Google Software Engineer Interview Guide

updated on 24 March 2022

Google is one of the popular FAANG companies where most job seekers aspire to work at. Desirable for its unique work culture and enviable perks, it opens the door for passionate candidates in tech to solve real problems and make an impact through their work. Programmers spend a lot of effort and time to build a resume and LinkedIn profile makeover that can help them get through the first step of landing an interview call. Preparing for Google Software Engineer interviews is challenging, but the right mentorship and preparation can make it easier. 🀝

Joining Google's Engineering teams is a dream for most job seekers.
Joining Google's Engineering teams is a dream for most job seekers.

We have everything you need to know for candidates planning to apply for SWE positions at Google, have already applied, or have a Google SWE interview lined up. 🎯

This blog covers the following topics:

Google Interview Process and Timeline ⏳

After submitting your resume, if you are a good fit for the role, a recruiter from Google will reach out to you with more information about the interview process. Google Software Engineer interview process may differ based on your location, job level, or team. You may be assessed during the hiring process in some of the following ways:

Online Assessment:
Once your resume is shortlisted by Google, you then undergo an online assessment. These are generally for new grad or intern applications, which decides whether or not you've made it to the next round.

Phone Interview: Some candidates may also be required to go through a phone interview with their recruiter or hiring manager. This is often a short call to understand the candidate better to see how best they fit the role. 

In-depth Interviews: Candidates undergo anywhere between 3-5 interviews post the phone screening. These rounds could be either entirely technical or a combination of both technical and G&L (Googleyness and Leadership) rounds. The Googleyness and Leadership round is more like a behavioural interview that consists of hypothetical questions and discussions about their past work experience.

The interview timeline varies on various factors. While some candidates may finish the interview within a couple of weeks, it could take longer for others or maybe just a week for some. It depends on whether you've applied on-campus or off-campus, the location, and the role. 

Google Technical Interviews πŸ§‘β€πŸ’»

Google SWE interviews are mainly divided into coding rounds and system design rounds. Candidates go through 4-5 technical interviews, either on-site or virtual, depending on the Covid-19 pandemic situation where you currently reside or the location you have applied to.

1. Google Coding Interviews

Google's coding interviews focus mainly on Data Structures and Algorithms. They're done either on a whiteboard or Chromebooks. During the coding interviews, candidates are primarily assessed on the following skills:

  • Data Structures (Arrays/LinkedIn Lists/Stacks/Queues/Trees/Graphs/Heaps/Hash Sets/Hash Tables/Maps/Recursion)
  • Algorithms (Breadth-First Search/Depth First Search/Binary Sort/Quicksort/Mergesort/Dynamic Programming/Divide and Conquer)
  • Object-Oriented Programming
  • Big-O Notation
  • APIs
  • Mathematics

Googlers solve some of the most complex problems each day. Hence, candidates who make it to the coding interviews are expected to ace them by writing fast, bug-free and correct code and superior problem-solving capabilities. For the coding rounds, candidates are given questions that rely on their data structures and algorithms knowledge. The candidates are expected to develop an optimal solution under the time constraints of the interview. 

The golden mantra to acing coding interviews is - Practice. Practice. Practice.
The golden mantra to acing coding interviews is - Practice. Practice. Practice.

Some resources to prepare for the Google coding interviews are:

  • Cracking the Coding Interview by Gayle Laakmann McDowell - Cracking the Coding Interviews is a popular book to prepare for DSA questions for FAANG companies interviews. The book explains data structures and algorithms with interview questions that are asked by top tech companies for their interviews. 
  • Leetcode - Among the many websites available, Leetcode is an excellent platform to prepare for Google-specific interview questions. Leetcode has several interview problems available for practice across different difficulty levels. You can look for questions on Leetcode tagged with Google to practice for the interview.
  • GeeksforGeeks - GeeksforGeeks is another excellent website to learn more about DSA and practice different questions, along with their solutions.

Read about: Google - A Tech Titan With the Best Corporate Culture

2. Google System Design Interviews

At Google, the weightage of System Design interviews differs based on the job level you're interviewing for. Candidates may not have to undergo an in-depth system design interview for entry-level positions but may have one or more for mid-senior or senior-level positions. However, this also differs based on the team you're interviewing for and the expectations of the role.

Designing systems can be complex and challenging. Something as simple as visiting Google on your browser can also have piles of complexity that system designers must be mindful of.

System Design interviews at Google are generally open-ended. Interviewers often wish to see a balance of creativity and structured thinking from candidates in these rounds.

System design interviews may begin with a broad topic, say 'Design YouTube.' A good way to approach system design questions is to understand the significance of what you're designing and its end goal. It is a great idea to clarify right at the beginning what the end goal is, who the users are going to be, how the system will be used, and what the inputs and outputs of the system are.

For a question like 'Design YouTube,' you could begin by dividing it into high-level design and low-level design. Under high-level design, figure out what all constructs would be involved and identify who the entities or users will be - which in this case would be the producers and consumers. Ideally, begin at a high level and drill it down further to establish the scope feature set based on their importance to the user, what the scale would be, what the focus should be, i.e., end-to-end experience or around the API or any other key component of the system, etc. Start looking at the problem with an eagle's eye view. That should help you understand the potential bottlenecks of the system and the different trade-offs involved in the process. Focus on building a toy system; the interviewers want to see how you approach the questions and clarify any details you may require during the process.

