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Want To Work At Google?

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the bread-and-circuses dept.

458

ramboando writes "In an article on the ZDNet site 'chief culture officer' and HR boss Stacy Savides Sullivan describes the kind of traits that she's looking for in potential Google employees. If you're thinking about applying, she also goes over what kind of questions one might be asked in an interview, Google's 'happiness survey' and the best perks that makes employees tick and stay with the company (Google ski-trips or paid paternity leave, anyone?). 'I think one of the hardest things to do is ensure that we are hiring people who possess the kind of traits that we're looking for in a Google-y employee. Google-y is defined as somebody who is fairly flexible, adaptable and not focusing on titles and hierarchy, and just gets stuff done. So, we put a lot of focus in our hiring processes when we are interviewing to try to determine first and foremost does the person have the skill set and experience potential to do the job from a background standpoint in addition to academics and credentials.'"

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458 comments

"Fit Factor" (4, Interesting)

Architect_sasyr (938685) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925551)

So they basically want a Google-y employee or, put another way, someone with the right fit factor. Does this mean that a highly qualified person, skilled and high standing in the community, but prefers to be quiet, in the dark and working alone won't make it?

I ask because my own company puts so much store in the "fit factor" that they end up hiring people with less skills than the other candidates.

Do I want to work at google? Well now, that's between me and HR ;)

Re:"Fit Factor" (5, Insightful)

rsmah (518909) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925741)

Business is a team sport. The "fit" of an individual is as important as raw skill/talent.

Cheers,
Rob

Re:"Fit Factor" (1)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925765)

I ask because my own company puts so much store in the "fit factor" that they end up hiring people with less skills than the other candidates.

I've worked with guys who are reputed to be very very good at their specialty, but at the same time they tear apart the projects they work within. I'd much prefer to have people who are good but not great, than people who are great but don't fit. Obviously Google is looking for those rare individuals with the 3 magic qualities.... social skills, technical skills, and academic skills.

Do I want to work at google?
Given what you write about your company's hiring practices, I suspect you'll be out of luck... ;-)

Re:"Fit Factor" (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18925809)

She also doesn't mention that to Google, hiring is mathematically equivalent to Information Retrieval, except that they only care about "precision" not "recall".

What that means to lay-people is that so long as they can maintain 10,000 applications coming through per-month, false negatives (passing on a suitable applicant) do not matter because there'll be another candidate along in a minute. False positives (hiring an unsuitable applicant) are all they need to focus on. The "fit factor" is effectively the search string of traits; however, with such a large candidate pool, they can focus their "hiring algorithm" entirely on rejecting candidates where it is even slightly difficult to ascertain whether they fit or not.

So, their advertising blitz "aren't we a great place to work for" is a part of what lets them keep their hiring process easy. If they get bad PR and applications fall, then they'll need to worry about recall as well as precision.

Re:"Fit Factor" (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 7 years ago | (#18926015)

If your goth friend is skilled and manage to write complete documentations and occasionaly answer questions, he could very well make it. I doubt however that even a computer genius can do the same amount of work than a good working team of five average engineers.

What they mean to say is... (3, Insightful)

therufus (677843) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925553)

What they mean to say is they don't want new employees using Google's internal internet bandwidth searching for another job.

I for one, would love to work at Google. Don't they let you bring your pets to work?

Re:What they mean to say is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18925581)

Only dogs. The feeling is that it would be unfair to bring a cat to work due to the high population of dogs on campus.

Re:What they mean to say is... (1)

therufus (677843) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925605)

A wise decision. I haven't heard of many other companies being so employee friendly. Are there any other big companies out there that have this similar attitude?

I think it would be refreshing for employers to go out of their way to make their employees feel more at home. It would be much better for productivity.

Re:What they mean to say is... (1)

WebCrapper (667046) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925729)

MindSpring use to let employees bring pets. I would bring my dog in occasionally. Every once in awhile, someone would bring in their Ferret. I also had a friend that brought in a small fish tank and another one that brought in Hermit Crabs and would let them roam around her desk. Earthlink took over and all that stopped almost immediately.

Re:What they mean to say is... (1)

arivanov (12034) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925989)

One of the reasons why I prefer to telecommute. If you are really stuck on something, there is nothing better than sitting for 5-10 minutes in front of the fish tank or taking the dog for a walk. Clears brain blocks outright. And as you clearly pointed out in the office this is at the mercy of the current PHB. That is, if you have the place to accommodate them in the first place. Most of the UK does not have it. Open plan country...

Re:What they mean to say is... (1)

NighthawkFoo (16928) | more than 7 years ago | (#18926005)

One of my coworkers down the hall has a small aquarium in his office. He has a bunch of Neon Tetras [wikipedia.org] in it. It makes for interesting conversation.

Re:What they mean to say is... (2, Interesting)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#18926077)

When I worked at AMD I always kinda smirked at the contrasts between the IBM campus [where I was a liason] and the AMD home office [in sunnyvale where I went for meetings]. IBM had all sorts of "earth tones", waterfalls, lounge areas, and darker lighting [with personal lights in the cubicles]. AMD on the other hand was a fluorescent wasteland of equal sized cubicles and green paint on the walls. Don't get me wrong, the OUTSIDE of the buildings looked nice, but the inside was very sterile and boring.

AMD would have been a bit nicer to work for if they had catered to the out of towners. Nothing like flying 3000 miles to then have to pay for the hotel and food out of pocket [expenses for out of country employees took 6 weeks to get at the least]. :-(

Where I work now it's fairly sterile too. We have a few posters up on the wall, but mostly it's a sea of beige and fluorescents. Fortunately, there is a pub just behind the office so I can sneak into there for a quick bite to eat when I get a case of the Mondays. That and we're tastefully colourful during lunch hour discussions [e.g. not PC-centric] so we can act like adults.

