Google Inc. plans to hire more than 6,200 workers this year — boosting its work force by at least a quarter — in the biggest expansion yet by the Internet’s most profitable company.
The hiring spree comes as President Barack Obama emphasized the need for more jobs during his State of the Union address Tuesday night.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt was among a group of business leaders who met with Obama last month to discuss ways to bolster the economy.
But Google’s push to further expand its work force, which grew by 23 percent last year, may not be well received on Wall Street. The Internet search leader’s spending has annoyed some investors who prefer a more frugal approach in hopes of fatter returns.
Google executives have consistently brushed aside those concerns.
They say the company needs to aggressively recruit the smartest computer engineers and the most persuasive sales representatives to maintain its lead in online search and advertising. They also stress the need to diversify into other services in computing, telecommunications and the media.
The company outlined its hiring plans on Tuesday with The Associated Press without providing many specifics beyond its pledge to hire more people than it did in 2007, when it added 6,131 workers.
Google hired nearly 4,600 people last year to end 2010 with 24,400 employees.
The expansion was announced on the same day Yahoo Inc. cut 100 to 150 workers, or about 1 percent, of its payroll amid pressures from falling revenue.
Google’s commitment to increase its work force by at least 25 percent this year means Google’s payroll may grow faster than its revenue.
Analysts polled by FactSet expect Google’s revenue to increase 22 percent this year, after subtracting commissions it pays advertising partners.
Google wouldn’t say how many of the new jobs will be based in the United States, where most of its current workers are located. In a speech Tuesday, Schmidt said Google will hire more than 1,000 workers in Europe this year. All told, Google has more than 60 offices in 30 countries.
“At this stage, the number of opportunities just vastly exceed the number of people we have at the company,” said Alan Eustace, Google’s senior vice president of engineering and research.
Even if it surpasses 31,000 employees this year, Google will still have far fewer people than Microsoft Corp., among its fiercest rival. Microsoft employed about 88,400 people through September, the most recent available.
Managing a company with the population of a small city will pose another challenge for Google co-founder Larry Page as he prepares to take over as the company’s CEO April 4.
Google owns or leases about 4.2 million square feet scattered across more than 60 buildings in Mountain View, and it hopes to build another corporate campus on a nearby NASA complex in Silicon Valley.
It also signaled plans to expand in New York last year when it paid about $2 billion to buy a 15-story office spanning about 2.9 million square feet — more space than the Empire State Building. About 2,000 Google employees currently work in that New York office.
Trying to get a job at Google is akin to trying to get into Stanford University, where Page and Brin started working on their search engine as graduate students.
The company receives more than 1 million applications a year and identifies the top candidates through a rigorous screening process that analyzes SAT scores, grade-point averages and their performance on tests with such questions as: “How many different ways can you color an icosahedron with one of three colors on each face?”
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.