How to answer 41 of Google’s toughest interview questions!

How to answer 41 of Google’s toughest interview questions!

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This article was written by Łukasz Tyrała on Medium.here-are-the-4-people-youll-meet-before-you-can-ever-interview-at-googleFew days ago Inc. published an article with “41 of Google’s Toughest Interview Questions”. Here, I answer all the questions; just for fun. I do not want to prove anything, I am not looking for a job at Google. This is an exercise. I will be wrong. Expect mistakes. Do not trust my reasoning.

This is not an appreciation of the questions as a good approach to interview future candidates. I believe it is sometimes better to ask about previous experiences than to require on-demand creativity. Nevertheless all of those questions are a nice exercise for the brain and topics for a discussion(maybe not during an interview).

1. What is your favorite Google product, and how would you improve it? — Associate Product Manager, January 2016

Google Maps. I love how navigation works. I would add a search feature in the navigation mode that allows looking up places along the route.

For example, I am on the road and thinking when to expect the next gas station. Tap the search icon than say, select or type gas station. See the results based on the distance.

2.If you wanted to bring your dog to work but one of your team members was allergic to dogs what would you do? — Associate Account Strategist, December 2014

I would not have brought the dog to the office. If the dog had to be with me, I would ask to work remotely (first making sure that the team is OK with that) or consulted the colleague weather she will be present at the office and mind the dog presence (if it would not impact her health the following days, when the dog is already gone).

Follow-up: I do not have a dog and I am allergic to some animals fur.

3.If ads were removed from YouTube, how would you monetize it? — Associate Account Strategist, January 2016

A few options came to my mind (I know, YT Red):

  • enable content creators to publish videos as a paid content and taking a provision from sales,
  • introduce paid accounts for powers users who need better upload speeds, a lot of storage space, very long videos or publish a lot of content each day — pro features,
  • introduce patronage for content creators with a small provision for YT,
  • paid features like custom domains, customization of embedded players — per feature payments.

4.What do you know about Google? — Administrative Business Partner Interview, February 2015

Part of Alphabet. Google is about search, ads, YouTube, maps and Android. A lot of products mostly juiced by ads with operations all over the world. Part of so called FANG, along with Facebook, Netflix and Amazon. One of the biggest companies in the world. With design as more important asset recently (new logo, material design, product focus). There is a Google Campus in Warsaw, which is a lost opportunity for Kraków.

Follow-up: an article that will tell you more about recent changes. I think that preparing answer for that type of question is crucial to land a job at any company. You cannot skip a deep research about a place you want to work at.

5.Design an evacuation plan for the building. — Business Analyst Interview, November 2014

I am not sitting with an interviewer in a building. We cannot talk about a plan for a specific building, so I will just point out things to consider when designing an evacuation plan:

  • identify hazard,
  • turn on a warning system — voice commands (multilingual if a building is a tourist attraction or a office space), lights, sounds,
  • stop the elevators and open its doors,
  • unlock all the doors,
  • show directions that guide people to the safe exit and emergency assembly spot (or safe spaces of floors, buildings) — those directions need to be visible through the smoke, at night,
  • direct people to the nearest staircase that can fit a given number of occupants — always give secondary exit,
  • if fire, turn on the sprinklers,
  • highlight equipment (fire extinguishers, first aid kits, smoke masks, wheelchairs, etc.) and shutoffs locations,
  • provide floor plans with evacuation routes in form of leaflets on the routes to emergency exits — with some example scenarios depending on a hazard that happened,
  • design staircases so that people are safe on them — fire resistant walls, doors that can be closed to protect from fire, but are not locked, more space to allow people queueing to walk down.

Follow-up: when I started thinking about this question I immediately saw a picture of a hallway, staircase and those green icons with some folk running to the door. I though about an interface (architecture) of a building, but there is so much more before we just place directions on the walls.

6.Which do you think has more advertising potential in Boston, a flower shop or funeral home? — Account Strategist, October 2015

I have no idea about Boston, so I will take on that topic from any cityperspective.

My answer: funeral home. Better target audience (a well defined one), clear keywords that people will be using (when searching the web), possibility to run a branding campaign that touches peoples hearts but is not literal. Both are local businesses, but chains are common. And a lot of people die each day. And there a lot of barter and up-sell opportunities.