Tom

Re:What they mean to say is... (2, Insightful)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925601)

While it certainly seems like a "Free spirit" sort of place to work it's still a large megacorp (tm) which brings a lot of the downsides with it I imagine. Though the free meals/snacks does sound like a genius idea.

Though after having worked for one megacorp (tm), I can honestly say I'd rather be working where I am for a smaller company. Sure I don't get free meals, but at the end of the day I'm not a drunk anymore :-) [ok I wasn't really a drunk back then either, but I did drink way too often for my comfort...]

Tom

Re:What they mean to say is... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18925623)

Really? The idea of wanting to go work for someone else seems strange to me. I work in my current job to pay the bills, at the end of the day. "Culture" is just a side benefit of that. Would I work at a place I didn't like? Not if I had a choice. Would I leave my job to go work for someone because their office seemed "fun"? No.

I'm going to start my own company, personally.

i'm first? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18925555)

yes/no

Re:i'm first? (1, Offtopic)

therufus (677843) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925569)

No. Now move along. Nobody cares who's first. Try to make an intelligent/informative/funny/insightful comment. People will care about that.

Re:i'm first? (2, Funny)

arachnoprobe (945081) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925651)

Try to make an intelligent/informative/funny/insightful comment. People will care about that.
You know, you are sooooo 1.0 ! This is /. 2.0, it's not about the content anymore... ;)

Re:i'm first? (1)

Tickletaint (1088359) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925705)

Jeez, show some appreciation! After all, without a first poster, there wouldn't be a second. [salon.com]

Is this a job ad? (4, Informative)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925559)

Seems like quite a few people have been leaving [guardian.co.uk] Google lately

When will the bubble burst? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18925571)

I hope all those perks leads to ultra increased productivity.

Bus seriously when will bubble 2.0 burst?

Would you fail if... (5, Funny)

niceone (992278) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925577)

Would you fail if... you threw up at the first mention of the word "Google-y"? Ah, that's me out...

Re:Would you fail if... (1)

coaxial (28297) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925767)

Would you fail if... you threw up at the first mention of the word "Google-y"?

You're allowed to throw up if "Google-y" was used in the sentence, " Stacy Savides Sullivan! I'm Google-y eyed for you!"

It's part of the test... (1)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925795)

One of the little known Google hiring practices is that they want to know if you play Cricket.

A googly, or "wrong'un", is a delivery which looks like a normal leg-spinner but actually turns towards the batsmen, like an off-break, rather than away from the bat.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/low/cricket/skills/41 73812.stm [bbc.co.uk]

Best benefit (3, Insightful)

marc_garcia (1095119) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925591)

For me best benefit working at Google's headquarter are individual swimming pools... any other company has it?

Re:Best benefit (4, Funny)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925615)

Of course. I arrive into work every day by driving my rolls-royce into my personal pool. I won't even consider working for any company that does not support my rock and roll lifestyle commute.

If it were any other company... (5, Funny)

strobexii (601986) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925607)

I'd translate it thus

Google-y is defined as somebody who is fairly flexible,
You'll be working long hours. Weekends, possibly holidays...

adaptable
Management will shuffle you around as it sees fit

and not focusing on titles and hierarchy,
Promotion?! Haha! Here's a compromise: you're getting a new boss.

and just gets stuff done.
Get to work and stop asking questions!

But it's Google, so we know better. Or do we? Seriously, which side are we taking today?

Re:If it were any other company... (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18925953)

I'd translate it thus


At another company, sure it might be like that. Though at the G, it's more like:

Flexible = You don't turn down opportunities to do a variety of interesting things.
Adaptable = Able to fit in well with a variety of people (the world doesn't revolve around you)
!Hierarchy focussed = Don't care for power games, politics and related bullshit. Happy to field requests from outside your dept.
Get stuff done = Like above, no power games but actually like to do your work instead of a multitude of 'meta-work'.

J.

Re:If it were any other company... (4, Insightful)

cyberkahn (398201) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925963)

The funny thing about comedy is that it is often true.

Perfect work environment ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18925621)

Application question 1: What is your proficiency at leveraging non-google resources?

School education (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18925643)

School education has nothing to do with how skilled you are and how well you can get the job done.

HR could use some help... (1, Interesting)

ndykman (659315) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925653)

I gone through the initial process with Google twice, with the same outcome. It seems to me they need to improve their HR process, as I've gone through a phone interview, but then told I wasn't a good fit.

If you look at my background and resume, I think you would concur that the positions I was interviewed for weren't a good fit, but because it was Google, I gave it a shot. But, fool me once, fool me twice and all that. If they call again, I'll let them know how I feel about the whole process.

Re:HR could use some help... (2, Insightful)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925703)

I gone through the initial process with Google twice, with the same outcome. It seems to me they need to improve their HR process
OK so Google is broken because they didn't hire you for a position you admit you were not suitable for. Is the earth still flat in your reality?

Re:HR could use some help... (1)

dummkopf (538393) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925887)

same here. comment to to the other responder: if HR calls you and wants you to work for them, it implies they have researched your background and have something in mind. clearly this is not the case. the approach is more a "here is a smart guy, let's get him. wait, no, we do not know what to do with him, oh well. bye".

Re:HR could use some help... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18925901)

I gone through the initial process with Google twice, with the same outcome. It seems to me they need to improve their HR process, as I've gone through a phone interview, but then told I wasn't a good fit.
 
That's their stock answer, I'm afraid. The HR contact you speak to initially (your "handler") will promise detailed feedback on the phone and stress how important he thinks it is that they are transparent with their process. Then after an unnecessarily long process involving telephone interviewers with people who are shockingly bad at conducting a technical telephone interview, you'll get a bland response that they "couldn't find a position that was a good fit for you".

