Google Systems Engineer Interview Questions

Updated Feb 2, 2015
18 Interview Reviews

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Systems Engineer Interview

Anonymous Employee
No Offer
Positive Experience
Difficult Interview
No Offer
Positive Experience
Difficult Interview

Application

I applied online. The process took 3 weeksinterviewed at Google.

Interview

I submitted my resume against the position of System Engineer, and received a reply within less than a week from a Recruiting Specialist at Google. It took more than 2 weeks to start the process due to an awkward work schedule I have, but the RS was very accommodating and thoughtful throughout the entire process. Once we were able to set a date and time, and that time came, the screening interview began.

    Before the screening, however, I was presented with a small questionnaire that had me rate myself on a scale of 0-10 in various different categories related to my skills and the position. 0 meant you had no idea about the item at hand, while 10 meant you were not only an expert on the item, but have some "written proof" to back it up (ISBN number needed to be included). Sadly, for most of the folks I know in the Govt Contracting (DoD) sector, many on average don't rate beyond a 4 on Google's scale in many IT categories; few get to 5 including myself. This isn't to say "4" is bad, as 4 means that "you can perform the task successfully with no help from others/books on the subject"; it's just that there's a long way to 10!

    Once my RS had the questionnaire, he started by asking a series of questions in various categories (5-6 if I recall correctly), that dealt directly and indirectly with the position. I should stress here that I came into the process expecting to get a certain set of questions related to System Engineer from a command line level (Other State/Govt. related SysEng. positions usually ask these during the interview process). Instead, what I received was a set of very specific and concise questions that related directly to Google's definition of a "System Engineer": bare metal/C & ASM-Centric with a sense for creative thinking on the fly. The RS was very thoughtful and polite throughout the entire process, and recorded all of my answers (half of which I got right, while the others I missed completely due to "brain lapse" <see question sample>). It was only about 3 days after the results were submitted to the engineering team that it was decided to pass on me as a candidate; I really can't blame them given the expectations they have of the position.

   The interview process for Google is very thorough. So much so, that they (the RS) made sure to let me know up front the entire process from beginning to end (This info in small part has been provided on their main careers site): First is the screen call (where I was), second is the phone based technical interview with a team member from the group that would be gaining the hire, third is an in-person/face-to-face interview (closest facility/Skype) and then, assuming the candidate has made it through that gauntlet, would come a discreet peer-review within Google amongst other staff, other departments and then lastly a vote decision (as I recall) which ultimately decides whether you're hired or passed over. You will be told up front in no more than 3-4 days whether you've made it to the next phase (no anxious waiting or guessing)

    Frankly, despite how things worked out for me, I think the overall process is very fair all things considered, and honestly wish some other big name companies I've been interviewing with lately would approach the entire process the same way that Google does. I don't regret the outcome at all. If anything, it made me appreciate the concept of "coming prepared" even more and has ironically made subsequent interviews I've had at other companies go much more smoother.

Interview Questions

  • What is 10 to the 24th power?   1 Answer

Other Interview Reviews for Google

  1.  

    Systems Engineer Interview

    Anonymous Employee
    No Offer
    Negative Experience
    Difficult Interview
    No Offer
    Negative Experience
    Difficult Interview

    Application

    I applied through a recruiter. The process took a weekinterviewed at Google.

    Interview

    The initial screening was straightforward. The problem arose when my first phone screening was with a network engineer despite my indication that I was not strong in the area of networking.

    He repeatedly asked networking questions despite my reiteration that networking was not my area of expertise.

    Interview Questions

    • How does ARP spoofing work.   1 Answer
  2. Helpful (6)  

    Systems Engineer Interview

    Anonymous Employee
    No Offer
    Difficult Interview
    No Offer
    Difficult Interview

    Application

    I applied through a recruiter. The process took 3 weeksinterviewed at Google in April 2013.

    Interview

    I was contacted by a Google recruiter via LinkedIn to see if I was interested in exploring an opportunity with the Site Reliability Engineering team. Even though I'm very happy in my current position, who turns up their first chance to interview with Google? I was contacted on a Thursday and had an initial recruiter phone screen set up for the following Monday.

