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Google Site Engineer Interview Questions & Reviews

Updated Jun 10, 2014
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Average Interview

Software Engineer, Site Reliability Engineering Interview

Software Engineer, Site Reliability Engineering

I applied through a recruiter and interviewed at Google.

Interview Details – The recruiter first did some screening by phone, asking a few technical questions and driving me through Google's "self-evaluation" in about 10 domains (networking, *nix internals, *nix sysadmining, algorithms, and various languages) (the recruiter had a good idea of how I *should* score). I was asked to narrow down where I would work. Google picked an interviewer from one of the would-be sites of employment for a coding interview done via phone and a shared document. After that I did a day of interviews at Google's offices. Lunch wasn't an interview but I was also accompanied by a Googler who let me ask questions about the work, office life and such (all interviewers did this, but the interviews rarely left enough time). Sent back feedback to the recruiter, who called me back when the hiring committee declined to make an offer. Unfortunately the recruiter gave very little feedback when asked, claiming it wasn't shared with them.

The on-site interviews featured troubleshooting, coding, large-system design, plus a bonus topic of my choosing (SRE-related) and an extra interview which I think was picked where I ranked highest. My least favourite was the troubleshooting, since there was no actual terminal prompt and I was at the mercy of the interviewer deciding how the system was built, how it would manifest symptoms, and their understanding of how my commands would work. That interviewer had asked me to pick a small number of things to monitor, without deciding what the purpose of the monitoring would be.

Aside from early interaction with the recruiter, and the fact that my interviewers had access to my resume, there was very little of the traditional HR approach to recruiting; this was almost all technical, and I was the only one asking questions about the more general fit.

One annoying thing is that, aside from the recruiter, everyone called me from numbers that wouldn't answer back. This plus the distance made organising some things painful. It also means you have to write down anything you might want to ask in advance, because the people calling you are more prepared than you do.

Interview Question – see description of troubleshooting above - more of a process than a simple question   Answer Question

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7 people found this helpful

Declined Offer

Neutral Experience

Average Interview

Site Reliability Engineer Interview

Site Reliability Engineer
Mountain View, CA

I applied online and the process took 2 months - interviewed at Google in October 2011.

Interview Details – I responded to a billboard in a major metropolitan area, which directed respondents to a web site whose domain name was the solution to a computer science / math problem involving prime numbers. After solving the problem and accessing the web site, I submitted my credentials and expressed interest in a position.

It took Google about 18 months to respond.

When they did, it moved quickly. I had a first-level phone screen with a recruiter, asking very simple questions about operating systems and scripting. I then had a second-level phone screen with a member of technical staff, who asked me intermediate technical questions, as well as discussing my current job content with me. Based on these phone screens, I was invited to their HQ for an on-site.

On site, it was a reasonably pleasant day. I had 6 or 7 interviews, each with a different engineer. All of them were situational, where the interviewer would open with a scenario, and build / evolve it as the interview went on. For example, the easiest one was, "How would you write a program to perform [some simple sysadmin task] in Perl?" Once I solved it, the interviewer would expand the scope, or introduce some complication that required more advanced problem solving skills.

All of the questions were good, they were really meaty and interesting. The quality of delivery varied widely though, with some of their engineers being very comfortable conducting interviews and having great people skills. Others not so much, one gentleman appeared to be inconvenienced by having to interview new hires, and had poor personal hygiene to boot, which made enduring his interview uncomfortable. Another aspect that varied widely was attitude .. many at the Googleplex were socially stunted, while others were handsome / beautiful, well dressed, and hip. Almost uniformly they were arrogant and dismissive.

Ultimately, I received a follow-up call, where they offered me a role at a starting salary of $75K. I politely countered, noting that I was already making more than $100K in an area that had much lower cost of living than the SF Bay Area. In the final analysis, Google felt that their brand equity and being able to put their name was worth more than the $25K gap, a point with which I strongly disagreed. I rejected their offer and we both went our separate ways.

Interview Question – Consider a scenario in which an trans-continental file transfer fails with the following error message: [...] This is the only information you have to go on; walk us through your mental line of troubleshooting.   View Answer

Reason for Declining – At the time of my offer, Google valued its brand equity, its capabity to enhance an employee's resume, as a real piece of its compensation package. Therefore they paid less than other SF Bay Area competitors. Because I already had a job that paid more, in an area with a lower cost of living, I turned down the role and kept my current job.

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No Offer

Positive Experience

Very Difficult Interview

Site Reliability Engineer Interview

Site Reliability Engineer
Kirkland, WA

I applied through a recruiter and the process took 3 months - interviewed at Google in August 2013.

Interview Details – The process was very long. A few phone interviews followed by an all day on-site. Very comprehensive interviews.

Interview Question – Deep programming questions, large scale systems design details.   Answer Question

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3 people found this helpful

Declined Offer

Neutral Experience

Difficult Interview

Site Reliability Engineer Interview

Site Reliability Engineer

I applied through a recruiter and the process took 3 months - interviewed at Google in October 2013.

