My Google Interview Experience
Apparently I had forgotten to post this. I was almost done, but I think I was originally planning to post some drawings as well. Was reminded of it recently because of a friend applying for the same position. I just finished it up, minus the drawings I had planned on. I may add those later. Enjoy! For those of you just looking for interview-specific information, apologies. This is a blog post after all.
Oh and by the way, this is a VERY LONG POST.
(I signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement, so unfortunately it won’t be extra juicy.)
- May 20th: Friend informs me of Google position
- May 31st: Submitted application to Google
- June 8th: Received request for phone interview
- June 14th: Phone interview with network engineer
- June 15th: Received request for onsite interview
- June 24th: Confirmed flight and hotel stay
- June 29th: Attended onsite interview in NYC
- July 14th: Golden wings melted. Fell from the heavens.
So, that’s essentially what’s been going on the past several weeks. In May, my friend Ben told me of a position available on the Google Jobs site. I read the details, and promptly forgot about it. I looked up the position again and decided I would just give it a shot, thinking I’d humor myself even though a place like Google would never hire me.
I was applying for the Internal Technology Residency Program in Mountain View. It’s a position aimed at new graduates, but since I’ve been employed by the University right out of school, it doesn’t feel like I’ve quite graduated yet.
I pulled up my resume and started editing away. My previous version was quite loaded with technical information, but it was rather heavy on the eyes. I Googled a few dozen sample resumes, and I noted what I liked about each. At first, I was planning to simply edit my old resume, but I changed my mind and decided to work from scratch. I used a lot less text, and a lot more negative space in my resume. I added a list of references at the end, and the resume turned out to be a page and a half. I couldn’t see a way to make my resume a page in length without either making me seem like a 12 year old or my resume look butt ugly.
Cover letter. I can’t really say much about that. I write well. I mostly talked about myself without writing anything that was in my resume already. I wrote in my enthusiasm for the company and the position. Other than that, I don’t think there’s much to a cover letter. With the above and also a copy of my transcript, I submitted the application. This was Memorial Day.
On the Tuesday of the following week, I recieved an email from Google Staffing requesting a time to arrange a phone interview. Phone interview. No big deal, right? That what I tried to think too, but I was pretty pumped. I replied I was available anytime, and I received confirmation that the interview was to be on Monday at 10 AM. The email also told me a list of some general technology topics I would potentially be asked questions on. Besides the phone interview details, I also was given a link to a short skill survey where I could rank my proficiency in certain areas. There was an additional area for me to write about customer service, technology, and it’s ideals.
Time quickly passed and I was planning to study some materials over the weekend before the interview. But those plans quickly went to naught as I ended up hanging out with my friends instead. But I still had Monday night to prepare for interview, right? Well that’s what I had thought when I went to work Monday morning. And come 10 o’clock, I got a call from a Network Ops Engineer from Google. I didn’t realize right away what was happening, but it hit soon. It hit hard. I forgot my interview was on MONDAY. For some reason, my brain had fooled itself into thinking my interview was on Tuesday. Yes. It was a fail.
When this thought finally clicked, I did what any normal person would do, and yelled out “OH CRAP” right into the phone. I asked the engineer for a moment to compose myself and run somewhere with better reception. (One of the buildings I work in happens to be constructed in such a way that the pipes and framing of the building act as some sort of Faraday cage and repel all cellular signals.) I ran outside, found a nice spot in the shade and waited for the engineer to call me back.
He pinged me again and began the interview. It was very technical. Truthfully, I was expecting one of those “Google” questions like, “If you were to puree an average sized male white rhinoceros, how many 2 liter bottles can you fill?” Instead, the interview was rather plain, and I was asked pretty standard questions on IT scenarios and functions. I thought I had stumbled quite a bit, but the engineer I was talking to gave me good feedback and I felt good at the end. The 45 minute interview went by very quickly. Went back to work with many butterflies.
*For those applying to Google, I highly recommend you study your stuff and study it well. Don’t be boring. Have plenty to talk about. Think out loud. Anything listed on your resume is fair game, and you should be expected to show your expertise. The engineer who interviewed me asked me very specific stuff, and I fully expect any other interviews will be the same. I assume that most people applying for Google will be leaning towards the software development side, so I can only imagine that those interviews will be even more technically oriented.
Received an email the next day requesting an onsite interview. I didn’t expect a response so soon, and I definitely didn’t expect it to be positive. It took several readings, but I started to realize this was real. June 29th. A Tuesday at the Googleplex. Or so I thought.
Due to some last minute changes, my interview location was changed to New York City. Nooo! My recruiter called me to inform me of the change, as well as telling me that she will be going on vacation, thus being unable to meet and greet me as she had previously mentioned. And thus my opportunity to see the Google HQ was dashed. d’oh.
A little after a week, I was contacted by a coordinator for Google, and we finalized my travel and housing plans and dealt with some forms dealing with reimbursement and identification. I had to arrange the flight with Google’s travel agency myself. There must’ve been some gaps in communication, as the agents were still under the impression that the interviews were to be at Mountain View. (Further solidifying my belief that the location change was very last minute.) After some back and forth calls, my flight to NYC was scheduled for Monday morning with a return flight Wednesday morning, back in time for work.
