Google set to hire 6,200 new employees. But is this a sign that the company is in trouble?

Start polishing up those resumes: Google is set to begin the largest hiring spree in its history across all departments.

The Internet giant is taking on several new projects and challenges, and will hire 6,200 new employees to take them on, mostly engineers and sales representatives. The move comes less than a week after current Google CEO Eric Schmidt announced he will be stepping down in April and taking on the position of executive chairman, while former CEO and co-founder Larry Page will be taking the helm as CEO.

From AFP:

The list of Google projects set to challenge new workers included building a Web-based computer operating system, instantly searching more than 100 million gigabytes of data, and “even developing cars that drive themselves.”

While more profitable than ever — with nearly $30 billion in revenue last year — Google is under pressure from new rivals such as Facebook and Twitter for the attention of Web surfers, advertising dollars and engineering talent.

In a conference call with financial analysts after the announcement that Page would replace Schmidt, co-founder Brin indicated the company would be putting more effort into the social arena.

“We’ve touched just one percent of the capabilities that could be deployed in that realm,” said Brin, who will be in charge of strategic projects and new products in the revamped management structure.

Speaking of social media, as the AP reports, this move may be in response to Facebook stealing away almost 200 employees from Google last year:

As its Internet social network grows, Facebook has become more successful at luring away Google’s workers. About 200 of Facebook’s roughly 2,000 employees used to work at Google. The defections haven’t left a big dent, given that the company hired an average of nearly 200 workers every two weeks last year.

But the recent raids by Facebook and other promising startups got Google’s attention. To retain employees, the company gave its entire work force a 10 percent raise. That move alone could increase Google’s operating expenses by about $500 million this year, based on analyst estimates. Virtually all employees also receive stock options, a benefit that turned most of the company’s early hires into multimillionaires.

These “raids,” compounded with the surprise CEO switch and recent failed product launches (Buzz and Wave to name two) have led some analysts to believe that the company is having trouble remaining as relevant as it once was. It’s been widely speculated that Page was brought back as CEO to give the company back its sense of purpose as a startup, and bring it back to being an innovator, as the CBC’s Ira Basen speculates:

As technology companies grow older and bigger they invariably become slower and more bureaucratic. In short, they can lose the edge that made them innovative and successful in the first place.

It happened to Microsoft, and many people believe it is now happening to Google.

In announcing his return as CEO, Larry Page acknowledged the problem in an interview with the New York Times when he said: “One of the primary goals I have is to get Google to be a big company that has the nimbleness and soul and passion and speed of a start-up.”

Even Google’s iconic search engine has come under fire recently.

Many users are convinced Google’s search results just aren’t as good as they used to be. One critic, Vivek Wadhwa, the director of research for the Centre for Entrepreneurship at Duke University, complained that “Google has become a jungle: a tropical paradise for spammers and marketers.”

In other words, the web in 2011 is beginning to look a lot like the web in 2000 when Google rode in to save the day.

If anyone’s starting to get all doom and gloom on the company that still controls 75 per cent of the world’s Internet searches, I think they might be a little premature. Until a competitor comes along that can start to realistically challenge that volume of searches, I’d say Google is doing fine.