Friday, May 18, 2007

Googling Your Google Interview

A reader asks:

"I'm about to go through the google interview process... was curious if there were any resources that you thought *did* help - lots of sites purport to have sample interview questions, but I was curious if one had better info that the others..."

Before my two interviews, the recruiter had e-mailed the name of the Googler who would be interviewing me. What's in a name? In this age of Google spying, it could be helpful in preparing for an interview, to know your interviewer before you even meet. I actually did Google up my interviewers but only ended up finding out about one of them. Interestingly enough, he was a contributer to an Open Source library that I had used before at work. Is it ethical to Google people up? I don't know, but with every Google search I did, I was presumably helping him keep his job anyway. My main point though, is that Google is a good tool in the interview process.

Google was a very good resource in picking up information and tidbits about the interview process. Sorting through the mess was difficult though but I found the best resources were not 'job websites' but blogs either about the interview process or blogs written by Googlers. These personal insights came straight from the source and will give you an idea of what to look out for. You will be able to get a decent idea about the questions being asked and learn a lot about the company culture and be able to talk about it. Here are a couple of blogs which were good reads:
A very detailed, well-written piece about the experience, including good pictures and commentary. Don't forget to read the epilogue either.

This guy, in short, seems like a pretty brilliant guy. The topics they got into were way over my head -- "I’ve had lengthy conversations about OO design patterns, database design, computational linguistics, naive Bayesian classification, agglomerative clustering, time-series data analytics, hash effectiveness evaluation, search algorithms, partial sorting, concept-mapping in n-dimensional vector space, and state-graph redundancy elimination." This account really shows how exhaustive and mind draining the interview can be.
Another account, which kind of turns out to be a little bit of a horror story, with an apparently 'rude' interviewer. In the end of his post he gives some very relevant tips to get through the interview.
A success story. He even got the following question:
"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?"

"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."
Looks like Google won the round in this interview process, but he does write about specific questions he was asked.

Here are a few blogs written by well known Googlers. Company culture, technical insights, and just plain-old good reading can be found here:
This was one of the first blogs I read written by an actual Googler. From what I understand she was part of the Google Desktop team. For the most part the blog isn't even about Google, but its pretty interesting nonetheless. Scan through the posts and you'll find random tidbits about the company. She is the author of a pretty popular write up on Preparing For a Software Engineering Interview
An ex-Amazon employee turned Googler. I absolutely would not want to interview with him, but take a read of this and be challenged. His actual blog can be found here - there's nice account of the experience of a new hire.
I had provided a link of this post before, but here it is again. This guy has a great entry called "How To Pass a Silicon Valley Software Engineering Interview".

Here are a few formal articles that were written that might help

A look into the Google job algorithm

An interview with a staffing director at Google.

These aren't a definitive list of links or blogs for sure, but its a decent start and some good reading. If you have any links you think are great and I missed, let me know, I can post it up.


Here is a really comprehensive look at official Google blogs and Google employee blogs:


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