Google’s Toughest Interview Questions. Can You Answer Them?
While interviewing for jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area, I was confronted with a slew of quirky questions from companies that claimed to be doing things differently. Some were as trivial as "What's your spirit animal?" while others were more thoughtful though no less unusual, for example, "Describe the color yellow to someone who couldn't see."
These were, of course, planted in between more practical questions. The point is to see how you respond to curve balls. Do you panic? Do you assume? While they may seem random, they provide your prospective employers with a glimpse of your problem solving skills.
Now, Google is a company that has an actual record of doing things differently since their inception so we'll let them slide with their difficult interview questions. Some are old riddles while others are centered on your behavior.
Please note that the examples given below are listed as Google interview questions on many sites but a few sources have debunked them, arguing that they have never really been used (or have been and are now banned). These sources, however, did agree with the fact that the company's interview questions were usually "hard and often academic," more extreme than others. Other sources say that big companies are now abandoning these brain teasers because they aren't good indicators of job performance.
Memorizing the answers won't get you the job but you might want to prepare yourself for left field scenarios, ones you've never had to think about before, just in case.
"Why are manhole covers round?"
First of all, manholes are those small openings on city streets that lead to a sewer, and their covers are round so that they don't fall into a manhole. If the covers were another shape, there's a small chance it could fall in diagonally, which of course isn't very safe.
"A man pushed his car to a hotel and lost his fortune. What happened?"
This is when playing games really pays off. In Monopoly, if you have a car and place it on someone else's property, it will cost you some money, in some cases, everything you've got.
"How many piano tuners are the entire world?"
Familiar with Fermi questions? Fermi questions are estimation problems commonly used in physics or engineering. This question is a perfect example, and it has already been addressed on Wikipedia in the context of Chicago:
"For example, we might make the following assumptions:
- There are approximately 9,000,000 people living in Chicago.
- On average, there are two persons in each household in Chicago. 3, Roughly one household in twenty has a piano that is tuned regularly.
- Pianos that are tuned regularly are tuned on average about once per year.
- It takes a piano tuner about two hours to tune a piano, including travel time.
- Each piano tuner works eight hours in a day, five days in a week, and 50 weeks in a year.
- From these assumptions, we can compute that the number of piano tunings in a single year in Chicago is
(9,000,000 persons in Chicago) ÷ (2 persons/household) × (1 piano/20 households) × (1 piano tuning per piano per year) = 225,000 piano tunings per year in Chicago.
We can similarly calculate that the average piano tuner performs
(50 weeks/year) × (5 days/week) × (8 hours/day) ÷ (2 hours to tune a piano) = 1000 piano tunings per year.
(225,000 piano tunings per year in Chicago) ÷ (1000 piano tunings per year per piano tuner) = 225 piano tuners in Chicago.
The actual number of piano tuners in Chicago is about 290."
Unravel / YouTube
"You are shrunk down to the size of a pencil and dropped into a blender, what do you do?"
As stressful as these questions are, interviewers aren't looking for a perfect answer. In this case, you might want to provide a few different strategies. They're not just looking at what you say, but how you say it.
According to LinkedIn, the technically correct answer would be "I'd be able to jump out." This would require you to know the relationship between mass and density. If you don't, however, it isn't a deal breaker. You can provide other answers as long as it shows you were trying to problem solve.
"Explain the significance of 'dead beef?'"
If you're asked this question, they aren't referring to dinner. Most computer engineers/coders will know that DEADBEEF is a hexadecimal value used for debugging in the past. The pattern was used to mark newly allocated areas of memory
"How many times a day do the hands on a clock overlap?"
To be specific, we're talking about the time between midnight today and midnight tomorrow. The minute hand will hit the hour hand 22 times due to relative speed, so that's our answer.
"Design an evacuation plan for the city of San Francisco."
There's probably a thorough answer to this from the city itself but that's not what the interviewers are looking for. They want to see how comprehensive you can be. For example, are you thinking about how differently people will react and how to deal with them? How will you conduct traffic? What methods of transportation should be used to help the most people?
"You are the captain of a pirate ship and your pirates will vote on splitting the booty. You will make a recommendation and if fewer than half the pirates agree with you, you die. How do you split it up to ensure a good share while surviving the vote?"
There are some good answers floating around for this one, and perhaps you've come up with a few yourself.
On Quora, Ryan Lackey suggested to distribute the gold evenly without any for yourself, but only if there isn't a hierarchy among the other pirates.
Another possibility is splitting the gold between the top 51 percent of the pirates if there is a hierarchy.
Not satisfied with those answers? Some suggest dividing the pirates in two groups so they could decide on their own solutions collectively. That way, half of them will have already agreed on one thing.
"How many golf balls can fit on a school bus?"
This is kind of like asking how many hairs are on your body, isn't it? There will be some people who can provide eloquent and technically correct responses to this. Don't beat yourself up if you can't. Just be thoughtful creative.
For the record, some estimate the correct answer to be about 500,000-800,000+ golf balls. Remember that about 25% of the school bus is reserved for seating.
"How much would you charge to wash every window in Seattle?"
This question was rumored to be used not just at Google but at Facebook as well. If you have a math brain that computes at record breaking speeds or just love variables, that's great! You can answer this question easily. If not, you can estimate the number of windows based on the population and produce a simple, sensible answer such as "$10 (or some other amount) per window)." It doesn't even have to be close to the "right" answer. It matters how you present it and how you arrive to it.
Michael Patrick / News Sentinel