Google interview questions: beware the Interviewer

This is from 4 years ago, courtesy of Steve Yegge. I just came across it by accident, it’s wonderfully well written, but one bit caught my attention in particular:

“First, you can’t tell interviewers what’s important. Not at any company. Not unless they’re specifically asking you for advice.”

Wait – what? … why not? Surely – if you’re being an honest candidate – your views on what’s important are a huge part of the interview process? These people want to know what you’ll be like as a colleague, how you tick – no?

“You have a very narrow window of perhaps one year after an engineer graduates from college to inculcate them in the art of interviewing, after which the window closes and they believe they are a “good interviewer” and they don’t need to change their questions, their question styles, their interviewing style, or their feedback style, ever again.”

Ah. Right. Yes, makes sense now. Sad, but true.

I will also add: for all the reasons Steve cited, I *do not run interviews this way*, and haven’t for a long time now. In my late twenties, I learnt the hard way how stupid a lot of those practices are.

Looking back at my sole Google interview, it explains a lot: I had no idea that Google accepted / allowed these practices among their interviewers – I’d assumed they’d have actively stamped them out. Apparently not. It was a big part of why I never considered Google again: if “A people hire A people” and “B people hire C people”, that part of Google’s process stank of the B people. Not a place I wanted to work…

Of course, Steve’s still writing about Google’s hiring, and his criticisms seem to be getting sharper over time. Just last year, he dropped this into a post:

“It’s a match made in heaven, I’m tellin’ ya. It might take you a couple tries to get in the door, because Google’s interview process — what’s the word I’m looking for here — ah yes, their process sucks at letting in all the qualified people. They’re trying to get better at it, but it’s not really Google’s fault so much as the fault of interviewers who insist that you’re not qualified to work there unless you are exactly like them.”

So … given Steve’s one-man crusade to undo the bad work of Google HR, I’d recommend anyone rejected by Google to give them another go. But don’t look at interview prep questions, don’t brush up on obscure programming technique – just read and re-read Steve’s blog posts, and remind yourself that it’s “a stupid process” you’re trying to get past, one that doesn’t fairly represent the company – nor the colleagues – you’ll be working for.

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