Applying for a job at Google? Google interview questions vary widely based on the functional area and specific role you are applying for. To succeed in the Google interview process, you’ll need to understand how to answer traditional, behavioral, strength-based, and Google case study interview questions. In this article, we’ll explore how to prepare for a Google interview, and the process and requirements to land several different types of roles at Google. In addition, we’ll dive deep into how to approach Google interview prep and offer specific insight into common Google interview questions. Ready to dive in?
Table of Contents: (Click to jump to section)
- Google History & Culture
- Life at Google
- Google Interview Process and Preparation
- Google Interview Process Timeline
- Google Interview Questions: Software Engineer
- Google Product Manager Interview
- Google Data Scientist Interview
- Google Engineering Manager Interview
- Google Behavioral Interview Questions
Google History & Culture
A key part of how to prepare for Google interviews is knowing the company’s history and culture. Google was founded in 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Over time, tens of millions of people started using its search engine to navigate the Internet. Alongside its famous search engine, the company offers online advertising, business communication, cloud computing, software, and hardware solutions. It also gained millions of users and substantial traction via its free email service (Gmail) in its earlier days.
Google monetized its user base with online advertising at first, but over time has added hundreds of products and services via partnership and organic development: Google Calendar, Google Meet/Hangout, Google Plus, Google Workspace, YouTube, Blogger, Google Maps, Waze, Google Chrome, Google Operating System, Android operating system, Nexus, Pixel, and more. Google is ubiquitous, and yet, is a company that is less than 25 years old. The company went public in 2004. In 2015, Google reorganized as a subsidiary of a conglomerate called Alphabet Inc. Google is Alphabet’s largest subsidiary.
Google has historically been rated a great place to work. Fortune ranked it the best place to work in 2007, 2008, and 2012. It is still a highly sought-after employer today, with corporate principles that include “you can make money without doing evil,” “you can be serious without a suit,” and “work should be challenging and the challenge should be fun.”
It has, however, run into its share of issues (notably sexism and ageism charges) as it has grown into a company with 100,000+ full-time roles and even more contractor positions. It created the Chief Culture Officer role for this reason, an individual who is devoted to helping the company stay true to its founding principles. Google’s culture promotes a passion for innovation, growth, design, diversity, and inclusion.
Life at Google
Before you prepare for a Google interview – though this might seem painfully obvious – you should be sure you actually want to work there. It’s a famous brand name and a technology leader, but that doesn’t mean life at Google will suit everyone.
At Google, you’ll be challenged to innovate and produce high quality work, regardless of the role into which you are hired. You must have impressive technical chops. To succeed at Google, you need to have a commitment to problem solving and delivering results.
At the same time, the company offers some truly unique benefits. Many of its benefits programs – and there are many – are aimed at supporting employees through the full range of life’s various stages: parental leave policies, retirement savings plans, death benefits, and much more. In many offices, you can bring your dog to work. In addition, many offices have on-site wellness services (e.g., on-site physicians or massage therapists), workout spaces, and unique kitchens. The company matches charitable donations and donates more for community service hours you put in. And finally, the company has flexible policies around when and where you work.
Google Interview Process and Preparation
Google interview preparation should start before you even apply for a job, according to the firm’s careers page. The process involves six steps: self-reflection, job searching, resume submission, applying online, interviews, and the decision and offer.
How to prepare for your Google interview will depend on the specific role for which you are applying. Some jobs will require online assessments, short virtual chats, or actual mini projects. Google interview questions and answers themselves tend to be in-depth and are used to give the interviewer insight into how you think. In addition, open-ended questions (similar to case interviews) to test your thought process are employed for internal strategy and product management roles. Highly technical questions are also standard for most positions at Google.
The Google interview tends to be structured, so that interviewees can be fairly compared against a rubric. At the same time, the questions are open-ended so Google can gain true insight into how your mind works. “Traditional” questions about your resume and previous experiences are unlikely to be asked directly, but the core principles of behavioral interviewing will still apply.
Google Interview Process Timeline
Historically, the Google interview process timeline was infamously long. It was said that at one point, Google interviewed people on average 20 times over the course of 6-9 months before offering them a job. Current estimates on the Google interview process suggest you’ll experience 4-9 interviews over a period of 2 months.
Google Interview Questions: Examples & Details
Google Software Engineer
Google interview questions for software engineers will be technical in nature. The interview process starts with a phone screen. Even at that point, you may be asked to answer a coding question and explain your process in a Google Doc. If you are chosen to advance in the process, you can expect 4-9 interviews that include scenarios where you answer Google interview questions both 1:1 and, on occasion, in front of a panel. Google uses “structured interviewing” where questions are scored using a rubric, but those questions might be technical or behavioral in nature.
Because a software engineer is a technical role, you’ll likely have to engage in some whiteboard challenges or coding solutions using a Chromebook. Here are some common Google software engineer interview questions:
- How would you describe interaction design to someone who’s never heard of it?
- How is information architecture and user experience similar? How are they different?
- How would you redesign a website like Craigslist?
- Talk me through how you might design a system for controlling a toy boat using a smartphone?
- Walk me through an interesting project you’ve worked on recently?
Google Product Manager Interview
A Google product manager interview, also known as a Google PM manager interview, is a challenging interview. Google offers some tips for its interview process which, though general, can help in the Google product manager interview. Many prospective product managers have to answer Google case study interview questions before landing an offer. Below, find our top tips specifically related to answering Google case study interview questions:
- Structure your approach to the problem at the beginning by splitting the case into components (i.e., prioritization, analytics, technical, design)
- Throughout each part of the Google case study interview, ensure you are tying the work you’re doing back to the overall problem statement
- Drive to a strong recommendation at the end (If you stop at “there are multiple options we could pursue” then you haven’t done your job)
Some more general Google interview tips:
- Find connections between expectations of the PM role and your resume/background.
