Au/GaN and Pt/GaN contacts have been studied with XPS. According to XPS depth profiling, the N signal is weak in the region below the metal contact and the Pt or Au signal decreases much more slowly than expected for a sharp interface. Next, we have performed in situ studies of the formation of Au contacts on GaN. In contrast to the results from depth profiling, we observe 2D growth and little or no chemical interaction between Au and GaN. This suggests that conventional calculations of sputtering yields and ion-beam-induced mixing cannot be applied to the analysis of noble metal/GaN depth profiles. Heating during or after Au deposition results in strong clustering, observed by both XPS and AFM. The Schottky barrier height measured by XPS is 1.15 eV.