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Google seeking a few good code jockeys

One of the most aggressive staff recruiters in Silicon Valley, the search giant is putting on a programming contest worth up to $10,000 and a possible career at the company.

Google, one of the most aggressive staff recruiters in Silicon Valley, is putting on a programming contest worth up to $10,000 and a possible career at the search company.

Called Google Code Jam 2003, the contest is essentially a timed, Internet-based test of programming skills. After two rounds of competition, 25 people will be invited to Google's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., to compete for a total of $25,000 in cash prizes. Google plans to evaluate the crop of engineers as job candidates, given that the work environment in the Googleplex is similar to the tournament: "intense competition, no pressure," according to the company's Web page.

"Think of it as a job interview with a large potential cash bonus just for showing up," the contest's page reads.

Code Jam is Google's second programming contest and plays into the company's competitive, yet playful, culture. In early 2002, it let the public into its labs to try out experimental technology in its first programming contest. The $10,000 winner had developed technology designed to let searchers find Web pages within a designated geographical area. On the lighter side, the company hosted the Google Quiz a year ago, challenging Web surfers to find quiz answers in the search database.

Google is on a seemingly insatiable hunt for new employees, providing a stark contrast to the mass layoffs in the Valley during the past several years. To make room for growth, Google leased one of Silicon Valley's largest office parks, the Amphitheatre Technology Center, from its former tenant, Silicon Graphics, in July. It employs more than 1,000 people and has nearly 100 job openings posted on its Web site.

Registration for Code Jam is open to 500 programmers and begins Oct. 1. The tournament ends Nov. 14, after players compete in three tournament rounds. The top 250 scorers from Round 1 will advance to Round 2. The top 25 scorers from Round 2 will advance to the Championship Round.

Code Jam 2003 differs from Google's earlier contest in that the company is working with TopCoder, a technology company specializing in programming tournaments, to create a series of problems for programmers to solve. Participants can use their own programming language--Java, C++, C# or VB.NET--to solve the problems within an allotted time using a TopCoder applet.

In contrast, Google's 2002 contest was open-ended. Participants received data and basic code on a disc, and they were asked to build an application or tool with the data and supply the code they used to create it, a Google representative said.

"These contests are a great way for Google to show our support and celebrate achievements in the engineering, programming and computer science communities," a Google representative said.