Tips for getting a job at Google

April 18, 2007

Saw on in my feed stream today a post by an ex-Plaxo, Adam Lasnik. He’s now at Google and posted up a few tips about interviewing there, prompted by another Googler (I think his name is Mike Knell according to his Flickr account?) who posted up some thoughts as well.

I used to get e-mail by a ton of people looking for Google interviewing tips; I still get a few requests now and then. I probably should’ve just posted my answers a long time ago and linked people to it, but oh well. Their recommendations are all good ones, maybe I can just link over there in the future.

Hope this doesn’t get them fired 😉

Here’s what I can remember from my interview process. I went through two interview loops: one for a software engineer position and one for the product managment position I eventually accepted.

For the software engineering position, they asked me mostly technical and coding questions. The coding questions were of equal difficulty with any other top-tier tech company (Microsoft, Amazon, Yahoo, etc.). They were mostly dealing with manipulating data in data structures; the one I remember was: given a binary tree structure, write an algorithm that returns all the items at a given depth from the root in order from left to right.

I was also asked some really random questions: what’s the seek time on your computer’s hard drive? what’s the access time on a stick of DRAM? Not sure why they asked these questions… maybe to test my geekiness? Fortunately, I’ve built my own computers for years, so it was no problem, but I know plenty of awesome software engineers that don’t know info like that.

For the product management position, I interviewed with about four 1st year APMs, one experienced full PM, and a technical manager (David Jeske, formerly of eGroups/Yahoo! groups). The 1st year APMs were fresh out of college, pretty much all from Stanford or MIT, and were very smart, although not very well versed in how to actually ship software in the real world. They were mostly technical or semi-technical (CS or CS related degrees like HCI or symbolic systems) and they all asked me the same questions: “Name a product you like. Why do you like it? What would you improve about it?” Interesting the first time, not so much for the subsequent 3 interviews 😉

The experienced PM had worked at other companies before Google and asked me more about shipping software, driving teams, and designing products. A solid interview.

My interview with David was pretty fun. He had me create a simple DB table, write a SQL statement and then we talked about optimizing it a little bit (add indicies and etc.). Not sure if they told him that I went through another interview loop already with pretty heavy coding questions or maybe he took it easy on me since I was interviewing for Product Management.

Overall, the interview process took a few months. I did 2-3 phone screens for each interview loop and did a day of interviews (5-6) for each. In my opinion, the interviews were pretty easy, but I guess interviewing to get into Google wasn’t the hard part for me, more like, staying there 😀

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5 Responses to “Tips for getting a job at Google”

  1. Fays Says:

    Those are some pretty good tips. Those would equally apply to any other “big” company, so wherever you’d like to apply keep those in mind.

    Usually what any company would expect is:
    – Understanding of their business
    – How you will contribute to the business
    – How do you integrate within the company

    Since, I’m getting the same questions about how to apply at my company.. I’d rather point people here since it is mostly the same process 😉

  2. markjen Says:

    Good tips Fayes! I almost forgot, but I compiled some more general tips as well a while back. They’re at:

    http://blog.plaxoed.com/2005/10/31/general-interviewing-tips/

  3. sebastien Says:

    I saw you on arte

    you will be a star :p

    I founded your blog via… http://www.google.com :p :p

  4. markjen Says:

    Hey Sebastien, was I on the French/German show Arte? If so, do you know what date it was on and if they’ve got it online somewhere? I’d love to see it.

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