“Google, what questions should I expect in my interview?”
When you think about dream careers, certain companies come to mind; they're the companies that make your resume look great just for being on there.
And Google is, perhaps, the crown jewel of such employers. Founded in 1998 by a couple of Stanford Ph.D. students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google grew from an internet startup to only the third business in the United States to be valued at one trillion dollars.
As an employer, Google has a reputation for unbelievable benefits, a work culture that encourages employees to experiment, and even the ability to bring your pet to work with you at the Googleplex.
And you'd get to work at a place called the Googleplex, where roaming goats mow the lawn. How cool is that?
But how do you get a job with Google? As you might expect, Google gets a lot of applications and if you land an interview, you're just getting started. Here's what to expect from a job interview at Google, and how to stand out from the crowd to land that dream job.
How to answer Google interview questions
Google interviews are not like most job interviews. Some of their questions are very difficult — and some of them sound just plain silly. The first step in learning how to answer your Google interview questions is to understand what Google is trying to accomplish with each question. The key to that lies in the four main types of questions you'll get at a Google interview:
Behavioral: This is the “getting to know you as a person” portion of the interview; they help shed light on soft skills and competencies vital for the position in question and overall success within an organization. The interviewer may ask a question like “Give me an example of a time ...” Behavioral questions are designed to learn about your likes, dislikes, ethics, and other personality traits to see if you're a good fit for the team.
Situational: Situational questions pose hypothetical scenarios that are related to the position you're applying for. These questions test your knowledge, processes, and experience.
Leadership: These can be anything from talking about a leadership role you've had on a project to talking about your biggest failure as a professional and what you learned from it. How you talk about your own leadership abilities says a lot about your leadership qualities.
Communication: Communication is one of the soft skills that employers value highly. The hiring team has already paid attention to your communication skills over emails and on the phone by this point, and now they want to see what you bring to the table when you're actually sitting at it. Don't forget that body language and tone of voice can say just as much as your words.
Thinking about each of these categories, run through your job history and think of some scenarios, successes, and lessons that you'd want to highlight. Then use the STAR method, focusing on the situation, task, action, and result of each situation.
Here's how it works:
Situation: What are some of the challenges that you have faced at work? Think about some of your biggest successes, difficult projects, or even significant failures that lead to important lessons. Start your answer by providing an overview of the situation.
Task: What was your task in that situation? How did you approach it and what responsibilities were yours? Give the interviewer brief insight into your role in this situation.
Action: Here's where you can get a little more specific. What steps did you take to overcome the challenges in the situation? How did you communicate? Did you delegate tasks? Think about the skills you applied — both hard and soft — to get the job done.
Result: What was the end result of all of that work? Be ready with the details here. Did it increase company profits on the west coast by 33 percent? Did you help improve organic traffic to the website? Give numbers, percentages, or any other quantifiable statistics you have to show how your work paid off for your employer.
Top 4 Google interview questions
Here are the four most commonly asked interview questions from Google with sample answers:
What is one of your favorite Google products, and how would you improve it?
Of course Google wants to know that you know and appreciate their products, but they want more than a shower of affection here. Did you know that Google wants each employee to dedicate 20 percent of their time innovating? That's how serious Google is about keeping their company on the cutting edge of technology.
Answer this question by doing a deep dive into one of their products, showing that you truly understand how it works and the value it brings to both the company and the world at large. Then, talk about what could make it even better and how that could be achieved.
Example: I love the Google Nest Learning Thermostat. It seems so simple, but the way that it learns our preferences throughout the day to adjust the temperature in our house as needed is truly innovative. Not only does it lower the temperature when we're gone and bring it back up by the time we walk in the door after work, it will pay for itself in no time with what we save on the power bill.
How could it be better? Make it compatible with more products, like the Apple Home Kit. You're losing potential buyers there.
Why do you want to work for Google?
Zeroing in on the free food and ability to bring your pet to the Googleplex isn't what you want to do here — even if it's the real answer. What makes Google a great fit for your skills, and talk about both the company and the specific job you're applying for. This is your chance to show that you understand the company and that you're the right fit.
Example: I love that Google is always creating new devices and apps. I've worked on a lot of apps in the past, and I think I would learn a lot in this position. I also think I could bring some new ideas to the team.
How would you explain how this Google product works to a four year old?
This is a communication test that can be daunting if you're not ready for it. Chances are the interviewer will use a Google product that is connected to the job for which you are applying, so focus on those. Make sure that you understand how the product works and what it does fully. If you truly understand it, you should be able to simplify your explanation enough that the four year old can get the right idea.
Example (using Google Pay): You know how we pay the cashier at the grocery store for our food? With Google Pay, I can use my phone to pay the cashier and the money comes right out of my bank account. I don't have to worry about losing my card.
Have you ever taken a big risk, professionally, and failed? What made you take the risk, and what did you learn from it?
As mentioned earlier, Google loves innovation and that doesn't come without risks. The ability to see an opportunity, evaluate that risk, and the willingness to go for it are all qualities that Google loves. And if you fail, there needs to be some sort of takeaway that makes the next effort more likely to succeed.
Example: Three years ago I convinced my company to switch to a new virus protection software in November. Our current subscription was up at the end of the year, and I didn't realize how much work was involved in switching over the whole company. We ended up paying for both softwares for a short time. The new software is better, but I need to do a better job of assessing the hours and manpower needed to make such a big switch before green lighting it.
28 more interview questions from Google
The list of possible Google interview questions is endless, but here are some that have popped up for others, according to Glassdoor and Quora.
If I open your browser history, what will I learn about your personality?
Tell me about a time in which you had to navigate ambiguity.
Tell me what you are most passionate about outside work.
Tell me a time when you had to "sell" or propose a solution to an Engineering or Stakeholder Team.
How many golf balls can fit in a school bus?
Out of learning and earning, what do you prefer most?
Share your previous experience of working in an unstructured environment, and how did you manage your work or team?
How would you present ideas that require you to get your team's buy-in. How would you modify your behavior to influence your team members' opinions?
What was the most valuable feedback you received? Feedback you gave?
Describe a situation where you had challenged the status quo in regards to a particular project or initiative you were a part of.
What is multi-threaded programming?
How do you think digital marketing will change in the next five years?
How do cookies pass along in HTTP protocol?
Design a mobile social app for a chain of local orthodontist offices.
Tell us what you know about Google's history?
Do you think Google should be charging for its productivity apps (Google Docs, Google Sheets, etc.)? Why or why not?
What steps would you take to enhance YouTube's business model?
Why do you think that the Google search page is mainly blank?
Questions to ask the interviewers
It's always essential to come to an interview with a few of your own questions at the ready. Remember, you're trying to learn about the company as much as they are trying to learn about you. Asking a few thoughtful and detailed questions shows that you are engaged and sets you apart from the competition.
How do you measure success in this position?
How will this role help Google address it's biggest challenges?
What is your favorite thing about working here at Google?
What has surprised you the most about working for Google?
What is the team currently working on?
When all is said and done, an interview with Google is still a job interview. It may be unlike any other job interview you've had, but your goals should be the same. You want to impress the interviewer, show off your knowledge, and also get a feel for the company and the culture.
The best way to feel confident going in is to do your research ahead of time. Practice answering some of these questions and remember what the interviewer wants from you. If they ask “How many golf balls can fit in a bus?” They're not looking for a number, they're looking for your thought process.
And remember, Google loves innovation. Show them that you are qualified for the job, ready to take the job to the next level, and will bring something to Google that they've never seen before.
Unsure how to answer these interview questions? Our expert interview coaches know how to impress all the major companies you may interview for.