I would prefer to advertise flowers though.

Follow-up: check Google Trends — I was amazed how bigger is the traffic for funeral homes vs flower shops. As for the answer, I do not know how funeral homes operate in the USA (apart from watching Six Feet Under) — the context might be different, so the answer might at well.

7.A coin was flipped 1000 times and there were 560 heads. Do you think the coin is biased? — Quantitative Analyst, September 2015

I would have a reasonable doubt. 60 is 6%. A common knowledge is that if something is more than 5% off, that it is no longer a statistical error. This is a common thinking and not a science, but it works in many cases, so 6% seems like a lot. 🙂

Follow-up: here is how to calculate that, or rather, how one can attempt to find the answer.

8.What does being Googley mean to you? — Product Specialist, December 2015

It means being a nerd in very sympathetic manner. 🙂

9.Name a prank you would pull on x manager if you were hired. — Google Applications Support Engineer, June 2014

I do not do pranks. (I am no fun, I know.)

I do not like pranks to be honest, especially in working environment. Doing one’s job requires focus and trust between team members. Pranks put people in awareness mode. Mind gets distracted from task of work and wonders about dangers of a working environment. At best pranks take time to undo, to recover from and have a social burden (you should laugh, appreciate you colleagues effort or you will be seen as a dull person).

Maybe, on the second day, I would ask for a raise or quit the job? (I am no fun, I know.)

10.What is your opinion on whether or not individuals should be required to use their official name when opening a gmail or Google + account? — Administrative Assistant Interview, April 2014

I think that people should provide their official name, but they should have an option to hide it from public and be able to input organization/community name to be used in public (like three people opening a business and using gmail account for their operations — but logging in to the same account).

11.What would you want to do if you didn’t have to work? — Interaction Designer, September 2014

Well, I would do the same thing, but I would take more projects that are related to social problems (that usually cannot earn my living — at least where I live and work).

12.What scares you?
— Business Analyst Interview, September 2014

Not being able to care for my family. This includes not providing a safe future for my kid when he grows up — you know, the post-apocalyptic vision like Wastelands, Mad Max dessert reality and world in which half of the planet population has no access to drinking water, many countries are under the water and people migrate in millions to find a habitable spaces.

13.How many ways can you think of to find a needle in a haystack? — Business Associate, May 2014

(1) A big magnet, like an huge electromagnetic thing — should work if the needle is made from metal. (2) A lot of people. (3) A lot of time. (4) Burn the haystack to the ground — with a temperature that turns hay into ashes, but not the needle. (5) Nanobots — seek and destroy!. (6) Metal detector and the bigger, the better. (7) Heat the space (room, magazine, wherever the haystack is) a lot and than use thermovision to find the needle (warmer colors). (8) Distribute hay evenly on a surface with micro holes and blow air from below — hay should stay in the air longer. (9) Throw haystack into the big water container — the needle should drop to the bottom faster.

Follow-up: it appears that finding a needle in a haystack requires only 30 working hours of a single person — not as much as I thought.

14.Estimate the number of tennis balls that can fit into a plane. — Intern, December 2015

At first I thought it is about figuring out that it is possible to transport 7 million tennis balls with Boeing Dreamlifter. It is not, I think. It is about finding out if we want to pack those balls just for the sake of fitting as many of them (into the fuel tanks, cockpit, passenger compartments) or do we really want to transport them.

In case of the real transport from A to B the calculation is more complicated than that 7 million balls result. The balls go into packaging, than into boxes, next are packed onto the pallets, pallets are packet into cargo containers and in the end the containers are fitted into the cargo space of an aircraft. There are too many variables and calculations for this article.

15.If you could be remembered for one sentence, what would it be? — Associate Account Strategist Interview, March 2014

In depends is the most common and true answer to most of the questions.

16.If you could only choose one song to play every time you walked into a room for the rest of your life, what would it be? — Associate Account Strategist Interview, March 2014

At first I thought about all the songs I really like, but than… if you hear a song over and over again it starts to be boring. What is more, I understand that the song would be heard for other people in the room, so choosing a very characteristic song can make a lot people angry.

