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How Google Hires Only the Best Software Engineers — Understanding the Nuances of Google Tech Interviews

Last updated on: 
September 6, 2023
Ashwin Ramachandran
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About The Author!
Ashwin Ramachandran
Ashwin Ramachandran
Head of engineering at Interview Kickstart. Playing in the field of technology with the tools of Java for more than a decade. A mind full of innovative ideas and curiosity for exploring data.

Google software engineer interviews are not easy to get through, and the reason is simple — Google only hires the best people for any given role in the company. Hiring the best talent is one of the key reasons Google is a leader in the tech industry. Although thousands of software engineers aspire to be hired by Google, most are rejected. The key to getting through Google’s hiring process is understanding how Google hires top talent and how to prepare for Google interviews.

If you are preparing for a tech interview, check out our technical interview checklist, interview questions page, and salary negotiation ebook to get interview-ready! Also, read Google Interview Guide and Google Interview Questions for specific insights and guidance on Google tech interviews.

Having trained over 9,000 software engineers, we know what it takes to crack the most challenging tech interviews. Since 2014, Interview Kickstart alums have landed lucrative offers from FAANG and Tier-1 tech companies, with an average salary hike of 49%. The highest ever offer received by an IK alum is a whopping $933,000!

At IK, you get the unique opportunity to learn from expert instructors who are hiring managers and tech leads at Google, Facebook, Apple, and other top Silicon Valley tech companies.

Want to nail your next tech interview? Sign up for our FREE Webinar.

In this article, we bring you insider knowledge on how Google hires the best people for software engineering roles at all levels. 

We will cover: 

Google’s Unique Interview Process for Software Engineers

When you think of how to prepare for Google’s software engineer interviews, you focus on understanding the company’s hiring process and answering specific Google interview questions. 

However, just knowing Google’s on-site interview process and studying algorithms and data structures are not enough to prepare yourself for a Google interview. Thousands of applicants spend months and years preparing and utilizing as many resources as possible. Yet, only a handful get shortlisted and eventually hired.

With thousands of qualified and well-prepared applicants attending interviews at Google regularly, how does Google find and hire only the best people for the job? 

How does Google ensure they find skilled software engineers who are a perfect cultural fit with the ability to contribute to the company’s long-term success?

We give you a behind-the-scenes look at some of Google’s unique hiring methods and strategies used to identify and hire top talent. Understanding the nuances of Google’s hiring process will give you great insights on how to prepare for a Google software engineer interview to get hired and land a great offer.

Google On-site Interviews Are Structured

Google’s on-site interviews include coding interviews, system design interviews, and behavioral interviews.

At Google, employees are expected to deal with ambiguity, working on different projects, new ideas, and with different people. Jobs can be undefined and unstructured. Structured interviews help find candidates that are a good fit for this type of work culture as they help predict behaviors and personality traits based on candidates’ experiences.

Behavioral and situational interview questions focus on getting candidates to describe how they behaved or would behave in specific situations and circumstances. These questions follow the format “Tell me about a time when you…” or “Describe how you handled xyz situation” or “What would you do in xyz situation.” Responses are assessed for specific personality traits.

Google Interviews Assess Cultural Fit or “Googleyness”

Google interviewers are adept at discerning a candidate’s personality traits based on their answers to cultural questions. At Google, cultural fit is based on “Googleyness,” a set of personality traits derived from Google’s motto “Do the right thing”; employees are expected to possess the right interpersonal values and attributes to be a successful Google employee. To be hired at Google, candidates must meet these behavioral criteria. 

At Google, it’s not only about hiring skilled employees but hiring the right employees. It is not uncommon for candidates to perform very well at Google’s on-site interviews and Google’s system design interviews and then be rejected for not being a good cultural fit. Unlike most tech companies that focus only on skills required to perform particular tasks, Google expends considerable effort in identifying candidates that stand out from the crowd and can deliver unique value to the company. 

Google Interviews Focus on Cognitive Abilities

Google doesn’t look at behavioral and cultural assessments as separate parameters. Instead, Google considers these aspects in tandem with candidates’ cognitive abilities. In Google’s fast-paced environment, only employees who can work in ambiguous circumstances are considered to have the ability to perform well and add value to the company.

As per Google’s website, General Cognitive Ability (GCA) assessments consist of open-ended questions, which don’t have a specific correct answer. You are assessed based on your problem-solving approach and response to these questions.  

You can expect such open-ended questions during your Google system design interview in which real-world problems are presented to candidates.

Google Software Engineering Interviews Focus on Hiring for the Long Term

At Google, it may not be obvious, but while you’re being assessed for a short-term hiring requirement, you will be simultaneously assessed on your potential as a long-term employee. 

Google looks for software engineers that can contribute to the company’s long-term growth. In addition to their current tech capabilities, Google assesses whether candidates have the skills to take on new challenges and learn new skills to help the company stay competitive and progress. 

Google’s On-site Interviews Can Be Unpredictable

You may have studied all about how many rounds Google software engineering interviews comprise. You may also have broken it down to how long different rounds of Google software engineering interviews last and the types of software engineering interview questions they ask.

However, the hiring committee at Google tends to add an element of uncertainty while conducting interviews. For example, phone screen interviews may not be conducted at the scheduled time. This could throw some candidates off, but the best candidates are those who can perform effectively even in the face of uncertainty. 

Interviewers at Google’s on-site interviews may deliberately ask questions that are obviously unrelated or based on incorrect information about you. Or, interviewers may repeat interview questions despite receiving a suitable answer. Your responses to these frustrating situations are assessed to understand how you deal with real-time challenges.

In short, Google tends to keep their interviewing and hiring process unpredictable. This helps the company identify candidates with exceptional expertise and the ability to adapt and function in new or challenging circumstances.

