03-24-08 - 2

I did my Google interview today. It was pretty rough, it's just a long time to be talking to strangers. I want to write about it more but I'm scared of the Google NDA death squad coming after me. I got woken up repeatedly in the middle of the night last night by my neighbors, so I woke up feeling awful and was really in bad shape in the morning. I think I did pretty poorly on the first two interviews, but then did pretty well on the last two.

Google basically picks four engineers semi-randomly to grill you. That's good in that you get to meet a few different people, and they have different questions and expertises, so maybe as a whole they can get a better picture of you. That's bad in that they aren't necessarily people who are particularly good at interviewing. Doing a good tech interview is a difficult skill that takes a lot of thought and practice. Some of the guys were pretty good interviewers; some were not.

I got a few really good questions that I could tell were well thought out and made me think and work out how to do things and demonstrate competence; I'd like to post them because they were cool, but I'm afraid.

I also got two of the classic bad tech interview types of questions :

A) the brain teaser : present the candidate with a clever question that's really quite easy if they see the answer, but is just a stumper that you can't really work out unless you see the trick. These questions are horrifically bad interview questions, they don't test intelligence (except a certain kind of riddle-solving intelligence) or problem solving skills.

B) the "one true way" question : in this you ask a rather open question with various decent answers, but in your head you have an idea of the "one true way" that you believe is superior, and you try to prod and lead the candidate to come to your solution. These questions only succceed in telling whether the candidate has the same coding background and priorities as the questioner. A better way to test the same point is to just go ahead and tell them the way you're thinking of (after they give their own solution) then ask for the pros & cons or why/when you might use one or the other of the different ways to see if they really understand it.

I also have a general mental problem in those kind of situations where I tend to not give the really simple obvious answer. For simple quiz questions that should have a really simple answer, I tend to overcomplicate them. Like "how would you store 3 names?" , I'm like "well, vector < string > " , when I should just go "char * names[3]". I also spaced on what a semaphore is exactly, so :(

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