Google Interview Process & Questions

Landing a job at the tech giant Google is 8 times harder than getting into Harvard: Google’s acceptance rate is 0.67%, while Harvard’s acceptance rate is 5.2%. In 2019, Google received over 3 million applications but eliminated 99.3% of them. This is largely due to Google’s notoriously tough interview process. To land a job at Google, here are the steps you have to take:

Step 1: Pass the resume screening

Step 2: Pass the phone screenings (1-2 rounds)

Step 3: Pass the on-site interviews (4-5 rounds)

Step 4: Pass the hiring committee reviews

Step 5: Pass the executive reviews and get the offer

In this article, we will look at what goes on in each step of Google’s hiring process, three different types of Google’s interview questions, and three tips to ace any Google interviews. Enjoy reading!

Five steps of the Google recruitment process

Google’s recruitment process consists of five main parts: resume screening, phone screenings, on-site interviews, hiring committee reviews, and executive reviews. While each part of the hiring process has its own value, the most difficult and decisive parts are phone screenings (1-2 rounds), and on-site interviews (4-5 rounds). These interviews last 45 minutes on average, with pass rates ranging from 15% to 20%.

Step 1: Pass the resume screening

The first part of Google’s hiring process is, similar to most corporate jobs, resume screening. In this round, recruiters will screen your resume for technical requirements, education, experience,.. to make sure you’re a potential fit.

Although hiring criteria depend on roles and company, the fundamental principles of writing winning resumes at Google is almost identical to writing winning consulting resumes. There are three fundamental rules you must apply in your resume:

Rule #1: Explicitly display the skills and traits that Google seeks in candidates

What Google looks for in its employees are: leadership ability, analytical problem-solving skills, excellent written and oral communication, “gritty” character, intense curiosity, and humility.

Rule #2: Write specific, result-oriented, and explicit bullets

When talking about your experiences and achievements, the way to go is through objective information. A good bullet should sound something like:

“Reduce overhead by 20% (or $2MN) for an online news media company by leading a cross-functional team to migrate the client’s finance operations cost centers to a shared-services model.”

Rule #3: Using professional, structured, and to-the point language

Using professional, structured, and to-the point language implicitly shows screeners that you’re a good communicator. Highlighting your achievements with explicit numbers and good structures also save screening time and leaves a good impression.

Before moving on, I highly recommend you checking out my consulting resume overview and specifically look at the resume examples I corrected to see how these rules can supercharge your resume.

Step 2: Pass the phone screenings (1-2 rounds)

In the phone screening rounds, a recruiter (usually a team member or a manager) will contact you to explain a bit about the interview process and the role you’re applying to. The interview lasts 30 to 60 minutes depending on the role.

  • For Technical roles, such as software engineering, if the first phone screening goes well, you should expect additional rounds. These are technical phone screening that involves phone coding challenges to test basic problem-solving and data structuring skills, such as DOM manipulation, or CSS. If your technical phone interview goes well you may be asked to complete a take home coding project.
  • For non-technical roles, expect behavioral, hypothetical, and case-based questions related to the role. For example, if you’re a product manager candidate, you might be asked “How would you improve Google Maps”, or “If you could implement a new feature for Gmail, what would it be?”.

Step 3: Pass the on-site interviews (4-5 rounds)

Once you’ve passed the phone screenings, you’ll move on to the tough on-site interviews. In a typical on-site interview, you will be interviewed with another 4-5 people for 45 mins each.

On-site interviews usually consist of 4-5 rounds, in which two things will be assessed: (1) Your fit for the selected role (role-specific fit) and (2) Process, teamwork, and culture fit (firm-specific fit).

For technical roles, there are generally two types of interviews you should be aware of: Coding on-site interviews and System Design on-site interviews. For each type, expect 2 or more interviews. 

  • Coding on-site interviews involve whiteboarding solutions to slightly harder data structures and/or algorithmic problems. The lesser experienced you are, the more number of coding onsite interview rounds for you.
  • System Design Onsite interviews involve coming up with high level design architectures for real life products. The more experienced you are, the more number of these interviews you might face.

