How to Get Hired as a Software Engineer by Google

Jan 17

Several young Google software engineers provided some great tips that will prepare you to get hired by Google. A key common denominator is to really know your stuff well because the main focus of the interview is going to be on technical skills.

Google Software Engineers Oliver King, Tremayne Stewart, and Vivian Li offered their own experiences and tips for how to do well in an interview for a software engineering job at Google:

What Are Coding Interviews Like?

Oliver King, Google Software Engineer

Really the big focus of this interview is going to be technical skills. Most interviewers are going to run a few warm-up questions, and then one main question that’s going to take the bulk of the time. So you can imagine a 30 to 35-minute interactive question.

Tremayne Stewart, Google Software Engineer

The questions themselves aren’t going to have the answer presented to you directly. You really have to understand what the question is asking and have an understanding of different data structures and algorithms to be like, okay, I can mix and match this together a little bit to make this happen. Then you can build on top of anything you have to do inside the actual interview.

Vivian Li, Google Software Engineer

From my experience, all the interviewers from Google are extremely nice, so they are very supportive and helpful. Even though the first solution you come up with might not be the best, they will guide you through and give you enough hints, so eventually, you can get the best solution.

What’s Your Best Advice to Solve Coding Questions?

Vivian Li, Google Software Engineer

You definitely need to think out loud. First, ask clarification questions. Second, call out assumptions. Third, you need to explain your thoughts clearly before jumping into coding.

Tremayne Stewart, Google Software Engineer

It’s like: What are your Edge cases? Define those first. Is anything going to be null? What kind of inputs are you getting? So you can make sure that you know, your system won’t break halfway through. Definitely speak out loud so that your interviewer knows where your mind is on certain things. That’s when they can give you hints every now and again. Like, “Oh, maybe don’t use a HashSet; a HashMap might be a little better.”

Oliver King, Google Software Engineer

I think a lot of people come into it with the misconception that for every problem you’re given, you must find the algorithmically optimal solution. But it’s better to find some solution than none at all. That’s really easy to mess up.

What Are Your Tips to Prepare for an Interview?

Tremayne Stewart, Google Software Engineer

The biggest piece of advice on how to do well at a software engineering interview is to not try to do well at the interview, but to do well as a software engineer in general. That comes with practice, and it comes with knowing your code. So you really have to do what you have to do to make sure that when you do get on site, you crush it.

Oliver King, Google Software Engineer

I’d recommend the Google Tech Dev Guide to make sure that your fundamentals are going to be strong for the interview. Make sure that you’re really good with at least one language because you’re only going to get to pick one when you do the interview.

Vivian Li, Google Software Engineer

Prepare yourself. Get used to coding on a whiteboard. The difference between coding on a whiteboard and coding in an editor is that you don’t have any helpful tools to guide you through to finish the syntax.

Oliver King, Google Software Engineer

So it’s easy to just practice writing some code on a piece of paper where you don’t have that type of tool.

Any Last Advice?

Oliver King, Google Software Engineer

I think there’s a misconception that you need to be the best engineer ever to work at Google. You don’t need to be an expert at algorithms, you just need to be good at them. You don’t need to know some really high-level complex data structures; you just need to know all the basic ones really well.

Tremayne Stewart, Google Software Engineer

You kind of think of Google as this super software-engineer-producing entity. But then you realize it’s people that have also been through your same process. They practiced, they worked, they developed to be who they are today.

Vivian Li, Google Software Engineer

Of course, Google likes to hire smart people, but don’t underestimate yourself — you can do it.

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