Interview Details – Contacted via LinkedIn by a Google recruiter. I'm not providing specifics on the questions due to Google request, but you can find nearly all of them in other posts here or at other sites.

- Initial interview with recruiter: rate yourself 1-10 in various areas, then technical questions that mostly had one word, right or wrong answers so a non-technical recruiter could administer them.

- Phone screen: the troubleshooting scenarios were typical things I'd seen in my 10 years administering a large network of Linux machines. For the coding exercise I chose Perl because that's my best language and as a result I had to explain some of the code to the interviewer (I think Google uses mostly python).

I was called the next night by the recruiter to inform me that they'd like to schedule the on-site in Mountain View. I was passed to another recruiter who specializes in SREs. This recruiter coordinated the scheduling and also the selection of the five interview topics. The recruiter followed up with Google research papers and several textbooks that I was supposed to read.

- On-site interview #1: system administration. We spent most of the time working on the design of a hypothetical web service. I ultimately came up with a solution that I am pretty sure my interviewer hadn't anticipated, but he could find nothing wrong with it and seemed to accept my solution.

- On-site interview #2: troubleshooting. We made it through two problems, one dealing with networking and the other to figure out why a service was failing. I solved these problems quickly and beyond any doubt and the interviewer seemed satisfied enough not to go on to another problem, so we spent about 15 minutes just talking about Google in general.

- On-site interview #3: large system design. The problem dealt with analyzing large volumes of data. I had read the Google research paper on map reduce on the plane ride over, since it was one of the things the recruiter had said to read. I suggested that map reduce may be a good solution, and I was then grilled for 30 minutes about the internals of how Google's current map reduce works. (Even though I pointed out that my experience was limited to just having read the paper, and I'm sure that Google's map reduce in 2013 works much differently than it did when they published the paper in the mid-2000's!). While I thought I did an admirable job on the basics given my lack of experience with that topic, this interviewer seemed to have a particular solution in mind that I obviously didn't get, nor did he really work with me to try to get there. So this one was probably a fail.

- On-site interview #4: Perl coding. Consisted of a regular expression question and then a data analysis question with several iterations that made it progressively harder. I flew through these and it was clear the interviewer was trying to come up with additional iterations of his question on the spot to fill the time. I was surprised that the question was as easy as it was given Google's legendary interview coding questions.

- On-site interview #5: networking. I have never been, nor claimed to be, a network administrator, and this awkward 45 minutes simply evidenced that fact. The interviewer wasn't particularly helpful and this was a definite fail.

After the last interview, I was left in a different place from where I was dropped off. I was unable to walk through the courtyard due to an employee-only party, nor did the recruiter come get me to take me to the Google store as he had promised. Therefore I had to walk around the edge of the campus and backs of the buildings to get back to my car. This left a sour taste.

The next week I received a call from the SRE recruiter informing me that I'd done really well on three interviews and that they really didn't care about the networking interview because I wasn't interviewing to be a network engineer. They wanted me to repeat the large system design interview via phone. I had seen enough of silicon valley to know I didn't want to move there, and I didn't want to muddle through another map reduce problem, so I told the recruiter I wasn't interested in continuing.

A week later I received a call from the original recruiter asking me to reconsider, and describing other, more family-friendly offices (e.g. Seattle). Over the next week I talked to an employee who worked in Seattle and confirmed that this may be a better cultural fit, so I agreed to do the follow-up interview. This occurred two weeks later via phone, and was much more of the format of starting with a small setup and determining bottlenecks along the way. I did well on this interview.

I was contacted by both recruiters the next day to let me know I had done well and I was requested to provide contact information for references. About a week later received my verbal offer and subsequently declined.

Interview Question – I'm honoring Google's request not to share specific interview questions.   Answer Question

Reason for Declining – Accepted an offer from another company, for approximately the same compensation offered by Google, but that did not require relocation.

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1 person found this helpful

No Offer

Positive Experience

Difficult Interview

Site Reliability Engineer Interview

Site Reliability Engineer

I applied online and the process took 4+ weeks - interviewed at Google.

Interview Details – Great experience - cool people, stimulating interviews, very efficient HR.
Two coding questions on phone interview - one on adding integers of arbitrary size and another that I can't recall.
On-site interview entailed 5 back-to-back interviews and lunch.
1. Talk with a manager and question regarding TCP Path MTU discovery - black hole connection.
2. Others were whiteboard coding and design questions. Study up on algorithms and data structs!

Will be trying again in a year.

Interview Question – How would you design a real-time sports data collection app.   Answer Question

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3 people found this helpful

Accepted Offer

Positive Experience

Difficult Interview

Site Reliability Engineer Interview

Site Reliability Engineer
Mountain View, CA

I applied through an employee referral and the process took 6 weeks - interviewed at Google in March 2011.

Interview Details – I applied online and never heard back.

Several months later, I was referred by a friend at the company, and recruited to be an SRE based on my experience. Since the SRE jobs would have required relocation, I opted to interview for a Software Engineer role. I didn't get an offer as a Software Engineer, but based on the feedback from that I was recruited again the next year as an SRE, and was ready to relocate at that time.