The interview was on Tuesday, but Google was willing to pay for my hotel on Monday night as well, (so I don’t have to take a ridiculously early flight in the morning- Yay Google!) so I opted to take the Monday off at work and take the early flight into NYC. I figured if I was gonna go somewhere, I might as well have a day to enjoy myself in the city.
And so, the weekend rolled around and it was soon time for my flight. It was an early one. I got up in the early morning, around 4:30 ish to make sure I had everything I needed before heading off to the airport. The flight was out of Willard with Delta. There was a connection over in Detroit before heading over to LaGuardia Airport in NYC.
In terms of the flight, I’d say it was a enjoyable one, with no problems. (except I almost missed my connection because of the mega short layover- hehe) I arrived in New York City around 11:15 ish, and I was ready to rampage through Manhattan. Or so I was hoping.
Apparently, the taxi that ferried me to the city proper thought otherwise. Besides being unbearably hot and humid, the cab was also equipped with quite the knowledgeable driver. (yeah right) Just after making it past the bridge, the taxi conveniently broke down, presumably after having cracked his radiator. (Steam and smoke was everywhere, even within the cabin.) It felt like a pretty good time to leave the cab at that point, lest it light aflame and cook me any worse than I’ve baking thus far.
The hotel wasn’t too far off, and I decided to hoof it the rest of the way. Just over a mile and a half from where my cab broke down. I was reluctant to roll my luggage on the sidewalk as there was a healthy (or unhealthy) amount of water all over. I wasn’t looking forward to splashing any funny smelling juices over my bag, so I carried it the way over to the hotel. By the time I was at the hotel, my arms and legs were pretty pooped. It was a good time to lie in my bed for a while.
But having arrived at the Gem Hotel, it was not to be. It was around 1PM when I arrived, and check-in time wasn’t until 3. Fortunately, the hotel held my bags for me, and I thought this was as good of a time as any to go get a Metrocard and some grub. I entered the metro station at the corner of 23rd and 8th bought myself a one day pass. I took a look over at the map to see where I would go eat. I hopped on the train and rode it down to Canal Street. Chinatown.
I picked a random restaurant that stood out, and ordered wonton noodles in Chinese. It was tasty. At first I thought I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the city by myself and I wondered if coming so early in the day was a bad mistake. Far from it. It seems I’m perfectly capable of enjoying myself in complete anonymity. I visited a tea shop, had some bubble tea, ate some bakery goods, and finished off my Chinatown excursion with some fresh coconut milk. I was pleased.
I then proceeded to visit the Google building so I knew where to go the next day. It pays to be prepared, no? The Chelsea Market is located right across the street from Google. It’s a place with a collection of stores and restaurants. I went over to the Ronnybrook milk bar and enjoyed some cold vanilla milk. Yums.
I know this all has very little to do with the Google interview. Sorry. I like to think the entire trip was a Google holiday of sorts. Before heading back to the apartment, I took the time to hunt for a ramen store over by Aster place. Ate at Setagaya Ramen. (Try it if you can!) It was yums. The waitress was very friendly. Apparently I had ninja-fooled her into thinking I was Japanese until she saw my name on the credit card. After eating some tasty tasty ramens with a nice chit chat, I made my way to back to the hotel. I decided to sleep early, but my excitement kept me up for a few hours. I slept late and woke early.
In the early morning, I ironed my shirt and pants, and went over to the subway station nearby. It was pretty warm outside, and I thought it best not to enter my interview all sweaty and stinky. I arrived at the building about half an hour early, and I waited to get sent up.
I didn’t know which entrance I had to enter. (I was given two different addresses, on different sides of the building.) I picked one and went in. I talked to the lobby reception, and was told that Google had not authorized anyone to come up yet. I was early, so I decided to just wait around. Around 5 minutes prior, I asked again. It looked like the Google reception didn’t know of any interviews. Ugh. After some phone tag, the lobby reception let me go upstairs. (I would later learn that the other entrance was the correct one, and that one of the interview coordinators was waiting there to let interviewees in. Bleh.) I went upstairs, signed in at the front desk, and played with the giant Nexus One at the Google front desk.
One of the program coordinators came and introduced herself. If I had to describe Google in one word, it would definitely be: Colorful. Had to dodge a person riding a scooter in the hallway. Cool.
I was taken over to one (yes, they have many) of the Google cafeterias. The cafeteria wasn’t exactly busy, but it was far from empty. Lots of Googlers were busy munching away at breakfast. There, I was greeted by the other coordinator and 2 other interviewees. I was glad to know I wasn’t underdressed. While we three interviewees were kinda formal, everyone else in the building as far as I could tell, were pretty casual. After greetings, the coordinators sent us to attack the food tables. And boy, Google takes breakfast seriously. It was a formidable spread. That particular morning had featured assorted fruit, eggs, sausage, hash browns, steak, and other yummy things I won’t bother mentioning. I was nervously excited about the whole thing, so I didn’t think I could bear to stomach too much. I nibbled on some scrambled eggs. It was satisfying. I like to think that Google eggs are prepared with more love than regular eggs. One of the other interviewees, had no such inhibition. He went to TOWN on those steaks. The orange juice looked tasty.