After giving a bit of a though I choose Twist and Shout performed by The Beatles, with my interpretation of lyrics as an invitation for me to dance every time I enter the room.

Also, Tomasz Stańko playing Dialogue — short, jazz, timeless, good for all occasions.

17.How do you think the digital advertising world will change in the next 3 years? — Creative Director, January 2016

Performance marketing will be more regulated. Ad bots will make it harder to judge the return on investment. Ad tech will take care of most campaign planning jobs. People will learn to ignore more and more ad formats. Intrusive ads and dark patterns (like pop-ups, sliding banners) will continue to lower the web experience. Until we stop it (I hope).

More ads will be contextualized, based on content and awareness of user doings (f.e. adtech AI that suggests products and services while someone is using an app, like not only promoted offers on booking but also personalized suggestion just for me based on my budget and previous preferences also inside other apps).

More apps and services will mix their offerings (like Uber inside Foursquare).

Flash banners will be no more at some point. But the lack of Flash will need to be replaced with other rich interactive solutions.

Video will become more ubiquitous in terms of ad formats. It will be more interactive as well. There will be more better tools for marketers to speed up process of creating video formats.

Some of the big web publishers (especially those who implemented a good mobile and content strategy) will invest in their own ad platforms — resulting in better UX, better content, no middle men to share a cake with and more relevant returns on investment.

Digital advertising and smart displays will go into the streets (Out-Off Home Advertising, OOH) similar to LinkNYC.

To sum-up: world will notice the digital advertising as something more than just links and banners; some people will be pissed off by this, some will want to make more money on that. Changes are inevitable and the future is not crystal clear.

Follow-up: I recommend reading What happens next will amaze you by Maciej Cegłowski

18.What three things would you change at your university/work place if you were CEO today? — Account Strategist Interview, April 2014

(1) Clearer vision for distant and near strategy horizons. (2) Information flow improvement between teams. (3) Time (a few hours a week) for each team member to spend on research of any kind.

19.Describe AdWords to a seven-year-old. — Associate Account Strategist Interview, December 2014

Imagine that you want to tell something to your friends. You have a special coloring book. Draw a picture or write a text on a blank page. Write down the names of friends that should see the message. Than those selected friends see your drawing in their coloring books. The books will not notify them (as with mail or sending an SMS). Friends will see your message after opening their coloring books.

20.You have a grocery delivery service (similar to Amazon Fresh) which delivers food within 24 hours. Estimate how many trucks you need to operate this service. — Product Manager, November 2015

Depends on the area of the operations and a volumes of orders as two most important factors.

Within 24 hours means that a truck can drive for 12 hours before it needs to start heading back to the base (place where it is loaded).

Average speed of traffic in the city is 20 km per hour, so a truck can cover a distance of 240 km going away from the base and 240 km going back. If the route is planned in the most optimal manner, we can cover 480 km in 24 hours with one track.

I have checked a length of roads in Kraków (a city where I live, with a population of around 900 000 people) and it equals 1 382 km. To cover that length within 24 hours we need 3 trucks driving at speed of an average traffic.

Of course it is not very convenient to deliver food at 3 AM, so the trucks cannot drive 24 hours a day. Possible deliveries should happen between 6 AM and 10 PM — a 16 hours time span. That requires 1 to 2 additional trucks.

Now, the orders. One order per minute gives 1440 orders per day (24 hours). For the sake of this exercise I will not take into account the maximum loading space of the trucks.

1440 orders per day, handled by 5 trucks gives 288 orders per truck. Going back to 16 hour delivery time span, one truck would have to make 18 deliveries per hour; one delivery every 3 minutes. That is impossible. I think that one delivery takes at least 15 minutes (arrive at a location, park a truck, take groceries, enter apartment building or walk up to the from door, give a delivery, wait for confirmation or payment, return to truck, check the job done). 4 deliveries per hour equals 64 deliveries per tuck per day. 5 trucks would handle 320 orders.

In city like Kraków, to run a 24 hours delivery grocery stores, I would need 5 trucks, until I have more orders more often than 4 minutes and 30 seconds. On average.

There are additional considerations. Some types of food need lower temperatures to prevent rotting and loosing qualities, so the time from packing to delivery should be as short as possible or the tucks should have a cooling storage compartments.