Google Software Engineering Interview Candidates Are Scored Based on Hiring Rubrics 

Google uses hiring rubrics to score interview candidates. By maintaining consistency in assessments and eliminating subjectivity, Google can compare candidates to identify the best software engineer for the job.

Different candidates answer similar questions in different ways. The goal of Google’s on-site interviewers is to uncover and discover the best talent for the job. This is achieved by providing candidates with a conducive interviewing experience that enables them to showcase their best traits and skills. 

Contrary to popular belief, Google’s interview questions are not always difficult. However, Google will assess candidates quite stringently based on the brilliance of their responses. 

Google’s hiring rubrics list qualities or attributes a candidate is assessed on. For each attribute, interviewers mark candidate responses as:

  • Poor
  • Mixed
  • Good
  • Excellent

Google interviewers also note reasons why candidates were assessed as such. Google’s hiring committee then verifies whether candidates were properly evaluated, assigns an average score to each candidate, and identifies:

  • Excellent candidates
  • Above-average candidates
  • Average candidates 
  • Below-average candidates

Using rubrics helps interviewers quantify and compare different responses fairly. Only those who stand out among the competition are considered potential hires. 

Google Software Engineer Interviews Are Conducted by Different Types of Interviewers

At Google, unlike most other tech companies, candidates are not interviewed by their potential managers alone. At a Google on-site interview, you can be assessed by potential subordinate employees and cross-functional team members as well.

Google looks for candidates who can lead by ensuring they are not just technically skilled but also the right fit for the role and the team they will be working with or leading. 

  • Subordinate employees assess whether they will be able to work with a potential managerial candidate. 
  • Cross-functional team members provide an objective assessment of candidates. 

This collective manner of assessment gives Google a refined hiring outcome. 

Devising customized hiring processes to identify and hire top talent is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. However, investing in and focusing on specialized hiring strategies is a key reason Google attracts and hires the best people. 

To ensure candidates are unable to game the system, Google also expends considerable resources toward ensuring their hiring systems are constantly revised. Few companies have the ability to refine their hiring systems to the extent Google does, giving the tech giant a strong competitive hiring edge and its pick of the best talent in the software engineering job market. 

We hope these insights help you prepare better for the Google software engineer interview. Also, read Google Interview Guide to get a deeper understanding of the interview process.

All the best!

FAQs on How Google Hires the Best Software Engineers

Q1. How does Google hire the best software engineers?

Google software engineer interviews are specifically designed and constantly refined to identify and hire the best people at all levels. Google on-site interviews comprise various rounds of coding interviews that test technical skills. 

The Google system design interview and behavioral interview are used to identify and hire senior software engineers at higher levels. These interviews focus on assessing candidates for a combination of interpersonal, cognitive, and technical skills.

Q2. How hard is it to get through Google’s software engineer interview and get hired?

As a leading global tech company, Google receives thousands of applications every month. Besides the intense competition, Google’s software engineering interview process is very stringent. Google employs unique hiring techniques to identify and hire only the best talent. 

To get hired at Google, candidates have to not only be highly technically skilled but also have the right set of interpersonal skills and personality traits to fit with the company’s unique culture. Very few candidates possess the complete set of specific skills necessary to land an offer at Google.

Q3. What are Google GCA questions in the Google Software Engineer Interview Process?

GCA refers to General Cognitive Ability, a key area of assessment at a Google software engineer interview. Candidates are assessed on their problem-solving approach and ability to learn new skills. 

A sample Google GCA question is “Describe how you solved a challenging problem using an innovative solution” or “How would you achieve success as a leader of XYZ team at Google?” Google GCA questions can be based on the company, business or markets, or general problem-solving skills.

Q4 How do Google’s on-site interviews assess software engineering candidates?

At Google’s on-site interviews, candidates will interact with different Google employees. This includes multiple rounds of interactions with potential managers, peers, subordinates, and cross-functional team members. 

Candidates will be assessed on technical skills, behavioral and cultural competencies, and leadership and cognitive abilities. Interviewers note their observations and recommendations about hiring candidates. Their packets are subsequently reviewed by a hiring committee, which chooses the best candidate through consensus. 

Q5 How long after a Google software engineer interview is a candidate hired?

The hiring committee at Google reviews each interviewer’s assessment of candidates. It can take between 2-6 months to reach a decision. 

Despite being an expensive and time-consuming process, Google ensures they maintain high qualifying standards to hire only those who satisfy all its varied hiring criteria.

How to Prepare for a Google Interview, Get Hired, and Land a Great Offer!

To prepare for a Google software engineer interview, you will have to prepare for various rounds of coding interviews. This requires thorough knowledge and preparation on various computer science fundamentals such as algorithms and data structures.

For high-level or senior software engineering roles, you will also have to prepare for the Google system designs and behavioral interviews. This will test your problem-solving and interpersonal skills.

One of the best ways to prepare for interviews at Google is to understand the company’s hiring process in as nuanced a way as possible. Mock interviews are the most effective way to prepare and ensure you nail your Google interview to land a great offer and get hired.

At Interview Kickstart, we offer interview preparation courses designed by our team of instructors, comprising actual hiring managers and tech leads from Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and other leading tech companies.

As pioneers of technical interview prep programs, we have garnered great insider knowledge on how top tech companies like Google interview and hire software engineers. This includes what Google interviewers look for in candidates and the various hiring strategies and methods they adopt to compare and pick the best people. 

Register for our free webinar to learn all about how you can uplevel to get hired by top tech companies like Google.

Posted on 
January 21, 2022

Ashwin Ramachandran

Head of Engineering @ Interview Kickstart. Enjoys cutting through the noise and finding patterns.

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