While eating, we took the time to talk about ourselves, and our schedule for the day. Each of us, had four one-on-one interviews planned, with different interviewers. Each interview was to be 45 minutes long, followed by a lunch break and a short tour after the 3rd. Once we had finished eating and cleaning up, we were to split up into our respective rooms where the interviews would be taking place. In the NY Google building, the areas are marked by NY neighborhood and subway line names/terms. It only would’ve made me lost. And I prolly would’ve been, if the coordinator didn’t take me directly to the room. Along the way, we stopped by one of the “snack stations” dotted around the building. I grabbed a fruit juice thing. It was tasty.
The room had a large tv with a webcam affixed on it. My coordinator told me they occasionally do streaming video interviews as well. Nifty. My interviewer arrived and after introductions we were left to ourselves. He gave a little time to introduce myself and went right into his questions. I won’t go into depth here, but the questions were technical in nature. A lot of: “Can you explain what _____ is? Why would you use xxxx over zzzz? How would you go about designing _____ from scratch? Your resume says you have experience in ____. Tell me about it.”
Yeah. Quite technical. I was glad I didn’t chow down earlier. There were none of those “Google questions” that everyone’s heard about. (darn.) After the technical knowledge questions, I was given example scenarios and asked to troubleshoot and resolve the issue. I tried to emphasize speedy problem resolution and exhausted possibilities to the best of my ability.
After the first interview, the coordinator let me grab another juice thing and took me to another room, for next interviewer. He told me to let him know if any of the topics he asked me about were previous covered in the other interview. It looked like the questions weren’t predetermined, and it was up to the interviews to ask questions based on what they thought I should know. This interview was similar to the previous one, with technical questions first, followed by trouble scenarios.
The third interview was similar in fashion, with each of them pressing me hard in the example scenarios. I asked the third interviewer about the news I had seen earlier about Google ditching Microsoft products. Apparently he was confused as to why people would think such a thing and said it was just a rumor. Yay. (While I’m sure Google will become less dependent on Microsoft products over time, I’m just glad it won’t be an instant thing.)
I felt like there was a rather large emphasis on data transfer and network protocols. They each asked me about my Mac and Linux experience, and I died a little on the inside each time. Oof. After each of the interviews, we had a little bit of time to talk with each other and a chance for me to ask any questions. They all loved working for Google, and seemed to be excited about their work. Oh, how I would love to work for them!
After the third interview, my coordinator collected me and we met up with the other interviewees again at the cafeteria. I was feeling a lot calmer since the morning and I ate more formidably for lunch. I can’t remember what was on the menu, but once again, the spread was very impressive and quite tasty. This time, the cafeteria was quite rife with activity. During lunchtime, I asked the coordinators why there so few interviewees. Earlier I had thought it odd that there were only 3, but I didn’t ask about it at the time. It turns out, that we 3 were the last to be interviewed for the program. That was definitely a heart sinker. I mean, considering the position had limited seats, and that most of the seats were filled already, my chances were already cut down considerably. But alas, there wasn’t much I could do about that.
After our lunchtime battle, we were taken around the building and shown around. Game room, ball pit, lecture room, computer museum/shrine, etc, etc… The building was a large one, and Google had multiple floors. An interesting tidbit, one of the reasons Google chose this particular building was because that was where the Transatlantic Cable originated. So in a way, Google was literally a “window” to the world. Nifty.
The final interview was like the other 3 before it. 45 minutes of questions. I think it was more of the interviewer’s personal style, but it was less about potential scenarios, and more about technical information and network diagramming. The last interviewer even had one of those “Google” questions for me. I must’ve answered the question a bit too quickly for his taste, because he had to make a few changes to make it more difficult.
And then the interviews were over. The coordinators rounded us up, and bid us goodbye. I hung out with the others for a while before my flight the next day. Ate some expensive cheesecake and ramen courtesy of Google!
I received the bad news a few weeks later. Unfortunately, I didn’t have what they needed, or they had filled their seats for the program. Either way, I was denied the warm weather of California. Drats! You may have denied me my Sun this time, but I’ll be back, Google! Oh, you’ll hire me, you will. You’ll hire me good. heh.
All in all, if you’re applying for similar positions, you should definitely study up. I have a good feeling that Google prefers Jack-of-All-Trades rather than single subject experts. Multi-platform experience is definitely useful too. And I also have a feeling that Google expects everyone who does technical work, to be able to code in something. So, even if you’re not a computer programmer, you’d be better off if you know how to script automated tasks or perform LDAP queries or something.
Feel free to ask me any questions. I’ll prolly be fixing this post up a bit as I notice grammatical errors or somesuch.
And on a side note, my hotel was located in Chelsea, which I guess is the gayest area of New York City. There was a particular store of interest right next to my hotel. I prolly wouldn’t have noticed it if it were not for the floor to ceiling ads of scantily clad men and mannequins barely preserving their modesty. Yeah.