Google interview
Posted 05 Sep 2011 in business and google

Recently I was invited to Sydney to interview for a developer position at Google. I was flattered that a great company like Google was interested in me, but divided over whether to leave my current freelancing + travel lifestyle.

I arrived early in Sydney and went for a run along the harbor to calm my nerves. Then I walked to the Google office and waited in reception for a 1pm start. Apart from a tire swing, which people ignored anyway, this could have been any reception. I was led to a small room for the interviews. Along the way I passed rows of coders at work like any other office. So far very different from what I had read about the famous Googleplex in Mountain View.

I also spotted an effigy of Sarah Palin. Poor taste.

In the small room I had back to back technical interviews until just past 5pm. At 4pm I was feeling good - I had found reasonable solutions to all questions so far and got on well with the interviewers. I even started thinking ahead to whether I should accept an offer to work at Google and relocate to Sydney!

Unfortunately the final interview was a disaster. I struggled to stay focused and had difficulty making even basic calculations. I was tired from the previous interviews but I think the main factor was I had not eaten since breakfast - lunch was not provided as I had understood.

After the final interview most people had already left the office and I was escorted out. No tour. No introductions. No snacks. No schwag.

I had read that to get hired the applicant needs positive feedback from all interviewers so am confident I will not get an offer. But I feel OK about this - the Google hiring machine left a bad taste and I enjoy my current web scraping work. I only feel annoyed about my performance in the final interview - why didn’t I ask for a break and some food?!

My advice for other applicants:

  • the sooner you apply after uni the better, when the computer science theory is still fresh
  • practice coding algorithms on a whiteboard
  • make sure you are fluent in both C and a higher level language like Python
  • knowing a functional language like Haskell should make some problems easier and impress the interviewer
  • bring your own lunch

UPDATE: I received feedback from Google that my application was not successful. Oh well.

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