    The recruiter started by asking me to talk about my background and experience, then explained the position to me. After rating myself on a number of different topics (networking, UNIX internals, UNIX administration, Python, Java, C++, C, Shell scripting, etc.), I was asked six fairly basic questions. I got all of them correct (none were very difficult), and the recruiter told me that someone would reach out to me in the next few days to schedule a technical phone interview in a couple weeks. She also let me know that she'd be providing me with some documents that discussed what kind of information I should brush up on to prepare myself.

    A couple days later, I received an email with a time for the phone interview as well as the link to a Google Doc they'd use for scripting questions to simulate a whiteboard. The interview was scheduled for about a week and a half later, so I had time to review the interview prep docs.

    The docs themselves were definitely helpful. After reviewing them, I was able to identify places that I needed some refreshers and concentrated there.

    When the interview itself came, the call came on time. The interviewer was friendly and easy to talk to. He introduced himself and asked if I had any questions (I told him I'd wait until the end in case any were answered during the interview, though I was never given a chance to ask again -- probably due to time constraints), and then we dove right in to the technical questions.

    I was asked a series of increasingly complex networking questions that started out *very* basic (How does a switch work?) and became more complex as he got a feel for my skill levels. After a while, we moved on to Linux/UNIX internals (processes, signals, etc.).

    The second half of the interview was a scripting exercise in the shared Google Doc. Without giving too much away, I was asked to write a script that would parse data from a passwd file and return some information. Though I expected this, I found scripting in a word processor significantly more difficult than I had anticipated. It took me much longer than I'd hoped, and after the interview I kept thinking of little problems I hadn't caught.

    By the end of the scripting exercise, the interviewer seemed pretty disinterested and abruptly ended the call with a promise that the recruiter would follow up after he'd submitted his feedback.

    A great credit to Google, I received a call about a week later from my recruiter who let me know that they decided to pass. She also mentioned that the feedback from the interviewer was that I was very strong in networking and UNIX questions, but that they felt that I didn't have enough scripting experience. She invited me to apply again down the road and told me that she'd keep me in mind in the future for similar positions.

    All in all, though I'm disappointed, it was definitely refreshing to be provided actual feedback on the results of my interview as well as a phone call rather than a canned email or complete silence.

    Interview Questions

    • How much faster is DNS considering that it uses UDP instead of TCP?   1 Answer
  3. Helpful (5)  

    Systems Engineer Interview

    Anonymous Employee in Mountain View, CA
    No Offer
    Negative Experience
    Difficult Interview
    No Offer
    Negative Experience
    Difficult Interview

    Application

    I applied through an employee referral. The process took 6 daysinterviewed at Google (Mountain View, CA) in March 2010.

    Interview

    I am a seasoned software engineer with 15 years of excellent experience in developing highly performant software systems, and am well-rounded enough to have participated in everything from design of hardware, operating systems components, all the way to GUI widgets and interface systems.

    A friend of mine who works at Google worked hard to convince me to interview there, and submitted my name to his manager, who arranged for the recruiter to contact me.

    The recruiter was extremely arrogant from the start. He never really understood my core capabilities and seemed to discredit much of my prior work experience. I cannot easily handle personal calls during my work house, but I agreed to be able to take some phone interviews when he explained they set them up a day in advance. In actuality, both phone interviews I had a maximum of 45 minutes to leave work and make it home to take the phone call. The recruiter was very unprofessional in many aspects of communicating important details like this to me. (Details matter, unless you work at Google!)

    Both phone interviews went poorly, primarily because the interviewers were being exceptionally obtuse. I couldn't get a straight answer out of either of them. One interviewer tried to ask me things in non-sensical language and when I tried to ask for clarification, he got mad at me. I guess his impression of engineers are that they can read minds, or perhaps can learn his special short-hand speaking style in a 30 minute call.

    The worst part was the final call from the recruiter, and he said to me "At least you got to interview with Google... not everybody can say that". What an arrogant and classless attitude. I responded by saying that they should be thankful that at least they got to interview with me, because not every company can say that.

    Interview Questions

    • Wanted to know how to implement a traceroute routine and what ICMP and TCP details would need to be developed to write the command.   Answer Question
    • Wanted to have me explain a number of different sorting algorithms that I believe are only used in file systems. The interviewer could not explain what the question was and would not clarify what he was looking for. Total failure to deliver the interview question in a way that a computer scientist could understand what was needing to be answered.   Answer Question
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  5. Helpful (5)  

    Systems Engineer Interview

    Anonymous Employee in Santa Clara, CA
    Declined Offer
    Negative Experience
    Difficult Interview
    Declined Offer
    Negative Experience
    Difficult Interview

    Application

    The process took 2 weeksinterviewed at Google (Santa Clara, CA) in December 2008.