If you actually ask for the detailed feedback you'll get a second generic comment that might be a laughably poor fit for you as a candidate. There is a disconnect between the HR handler and the people who conduct the interviews -- your technical interviewers don't actually care [and aren't well enough trained] to give detailed feedback, but the HR handler is told how important it is for PR that everyone gets some meaningful and not-too-negative feedback. (Surveys have shown rejected candidates often refuse to use the company's product, and if you're Google with so many rejected candidates they rely on using the product, that's a problem!) Hence the somewhat duplicitous message -- it's not that the HR guy is lying about the importance of feedback; it's just that practically he doesn't have the feedback to give.

Too much spin (5, Interesting)

ushering05401 (1086795) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925657)

Not that Google is breaking down my door, but I wouldn't work there just based on this article.

One of the top gripes I have with corporate culture is all the bullshit language that is employed. What is this 'Happiness Survey?' This smells of new-age rebranding. Aren't they talking about 'workplace satisfaction?' Don't most companies conduct workplace satisfaction surveys? The companies I have worked for do.

What is this Culture Czar position? You take workplace issues to HR, who coordinates with all other departments to implement the corporate workplace vision. Some companies are better at it than others, but rebranding the position doesn't make Google any better at it.

Google produces innovation based on incentive... which is basic capitalism. It's great that they want the incentives to be more than just cash, but this just feels like a while lot of cheerleading. These tactics don't strike me as being professional. It feels like more spin in an age of way-too-much-spin.

Regards.

Re:Too much spin (3, Insightful)

cyberianpan (975767) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925987)

What is this Culture Czar position? It feels like more spin in an age of way-too-much-spin
Positive marketing works, people like Coke because of the brand which causes similar brain changes to drugs. A cheap way to make someone happy is nice corporate art, similarly internal company branding works. Google employees get a buzz from working in the company with the most valuable brand in the world [bbc.co.uk] . Having kooky titles like Culture Czar & Google-y reinforces the buzz about the place.

Google produces innovation based on incentive... It's great that they want the incentives to be more than just cash
People actually only need so much money, the article clearly talks about the reward of a stimulating environment that is more campus like than other employers:

'Happiness Survey?' This smells of new-age rebranding. Aren't they talking about
'workplace satisfaction?
Maybe, maybe not. Workplace satisfaction points towards the colour of the walls, the taste of the food... the focus "sounds" narrow. Work is where we spend about say 50% of our quality time so it is a major part of our lives. Google with its ski trips, for example, is acknowledging the blur between work & personal life. Thus with a hapiness survey they take a wider interest/responsibility than with a workplace satisfaction survey.

Personally whilst I find this blurring interesting it's also a little disturbing- many of the people I know who work at Google have an incredible personal loyalty to the firm, they socialise together, ski trips, voluntary charity events... somewhat cultlike.

Excise the Stanford out of Google first (3, Interesting)

sethstorm (512897) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925667)

Google-y is defined as somebody who is fairly flexible, adaptable and not focusing on titles and hierarchy, and just gets stuff done
Odd for an organization that prides itself on the contrary through their bit on favoring exclusivist universities and the concepts that go with them. They would do well to take a few pages from the concept of Jante Law to have an honest effort at meeting those concepts. That includes doing away with everything that connects them to Stanford in terms of exclusivity as well, as that hasn't helped in that effort as well.

Re:Excise the Stanford out of Google first (2, Interesting)

ealar dlanvuli (523604) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925845)

It is just possible that exclusive universities produce good people, and part of google's success is the fact that they do expects a decent degree or spectacular experience in it's stead.

The "computer industry" has been so anti-degree of late it's not surprising this offends people. But, honestly, every other industry places value on a good degree, so why should we be special in this regard?

Is it just possible that the top 10% of students, after spending 4-5 years studying a field, might actually be more qualified than a high school graduate? I know this is pretty much blasphemy, but honestly, perhaps people should consider this more.

(Note, before anyone replies with a sob story, if you hire people that get C's, expect C work in the world)

3sat

Re:Excise the Stanford out of Google first (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18925977)

I don't think they produce good people as much as they select good people. Why go to the trouble of perfecting your own interview process when top-tier universities already have it down to a science?

Not having a good degree doesn't necessarily mean you're not qualified. But having a good degree virtually guarantees that you are.

Google recruiter email (4, Interesting)

Ricin (236107) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925669)

"I found your contact information on the Internet. I am interested to know
your openness to new job opportunities and find out more about your past
work experience." ... etc

A few months ago I got a few like these (not copies of the same text). A bit spammish but with restrain. I remember being surprised and wondering how many people were getting these. I wouldn't want to relocate to another country so I never replied. I'm also not a big Google fan personally (call me paranoid). Especially the cultivated "kool-aid factor" (aka PR) ticks me off.

Anyone else been contacted this way?

Re:Google recruiter email (2, Interesting)

mlk (18543) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925733)

I have as well (a year ago). I was very tempted to reply, asking how they actually got my details.

Have they recently opened, or about to open a new office? I got mine shortly before they opened the London office, apparently they were having problems filling posts due to the very long and round-about process they had in place (involving multiple trips to the US).

Re:Google recruiter email (1)

Ricin (236107) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925827)

That's possible, London and various US locations mentioned, but also IIRC in Switzerland. That might have been a new office.

Re:Google recruiter email (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18925799)

Yeah, I went through the whole thing, and in the end they were not interested unless I would relocate to Mountain View. Then a couple of months later a new e-mail from another recruiter, saying how they found my details somewhere, and asking if they can interview me... I got the impression that their recruiters don't care shit about the people they bring in, they just need to fill some quota, and if instant gratification is not in sight, they dump you fast as they can.

I am with Monkey Boy on this one.

Re:Google recruiter email (0)

lwriemen (763666) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925945)

The fact that they require relocation to their office somewhere implies a lack of trust in their employees to get jobs done without explicit management or peer oversight.

