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Your Guide to the Google Interview Process

So, you were one of the over 2 Million people to apply to Google this year… but YOU got called for an interview! Woohoo! Time to start preparing!
Your Guide to the Google Interview Process

Google is well-known for its highly selective interview process. It’s no wonder, as the company is looking for the best and brightest to join its team. But what exactly goes into the google interview process? And how can you make sure you’re prepared for it?

Here’s a look at Google’s interview process, from start to finish.

What to Expect During the Google Interview Process

If you’re entering the google interview process, you can expect it to be thorough, challenging, and somewhat lengthy.

The good news is that everyone who’s interviewed with Google said that the experience was positive and the interviewer(s) were friendly and professional.

Also to your benefit, Google has revamped its interviewing process, which is much shorter and no longer involves brain teaser questions like, “How many golf balls do you think would fit inside a school bus?”

After conducting an extensive study into their previous approach, Google discovered that brain teasers did not improve the quality of talent acquisition but rather frustrated and prolonged the interview process.

They also determined that four interviews are optimal for discovering top talent and suitable fits for their company culture.

The Google interview process now starts with a phone/Google Hangouts interview, which is usually conducted by someone from the team you’re applying to.

If the phone interview is successful, then you’ll move on to a virtual/Google Meet interview, which will consist of 4-6 interviews, each approximately 45 minutes long.

This process may be an all-day affair or may be split up between two days. If an on-site interview is determined to be necessary, you will be reimbursed for travel expenses.

Included in these interviews are 4 elements of testing:

  • Cognitive-ability tests
  • Leadership tests
  • Technical ability tests
  • Culture fit
  • UX engineering prospects can expect to be assigned a take-home project to complete using the Sketch app.

The project will have a completion deadline of one week and should demonstrate your ability to design user flows and information architecture.

Google interview process step 1 – Phone interview

These interviews are with a peer on the team on which you’ll be working if hired and are designed to assess the key skills and abilities you’ll need for the role.

In addition to basic technical skills, you’ll be asked questions to assess your leadership, project management, and general cognitive skills.

Expect your phone interview to last between 30 and 60 minutes, perhaps a little longer for technical roles such as engineering.

When applicable to your role, you’ll be expected to answer coding questions while demonstrating and explaining your answers in a Google Doc.

Also, be prepared to answer questions regarding your college GPA and SAT scores, especially if you are a new graduate interviewing for Google.

Some sample questions about your resume and past experience may include:

But also be prepared for questions about how you would improve Google products if given the chance, such as:

How would you improve Gmail? Why?

Google interview process step 2 – The virtual Google Meet interview

Now is your time to shine! This is usually a full-day affair and consists of 4-6 back-to-back interviews.

Some of these interviews will be 1:1, some will be panel interviews.

Types of questions you’ll be asked

Although you’ll meet with several people, very few, if any, will be from your potential team. They will be a mix of Googlers (Google employees) from across the globe. In fact, every person who works at Google participates in interviewing candidates.

The interviews are categorized like this:

  • Technical
  • Program management
  • Cross-functional

In each interview, you can expect to be asked a mix of behavioral and technical questions.

Behavioral questions will assess your problem-solving skills, teamwork, and leadership ability.

Technical questions will test your knowledge of data structures and algorithms, as well as your coding proficiency.

According to Googlers’ first-hand accounts of their own interviews, expect a LOT of behavioral questions. These are the types of questions that usually begin with “tell me about a time…” or “give me an example of…”

They are meant to assess how you behaved in the past as a way to determine how you might handle a variety of situations in the future.

(Here is our complete guide to common behavioral questions to help you prepare.)

Interviewers ask situational questions in order to learn as much as possible about your thought process, your leadership skills, and how you problem-solve. In short, they want to know how “Googley” you are. How well you’ll fit into the culture of Google.

What does “Googley” mean?

Googlers have given their own definitions of what it means to be “Googley” in the company culture. Here are the overarching themes that persisted across many interviews:

  • “Working well with others.”
  • “Handling ambiguity.”
  • “Approaching problems from different angles and thinking outside the box.”
  • “Intellectual humility.”
  • “Genuine ethical values.”
  • “Above all, don’t be evil.”

Questions and feedback

You’ll have the chance at the end of each round to ask your interviewer(s) questions. Don’t waste the opportunity to learn more about the job role, the team, the company culture, and anything else you want to know about.

Being prepared with questions beforehand will be a lifesaver, so think about some questions and topics you want to explore.

After your interviews, you’ll be given feedback. Each interviewer writes an assessment of the candidate between 1,000 and 1,500 words in length.

Your recruiter will get back to you within a few weeks with feedback from these assessments so that you can either improve for next time or know that your assessments are being sent to the hiring committee for a final review.

Google interview process step 3 – The hiring committee

Finally, if the interviewers agree you meet Google’s standards, your application packet will be forwarded to the hiring committee. From there, 4 or 5 Googlers who have never met you review it and make the final hiring decision.

It is possible to make it all the way through the interviews to the hiring committee and still not get an offer. However, this rigorous process is meant to be an opportunity for you to get to know Google and for Googlers to get to know you.

So try to relax, be yourself, and keep the perspective that either way, at the end of the process, you’ll know more about Google and how to succeed there than you did at the beginning.

Many Googlers didn’t get hired their first time through the interviewing process. But they didn’t give up. They listened to feedback, applied it, and tried again. That’s the spirit of Google – stay humble and hungry!

Another young Googler said, “If you’re afraid of failure, you’re afraid of success.” You learn much more from failure than you do from success. So, even if you don’t succeed at first, learn from the experience and try again.