The hiring process at Google is very slow. It took several weeks between resuming contact with their recruiter and getting an offer. If you're out of work and looking to get a job ASAP, Google may not be the best choice. If you're in no rush, it can be very worthwhile.

Interview Question – With respect to my NDA, I won't go into details, but I was asked to design a highly-available production service from bare metal all the way to algorithms and data structures.   Answer Question

Negotiation Details – The negotiation consisted of them offering me much more than I expected (unaware of the cost of living in the bay area) and me accepting. Google locates most of its office in high-demand real estate markets in an effort to attract talent, so if you're not familiar with the area, you should research the real estate market, because cost of living can be much higher near a Google office. Even Google shuttle stops drive up nearby rents by hundreds of dollars per month.

Google has made a strategic choice to pay 90th percentile salaries on average. Don't be afraid to ask for significantly more than you've ever made before.

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No Offer

Positive Experience

Difficult Interview

Software Engineer, Site Reliability Engineering Interview

Software Engineer, Site Reliability Engineering

I applied through a recruiter and the process took 2+ weeks - interviewed at Google.

Interview Details – The recruiter reached out to me on linked in.

First the recruiter gave me a technical phone screen. She had about 5 questions related to programming and unix. I passed and moved on to a phone screen with a developer on the team I would be working on. He emailed me a shared google doc and posted a programming question in it. I was able to answer this question in about 2 minutes (similar to fizzbuzz) The he posted a harder programming question. I got a sub-optimal answer and chatted back and forth with the interviewer. I eventually stumbled to a good solution.

Interview Question – What signal is sent by default in the unix kill command   View Answers (4)

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1 person found this helpful

Accepted Offer

Positive Experience

Difficult Interview

Site Reliability Engineer Intern Interview

Site Reliability Engineer Intern
New York, NY

I applied through an employee referral and the process took 3+ weeks - interviewed at Google in February 2013.

Interview Details – I had two technical interviews. The first one was standard interview on algorithms. The interviewer was very friendly and cheerful. I solved the problems in 20 minutes and he was impressed after that we talked for 15 minutes about Google and his job. The second interviewer has read one of my research papers (very pleasantly surprised) and ask me questions about the paper. Why certain assumptions, explain some phenomenons, than he asked me how would I measure the quality of the search engine as perceived by the users. This was an open ended question and we discussed many different approaches. He was more "serious" compared to the first interviewer but he was also very helpful and I enjoyed his questions a lot.

After the interviews my recruiter contacted me in LESS than 24 hours to let me know that I passed the technical interviews. Of course I knew this :-)

The next stage was the host matching process. It took about 10-14 days for an interview with a potential host. I had three of these. Two of the projects were very interesting and I got the one I like the most. One of these interviewers (the one I choose) also has read one of my research papers and wanted to know more. Overall, I was impressed at how seriously these people take the interviews and that they spent time to read about my research and ask relevant questions related to it. Other companies would just give the standard algorithm interview questions but Googlers went beyond that. They don't just say they care about their employees they show you they care.

Interview Question – I didn't expected questions about my research but was pleasantly surprised. The questions were more on how I think about a problem and my approach to problem solving outside the box. Some of the questions were quite complicated but I enjoyed every one of them.   View Answer

Negotiation Details – No negotiation. The pay was amazing.

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4 people found this helpful

No Offer

Positive Experience

Very Difficult Interview

Site Reliability Engineer Interview

Site Reliability Engineer
Mountain View, CA

I applied through a recruiter and the process took 4 weeks - interviewed at Google in August 2013.

Interview Details – I was contacted by a recruiter through LinkedIn, which was a pleasant surprise. After a short phone screen with some questions relating to my background and covering a breadth of technology to gauge my knowledge and experience, I was scheduled for several more rounds of interviews.
I was next interviewed by an SRE. The interview covered a couple general programming type questions, no big surprises here.
After this, I was flown out to Mountain View, CA in order to do on-site interviews. I had 4 technical interviews with various engineers, covered a wide variety of programming problems and concepts (from data structures to map-reduce), and even had lunch with an engineer, where I was able to get a lot more of my informal questions answered.

Overall it was an extremely positive experience. The majority of the engineers (with one minor exception) were very pleasant to talk with. The recruiters were all quick to respond and communicative. Even though I feel like there is an element of randomness to the interviews (will you get the questions close to your expertise? Will you prepare for the right questions?), it was overall a great experience, and I wouldn't be afraid of applying in the future if I wanted my career to go in that direction.

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No Offer

Negative Experience

Average Interview

Site Reliability Engineer Interview

Site Reliability Engineer
Mountain View, CA

I applied through a recruiter and the process took 3 weeks - interviewed at Google in April 2013.

Interview Details – An initial phone screen with recruiter followed by two technical interviews, one involved coding in a shared document. Recruiter came back each time and said I did very well, then invited me on-site for an all day interview. The on-site just consisted of the same types of questions from the phone interviews in 1-1 form with a series of 5 people. Nobody seemed to care much about getting to know me or learning about my skills I have to offer -- just doing random homework exercises.

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