Re:Google recruiter email (1)

CrazyTalk (662055) | more than 7 years ago | (#18926079)

Yep, I got one too - around the time they were opening the Pittsburgh (where I live) office. I'm sure they just do a keyword search on monster and other job boards (Doesn't even require a "Sophisticated" search engine like google) and contact every resume they find in the proper geographic area.

Chief Culture Officer (4, Insightful)

Albanach (527650) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925675)

Google-y is defined as somebody who is fairly flexible, adaptable and not focusing on titles and hierarchy
This is from their Chief Culture Officer. Do as I say, not as I do?

Re:Chief Culture Officer (1)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925737)

This is from their Chief Culture Officer. Do as I say, not as I do?
That was a typo.It should have read 'Chief Culture Club Officer'. It's a little known fact that Sergey and Larry are HUGE Boy George fans.

Re:Chief Culture Officer (5, Funny)

ez76 (322080) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925757)

That's not a title. She's a Native American, you insensitive clod.

No interviews required (4, Funny)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925679)

All google needs is your unique google id and your name and they can find the rest themselves. Saves both parties a lot of time.

They don't reply to applications (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18925697)

I have been job hunting in the US and the thing that has stuck me most is the cavalier rudness of recruiters, including those at Google.

When I applied for a job in the UK my application went in at 11pm one evening and I received a phone call the next day at 9am. With US companies they never seem to bother to reply unless they want something.

Perhaps they don't realise the bad feeling this creates, but when I have gone out of the way to prepare an application, tailor my resume and cover letter and get references in order to offer my skills and exprience the *least* I expect is a polite thank you for my time. Otherwise perhaps when they look through their files to fill a vacancy in six months time I will be the one who does not bother to reply to them.

If you are from HR then your mindset should not be that you are giving out jobs like favours to be bestowed, your mindset should be that you are looking for talented people who you can persuade to bring onboard. Otherwise all you will end up with is persistant fools who can't get an offer elsewhere and instead keep on bothering you.

Re:They don't reply to applications (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18925777)

Given the huge number of applications Google receive on a daily basis, it's no wonder they don't reply in a timely manner; if at all. Google seem to go for more active recruitment; I.e. they head-hunt for the important positions, instead of waiting for the Right Candidate to drop on their doormat.

Re:They don't reply to applications (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18925829)

If you're as sensitive to rejection as your post suggests, you're almost certainly not going to prosper (let alone be happy) in the no-bullshit, no-praise zone that is Google.

Politeness in technical companies is a choice, not a requirement.

If you think this is harsh or needless, consider what this says about what is important to you vs. what is important to them. Consider that Google may have been doing you a favor.

To be sure, there are plenty of workplaces were people play nicey-nice games, avoid confrontation, and focus on employee "messaging" rather than substantive content of communication.

Such companies are really pleasant places at which to work, for most of the year. Then in the winter you get your annual review and you spend a quarter wondering why you got blindsided because "things seemed to be going so well."

Re:They don't reply to applications (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18925949)

<i>Politeness in technical companies is a choice, not a requirement.</i>
<br><br>
Politeness is a requirement in every aspect of human endevour and those who don't understand that usually sabotage their ability to get things done. Mismanaging your stakeholders is not an effective strategy for sucess.

I had an interview with Google a few weeks ago (5, Informative)

skurk (78980) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925745)

A bit OT, but could be helpful to others applying for a job at Google:

I had an interview with Google a few weeks ago. I didn't really know what I was getting into, as I applied just for fun.

After the initial emails and phone calls, I was contacted by a local Google employee (developer) for a detailed phone interview. He wanted to ask me "some technical questions" I was told.

Great, shouldn't be a problem? I got ready for C/C++/UNIX specific questions.

He called and we did some minor chit-chat before beginning the interview. But, to my surprise, here's what he asked:

The first question:
"Imagine you have two marbles and a 100-story building. You are told that the marbles will break if they are dropped from a certain floor. Figure out a way, as effectivly as possible, how high you can drop the marbles before they break. Remember, it could be the 1st floor, it could be the 99th."

Second question:
"Let's say you have a computer with 2M RAM. This computer has a hard drive (with lots of free space) and a 100M file which you should sort. Let me know how you, as effectivly as possible, sort the file."

Third question:
"We take the computer from the previous question and replace the hard drive with a network adapter. You have no local storage but the RAM. You will receive one million eight-digit phone numbers through a TCP stream which you shall sort in RAM. You are now allowed to send any data before all the numbers have been sorted. How would you solve this?"

Needless to say, the interview didn't go very well and ended with him saying "Well.. I've heard enough. Buh-bye."

Re:I had an interview with Google a few weeks ago (4, Interesting)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925787)

first question: Find the density of the marble, then calculuate the ... oh what do I know.

Second question: Radix sort on disk.

Third question: Binary weighted tree in memory.

BTW I hate job interviews like this. I did one for RIM (in like 2002 ish) and at one point after answering like 5 different "puzzles" I turned around and asked the interview "here are two 1024-bit numbers, multiply them quickly." To which he replied "I'm asking the questions." I just got up and left. I don't want to work somewhere where I have to sit pretty and beg all the time just to get paid. I'm sure had I taken the job with RIM I'd be one of those "middle name" people (mass murderer) types eventually. Sure I have to please my boss by finishing my work, but I certainly don't kiss ass.

Next time you have an interview like that, just stump the interviewer, see how they like pressure. :-)

In all honesty, if you don't have prior job experience and/or a portfolio of projects, they can't really tell what you're capable of anyways. High pressure interview questions do not reflect the job scenario in the slightest.

Tom

Re:I had an interview with Google a few weeks ago (2, Funny)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925867)

first question: Find the density of the marble, then calculuate the ... oh what do I know.

