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Saturday, April 14, 2012

My “Friend” Interviewed With Google And Here’s What “He” Had To Say

I heard this second hand from a very shy friend of mine.  If you think my friend is actually me, then I say to you “Pshaw!”, because of course I am totally loyal to the company I work for and would never, ever entertain an unsolicited request to interview with arguably one of the best company’s in the world of technology.

The first thing my friend told me is that he is under a fairly comprehensive NDA with Google as the result of his interview process, and even without it, wouldn’t desire to give away any information that would give an unfair advantage to anyone who might stumble upon this write-up.

What he did disclose are a set of tips that would benefit any candidate who is lucky enough to be asked to interview at Google.  Being the good friend that I am, I dutifully recorded this information and present it here today for the benefit of my readers, or reader – most days.

So here they are.  My friend’s observations on how to best prepare and conduct yourself during the interview process.

Study up on your algorithms. 
Which ones, you ask?  Well, the answer is that you cannot know which ones will tossed to you during your time interviewing with Google, so it’s best to play as wide a field as you can.  Though you may not be asked about any of them specifically, they may likely come in handy as you attempt to solve the challenges that you are given.

Understand and learn how to apply Big O notation to your code.
There is lots of information available about this.  Learn it.  Practice it.
Practice writing code on a white-board or a piece of paper.
If you are, like many, used to the comfortable confines of your own development tool-chain, it will be much to your benefit to practice coding without the use of a computer. This practice will allow you to focus more on the task at hand during the interview, rather than the strange sensation of writing code with a dry-erase marker.

Don’t be afraid to debate your position as you are answering a question or explaining your code solution. 
My friend told me that Google his very interested in the way you think, not just that you found the best solution to the problem.  In fact, during one coding question, my friend told me that he came up with a better solution than the Google "interview apprentice" that was there auditing the interview.  I'm sure that made my friend feel very good indeed.

Don’t be afraid to correct yourself, if you feel you are not on the right track.
Again, my friend says that the ability to critically analyze your own ideas is important.

Be well-conversant in the latest trends related to the area of the company you are interviewing for.
You may be asked to respond to some “big picture” questions about the industry, and you should be prepared to articulate yourself well.  My friend says that trying to BS your way through an answer will not take you far, considering that you are in a room with arguably some of the smartest people in the technology business.

Focus more on presenting to Google how great you are at reasoning through problems, rather on more “traditional” interview worries, like how sharply you are dressed.
My friend said that it appeared to him that Google was much more interested in how is brain worked, than if he had good posture or a good sense of fashion.

Be mentally prepared that you will not get the job, because you likely won’t.
My friend explained that, in his opinion, the interview process is designed to sift, and re-sift candidates through a pipeline, and that it appears that Google doesn’t mind at all if well qualified candidates are dropped along the way, so long as they get the very best candidate in the end.

You are likely very well qualified to perform the job you are interviewing for, but Google can afford to be picky, so don’t beat yourself up when after thinking you hit a home run on every single question, and with every single person, you find that you are not selected for the job.  It’s part of their process. Don’t take it personally.

In the end, my friend told me he was not selected for the position, but was told that he was well regarded by many of his interviewers.  I’d say he can hold his chin up high on that count alone.

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