What Do I expect for a google internship interview?
November 18, 2006 8:36 PM   Subscribe

Interview for internship with google. How do I prepare?

I have an interview with google in the near future for an internship over the summer in the systems group or general systems area, specifically networking and/or operating systems.

The web seems to have precious few links as to what to expect from them. Does anyone have any information on what is expected?

If it's relevant, I'm winding up my phd in the next couple of months, and have done a lot of work in a specific area of operating systems. Will the interview focus on my work or is it a free-for-all?
posted by gadha to Work & Money (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
All I've got is that a friend went for a job there and they did a few rounds of interviews, emailed her an aptitude test which had to be returned within a specified time, and finally turned her down because she hadn't gone to an Ivy League school. Or so she said,,, YMMV. Good luck!
posted by forallmankind at 8:54 PM on November 18, 2006

I know someone who interned at Google. From what they said about the interview, you can expect a lot of open ended questions, which are chances to show them how/why you are useful and a good candidate (i.e. work you've done).

Be confident in your abilities, but above all, be honest. Good luck as well.
posted by patr1ck at 8:58 PM on November 18, 2006

(I've interviewed there, but ended up deciding to take a job elsewhere before they made me an offer -- their recruiters still call me like clockwork every 6 months, so I suspect I did well. My brother in law works there, so does his wife, and so do about half a dozen people that I used to work with, many of whom I keep in touch with)

90% of getting hired at Google is determined by which school(s) you have attended. If you're coming out of a good school with a PhD in a related field, and they got to you before you graduated, chances are good that you're already most of the way towards getting the job.

The rest is the ability to remain confident in your abilities while answering questions both in and outside of your areas of expertise. Google has a reputation for very intimidating interviews with lots of people. Don't let that intimidate you. Consider it a chance to meet with lots of smart people and have a friendly conversation.

They will ask you questions that you can't possibly know the answers to (this flusters academics and other really smart people frequently -- don't let it). Roll with them. Half of what they're looking for is your thought processes, the ability to think on your feet, and how you react under pressure... so explaining how you rationally got to your incorrect answer is more valuable than immediately answering correctly by memory.

Don't bullshit. Even in your PhD-ified area of expertise, there will probably be someone in the room who knows more than you do. You may or may not be able to identify them.

As for how to prepare? Have a nice dinner, perhaps a massage, and relax. It's not the kind of process that you study for... you're likely either the type of person who can handle (or thrive) in that sort of environment, or you're not... and there's very little you can do to change that.

And good luck!
posted by toxic at 9:48 PM on November 18, 2006

I've chilled at google's offices in NYC (really posh digs... amazing location... must have cost them a fortune).

Yes, it's all about where you went to school. The staff there have Google + [insert elitist school here] shirts. MIT was popular (it seemed like almost half the people I saw), as was Stanford.

Disappointing really.
posted by phrontist at 10:27 PM on November 18, 2006

I interned there this summer. It was just a pretty standard tech interview over the phone, with 2 different people. I was asked questions about how I would design their ads system, etc. Not too much about my past work, and I don't even think they were looking at my resume.

Good luck!
posted by tasty at 10:59 PM on November 18, 2006

In direct refutation of toxic and forallmankind, it's not all about where you went to school. I have a very good friend who's an ops manager at google who only has 2 years of college at a state school under his belt.

I have the feeling that they're more interested in your potential as an employee than pedigrees. They're probably looking at your thought processes rather than specific knowledge. toxic and forallmankind assert that it's all about elite schools. This makes sense when you consider that these schools attract the kind of people who are likely to have the kind of thinking they're looking for -- but that doesn't mean that you don't if you don't go to MIT or CMU.

aside from the schools bit, I think everyone else has very solid advice.
posted by kdar at 11:45 PM on November 18, 2006

In direct refutation of toxic and forallmankind, it's not all about where you went to school. I have a very good friend who's an ops manager at google who only has 2 years of college at a state school under his belt

*I* have only 2 years of school under my belt. That counted against me dramatically (and I was told this explicitly), but not completely. I did not say that it's all about the school, I said that it is mostly about the school.

I was told this explicitly as part of the process. This was 2001 -- things may have changed since then.
posted by toxic at 12:02 AM on November 19, 2006

In direct refutation of toxic and forallmankind, it's not all about where you went to school. I have a very good friend who's an ops manager at google who only has 2 years of college at a state school under his belt

*I* said that all I had was the particular experience of one person, not "state school = no job."

This direct refutation - it sounds a bit hostile, don't you think?
posted by forallmankind at 9:14 AM on November 19, 2006

Getting an interview is easier if you go to a very good school, but once you have the interview, it's all about how well you can answer the questions. You will have one interview where you talk about your phd topic, but the rest will be free-ranging. If you google "microsoft interview questions", you can expect things sort of like that-- brain teasers and code questions of varying degrees of difficulty. Expect a long and draining day, assuming things go well.
posted by ch1x0r at 9:32 AM on November 19, 2006

This direct refutation - it sounds a bit hostile, don't you think?

Hmm, you're right. I should've thought about that longer before posting it. I didn't mean it to be a personal attack on either you or toxic. My apologies.
posted by kdar at 9:33 AM on November 19, 2006

My ex-fiance interned at Google and Microsoft as an undergrad, and now works at Google, straight out of his bachelor's program. He went to Purdue, which is a state school, but which has a very strong CS program.

Here's why Microsoft and Google both wanted him: He's absolutely brilliant, and he's the kind of person who programs games, researches cryptography, and composes music in his spare time. He's also a top-ranked fencer. Think about the kind of person who loves math and algorithm mysteries, who reads things like "Gödel, Escher, Bach" in his spare time because the ideas and the people behind the ideas fascinate him so much.

That's the kind of person they want. Perhaps that kind of person is more often found at places like MIT, Caltech, and Stanford—but Google doesn't really care where they come from, as long as they're brilliant.

From what I've heard, Google looks for analytical people who deeply love programming and solving computer science problems—the kind of people for whom programming was a childhood hobby. They want people who are confident enough to apply the knowledge they have to problems they're given, and to apply logic and reasoning to problems they don't have a background in. And they want people who show natural curiosity, who haven't let life take away their desire to figure out how things work and create things on their own time.

They also want people who know more than just how to build databases or program in C—they want people who have deftly explored all avenues of math and computer science inquiry available to them, and who haven't shied away from investigating (say in a thesis or independent research) more difficult areas like cryptography, assembly code, hardware design, and networking protocols. They're looking for the guy who writes tiny, elegant algorithms that use miniscule resources and do 10 things the other guy's code can't.

Is that a lot to live up to? Sure. But that's what Google (and Microsoft, to a good extent) is looking for, and that's what makes it such an excellent place to work—'cause they've got so many brilliant people slinging ideas in that casual, Mountain View atmosphere.
posted by limeonaire at 9:54 AM on November 19, 2006

I know a guy who works at Google and he did his internship at Amazon while attending University of Washington. He did very well at UW. My understanding is that he was teaching his teachers there. I do not know the circumstances of his applying to work at Google, but he has been a computer person forever and it shows.

Go for it. The worst they can do is say no.
posted by bilabial at 3:34 PM on November 19, 2006

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