April 11, 2007

Interviewing at Google

I've now been at Google for, wow, 11 whole months! I thought I'd write down some stuff I really wish I'd known when I started, and especially some things about the interview process. Disclaimer: This is my personal blog, and these views are mine, and not those of my employer.

Don't worry too much about what to wear when interviewing at Google. If you wear a really sharp suit people will wonder why you own a really sharp suit rather than one you obviously keep just for formal occasions and hardly ever wear, but other than that it doesn't really matter. Don't go too far the other way, though. At least make sure you shower and put on something clean, as you'll be stuck in a small airless room all day for your onsites and if all that people remember about you when they come to write up their feedback is the smell that's a bad thing. You'll get irony points for turning up in a Yahoo! or Microsoft T-shirt, though.

Be nice to everyone. Be especially nice to the recruiting coordinator who's looking after you. And if you need a break for the bathroom or just need to get the hell out of that small airless room for a few minutes or whatever, don't be afraid to ask. One of your interviewers would probably quite like to go for a stroll outside rather than be sitting in a small room anyway. Similiarly, if you have a phone screen which turns out to be at a bad time or you're suffering from lack of sleep and can't think straight, don't be afraid to ask to reschedule. We want everyone to give us the best impression they can when they're interviewed, and if you don't think you can do yourself justice for some reason or another tell us.

Don't worry too much about getting 100% right or 100% wrong answers. If you don't know the answer to a question, try to derive it from what you do know. Theorise and hypothesise and think aloud. People who answer every question straight out are few and far between, and that actually tells an interviewer less about you than listening to you reasoning. Be interested in everything, or at least pretend to be.

Don't be arrogant or cocky. Leave your ego at the door. Arrogance and cockiness will kill you when it comes to assessing your culture fit. We're looking to hire Obi-Wan, not Luke, and we don't care if you used to bulls-eye womprats in Beggar's Canyon in your T-16.

Do come up with interesting questions to ask us, but do be savvy enough to know that questions like "Please give me a detailed description of your production infrastructure" and "How many servers do you guys have exactly, anyway?" aren't questions we can answer. Please don't ask us "How have I done? Will I get hired?" or "How much will you pay me anyway?". We really can't answer that one.

Don't make assumptions about how you've done unless you, say, ran screaming from the building halfway through your second interview of the day (and hey, you probably wouldn't be the first to do that).

Do poke your recruiter gently for an update if you haven't heard anything after a week or so. But be polite - they're insanely busy. Generally when they have information to pass on to you about your application they'll do one of the following:

  • Call or email you immediately (call if it's good news, email if it's bad)
  • Go away skiing for a week

Do understand that while the hiring process is tedious and frustrating, it's tedious and frustrating for just about everyone. It does mean that if you get through it alive you get to work with lots of insanely smart people, and it's worth it in the end. I promise.

Posted by mpk at April 11, 2007 7:39 AM | TrackBack

Great comments. Thanks for your pointers !

Posted by: Suja at April 11, 2007 5:58 PM

I'm trying to find some information about whether or not Google replies to all online job applications. I filed an application online a week ago, and haven't heard from them yet (other than the thank you email, so I know they have the right email address), and was wondering whether I should expect a further reply if they're not interested. Do you know?

Posted by: Pepijn at April 25, 2007 10:33 AM

Its a non-innovation company...will suck after 5 years..join there, earn for next 2 years & run away from google!

Posted by: testman at April 26, 2007 10:00 PM

It's funny that I ran into this blog as well as Adams blog. I got my first response from a Google Recruiter 2 nights ago.. after submiting my resume a month or so ago. I'd figured my resume was put in the round circular filing cabinet. I was pretty stoked when they asked for code samples and what not. Someone is probably sitting back looking at that sample now saying .. wow, I've seen this done 1000 times. Anyways, I appreciate your informal, unofficial, personal views and tips on the google interview. Hopefully I will get the opportunity!!!

I am curious, how long is the average hiring process for and individual? 3 months? 6 months?
I was also curious if there typically are educational requirments, or does relevant experience count?

Posted by: Zack at April 27, 2007 10:59 PM

nice writeup.
Actually I went through a similar Microsoft interview loop and got selected. but I got screwed due to the non-availibility of H1B visas. Now since I have to re-interview with Microsoft to join one of their country offices (india) I might as well give google-India a shot.

I've got a really low GPA (2.5). but I've got my CS degree from a top Canadian school and have stellar internships. From what i've heard, google doesnt even look at someone with less than a 3.0.
Indeed last time they just sent my application back, unread because of the GPA. Also, I would love something analogous to the Program Manager role at Microsoft.

Have things changed?is there any hope of me working at google - or are they still as myopic about the GPA?

Posted by: someone at May 2, 2007 5:39 AM

Thanks for the tips. Google is certainly on my list too and basically because of the great crowd they have and the passion for innovation. (and for the yummy food :))

Your blog is added to the list of Google bloggers idealwebtools.com/blog/smartest-dubmest-googlers/

Nice to know about it from Adam's blog.


Posted by: AjiNIMC at May 13, 2007 7:33 PM

I just had an phone interview postponed a month... is that usually a bad sign?

Posted by: JW at July 16, 2007 9:06 PM

If you are interviewing for a Google job in the Atlanta area, do they fly you out to CA to interview or is it done locally?

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