“We live in an age of desperation. Never in living memory has the competition for job openings been more intense. Never have job interviews been tougher.”
So says William Poundstone, author of the book Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?
If you work in, or have worked in, investment banking, you may consider yourself in a different career cohort to employees at Google. However, in doing so, you may be missing a trick: Google hired 8,100 people last year, while investment banks laid off considerably more than that number.
While bankers are having their perks rescinded, Google also remains replete with niceties. Its employees get an annual ski trip, $500 for take-out meals after childbirth and one day a week to devote to a project entirely of their own choosing.
Getting into Google is far from straightforward, however. Before you come anywhere even close to getting hired, Poundstone says the company will have assembled a 40 to 50 page "package" on you, including academics, blog postings and things you’ve said on social networks.
If you actually make it to a Google interview, Poundstone says you will have five interviews in one day with five different interviewers, each of whom will grade you from one to four based on employability. Google interviewers are deliberately impassive, says Poundstone: it’s impossible to work out whether they like you or not. They will ask you to engage in "work sampling": to produce a sample of the work you’d be doing. They will also ask you classic “Google Riddles.”
What are these riddles? Courtesy of Poundstone, we’ve added them below. Not all have definitive answers. Only one (“describe a chicken”) demands a computer background. Poundstone says they’ve all been adopted by other knowledge companies (some of these have been featured in our previous examples of questions asked by banks). Read them. Suggest some answers (via the comments function), and let us know whether you’re ready to leave banking for the technology sector.
1. Design an evacuation plan for San Francisco.
2. Imagine a country where all the parents want to have a boy. Every family keeps having children until they have a boy; then they stop. What is the proportion of boys to girls in the country?
3. On a deserted highway, the probability of observing a car during a 30-minute period is 95 percent. What is the chance of observing a car in a 10-minute period?
4. You have a choice of two wagers. In one, you’re given a basketball and have one chance to sink it for $1,000. In the second, you have to make two out of three shots, for the same $1,000. Which do you prefer?
5. Use a programming language to describe a chicken.
6. There’s a staircase and you’re allowed to ascend one or two steps at a time. How many ways are there to reach the Nth step?
7. You have N companies and want to merge them into one big company. How many different ways are there to do this?
8. What is the most beautiful equation you have ever seen? Explain.