    Interview

    Google has the most obtuse hiring process of any company I've spoken with in my 12-year career. Interview questions have little to no relevance to the job being applied for, and seem to be little more than a means by which the academics working there can massage their enormous egos.

    Interview Questions

    • How many trailing zeros are in the number 5! (5 factorial)?   9 Answers

    Reasons for Declining

    After meeting with several people at the company and in the group I would have been working for I found that, while the company wants to harbor a collaborative academic type of environment, the job I was applying for and the required number of hours equated to this being no better than a high-paid sweat shop. The interview process was highly misleading and deceptive, and without substantial bonuses that were promised but likely would not have been delivered upon in this economy the salary was mediocre.

  6.  

    Systems Engineer Interview

    Anonymous Employee in Bangalore (India)
    Declined Offer
    Positive Experience
    Difficult Interview
    Declined Offer
    Positive Experience
    Difficult Interview

    Application

    I applied online. The process took 3+ weeksinterviewed at Google (Bangalore (India)) in February 2014.

    Interview

    very tough

    Interview Questions

    Reasons for Declining

    depends on my mood

  7. Helpful (1)  

    Systems Engineer Interview

    Anonymous Employee
    No Offer
    Positive Experience
    Difficult Interview
    No Offer
    Positive Experience
    Difficult Interview

    Application

    I applied online. The process took 3 weeksinterviewed at Google in April 2013.

    Interview

    1st Phone interview - questions : developer skills, preferite language, time in a day spent programming, IP, pthread, firewall, inode content, signals, python in general, C malloc, C++ delete, MAC, DNS header, quick sort
    2nd Phone interview - questions: PID, PPID, precesses, thread, zombie, init, bash command top. Python: newbie questions, range() vs xrange()
    3rd Phone interview - write a Python to read a file and extract significant data from it

    Interview Questions

    • Qhich is the relation between the init process and zombie processes.   Answer Question
  8. Helpful (1)  

    Systems Engineer Interview

    Anonymous Employee in Zürich (Switzerland)
    No Offer
    Average Interview
    No Offer
    Average Interview

    Application

    I applied through a recruiter. The process took a weekinterviewed at Google (Zürich (Switzerland)) in January 2013.

    Interview

    I got some typical and untypical questions ...

    - bunch of questions related to system calls (sockets and network programming, open/close connect/listen inode, etc. ). I had to know (in details) a large number of system calls and what they are changing.
    - mergesort in details (best, average and worst case)
    - comparison between TCP and UDP (e.g. congestion and flow control)
    - graph to find the shortest path

    Interview Questions

    • - sys. call changing inode   1 Answer
  9. Helpful (2)  

    Systems Engineer Interview

    Anonymous Employee
    No Offer
    No Offer

    Application

    I applied through a recruiter. The process took a dayinterviewed at Google.

    Interview

    As others already mentioned, recruiter is gonna ask you some basic questions like how many ip addresses are in /23 subnet, inode definition, system calls name for getting the file path, how to make an executable suid. I was put off by the fact they really want you to have this information memorized instead of being able to look it up but maybe it is just me with my lazy memory. So we did not move forward.

    Interview Questions

    • They really want you to have memorised the answer rather than being able to find out in few seconds using google!   Answer Question
  10. Helpful (1)  

    Systems Engineer Interview

    Anonymous Employee in London, England (UK)
    No Offer
    Positive Experience
    Difficult Interview
    No Offer
    Positive Experience
    Difficult Interview

    Application

    I applied through a recruiter. The process took 2+ monthsinterviewed at Google (London, England (UK)) in September 2012.

    Interview

    I got contacted from a recruiter. I passed the initial phone interview where they asked me some very basic questions. The next stage was a Technical Phone Interview which was also easy. They basically wanted to verify if my curriculum vitae was true or not. The last stage I've done was an on-site interview. It was tough because it lasted 5 hours. It covered both theory and practice. My impression is that they want prepared people with good knowledge on Linux internals, a good scripting ability and a good attitude in large system design and troubleshooting.

    Interview Questions

    • Large system design and troubleshooting are difficult, because you cant prepare enough for them.   Answer Question

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