This is the account of my interview experience with Google in 2006. This article discusses Google Job Interview Questions – my experience and why I rejected their offer. My story is below.
Preamble: Google Job Interview
google contacted me about a position with the print team. i was well paid and was doing well at the company i was with at the time, but i agreed to interview with google anyway. the head of global print operations was under a lot of pressure due to the lawsuits, etc. yet, he needed headcount, especially they needed help with the actual print operation and the quality problems they were having at the time. the job was for a permanent position – why else would they go through a grueling 2 days of interviews for a contractor? but when i pressed him on salary and asked him to match and provide much more than what i was making and i anchored at an amount, he buckled and made it contractual instead. he waffled, so i said “no thanks”.
the people i met were nice, very bright, and focused on their work. several of them complained to me about their frustrations that “google was so big and stuck in its ways”. i thought that was interesting. i declined because of the iffy-ness of a contractual job (though the cash would be very good); the high cost of the bay area wasn’t appealing to me at the time; and, the future of the print effort seemed unsure to me – but the vision and promise of google print is very good. those were my reasons. now, back to the google interview below…
The Google Job Interview
back in october 2005, i interviewed with google, for a position with google print. my interview was over 2 days, on 10/12/2005 and 10/13/2005. i didn’t do much to prepare for the interview, except read-up on all the google print controversy regarding the n lawsuits against google print. unlike most companies that fly their candidates out for an onsite interview, google’s policy was for me to pay for my flight, hotel, and food, but that they would reimburse me later. i thought that was lame and unprofessional; after all, they are the ones that contacted me for an interview and i never applied for a job with them. luckily, i was going to be in that area anyway for business, so i just scheduled my business trip for that week.
Google Interview Questions: Day 1, 4 interviews
in the lobby reception desk, i typed my name on this little widget and signed the dotted line. then, this little widget prints a self-adhesive name tag with my name, google, and my location. i gladly took that self-adhesive and put in on my shirt breast. then, i met with the hr people, both of whom were very nice. they were very, very late, but i had fun hanging out in the lobby of 1625 charleston road, building #44. in the lobby were 4 refrigerators full of odwalla drinks; i helped myself to a couple. on the wall was a large flat monitor that showed, in real time, the current google searches. this was really amusing. i remember the following searches:
- size d bra
- how to advertise
- how to make a bomb
- italian mob + hbo
- catholic anger
- Find a Math Tutor
this was really cool. finally, the hr folks were ready and brought me into a room next to the korean and chinese speaking engineers. my first interviewer came in late and was really sweaty. he had just ridden his bike to work. he was sorry he was late. he was super nice and his questions were easy.
the next person was a little tougher; she had been with sun microsystems for several years and was in charge of their warehouse and distribution side. she asked some tough questions, was very open about her frustrations with google, but ended up very nice to me. she was very frustrated that the engineering received so much priority and attention, but operations and business didn’t. she was very open about what irritated her as an employee at google.
the next person came in had a background in library science and an mba from michigan. he was really nice too and asked fluffy questions. he wasn’t an engineer and i don’t think he knew what to ask me, so he asked me lame conversational-type questions. i don’t think it was a fit interview either; i think he was just clueless – not in a bad way, just that he just didn’t know what was going on. the next person i interviewed with was sharp; he was a stanford mba and had been in the print industry for a while. he wasn’t quantitative at all, but was nice. he asked me hypothetical questions about potential problems that they face in the print group. the problems were very interesting. there is true innovation going on at google, for sure.
that was it for day 1. there was no lunch, but i was free to raid the fully-stocked kitchen whenever i wanted to; i helped myself to a healthy dose of mountain dew and stopped by the cafeteria for a veggie sandwich. the atmosphere there is very cool and i felt energy and could visually see the innovation going on. very cool. that evening, i went to my hotel and did some work for the company i was with at the time.
Google Job Offer: day 2, 7 interviews
i did the whole self-adhesive, name tag thing again. got an odwalla (2 of them), then waited. eventually, the hr people came and got me. this day was much tougher than day 1. my first interview was with a former nasa scientist-turned googler. my interview with him was fun and interesting; he proposed several real case studies and problems that they face in the print team. my second interview was with another engineer; he asked me basic questions and one brain teaser. the brain teaser goes something like this, if i remember it right:
you are at a party with a friend and 10 people are present including you and the friend. your friend makes you a wager that for every person you find that has the same birthday as you, you get $1; for every person he finds that does not have the same birthday as you, he gets $2. would you accept the wager?
i had fun trying to solve this one. the answer has to do with the number of days in the year and the probability the person’s birthday falls on the same day as mine (without replacement). i eventually solved it, but it took time learning how to apply probability with no replacement. i tried using 10! (factorial), for some reason, but that was totally the wrong approach. we ended the interview; i didn’t feel as good about that one, because i struggled a little bit through that brain teaser.
my next interviewer asked a lot of algorithm questions. he made me write pseudo-code for a binary search; he had me uml a system; he made me explain cron, diff, the permission system in unix, and had me write a bunch sql queries. this guy was a scientist at epson, the printer company. he was sharp; quantitative but warm. i liked that interview. my next interview was with a nice lady who had been with google for a few years. she was cold, but not mean; observant, but not expressive. i felt that i answered her questions fine and our interview was done.
my next couple of interviews were with people that i had interviewed with the previous day, in day 1. those went fine and uneventful. but, by this time of day, i was getting really tired, physically and just tired of interviewing. alas, the last interviewer came, the head of global operations for the google print team. he was very nice, open, and direct. that interview went fine and he openly shared his strong interest in my background and said that i’d be a great addition to the team. he also shared how living in the bay area is so nice and seemed to be trying to sell the location and the company. i saw this as a good sign. our time ended; i left, but before i walked out the building, i managed to steal a few more of those odwalla drinks. i drove to the san jose airport, caught my flight, and went home.
Google Human Resources: Weeks Later
the hr guy called and gave me an offer! but, it wasn’t what i was expecting. i was excited for the google stock units (gsu) and the phat salary that would barely keep me alive with the bay area cost of living, but that’s not what i got. instead, google offered me a contractual position, with a very high hourly rate. of course, because it was contractual, there would be no benefits or google stock units. on the phone, on the spot, i declined the job offer. moving to the bay area wasn’t that appealing to me, especially if the job didn’t have google stock units and benefits. the cash was good, but my family needed more than that.
all in all, the experience was okay. there is certainly more hype about google than i believe it really merits. true, they hire sharp — really sharp people; i felt a lot of energy and could see the innovation happening there, but many of them seemed really unhappy. i can’t put my finger on it, but many employees i met really seemed unhappy and many mentioned the intense bureaucracy present at google — the people i interviewed with didn’t seem happy to me. they looked tired and grumpy. i didn’t get a feeling that google treats their people very well. i’m glad for my decision not to join google. but, i’ll always wish i had free reign on those odwalla drinks
Google Job Interview Update
yes, i recited that brain teaser from memory, so i’m sure i shared it incorrectly. the approach, though, is this: thinking now of probability without replacement,
(364/365) * (363/365) . . .
this is the approach to the problem. given this, would i take the wager? no; it’s a bad bet.