For both technical and non-technical roles, you’ll definitely get teamwork/process/culture fit interviews. The fit interview will be a combination of topics ranging from agile methodology or workflow, teamwork and collaboration, and conflict resolution.

Step 4: Pass the hiring committee reviews

Congratulations! You’ve passed the toughest on-site interview rounds. At this point, some candidates move directly to the hiring committee but some candidates go through the team-matching phase.

In the team-matching phase, you’ll meet prospective managers to discuss the team you’d be joining and the type of work you would do. If a team wants you, they’ll tell your recruiter and it will be added to your portfolio, which will then be submitted to the hiring committee.

Once that is done, your performance will be evaluated by a hiring committee, consisting of several Googlers who review a candidate’s performance throughout the entirety of the interview process.

In the day or two leading up to the hiring committee meeting, the reviewers read the candidate’s packet and make a recommendation on whether or not to hire the candidate. At the meeting the reviewers discuss their feedback and if all members agree an offer will be extended.

Step 5: Pass the executive reviews and get the offer

After the hiring committees meeting, the offer list awaits final reviews from an executive. That’s right, at Google, one of the top executives looks at all offers made by the hiring committees before they are extended to candidates.

Often, a Compensation Committee will determine the appropriate total compensation for the offer. Once the results are on the table, your recruiter will contact you, break the exciting news, and explain the details of the offer.


Three tips to ace Google interviews 

The beginning of every interview at Google will involve 15-20 minutes of behavioural questions. Hence, it’s crucial that you present yourself in a consistent, thorough manner. Most importantly, however, you must demonstrate the traits that Google looks for in every answer. Below, I’ve summarised three tips to help you ace every fit interview question, keep reading!

Tip 1: Prepare stories, not questions

For any interview, especially fit interviews, it is best to prepare 3-4 detailed, all-round, refined stories exhibiting all the required attributes (for Google, they’re the below “Google” traits). This way, you can tune the stories according to the interviewer’s questions in a flexible, consistent manner.

Many candidates make the mistake of preparing on a per-question basis, i.e listing out the possible questions and the corresponding answers/stories. Wrapping your head around inflexible answers can throw you off-balance when an unexpected question comes up. The resulting storytelling style is also somewhat robotic.

Instead, in the Case Interview End-to-End Secrets Program, I teach a story-based approach: select a few stories reflecting your best, all-round self, and develop them in detail.

Tip 2: Implicitly show your “Googleyness”

To prepare your stories, compare your past experiences with Google traits, along with personal values you’re most proud of, and select the stories best reflecting those traits and values. You want to show that your values and experiences perfectly match what recruiters look for.

So what are these famous “Google” traits? Above all, Google places emphasis on kindness, empathy, and humility in their people. Successful candidates also excel in these criteria: learning ability, teamwork, communication skills, leadership. 

  • Learning ability: Google not only values excellent cognitive abilities, but also problem-solving ability, curiosity, and ability to learn. 
  • Teamwork: Working at Google demands that you’re a great team player. Merely being an independent, hard-working employee isn’t going to cut it – you’ve got to work, think, and succeed in teams. 
  • Communication skills: succeeding in teams also requires excellent communication skills, and this holds true not only for Google but many companies. 
  • Leadership: Google defines leadership as the willingness to step into a difficult problem and step out when their expertise is not needed. One person is not always going to be the right leader for everything Google does – work will be handled in small-sized teams (4-6 people) consisting of people with different skill sets.

Tip 3: Use the Problem-Action-Result framework

As the name suggests, the Problem-Action-Result method, also known as the STAR method, is a technique you can use to clearly demonstrate specific skills/ traits required for a job position. Using this framework instantly makes your answers more structured, logical, easy for listeners to follow, and easy for you to keep track of.

STAR stands for: 

  • Situation: An event, project, or challenge faced
  • Task: Your responsibilities and assignments for the situation
  • Action: Steps or procedure taken to relieve or rectify situation
  • Result: Results of actions taken.

Example: Tell me about a time when you performed well under enormous pressure. 