- Focus on data when you answer questions. Discuss what you accomplished and how you accomplished it using data.
- Leverage past work and non-work experiences to describe how you’d handle a situation.
- Be ready to ask questions. This demonstrates your curiosity and passion for Google’s mission and products.
For this somewhat technical role, you can expect behavioral, hypothetical, and Google case study interview questions, as well as some product design or analytics questions. Some example case prompts could include:
- How would you improve Google Workspace?
- What did Google get right with Gmail? What did it get wrong? What should its next feature be?
- How would you approach launching a new product?
- If you were to build the next killer feature for Google, what would it be?
- What will be the impact of self-driving cars?
- What technology trends are you following at the moment?
Google Data Scientist Interview
Data science roles, and even a data scientist interview at Google, are not easy to land. Data scientists at Google assess the company’s products using statistics at every stage of the development and deployment process. Analyzing and leveraging data is at the heart of Google’s history, culture, and mission. These roles are among the most important at the company.
What should you expect for the Google data scientist interview process? Google is looking for data analysis skills in its data scientist candidates. That’s obvious. But they will also be looking for general critical thinking, coding, and communication skills. Keep this in mind as you progress through the rigorous interview process. Google data scientist interview questions may cover topics such as:
- Questions about designing and testing a new product feature: how would you go about adding a new feature to YouTube?
- Hypotheticals: Gmail adoption has slipped by 5% over the past 6 months – what methods would you use to understand the decline?
- Analyzing acquisitions: what would you analyze about a company to understand if Google should acquire it?
Google Engineering Manager Interview
The Google engineering manager interview is challenging because the role of the Engineering Manager, or EM, is challenging. It’s also one of the most important roles at Google. Technical chops are required, but so are sound management and communication skills. Engineering Managers must have technical know-how to provide leadership for major projects while also motivating and leading the people doing the work. You can expect 4 types of interviews for the EM role: technical phone interview, leadership, coding, and system design.
The technical phone interview will cover coding questions. You’ll have to actually write code in your strongest language after explaining how to think about an open-ended question via an algorithm. The leadership interview will be more behavioral in nature. You’ll be asked about leadership experience, working with teams, and what the firm refers to as “Googleyness.” Googleyness refers to your comfort with ambiguity, action bias, and collaboration. Remember to draw on concrete examples to demonstrate your leadership skills.
The coding interview builds on the technical phone interview. You should know at least one programming language well: preferably C++, Java, Python, Go, or C. Knowledge of APIs and Object Orientated Design and Programming is required. Google also wants to see your ability to test your code and identify corner cases. The focus is on conceptual understanding rather than memorization, but strong technical skills are clearly required. This interview may cover topics like sorting, data structures, discrete math, graphs, and recursive thinking. These are all common topics that coders at Google must understand well.
You could encounter the following math and/or coding questions in an EM interview:
- Garry is four times older than his younger brother James. Find out the age of Garry when he will be twice as old as James.
- What will be the next number in the following series: 10, 9, 60, 90, 70, 66.
- Briefly explain the difference between coding and programming.
- How will you calculate the cube root of a number, up to 6 digits, faster than the traditional approach of mathematically calculating the cube root?
Google Behavioral Interview Questions
Google has many different roles. Some are very technical; some are less so. At Google most “non-technical” interview questions are in its “structured interview” format where standard questions are asked of all applicants such that a numerical score can be given. And in this process, Google behavioral interview questions are likely to outnumber more traditional questions (and note, Google abandoned the infamous brain teaser question type in 2013).
Traditional interview questions are what most people in their career envision when they imagine a business interview. The questions try to get at your knowledge of Google. They also allow you to discuss your skills, strengths, personality, and working style.
- Why do you want to work at Google?
- Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses?
- Who are Google’s competitors?
- Can you tell me about Google?
But you may not get many questions like this. Behavioral interview questions will be more common. You’ll want to use past experiences to demonstrate a particular competency that the role at Google clearly requires. Your responses to behavioral interview questions should provide the person interviewing you with clear evidence of your skills. Here are some examples of behavioral interview questions you might be asked at Google:
- What skills did you learn in your current role that will help you succeed at Google as a PM (or EM)?
- Can you tell me about a time you successfully designed a solution to a challenging analytical problem?
- What analytical project are you most proud of? Why?
- Tell me about a difficult work situation in which you were on a team having trouble solving a technical problem. How did you overcome it as a group?
- What are some of the major ways you helped your last organization design and test new products?
- Describe a time when you successfully managed a very heavy workload?
- Can you describe your experiences being a part of or managing a team?
- How do you stay current on the latest trends in software design, artificial intelligence, and/or data analytics?
When answering behavioral interview questions, keep the STAR method in mind. Remember to describe the situation, discuss the tasks that had to be considered and completed, the actions you took, and the results of the decision. At Google, talking in terms of data is always helpful.
Google interview questions can vary so much based on the role you are applying for. As expected, most roles place a very heavy emphasis on the technical aspects of the job. But even for the most technical role and set of Google interview questions, keeping Google’s culture of engineering, innovation, and data in mind will give you the upper hand. Have an upcoming Google interview? Reach out for interview prep help!
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