A key component to acing system design rounds is practice. There is no golden mantra to mastering system design. Practice as many different questions as you can to improve your approach to help show the right balance of creativity, structured thinking, and problem-solving during the interview.

Here’s a Quick Checklist of Topics To Keep in Mind for Google System Design Interviews:

  • Concurrency
  • Scalability
  • Networking
  • Abstraction
  • Real-world performance
  • Estimation
  • Reliability

System design interviews focus mainly on communication, designing for scale, concrete solutions, and awareness of tradeoffs. Take a few minutes to summarize your solution before you end your answer to the questions and communicate how you think the goals, approach, bottlenecks, trade-offs, and the solution come together to build a sound system.

The Googleyness & Leadership(G&L) Interview πŸ’ͺ

Googleyness is a trait that Google looks for in all the candidates they interview. As Google says it, it is what the Googlers make it. To ensure the candidate is a right fit for the culture, candidates may undergo a G&L interview.

Before we further discuss the G&L round, let us first understand what Googleyness is.

Google's former Head of People Operations Laszlo Block defined Googleyness as "Attributes like enjoying the fun (who doesn't), a certain dose of intellectual humility (it's hard to learn if you can't admit that you might be wrong), a strong measure of conscientiousness (we want owners, not employees), comfort with ambiguity (we don't know how our business will evolve, and navigating Google internally requires dealing with a lot of ambiguity), and evidence that you've taken some courageous or interesting paths in your life."

Here's what an ex-Google employee told Business Insider in 2013 what
Here's what an ex-Google employee told Business Insider in 2013 what "Googley" traits include.

Googleyness is a trait that an ideal Googler must have. Although there is no single definition of the term, it mainly aims to indicate a candidate's ability to work in teams, care for their team members, face challenges and overcome them, ability to navigate through ambiguity, willingness to learn new things while getting better at what you already do, and so much more. These qualities can help one stand out from the other candidates during the interviews.

During the G&L interview, candidates are assessed for Googleyness and Leadership qualities. To understand how best a fit the candidate is for the company and how well they can go above and beyond during their work, interviewers often include behavioural questions in this round.

Being honest and authentic is the key to cracking the G&L interview.
Being honest and authentic is the key to cracking the G&L interview.

Here are some example questions to give you an idea of the G&L round:

  • Why do you want to work at Google?
  • What is your favorite Google product, and how would you improve it?
  • Tell me about something you've done that you're proud of.
  • Tell me about a time you helped a team member accomplish their task.
  • How do you handle a situation when someone you're working with does not agree to the recommended approach to fulfil the task?
  • When was the last time you made a wrong decision?
  • How do you prioritize your tasks?
  • Tell me about a time you took leadership in a task you were not expected to.
  • Tell me about one of the technical challenges you might have faced.
  • What do you do to gain commitment from your team?

These questions mainly aim to understand your style of working, work ethic, and your ability to work in teams as a member or as a leader. The best way to prepare for the G&L round is to follow the STAR method:

S - Talk about the situation at hand
T - Task(s) or the goal(s) you were working towards
A - Action taken to address the situation
R - The result of the action

Tips: How To Use the STAR Method To Ace Your FAANG Interview

Final Tips for Google SWE Interview πŸ’―

Here are some final tips our mentors would give to candidates before they appear for an SWE interview at Google:

1. Be honest. Be real.

Treat your interviewer as a colleague and be honest in your responses. Rather than attempting to come out as a perfect candidate, converse with them the way you would with a team member. Share with them why you are making certain choices while solving the problems. Let them know when you don't know an answer, and share with them what you think the probable answer would be or how you think you would approach a problem like that. If you're a good fit, they will see right through it.

2. Communicate.

When solving or answering the questions, communicate. Share with them the implicit decisions you are making to give them an idea of the thought process behind your choices. Communicating with them would help them understand how you would approach problems that may not be part of the interview and get a sense of your general cognitive abilities. This can increase your chances of success.

3. Prepare Corner Sases.

Ensure you prepare a few corner cases before you start writing the code. Also, write down your approach along with it to check if there are any issues in it and ensure you don't waste time narrating the entire approach over again later on.

4. Practice. Practice. Practice.

Cracking Google's Software Engineer interviews is a dream for all engineers. If you have landed an interview call, you do not want to go unprepared. Practice coding interviews using different resources, create a plan, focus on your strengths and weaknesses and ensure you put your best foot forward.

5. Don't forget to do your research about Google and your role.

This is just as important as all the other preparation you put in behind cracking the interviews. Do your homework about Google, their products, services, and offerings, the culture, expectations from your role, and what your day would look like. This research can help you demonstrate how serious you are about the offer during the interviews.

When candidates interview at Google, decisions on whether a final offer will be made or not are made by a hiring committee. The recruiters, hiring managers, and interviewers involved in interviewing you will provide their feedback. The hiring committee will ultimately decide whether you get the offer or not. This means no one person is making the final decision. As an interviewee, your performance must be consistent and honest across all rounds.

FAANGPath offers mentorship/mock interview sessions for candidates interviewing for FAANG and other top tech companies. If you have an interview at Google and pray practising mentors who work at Google or other leading tech companies, reach out to us. We'll connect you with the right mentor.

Get more tips on job search, LinkedIn makeover, and best career advice from FAANGPath mentors on our LinkedIn and Instagram handle.

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