STAR Model Answer:

At my previous job, my coworker suddenly needed to take some time off, and their project was left unfinished and without a manager. My supervisor asked me to take on the project, and with no extension on the deadline, I had days to complete a project that should have taken several weeks.

I requested and was granted reduced weekly goals, which freed up more time to finish the special project. I was also able to delegate several of my weekly goals to other teammates. These reductions allowed me to finish the project on time and with complete accuracy.

My supervisor appreciated my attitude and drive, and I was given several more projects after that, along with an eventual promotion and pay raise.

Google interviews’ question types and examples

Google Interview Questions comprises three main types: Fit questions, technical questions, and brain-teaser questions. Fit questions may appear in technical interviews, but are mostly asked during fit interviews. Technical questions are strictly limited to technical interviews, and brain-teaser questions may appear in all types of interviews.

Below, I will walk you through (1) what each question type contains and (2) how you can approach each type. I’ll also include some sample questions so you’ll have a rough idea on how to apply the recommended approach.

No.1: Fit questions

1. What it is:

Fit questions are a type of question aimed at assessing candidates’ suitability for the role they applied for. They are role-dependent, and will be a combination of topics ranging from agile methodology or workflow, teamwork and collaboration, and conflict resolution.

For example, if you’re applying as a product manager, you might be asked the following fit interview questions:

  • What’s a product you love/hate? Why? How would you improve it?
  • How would you solve homelessness in San Francisco?
  • Why does Starbucks sometimes have coffee shops on both sides of the road?
  • Google has invented a technology that makes air travel 4x cheaper and 4x faster. What do you do with it?
  • If you could implement a new feature for Gmail, what would it be?
  • What will be the impact of self-driving cars?
  • What technology trends are you following at the moment?
  • You’re part of the Google Search web spam team. How would you detect duplicate websites?
  • If you were to build the next killer feature for Google, what would it be?
  • How would you determine if a new Google Search feature launch was successful?
  • Tell me about a time when you solved a conflict at work.
  • Which of the company values/principles is your greatest strength?
  • How do you move forward with stakeholders who want to go in one direction but you don’t think that’s the right way to do it?

2. How to approach it:

Remember, the main purpose of behavioural questions is to test your fit for the position you’re applying to. Hence, the key is to prepare 3-4 stories gearing towards the specific job requirements (professional experience, attributes, character, etc). 

For example, if you’re applying as a software engineer, prepare 3-4 stories about your technical experiences, and don’t forget to include traits that make great software engineers (supreme communication skills, quick learning ability, good team player, etc), in addition to the aforementioned Google traits.

To prepare an all-rounded story, read this article for the full guide. Alternatively, follow these three steps:

Step 1. Lay down the content base:

Compare your past experiences with Google traits along with personal values you’re most proud of, and select the stories best reflecting those traits and values.

List down as many details of your stories as possible, make sure they follow this structure: Problem, Actions, Result, Lesson.

Step 2. Form the story plot:

Trim the unnecessary details, simplify the technical parts to help the listeners understand, then rearrange and dramatize the rest to make your accomplishments really stand out.

Add the Google spirit into the mix by emphasizing the relevant traits, telling your stories in a structured way, explaining all your actions, etc.

Step 3. Refine your style:

Your style of story-telling should be entertaining for both you and your audience. Take time to practice and find your style – and remember, it should be natural, otherwise you won’t be able to use it in a high-stress, high-stake interview.

Keep in mind that your style should be formal, because it’s a job interview we’re talking about. Don’t do your trademark sarcasms there, it’s not a stand-up comedy session.

No.2: Technical questions

1. What it is:

Technical questions are exclusively reserved for candidates applying for technical roles, such as Software Engineer, Electrical Engineer, Test Engineer, Network Engineer, to name a few. Coding interview questions often fall into the following categories: 

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

2. Example questions:

Below is a comprehensive list of Facebook Coding Interview questions, for all aforementioned categories. Solutions are at the end of every problem.