Here's one possibility:

With the first marble, drop it from floor one, then ascend, doubling the floor each time. When it breaks (unless it's the first floor or the top floor), start with the second marble, working up sequentially from the last known good floor. Is that an elevator sort, or something?

Re:I had an interview with Google a few weeks ago (1)

Speare (84249) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925961)

First question: boolean search. You'll need up to seven marbles.

Re:I had an interview with Google a few weeks ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18925983)

The answer I see for the first question is a good ol' binary search. Throw from the 50th, if it doesn't break, throw from the 75th and so on. The other two you hit the nail in the head.

A friend of mine is going thru this process right now, and from what he told me, the phone interviews weren't so riddle-ish, but nonetheless, they required deep knowledge of various Comp. Sci. disciplines (which he, fortunately, has). One question went like "describe what happens when type 'ftp google.com' in a linux shell such as bash". They want every actual step, like bash forking for the tcp program, the tcp invoking kernel network services, querying dns, routing and etc.

Another interesting question they asked was: "given a computer with limitless RAM, describe the most efficient way to count how many bits of a 10000 bytes string are 1".

<tinfoil>Posting anonymously, just in case google is watching my friend's friends for subversive behaviour</tinfoil>

Re:I had an interview with Google a few weeks ago (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 7 years ago | (#18926029)

The answer I see for the first question is a good ol' binary search. Throw from the 50th, if it doesn't break, throw from the 75th and so on. The other two you hit the nail in the head.

Ow. That gives you an awfully big number of tries (50 tries) in the worst case (49th floor). Going up in smaller increments (10 floors, for example) would give you a much lower maximum number of tries (19 tries).

Re:I had an interview with Google a few weeks ago (1)

ps236 (965675) | more than 7 years ago | (#18926049)

Eh? It would give you 7 tries wouldn't it?

50, 25, 37, 43, 46, 48, 49 (or similar)

Not that it matters - because you've only got 2 marbles. So, you can't test for a bigger number than the one you're looking for more than twice. If it was 49 you'd be OK, your marbles would break at 50 and 49. But, if 51 was the answer you'd be scuppered - your marbles would break at 50 and 75, and then what do you do?

The answer is to go up in steps, then when the first marble breaks go back a step and go up in ones.

The 'debate' is what size steps to use?

Re:I had an interview with Google a few weeks ago (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 7 years ago | (#18926081)

The 'debate' is what size steps to use?

I think some other poster answered that below - use the square root of the number of floors. I happened to pick 10 by dumb luck. :P

Re:I had an interview with Google a few weeks ago (1)

glwtta (532858) | more than 7 years ago | (#18926025)

Third question: Binary weighted tree in memory.

If only it was 40,000,000 numbers and 6MB RAM - then it'd be count sort; but it's never count sort...

I wonder what they were getting at with the requirement that you can't send any data until you are done sorting - seems kind of implicit in the whole "sort the numbers" requirement.

Re:I had an interview with Google a few weeks ago (1)

glwtta (532858) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925849)

Needless to say, the interview didn't go very well and ended with him saying "Well.. I've heard enough. Buh-bye."

I actually don't see why it's "needless to say" how it went from there - did you just find the questions too wanky? (but then, I hear lots of large companies rely on even wankier questions).

The first one is annoyingly vague (what the hell does "effective" even mean in this context?), but the second two are straight out of the second chapter of any algorithms book (ie "Sorting"); from the "virtually never used" section.

Is this really all they asked you, or is that just how far the interview went?

Re:I had an interview with Google a few weeks ago (1)

ahxcjb (942661) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925851)

"Imagine you have two marbles and a 100-story building. You are told that the marbles will break if they are dropped from a certain floor. Figure out a way, as effectivly as possible, how high you can drop the marbles before they break. Remember, it could be the 1st floor, it could be the 99th."

Go up in 3's. So, if you get to floor 12 and no marble has broken - go to 15, if it then breaks, go to 14. If that breaks, then you know floor 13 is the answer. And so on..

--

http://www.cjbuckley.net/ [cjbuckley.net]

Re:I had an interview with Google a few weeks ago (1)

cheekymunky (1052654) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925879)

But how would you be certain whether the 13th floor was the last floor the marbles could be dropped from without breaking, or the first floor at which the marbles broke?

Probably ... (2, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925925)

But how would you be certain whether the 13th floor was the last floor the marbles could be dropped from without breaking, or the first floor at which the marbles broke?

By searching from the bottom after the first marble breaks. So, if the first one didn't break at 12 but broke at 15, try 13 and 14 in that order.

Re:I had an interview with Google a few weeks ago (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925997)

Go up in 3's.



You could go up in 10s, which gives you a lower maximum number of drops (19, I think) than going up in 3s (30-something).

Re:I had an interview with Google a few weeks ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18926073)

I think going up by 10s is the right answer. I've gotta go to work, so I can't demonstrate it at this time, tho. The maximum number of drops is 18, though -- the marbles are guaranteed to break on the 100th floor from the wording of the question, so don't drop them from there. ^_^

Re:I had an interview with Google a few weeks ago (1)

Councilor Hart (673770) | more than 7 years ago | (#18926115)

The lowest maximum is 20.
The large step size being x and the smallest 1, you get a function like this:
y = x + (floors/x)
Where floors is the number of floor (duh).
If you plot this (try gnuplot) you get a minimum at 20 for 100 floors.
Fill in and solve gives you this
x^2 - 20*x +100 =0
The answer to this particular problem is 10.

Re:I had an interview with Google a few weeks ago (1)

djce (927193) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925877)

I could be wrong, but 1 million 8-digit (assuming decimal digits) numbers takes at least 3.3 megabytes of storage, before you even start trying to sort anything. So kinda hard to see how you can do that in 2 meg of memory ...