More trucks mean faster deliveries, but also more expensive fleet maintain and management. Too few trucks can result in delivery problems and bad experience of drivers and customers.

Having few more tucks than required gives an opportunity for additional services: like premium priced deliveries with shorter time spans or within selected hours.

Follow-up: a friend of mine suggested me a better answer for that question: one truck, as the business is scalable — you start to have more orders, you buy additional trucks. And that is brilliant! What I did wrong is that I started to think about the answer from the perspective of already operating business. Still, the calculations can be of some value to predict the needs in the future—but that is just me, defending my bad reasoning. 😉

21.How would you explain cloud computing to a 6 year old? — Product Manager, November 2015

Imagine you are doing a huge puzzle (a very complicated one, a lot of grass, forests and blue sky). At some point you have a problem, because you cannot find a next piece. You need help. You shout ‘friends, I need help finding a puzzle’. All of a sudden, through doors and windows ten friends appear and that start helping you to find the next piece. Ten additional eyes are not enough, so after a few seconds next twenty friends appear, than thirty. After a minute you have a next piece! And the next one! When the puzzle is done your friends say ‘bye’ and they return to their homes as fast as they appeared. You did it with a help of you friends, without spending a whole day planning their visit and keeping them all when the puzzle was easy.

22.Tell me what you think about Google charging users $1/month to use GMail. — BOLD Candidate, October 2015

Not a good idea in my opinion. Cost of introducing payments — interface, system to transfer them and transactional fees for card/digital payments would be greater than the income. Also, the free is the ultimate bait for people. Number of users would decrease, especially taken the other free services.

23.How many haircuts do you think happen in America every year? — Business Associate, May 2014

First, let me make some assumptions. USA is a rather well developed country. Most of citizens of America care for their look.

Hairdo is part of that look. A Haircut is not only a matter of look, but also a functional decision. I assume that most people keep their hair choices constant during longer periods of time.

I can grow too long hair in around month or two. So I need a haircut every 2 months to keep my current look —and a usability of my hairdo. It means that I must do a haircut at least 6 times a year.

There are around 380 mln people living in the USA, so if each of them needs at least 6 haircuts a year, we end up with 2 280 000 000 haircuts a year.

Follow-up: 1,25 centimeters is how fast the hair grow, population estimation for 2016 in the USA is 322 mln (58 mln mistake — I need to go through world census soon), you can also that there are 113 haircuts happening each year if you consider haircuts as types (see the list of haircuts — fascinating… not).

24.List six things that make you nervous. — Android Support Level III, July 2014

(1 to 3) People who are not paying attention to others

(4) News about marginal stupidity of governments

(5) Slow internet connection when I need to do something really important (pay something, f.e.)

(6) State of the world in the future (global warming, food and water shortages, war, etc.)

25.Tell me something about you that isn’t on your resume. — Associate Account Strategist Interview, March 2014

I have a son and he is my priority — above everything else.

26.What is the market for driverless cars in the year 2020? — Product Manager, November 2015

I do not think that by that time driverless cars will be abundant means of transport for people all over the world (due to the status a car, and a driver, that those concepts have — due to habit, stereotype and skepticism), but I think that efficiency, reliability and availability of driverless cars will start to be implemented on a bigger scale by companies that deal with logistics (UPS) and transportation (Uber, coaches, city transportation — especially private and closed areas).

Follow-up: just in time news about driverless buses in Dutch collage town.

27.Model raindrops falling on a sidewalk (sidewalk is 1m and raindrops are 1cm). How could we know when the sidewalk is completely wet? — Software Engineer, January 2016

What is the rain rate (two drops per minute or a shower of hundreds)? How randomly drops land and how often to they land on the same spot?

1 meter is 100 centimeters, so we can line 100 raindrops along x and y axis. This will not cover the surface though. To be sure that we have covered the whole 1 meter sidewalk (square tile, I assume) we need at least additional 101 × 101 grid of raindrops (remember the edges) that will be placed between that 100 × 100 grid. To the math and we need at least 20 201 raindrops (minimum!) — after that amount we can hope that the sidewalk is wet. (You need some statistical magic to calculate how often raindrops actually land on the grids — I am not the one.)