  • 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?
  • What experience have you had working alongside developers as a designer?
  • Tell me about your design process.
  • How would you describe interaction design to someone who’s never heard of it?
  • How do you find duplicate numbers in an array if it contains multiple duplicates?
  • 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?
  • What’s the difference between information architecture and user experience?
  • How would you redesign Craigslist?
  • How would you design a system for controlling a toy car using a smartphone?
  • Walk me through a project you’ve worked on 
  • How do you find the third node from the end in a singly linked list?
  • How do you find the sum of two linked lists using Stack?
  • How can a given string be reversed using recursion?
  • How do you count a number of vowels and consonants in a given string?
  • How do you count the occurrence of a given character in a string?
  • How are all leaves of a binary search tree printed?
  • How do you count a number of leaf nodes in a given binary tree?
  • 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?

No.3: Brain-Teaser questions

1. What it is:

Brain-teaser questions are some of the hardest interview questions that Google itself invented. This type of question is notoriously difficult, and has been accused of being unfair, lacking skill-assessment attributes, and only served to make the interviewer feel smarter. This is why Google has been moving away from this question type since 2013.

But because they’re not officially eliminated, there’s still chances that you might encounter one of them. Hence, it’s still useful to grasp how to deal with brain-teasers. You will also impress the interviewer with the ability to think and work through problems with little data if you get them right.

Brain-teaser questions will generally look like this:

  • How many barbers are there in Chicago?
  • People who smoke are much more likely to develop lung cancer than those who do not smoke. What research would possibly show that cigarette smoking does not cause cancer?
  • How many golf balls would fit into a Boeing 747?
  • You have a 3 gallon jug and 5 gallon jug, how do you measure out exactly 4 gallons? 
  • How many gas stations are there in the US?
  • What is the angle between the hour-hand and the minute-hand of a clock at [time]?
  • If I roll two dice, what is the probability the sum of the amounts is nine?
  • How would you test a calculator?

2. Sample questions & answers:

Below, I’ve compiled 10 brain-teaser questions, with answers for each. Alternatively, check out my full A to Z brain-teasers guide, with over 30 example questions and answers.

Question 1: If a doctor gives you three pills, telling you to take one every half hour, how many minutes will pass from taking the first pill to the last pill

Answer: 60 minutes. There are only two 30-minute intervals, not three.

Question 2: What is the next number in the following sequence: 0 0 1 2 2 4 3 6 4 8 5 ?

Answer: 10. There are two alternating sequences: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 0, 2, 4, 6, 8.

Question 3: Two U.S. coins add up to 30 cents. If one of them is not a nickel, what are the two coins?

Answer: A nickel (5 cents), and a quarter (25 cents). This question tricks you into thinking neither coin is a nickel.

Question 4: A man was born in 1945, but he’s only 30 years old now. How is this possible?

Answer: 1945 was the number of the hospital room.

Question 5: A bus can hold x people. It was half full from the start, and at the first stop, y people got off. How many people can now get on the bus?

Answer: At the start, the number of vacant seats on the bus was x/2. After the first bus stop it becomes x/2 + y.

Question 6: What is the next letter in the following series: Y Z V W S T P Q

Answer: M. Letters are in pairs, backwards skipping every third letter: M N (O) P Q (R) S T (U) V W (X) Y Z.

Question 7: People who smoke are much more likely to develop lung cancer than those who do not smoke. What research would possibly show that cigarette smoking does not cause cancer?

Answer: One that shows an indirect relationship between smoking and lung cancer, i.e “smoking causes X, X causes lung cancer”. The key here is to look at “cause” as a direct relationship.

Question 8: What day follows the day before yesterday if two days from now will be Sunday?

Answer: Thursday. Today is Friday because “two days from now will be Sunday”. “day follows the day before yesterday” is just yesterday, so it’s Thursday.

Question 9: A boy and a girl are sitting on a bench. “I’m a girl,” says the child with brown hair. “I’m a boy,” says the child with blond hair. If at least one of them is lying, which one is lying?

Answer: Both are lying. If any of them told the truth, they would deliver one same answer.

Question 10: An explorer found a silver coin marked 7 BC. He was told it was a forgery. Why?

Answer: You can’t have “Before-Christ” in the Before-Christ years, because nobody knew who this Christ was.

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