Re:I had an interview with Google a few weeks ago (5, Interesting)

ps236 (965675) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925885)

Woah! You had to answer those questions on the phone whilst he was talking to you?

Unless this is the sort of thing you've been doing before, it's unlikely you'd be able to do that - I'd have expected you'd need some time to work out the answers. I know I would, and I've been programming for 25+ years.

The first question is quite easy to answer -ish. I guess they meant 'as efficiently as possible' - not as 'effectively as possible' (in which case, as long as you got the right answer you'd meet the requirements). To get the basic concept isn't hard, but to get it "as efficiently as possible" you'd need some thought, which would be hard on the phone. (You go up in steps (eg 10 floors at a time) until the first marble breaks, then go back a step and go up one floor at a time until the second marble breaks - the "hard" bit is knowing what size steps to use for the first part to be most efficient)

BTW - the second question there was a bit meaningless - how can you 'sort a 100MB file'? Do they want the file in byte order (all the 0 bytes first, then all the 1 bytes) If so, then you could do that with 256 bytes of data RAM... Maybe they want it in BIT order - that would only need 8 bytes :) If this isn't what they want, then it would help to know WHAT you are sorting - eg a radix sort could be good here, but it might depend on the type of data

Were you allowed to ask how much memory was taken up by the OS, network stack and what programming language you were using to guess how much memory was taken up by the program?

For the 3rd question I'd have difficulty. AFAICS you'd have to use some form of compression to be able to do it (you have to hold 8M characters in 2M RAM - you could convert the phone numbers to 'real' numbers, but that'd still be 4MB in 2MB RAM). I reckon I'd be able to do it, but I'd guess it would take at least several hours to work out the nitty gritty - which sounds dumb for a phone interview.. (There's a cool way I can think of that would sort up to 10 million 7 digit numbers in 2MB RAM - but it would need 12MB to sort any number of 8 digit numbers - and this would rely on the numbers being unique, which isn't specified)

Could I offer to donate £50 from my first pay cheque to buy Google some more RAM? ;)

Re:I had an interview with Google a few weeks ago (1)

ps236 (965675) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925913)

(Sorry, didn't mean 256 bytes, I meant 2048 bytes)

Re:I had an interview with Google a few weeks ago (1)

glwtta (532858) | more than 7 years ago | (#18926095)

BTW - the second question there was a bit meaningless - how can you 'sort a 100MB file'?

I think that was the whole point of these questions - get the general gist without getting bogged down in the details. In this case the reasonable assumption is that the files contains some kind of comparable records (what's most likely to happen in the real world), and the size is much larger than your RAM, so you know you have to go to disk, so you know it's some variant of radix sort.

There's a cool way I can think of that would sort up to 10 million 7 digit numbers in 2MB RAM - but it would need 12MB to sort any number of 8 digit numbers - and this would rely on the numbers being unique, which isn't specified

He said you only need to sort a million 8 digit numbers, so you are good. I would've said a trie, but really, a number of different trees would do the job; the possibility that they are non-unique didn't occur to me, but you could always tack on a leaf that stores the number of occurrences.

Ask him back ... (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925911)

"Imagine you have two marbles and a 100-story building. You are told that the marbles will break if they are dropped from a certain floor. Figure out a way, as effectivly as possible, how high you can drop the marbles before they break. Remember, it could be the 1st floor, it could be the 99th."



"Minimize maximum search time, minimize minimum search time, or minimize average search time ?" ;)

Re:I had an interview with Google a few weeks ago (1)

PeeAitchPee (712652) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925985)

Second question: "Let's say you have a computer with 2M RAM. This computer has a hard drive (with lots of free space) and a 100M file which you should sort. Let me know how you, as effectivly as possible, sort the file."

Easy. Plug a 1 GB SDRAM in that puppy. Isn't that a core part of Google's approach to scaling their search anyway (i.e., acres of commodity grey market boxes)?

Re:I had an interview with Google a few weeks ago (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18925995)

I'll second this.

Within the first 2 minutes of my phone interview, I was asked to solve a simple story problem that hinged on recognizing the use of a logarithm on a very large number. I told the interviewer the (correct) answer as an equation, and was immediately challenged with the most absurd question I've ever experienced in an interview: "so...how would you calculate that?"

I've never been asked to be a human calculator in an interview before, so it took a few seconds to realize that I was actually being quizzed on my ability to do math in my head. I don't know why, but apparently, Google thinks that the ability to quickly mentally calculate the log of a large number correlates with developer skill.

Needless to say, I didn't impress my interviewer. I got all of the questions right, but I think it took me about ten minutes longer than the Google-mandated time, and I made a few stupid (nervous) mistakes along the way. The call ended abruptly; I haven't heard back.

From what I can tell, Google is making the same arrogant mistakes that Microsoft made when they were king of the technical hill: thinking that brain teasers and puzzle smarts are the only kind that matter to a product developer. There's a certain amount of arrogance inherent to the process, given the silliness of the questions -- if Google is hiring thousands of people a year, you know damn well that not all of them are smart. So what are they selecting?

Not math in your head ... (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 7 years ago | (#18926063)

I've never been asked to be a human calculator in an interview before, so it took a few seconds to realize that I was actually being quizzed on my ability to do math in my head.

Nope. That wasn't a question of doing math in your head, it was a question on how to calculate a logarithm using only basic math. It's fairly simple actually in a 10-base system and trivial (requires only subtraction and bit-shifting) in 2-base, but you have no chance of figuring it out yourself if you've not heard of it before.

Re:Not math in your head ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18926159)

"Nope. That wasn't a question of doing math in your head, it was a question on how to calculate a logarithm using only basic math. It's fairly simple actually in a 10-base system and trivial (requires only subtraction and bit-shifting) in 2-base, but you have no chance of figuring it out yourself if you've not heard of it before."

