My Interview at Google Part I

the googleI write this to remember for myself, but also because interview candidates google for this kind of stuff like animals on fire, and I cannot pass up a chance at taking my readership beyond that one person. Don't expect, or ask for, specifics on any questions asked during the interview.

It started with an email from a recruiter. She had seen my profile on LinkedIn and also noted that I had applied to Google roughly a year prior. She wanted to know if I was still interested.

I contacted her and we set up a time for a preliminary phone screen. It was a 45 minute phone call with basic work eligibility questions followed by a round of 4 or 5 technical questions. They were basic and usually centered around the core of one or more languages. I answered most of them easily and explained what I could of any that I didn't immediately recall.

She told me she'd have my answers reviewed but anticipated a callback. A day later I was told to provide 5 times for the first technical phone interview. I gave some times and waited to hear back. That took a day, and my interview was scheduled for the following week. The coordinator also let me know that I'd need a computer for the interview and gave me a link to TopCoder to get an idea of what to expect.

The following week, on the day I was to be called, I set the phone on my desk expectantly. In the days prior I had been reviewing languages and algorithms in an attempt to build up some confidence. That went well, but by this day, any confidence I had was waning. I hate waiting for phones to ring.

To make things a little worse, my interviewer called 10 minutes late. He hit some traffic on the 101 on the way into work (and it was 10 am his time--I envied him).

He shared a Google Doc with me and we got started. Prior to doing interviews this way, Google apparently had people spell out their code over the phone. Somebody there must have seen Writely--with it's online collaboration--and realized it'd make interviewing a lot easier.

My interviewer had a list of about 8-10 questions to get through, some requiring coding and some requiring explanations or debugging. I tried to keep the tempo of the interview going and kept talking, answering what I could. The ergonomics weren't great--I sat with my head cocked into my shoulder, pinning my RAZR there while I typed and listened.

During the debugging of a C macro question, I actually added some values incorrectly. I sensed a silence from the other end of the phone, but he moved on. Moments later--still a bit frazzled by the silence, my eyes darting back over the macro--I caught an error and let him know. He admitted he was glad I caught that and I got the feeling that whatever tally he had been keeping on me just edged from "FAIL" to "PASS". At the end of the 45 minutes, still feeling like the true me wasn't coming across, I asked that we discuss some more things. I told him to ask me something about Python or C and he did. It would have looked ridiculous to miss something you specifically asked for, but luckily I knew enough about what he asked to end things on a better note.

I felt relieved and hopeful at the end. I also reflected on how strange interviewing really is--had the interviewer pulled up a different set of questions from the database, maybe things would have went a lot better, or a lot worse. You need to know it all to be really sure. That's what they want.

The next day I was told I'd be proceeding on to a second technical interview. I sent in 5 times again and waited to hear back. By the end of the second day I felt like I should ask if everything was okay, but I had heard the process could sometimes move slowly. Then, on the third or fourth day of waiting, my phone rang at work. I wasn't in a position to answer, so it went to voicemail. Apparently the interviewer had figured out a good time to have the interview but nobody communicated that time back to me. He apologized and said he'd try to get the coordinator to reschedule it.

The second interview was (re)scheduled for the following week. I spent the intervening time preparing more and entertaining some thoughts on what it'd be like to work there.

work at google

stay tuned for part II (hint)