How to Prepare For a Google Interview

Preparing for the Google interview process is, in many ways, the same as preparing for an interview anywhere else. You’ll need to research the company so that you’re familiar with its history and culture. If you know the names of the people with whom you’ll be interviewing, take the time to look them up on LinkedIn and learn what you can about them ahead of time.

Be sure to come prepared to answer questions about your experience and resume, as well as have questions of your own for the interviewer(s).

Make sure you have a pen and paper ready during your interview so you can take notes as needed.

And, of course, you’ll need to get a good night’s sleep the night before and dress appropriately and professionally for the interview the day of.

All that said, the ways in which you can specifically prepare for an interview at Google are:

  • Be prepared to answer behavioral questions using the STAR Method
  • Be prepared to answer specific technical questions depending on the role you’re interviewing for
  • Be prepared to interview with several people throughout the process, and for each of them to ask you different behavioral and technical questions
  • Be prepared to complete assessments or even a small project as part of the interview process depending on what role you’re applying for

The STAR Method For Answering Interview Questions

It’s always a good idea to study up on behavioral questions prior to an interview. These are questions that probe your ability to work well in a team, handle difficult situations, and think on your feet.

The best way to answer this type of question is the STAR Method.

The STAR Method stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result.

When you’re asked a behavioral question, you should first describe the situation you were in, then the task you had to accomplish, the action you took, and the result of your efforts. This will give your interviewer a clear and concise picture of how you operate under pressure.

Here are some examples of behavioral questions you may be asked that lend themselves to being answered using the STAR Method:

  • Tell me about a time you faced a challenging situation and how you resolved it.
  • Tell me about a time you disagreed with a manager and how you resolved the situation.
  • Tell me about a time when you dealt with a difficult customer. How did you handle that situation?
  • Have you ever been in a situation you wish you handled differently?
  • Have you ever had a coworker whom you felt did not contribute enough to the team? How did you handle that situation?

In order to answer these questions using the STAR Method, you can think of it as telling a story. Use your narrative to answer the question and frame you and your skills in the best possible light.

Google interview question sample answer:

Question: “Tell me about a time you faced a challenging situation and how you resolved it.”

Answer using the STAR Method:

Situation: In my last job, we were working on several large projects simultaneously when we unexpectedly lost 2 employees on our team. This meant that the rest of our team was left to take on the work left by those employees.

Task: Since there were 3 of us remaining, we split the work as evenly as possible between us. This meant that each of us received a workload increase of around 13%.

Action: The three of us continued to work together as a team, helping each other as needed. With the increased workload, some overtime was necessary but was approved by the company.

Result: After some long hours and a lot of hard work on the part of our team, we completed all the projects on time and per the clients’ specifications.

Throughout your interview process, your interviewers will look for you to tell stories to demonstrate your ability to think through a challenge.

Common Google Interview Questions

Even though you can’t know for sure which questions you’ll be asked in your interview, there are some commonly asked questions that former interviewees and recruiters have shared, including:

Good fit Google interview questions

  • Why do you want to work at Google?
  • What’s your favorite Google product and how would you improve it?
  • Tell me what you know about Google’s competitors. How does Google stand apart?
  • What do you think of our company culture?
  • Do you think Google should be charging for its main productivity apps, i.e. Gmail, Google Docs, Google Sheets, etc.? Why or why not?

Product management Google interview questions

  • How would you solve homelessness in San Francisco?
  • What will be the impact of self-driving cars?
  • How would you determine if a new Google Search feature launch was successful?

UX engineer Google interview questions

  • What is A/B testing?
  • How do you avoid a flash of unstyled content (FOUC) while still keeping your site accessible to all users?
  • What UX news have you read lately?
  • How would you redesign Craigslist?

Technical Google interview questions

  • How are duplicates removed from a given array in Java?
  • How is an integer array sorted in place using the quicksort algorithm?
  • How do you remove duplicates from an array in place?
  • How do you perform a binary search in a given array?
  • How is a radix sort algorithm implemented?
  • How do you swap two numbers without using the third variable?
  • How is a merge sort algorithm implemented?

You can expect coding interview questions to fall into these categories:

  • Graphs / Trees (39% of all questions)
  • Arrays / Strings (26%)
  • Dynamic programming (12%)
  • Recursion (12%)
  • Geometry / Maths (11%)

The two things that interviewers asking technical questions recommend prepping for are:

1. Practice problems that can be knocked down in 20 minutes.
2. Practice coding on a whiteboard.

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Remember, the interviewers are looking for how you solve problems, how you think, and what your process looks like. Not necessarily how you can reach the right answer or how quickly.

It’s important to “think out loud” so the interviewer can understand your thought process. And don’t be afraid to ask questions for clarification if you need to.

Following Up After Your Google Interview

After your interview, be sure to send a thank-you note or email to your interviewer(s). This is a courtesy that will show your appreciation for their time, and it may also help you stand out from other candidates.

In addition, if you have questions about the interview process or the role you’re interviewing for, don’t hesitate to reach out to your interviewer or recruiter.

They’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have.

The interview process at Google can be challenging, but it’s also an excellent opportunity to learn even more about the company and to show off your strengths.

Remember, if you weren’t a great candidate, you wouldn’t have been invited to an interview in the first place!

You started this interview journey in a good place. By preparing in advance, practicing your skills and answering techniques, and being yourself during the interview, you’ll only increase your chances of success.

Good luck!

Further Reading:
How to Prepare for an Interview: Key Steps to Land Your Dream Job
Imposter Syndrome and the Job Interview
How to Sell Yourself in a Job Interview
Face the Fear: How to Overcome Job Interview Anxiety

Pamela Skillings
Pamela is the co-founder of BigInterview and an expert interview coach on a mission to help job seekers get their dream jobs. As an HR authority, she also provides consulting services to companies wishing to streamline their hiring process.

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