Follow-up: you actually need 11 916.7 1 cm circles to fill in (90.92%) 100 cm square, but you need some more to cover the square entirely, so I assume that I was not very wrong with my assumptions.

28.How would I explain the importance of HTML 5 to Larry Page and then to my grandma. — Creative Specialist, January 2016

Larry, listen, HTML5 is all the years of experimentation and usage of the Web encapsulated in a modern specification that can handle complex semantics, rich features of current day devices and accessibility features for disabled. It is compatible retrospectively and independent for all the companies around the world allowing easy and unified from of data and information. This is our common good and responsibility as Web professionals. (Larry probably would not be impressed.)

Grandma, think about when Gutenberg though about the movable type and think about the press — the same rules that allow printed word in a lot of languages around the globe by following few simple and unified rules of how letters look like, how we display words and paragraphs; the rules of punctuation. HTML5 is a set of rules that many languages, software (computer programs) and machines (computer) use to display words, sentences, paragraphs and even data (like numbers with meanings). (My grandma probably would be impressed.)

29.Tell me a joke.
— Executive Assistant Interview, March 2014

(Making Siri impression.) To iPhones walk into a bar… Ha-ha.

30.The best question in my opinion was, they asked me at this stage whether you prefer earning or learning. — Software Engineer, January 2016

Earning at a passition that makes me learn new things all the time. Or earning by teaching.

31.If I gave you 10 million dollars right now, what would you do? — Associate Account Strategist, May 2014

Go to work tomorrow and tell no one. Buy a flat to lower my monthly costs of living. Pay the loan — same reason. Secure parents future for lifetime. Secure future for my son. Invest in my wife’s own business. Invest securely.

32.Define a service that would allow you to travel to the future. — Interaction Designer, December 2015

That would be a travel offering. I would be able to visit future as a viewer using 3D reality. I would not be transferred as a living organism. I would receive broadcast, a glimpse into the future. This would be like going to the cinema, but to see the future. There would be far rules to keep those travel a leisure experience only:

  • 400 years would be a minimum that I can travel (so I do not see any results of forthcoming events in the near future — like for matches end, who is the next president, how companies perform economically),
  • I could visit only random places and never those related to my past (good part is that those places can be outside the Earth, like colonies on other planets),
  • I would never know from what year or place the broadcast comes from or who are the people/creatures starring,
  • there would be limit for broadcast time (f.e. max of 45 minutes) and number of travels per month.

Seems very restrictive, but remember that this is a virtual reality, so although I cannot interact with creatures and objects I can move around freely.

FUTURECAST™ would be the name. Powered by Oculus7. Or Google Glassware XX. Apple iPresence. (Hmm. Should I buy domains for those names already?)

33.Would you remove the link to an extremist piece of writing? — Legal Assistant, December 2015

Yes, I would; or better hide from public, but not from the extremists who posted it.

34.How could you solve humankind’s biggest crisis given one billion dollars and a spacecraft? — Database Administrator, December 2015

If the crisis is caused by a group of people. Find them (that’s the cash part), put them into the spacecraft, launch them into space. In all the other cases both things are not enough to solve humankind’s biggest crisis.

35.You have a colony on Mars that you want to communicate with. How do you build a system to communicate with them? — Associate Product Manager, November 2014

Put at least 5 satellites to orbit the Mars. Additional satellites to compensate different orbiting speed around the Sun — thus a distance between planet vary a lot.

There would be no possibility to communicate 100% live due to a lag from distance. The biggest communication problems would be related to lack of interpersonal communication feedback, limited non verbal signals and no possibility to enter truly personal and private relationship between communicators.

All the communication would be asynchronous — like remote teams working in tech companies today. Think about timezones also.

The best system would be a video cast or even full person holographs that could include recording of surroundings — especially important for work related communication (working on whiteboard, drawing, prototyping).

3D reality could help in creating a better context. F.e. you could feel like you are a part of presentation in a conference room, sitting there and seeing surrounding just as other real life and real time participants. You could also pause at any given time to comment or to give feedback. Like editing a Word document with comments/changes mode turn on, but for video.