I know; as I said, I got the right answer. But "trivial" as the solution may be, it's still a question about doing math in your head. It's only peripherally related to the set of skills that makes someone a good developer.

Re:I had an interview with Google a few weeks ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18926091)

Why would you assume you couldn't use a calculator, or better yet, just type it into Google and let Google calculate it for you?

Trapped inside the box, are we? I wouldn't hire a linear thinker like you either.

Re:I had an interview with Google a few weeks ago (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 7 years ago | (#18926105)

Why would you assume you couldn't use a calculator,

Maybe you want to run the algorithm on an 8-bit microcontroller that's slow as heck when you're using floating point (and the floating point library will eat 85% of the code memory space) ?

True, not likely when you're working at google, but it might well pop up if you're working with small processors.

Re:I had an interview with Google a few weeks ago (2, Interesting)

tomalpha (746163) | more than 7 years ago | (#18926001)

I've been asked all of these questions at (fairly) recent interviews. They're definite favourites at City (of London) type institutions.

The first question can actually end up using a little calculus - you need to advance by square-root of the number of floors IIRC.

Two I can't remember my answer for, but think there were a couple of variations.

Three requires you to realise that the numbers are unique, within a finite range, and you have sufficient *bits* for a radix sort.

Re:I had an interview with Google a few weeks ago (1)

ps236 (965675) | more than 7 years ago | (#18926097)

> Three requires you to realise that the numbers are unique, within a finite range, and you have sufficient *bits* for a radix sort.

Do you? At the risk of looking dumb, how's that work then?

If they were 7 digit numbers it's trivial, but I can't see it with 8 digit numbers. I need 100,000,000 bits for that, and I've only got 16,000,000 bits. Unless there's a trick I can't think of at the moment.

(PS - it doesn't say the numbers were unique. It's quite plausible for a set of phone numbers to contain duplicates, but that may just have been bad memory by the poster, or bad wording by the interviewer)

Re:I had an interview with Google a few weeks ago (2, Interesting)

khakipuce (625944) | more than 7 years ago | (#18926119)

Stop being so literal and read the article. The point of the questions is not necessarily to get the correct answer, they are interested in your though processes.

Over the years I have had more than my fair share of jobs and many of them I got even though I failed to answer the technical questions. What I did was explain my thinking, even on multiple choice tests, I write my thinking along side. You are never ever going to have to solve the marble problem, but they want to know if you have heard of things like a binary search and more importantly how do you respond in situations that are "out of the box".

It aims to demonstrate problem solving, communication, breadth of knowledge. They do not want you to sit in silence for 5 minutes and then given them the right answer, they want you to explain ALL the ideas you have about how to solve the problem, and then the criteria you may use for selecting a solution from the available ideas. Arguing the toss about the number of marbles, the mass of the marbles, etc. is not going to get you anywhere.

Re:I had an interview with Google a few weeks ago (1)

CrazyTalk (662055) | more than 7 years ago | (#18926123)

Great first question - and a chance for candidates to show off their knowledge of search algorithms. Do you just try dropping from the first floor and continue linearaly until you find the floor that the marble breaks? Do you do every other floor? Implement some kind of binary search or more sophisticated technique? And the fact that you only have two marbles means that you are only allowed one "Failure" of the marble drop to make a determination. I bet there are plenty of hard-core programmers that might not get this because they can't make the leap from the dropping marbles problem (WTF?) to computer search algorithms - and that is likley the kind of out-of-box (I can't believe I used that phrase in a sentance) thinking google is looking for.

What? (3, Funny)

glwtta (532858) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925747)

You mean there are still people who don't work at Google?

From the sheer number of articles about or relating to the Google hiring process and corporate culture I just assumed that they would have hired the entire qualified workforce by now.

(though they do have some really nice sounding quality of life type perks...)

Know your audience (4, Funny)

evilviper (135110) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925753)

"In an article on the ZDNet site 'chief culture officer' and HR boss Stacy Savides Sullivan describes the kind of traits that she's looking for in potential Google employees.

Do those traits include reading Slashdot at 03:24AM, Monday morning?

*crosses fingers*

Google is hiring flunkies? (3, Insightful)

boyfaceddog (788041) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925759)

"Google-y is defined as somebody who is fairly flexible, adaptable and not focusing on titles and hierarchy, and just gets stuff done."

In my experience, this translates into a dead-end grunt job.

Fairly flexable = Willing to do anything from sweep floors to fetch coffee.
Adaptable = Doesn't need to be shown how to sweep floors or fetch coffee.
Not focusing on titles or hierarchy = No promotions and everyone is your boss.
Just gets stuff done = This would be the stuff no one else wants to do.

Translation: Paid Intern

Paternity leave (5, Interesting)

heffrey (229704) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925761)

It just shows the difference in cultures between the USA and western Europe that paternity leave of a "couple of weeks off" can be viewed as a perk. Sadly as a Brit we are much closer to the USA than the rest of Europe (especially Scandinavia and Finland).

Employee who just gets the work done?? (1)

madbawa (929673) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925781)

Yeah right. They only want PhDs, people who have published papers or have patents against their names. Basically, very brilliant people. So there sure as hell ain't no hope for the rest of the 95% of us software engineers who actually fit their 'description' of a google employee. All this is just eyewash.

Re:Employee who just gets the work done?? (1)

dummkopf (538393) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925861)

dude, i have a phd. in fact, i am an assistant professor at a very good university. that is clearly not what they need either. you have to be very "special" to fit in. i know someone who works at google in zurich. when i see her, i understand...

Re:Employee who just gets the work done?? (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#18926013)

Just because you have a patent in your name doesn't mean you're "brilliant." While I have no doubt Google is looking for smart and intelligent folk to work for them, being a PhD hardly seems like a sufficient requisite.

