Demystifying the Google Interview Process

March 7th, 2011 by lewis

SEE ALSO: Google PM interview classGoogle Software Engineer interview classGoogle Product Marketing interview class

For those of you with an upcoming Google interview, here are little known insights about Google’s interview process. (Sources at the end of the post.)

Link to Questions about the Google Interview Process

What’s the best way to apply to Google?
What can I expect from the recruiter screening interview?
What are the Google phone interviews like, and how many should I expect?
What can I expect at the Google on-site interview?
Is creativity important?
How does interview feedback work?
How does the hiring committee work?
Why does Google ask me for my GPA and SAT score?
Do awards and patents matter?
What is the compensation committee?
What is the executive committee?
Why is there no hiring manager for this role?

What’s the best way to apply to Google?
You can apply to Google by visiting their jobs site, but it’s clear that Google likes referrals. Here’s a quote from their website:

Good people know other good people. Our best employees have been hired through referrals.

Find a friend or someone else in your network to refer you. Google employees receive a $2,000 referral bonus if you accept an offer and work at Google. As a result, they’ll be motivated to answer your questions and give you the inside scoop. The insider’s perspective will be invaluable.

What can I expect from the recruiter screening interview?
Typically a recruiter will call to discuss and verify your skills, education, and experience. If it’s a good fit, he or she will recommend you for a phone interview.

What are the Google phone interviews like, and how many should I expect?
Each phone interview lasts 30-45 minutes each. The phone interview is typically conducted by a peer in a similar role, not a recruiter. They’ll assess your skills. If you’re a software engineer, expect software coding questions. If you’re a product manager, expect questions on product design and development. Prepare for the interview by reviewing this list of Google interview questions.
After 1-2 phone interviews, the Google HR team can make a determination on whether to invite you for on-site interviews. If you’re a borderline candidate, they may request that you do an additional phone interview.

What can I expect at the Google on-site interview?

The Google on-site interview experience varies based on position. For software engineering roles, Google asks candidates to prepare for “coding, algorithm development, data structures, design patterns, analytical thinking skills.”
For business and general roles, be prepared for problem solving and behavioral interview questions. For instance, if you’re a marketing person, you may be asked to position a product or handle a delicate product issue. If you’re in a support role, they may ask you for a writing sample.

Is creativity important?
Absolutely. Google hires those who can think big. See #10 on Google’s list of 10 corporate values: “Great just isn’t good enough.”

How does interview feedback work?
Interview feedback is entered into the applicant tracking system. Typically interviewers provide feedback within 24 hours. The interviewer enters both qualitative and quantitative feedback. Each interviewee is given a numerical value. The recruiter aggregates all the interview feedback for the hiring committee. A single interviewer cannot see another interviewer’s feedback during the interview process. However, after a candidate is accepted or rejected, the interviewer will see all interview feedback including interview questions. The hiring committee may also provide feedback on the interviewer’s feedback quality.

How does the hiring committee work?
There is a hiring committee for each functional role. The committee members consists of senior leadership and experienced employees in the domain. Once a week, they review all the information including resumes, interview feedback, academic transcripts and any other supplemental information. After review, they will make a hire, no-hire, or get more information (aka do more interviews) recommendation. Some hiring committees meet on a more regular basis.

Why does Google ask me for my GPA and SAT score?
At Google, GPAs and SAT scores matter. Why? The Google HR team crunches all sorts of numbers to see what best predicts a candidate’s potential at Google. GPAs, test scores, interview scores, and academic institution have all been considered as success indicators. While GPA and where you went to school won’t rule out a candidate, the Google hiring team doesn’t want to make a mistake. They will ask you for as many data points to confidently determine whether you’ll succeed at the company. Don’t be surprised if they ask whether or not you hold any patents and won any collegiate awards.

Do awards and patents matter?
Yes. Distinctive people come up with distinctive results. On Google’s website, Google eagerly calls out their employee diversity: “Googlers range from former neurosurgeons, CEOs, and U.S. puzzle champions to alligator wrestlers and Marines. No matter what their backgrounds, Googlers make for interesting cube mates.”

What is the compensation committee?
The compensation, not hiring, committee determines the package. They are tasked to present an offer that’s fair (relative to other employees) and competitive (relative to the industry). By having compensation determined by another group, it minimizes biases and other decision making errors.

What is the executive committee?
Once the hiring committee feels good about a particular candidate, their “hire” recommendation is passed onto the executive committee. The top Google execs serves as a final check before an offer is presented. The executive committee may ask for additional data or clarification, but they rarely veto an offer.

Why is there no hiring manager for this role?
Don Dodge explains this best,

Hiring decisions are made by hiring committees. This means that no single hiring manager can make a potentially bad decision by themselves. This doesn’t guarantee 100% success, but it does reduce bad decisions. There must be consensus that the candidate is a great hire. Doesn’t this slow down the process? Not really, in fact the process insures that candidate status is reviewed by the committee every week. There is no opportunity for the hiring decision to get delayed by personal deadlines for other work. The consensus approach avoids “blind spots” or biases by an individual hiring manager, and results in better hiring decisions. Candidates are compared across several groups to make sure the acceptance criteria remain high.

Another source goes on to say, “At Google, it’s quite likely you’ll be interviewed by people who’ll you’ll never work directly with, and it’s extremely rare for someone to be interviewed by the person who ends up as their manager.”

SEE ALSO: Google PM interview classGoogle Software Engineer interview classGoogle Product Marketing interview class

Sources
http://www.google.com/jobs/joininggoogle/hiringprocess/index.html
http://dondodge.typepad.com/the_next_big_thing/2010/11/google-is-hiring-2000-people-how-to-get-a-job-at-google.html
http://piaw.blogspot.com/2010/04/hiring-committee-story.html

Photo Credit: Lynda


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