011 @ 2:50 PM

  2. I made the mistake of porting my number the day before the phone interview, thinking that it would complete before the interview. If I had known better, I never should have assumed that and just wait until after the interview to port.

    Given that I made that mistake however, Google Voice helped me complete the phone interview by allowing me to use another phone to pick up the call. If I gave my actual phone number, I can’t think of any way that would allow me to still do the phone interview.

    It was my fault that this situation occurred, along with the bad luck (Comcast going down), but Google Voice let me remedy that situation – which I am thankful for. :)

    Comment by Jesse Chen — February 9, 2011 @ 6:50 PM

  3. Very true. Glad it worked out for you, and it sounds like a very cool feature.

    Comment by Lillian — February 9, 2011 @ 7:07 PM

  4. LOL wow

    Comment by Yang Lu — February 10, 2011 @ 3:49 AM

  5. LOL wow

    Comment by Yang Lu — February 10, 2011 @ 3:49 AM

  6. yang, look at the stats: http://goo.gl/lToat

    you’re famous!

    Comment by Jesse Chen — February 10, 2011 @ 3:59 AM

  7. lol no you are the famous one

    Comment by Yang Lu — February 10, 2011 @ 4:01 AM

  8. eh cant you just like.. give them your friend’s number?

    Comment by Jeff Ho — February 10, 2011 @ 4:10 AM

  9. they didn’t give me my interviewer’s contact info at all, just his name. Also, I was in class until ~30mins prior to the interview, otherwise that would have been a dandy solution.

    Comment by Jesse Chen — February 10, 2011 @ 4:15 AM

  10. All this time I thought Google voice was for political activists to voice their opinions about the egregious quagmires enshrouding our biosphere. Boy was I wrong. I will check this out free phone calls for a year!

    Comment by Nelson Hoang — February 9, 2011 @ 9:08 PM

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