Though compared to most computer related jobs I'm sure google does a proper job of sieving out the non-hackers. just because you can script monkey C# doesn't mean you understand computer science, which is basically what google is after anyways.

Tom

Want To Work At Google? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18925821)

Want To Work At Google?
 
Eh? No.

Here's my inside scoop at a google interview (4, Informative)

dummkopf (538393) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925835)

Passed the first stage with HR, then had the interview with one of the engineers. The guy asked the mandatory question "tell me what you do" but after two minutes cut me off as it was clear he was not interested in optimization problems in physics. It was clear from the start that we spoke "different languages" and that lunchtime was looming in Mountain View, i.e., he was in a rush. Then he asked me some test questions. For example: "Suppose I give you a phonebook and ask you for a name, how long would that take?" As you can see, the question and answer are wide open. I told him that if the book had N pages, it would take me worst case N lookups. He was not pleased and asked for a faster solution. Hence I said, OK, I throw it into a hash and then the lookup is O(1). Then he complained that there would be too much preprocessing (although I would expect google to hash things...). He wanted "something in between". Hence I said, OK, let's sort the book and then partition to the name wanted, i.e., O(log(N)). Then the guy asked what log that was. I said that it does NOT matter since, in the O-notation prefactors are irrelevant and as you might know, you can always transform a log from one base to another by just a multiplicative factor. That was not a pleasing answer and he kept asking me to what base. Eventually I told him base 2, if he really had to know, but it did not matter. I admit I did not well in the interview, but the guy at the other end did NO effort in leading a good interview. The next question was (since I do some distributed computing) if I have many clients and they want to upload data to a server, what is the best way to do that. Again waaaaay open. I said, well, the client sends a request and when the server is free it answers and gets the data. Not good. Might overwhelm the server. Of course he would not tell me what he wanted to hear so I poked around a bit to realize that he wanted that the server floods the network with a "I am free signal" and then clients can upload the data. So what about reaching the limit of the network? "Well, that is not an issue here". Aha, I thought, I see, an issue is only what the guy deems to be an issue. At that point it was noon in Mountain View and he suddenly wanted to hang up. No "do you have any other questions?" or anything that shows good manners from an interviewer. Hence I decided to stop him cold and said "I have some questions for you". You could feel how pissed he was about this -- after all lunch is looming around the corner -- and he gave me the probably shortest answers you could think. For questions which I had gathered from whitepapers published by google (and there are only FEW out there) he would always say "I cannot talk about that".

So... You really want to work there? Yes, you get lots of money, yes you get brainwashed it seems and rather arrogant after a while. Granted, this was one guy only, but letting him onto candidates which are not necessarily computer scientists. Hm... Needless to mention, Ihad a negative email the net day. Note that I did NOT apply for a job at google. One day I had an email from a HR person in mymailbox with the Subject "Hello from Google",and that's when this story started...

Re:Here's my inside scoop at a google interview (4, Insightful)

Shados (741919) | more than 7 years ago | (#18926019)

Actually, it seems obvious to me what the guy that interviewed you wanted to know: if you could convert what you learned in school in the real world. "Worse case scenario" (aka: O) isn't something you can blindly follow, as in many, many cases its irrelevent (thus why the 2 others). I can't talk for them, but in the place of a google engineer, I'd be MUCH more interested in "the most likely scenario" than in the worse case, since when you deal with a large amount of customers, the only thing that really matters is what happens day to day, and if the "worse case" happens, you add an extra server, be it at google, be it at your average corporation (not that simple, but you get the idea)

On top of that, google interviews are fairly known for seeing how you -react- to challenges, not your answers to them, thus the open ended questions. You could have answered all the questions wrong and they would take you anyway, if you showed your only weakness was experience, but they probably have seen too many people worrie about which sorting algorythm is the best when having to sort a 10 item dropdown menu...

Oh well, I'm sure your skillset will be more appreciated elsewhere, so no big loss to you :)

Re:Here's my inside scoop at a google interview (1)

lwriemen (763666) | more than 7 years ago | (#18926031)

I interviewed with a small company once where the final stage of the interview was with the president of the company. We ended up getting into an argument, because he said something I knew to be wrong on a technical issue and I called him on it.
I didn't really care at that point anyway, because he seemed to be a pretty arrogant bastard.

Re:Here's my inside scoop at a google interview (2, Insightful)

backwardMechanic (959818) | more than 7 years ago | (#18926047)

What's the big problem with open questions? A good interviewer will give you some space to show your knowledge. One way of doing that is to ask open questions and see where the interviewee goes. Real life isn't like an exam question, with nice clean solutions from section xx.y of the syllabus.

Paid paternity leave (0, Troll)

deletedaccount (835797) | more than 7 years ago | (#18926109)

Everyone gets this in the UK. It's a basic right. *points and laughs at the Americans*

HR is the last place to get real information (1)

walterbyrd (182728) | more than 7 years ago | (#18926135)

I would be more impressed if were somebody at a suppervisory level, speaking off the record. All you will get from zdnet HR piece is stupid hype.

Google-y definition (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18926151)

"fairly flexible"

willing to work all the hours of the day.

"adaptable"

there's no job structure, you'll be pimped out to whatever teams we please.

"and not focusing on titles and hierarchy"

you've got no chance of promotion or a pay rise.

"and just gets stuff done"

no complaining about ridiculous deadlines or having to do all the work whilst the idiots we've teamed you with slack off.

"So, we put a lot of focus in our hiring processes when we are interviewing to try to determine first and foremost does the person have the skill set and experience potential to do the job from a background standpoint in addition to academics and credentials."

non-PHD's need not apply.

Google (2, Insightful)

Beatlebum (213957) | more than 7 years ago | (#18926155)

They want young, smart people. Forget it if you are old (>30) and smart, you won't even make it to the interview.
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