Can You Answer These Google Interview Questions?

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Although I’ve heard much about how wonderful a company Google is to work for, I’ve never really had the strong desire to apply for any jobs there myself. And given the little tidbits that pop up every now and again about Google’s hiring practices, that’s probably a good thing, as I am not at all convinced I would make it past the interview. In fact, the company itself has apparently realized how intense their hiring process is — and these rumored former interview questions prove it. They’re so ridiculous that Google is said to have banned them all together, according to an article on Business Insider.

Business Insider has been circulating these questions for a while now; since they’ve resurfaced yet again, they’re ripe for another examination. It’s worth noting, though, that they may or may not actually be real, so do go ahead and take this whole thing with an enormous grain of salt. We do know for a fact, though, that Google has banned its interviewers from asking a very specific type of question: Brain teasers. Gayle Laakmann McDowell, who served on Google’s hiring committee for three years, confirmed this on her website back in 2010. Although she noted that “everyone has a different definition of brain teaser,” she also went on to say that “if an interviewer were to ask a candidate a brain teaser, the hiring committee would likely disregard this interviewer’s feedback and send a note back telling the interviewer not to ask such silly questions.” So, y’know, there’s that.

So where is Business Insider getting these questions from? This post from 2009 right here. According to BI, Seattle-based job coach Lewis Lin compiled the list of 140 questions from clients of his who had interviews at Google. At the same time, though, the language on Lin’s post itself doesn’t actually specify this fact; it merely says, “Here’s a list of 140 Google interview questions. Many of our clients have interviewed and received Google job offers.” McDowell also pointed out that one of them — “Why are manhole covers round?” — is an infamous Microsoft interview question which has since been banned from both companies. Perhaps because too many people have read these articles so now everyone knows the answer?

So with that disclaimer in mind, let’s take a look at a few of the brain teasers Google is rumored to have once asked its prospective employees, as well as the positions to which they applied, shall we? Prepare yourselves for a whooooole lot of ridiculousness:

Software Engineer:

  • A man pushed his car to a hotel and lost his fortune. What happened?
  • You need to check that your friend, Bob, has your correct phone number, but you cannot ask him directly. You must write a question on a card which and give it to Eve who will take the card to Bob and return the answer to you. What must you write on the card, besides the question, to ensure Bob can encode the message so that Eve cannot read your phone number?
  • You have eight balls all of the same size. Seven of them weigh the same, and one of them weighs slightly more. How can you find the ball that is heavier by using a balance and only two weighings?
  • Explain the significance of “dead beef.”

Product Manager:

  • You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and your mass is proportionally reduced so as to maintain your original density. You are then thrown into an empty glass blender. The blades will start moving in 60 seconds. What do you do?
  • You have to get from point A to point B. You don’t know if you can get there. What would you do?
  • Every man in a village of 100 married couples has cheated on his wife. Every wife in the village instantly knows when a man other than her husband has cheated, but does not know when her own husband has. The village has a law that does not allow for adultery. Any wife who can prove that her husband is unfaithful must kill him that very day. The women of the village would never disobey this law. One day, the queen of the village visits and announces that at least one husband has been unfaithful. What happens?
  • How many golf balls can fit in a school bus?
  • Four people need to cross a rickety rope bridge to get back to their camp at night. Unfortunately, they only have one flashlight and it only has enough light left for seventeen minutes. The bridge is too dangerous to cross without a flashlight, and it’s only strong enough to support two people at any given time. Each of the campers walks at a different speed. One can cross the bridge in 1 minute, another in 2 minutes, the third in 5 minutes, and the slow poke takes 10 minutes to cross. How do the campers make it across in 17 minutes?

Engineering Manager:

  • You’re the captain of a pirate ship, and your crew gets to vote on how the gold is divided up. If fewer than half of the pirates agree with you, you die. How do you recommend apportioning the gold in such a way that you get a good share of the booty, but still survive?

If you’re curious about what Google actually does look for in a prospective employee, a word of advice: If you’re asked if you have an IQ higher than 130, do not say “yes.” According to Laszlo Bock, Google’s senior vice president of People Operations, “yes” is the worst possible answer. What they’re looking for is “intellectual humility,” a quality which, Bock told the New York Times earlier this year, people can’t learn — you either have it or you don’t. “Successful bright people rarely experience failure, and so they don’t learn how to learn from that failure,” he said. “They, instead, commit the fundamental attribution error, which is if something good happens, it’s because I’m a genius. If something bad happens, it’s because someone’s an idiot or I didn’t get the resources or the market moved.” The moral of the story: Keep your ego in check.

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