For some types of communication a bots, AI and natural language algorithms might of use. For example I am preparing a 20 minutes presentation for my client on Mars. The flow of the presentation is tailored as usually (to sell the idea as clearly and quick as possible), but we all know that there are always some questions — even during the presentation — so I define (no recording is needed, because broadcasting software can mimic my voice, facial expression, etc.) possible follow-up questions and answers, attach additional data and sources. This way a client on Mars can pause my presentation and ask something as needed — on demand, without impacting the basic flow.

To sum up: Slack, Gmail and Basecamp. 😉

Follow-up: there is a Wikipedia page for that and we can learn that there are communication satellites already and the communication lag is 3 to 22 minutes depending on Earth to Mars distance. Many blackouts are possible.

36.How many cars travel across a bridge each day? — Advertising Interview, September 2014

(1) Put camera that can identify plates and count cars. (2) A sensor built into the surface (that detects changes in magnetic field when a car drives over it, or something). (3) A laser or other beam, that whet cut, adds a count. (4) Visit the bridge at 8:30 AM, 1:00 PM, 6:00 PM and 11:00 PM and count cars for 15 minutes on each visit — than calculate how that scales up of the full 24 hours (knowledge about rush hours at a given bridge would be good). (5) Sit someone on the bridge to note every car that crosses the bridge. (6) Login to Google Maps database, check how many times the GPS location of the bridge had been logged, check what percentage of population uses Google Maps and calculate the final estimation. 😉

Also, 99,9% of cars travel from on end to the other of a bridge. Some fall into the river for sure.

37.If you had access to a bank’s database, how would you use that information to design an ATM for elderly people? — Associate Product Manager, February 2015

I think that ATM’s should be designed in a way that satisfies both young and elderly people. What is more, age does not tell us anything about person’s capabilities (comprehension, motor skills, being tech savvy). Still, improvements and changes to UI and user flows can be made to support elderly people.

To be better informed I would check what operations are done by people above 60 yrs (balance check, money withdraw, PIN changes), how often a person accesses the ATM each week, what are the patterns (do they withdraw big sums or small amounts after incoming transfers; on a recurring dates; at the same ATMs or at different locations).

Some basic improvement for users identified as elderly people:

  • matching a common patters of specific people could help in detecting frauds or to secure certain types of transactions;
  • not displaying ads and increasing font can help elders to comprehend the interface better;
  • allowing more time: increasing volume of signals, longer slot highlights.

38.How would you improve a shoe factory? — Field Operations Specialist, November 2014

Allow better customization and on-demand changes to fabrication process based on customer demand. I am sure the good answer is strongly related to what field operation specialists do — probably some factory line automatization and optimizations. Some kind of spells and magic for sure.

39.Design a mobile social app for a chain of local orthodontist offices. — Product Manager, November 2015

First step: visit the orthodontist office. Learn and observe. Plan the following steps.

Probably developing a new app for local orthodontists is not a very lucrative business — especially if the app should be a social one. Maybe simply create Google+ Community, Facebook Group or PHPBB forum?

40.What are the number of new book titles published in the US each year? — Product Manager, November 2015

Questions seems easy as the answer is there as a Wikipedia list. There are few problems, though. It does not include e-books and editions that are not monitored by publishing organizations. Part of the numbers are re-editions — the question is about new titles. Still, I would say that there are around 500 000 new titles introduced a year — and that is a big number and a huge amount of knowledge that gets written down (it is like 6% of Americans published one book a year).

41.How would you solve homelessness in downtown San Francisco? — Product Manager, November 2015

It is a big problem as for the interview, I believe. I do not even think that homelessness can be solved. I do not know the scale in SF. This one I will not even attempt to answer. A big social research would be needed for sure and a cooperation between private companies and local government. The big problems to solve must include: motivating (educating, showing the path, supporting first steps) homeless people to enter a job market, encouraging communities to welcome those who try to start from scratch, enabling people with no place to be to feel like other citizens (access to services and products related to human rights and dignity) and I am no expert, but I heard that property prices are skyrocketing in SF. I think that many homeless people are there because of the lack of opportunities.

Follow-up: There is no app for that


That is it. That was not easy. Also a bit tiring, but worth the time. I am sure that most of the questions have better answers. To some I will come back in the future, because the problems they cover are worth spending a few more thoughts.

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