Are you smart enough to work at Google?

‘Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?’, a book written by American author William Poundstone, claims to have cracked the code of acing an interview at Google and other technology firms. We find out if the book is worth a read

Published: 15th October 2012 12:21 PM  |   Last Updated: 15th October 2012 12:21 PM   |  A+A-


Can you swim faster in water or syrup? How would you weigh your head? Why are manhole covers round?

Wondering what we’re talking about? These are a few of the bizarre and vague questions a candidate may face during their interview with Google, according to the latest book written by American author William Poundstone. Titled ‘Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google’, the book discusses several brain teasers, riddles, questions, puzzles, that are used by actual Google interviewers to filter out the nerds from the herd. Being recruited by Google has over the years attained the distinction of being huge accomplishment in one’s merit list, as the procedure is one that picks at your brain and requires a sharp presence of mind. This makes the book a subject of interest as the prospect of a ‘tell-all’ guide that guarantees pleasing results in something everyone will want a leaf of.

But, the real question does remain: will the book really help?

Opines a Google employee from the city, on the condition of anonymity, “The recruitment process at the company is really long and they take a good amount of time to decide if the prospective candidate is good enough. So, I don’t know if this book will actually help anyone get through the interview at any technology company because recruiters will definitely be aware of such a book and will avoid using the same kind of questions.”

So what kind of questions are actually asked? “We are not in a position to reveal the questions. But, I know that such books will not provide a free entry into Google,” was the prompt reply. 

Agreeing that such books aren’t the answer to the predicament, A Siddharth, an operations manager from a technology company in the city also doesn’t place much importance on Poundstone’s literature.”When I used to go for interviews, I would refer to all sorts of books and websites so that I could ace them. But, that didn’t actually help,” he rues, adding, “And, now that I am on the other side of the table taking interviews, I know how to play around with my questions and select the right candidate. Interviewers are smart enough to gauge the candidate’s aptitude and realise if they are being bookish in their answers. So, no book can actually guarantee a job.”

While some seem to completely discard the option of reading such a book, Pradeep Irwin, a senior specialist at a finance-based MNC in the city, believes that it can make a good reference guide, if not guarantee a job. “I myself ask a lot of riddles and puzzles when I interview a candidate. The idea is to understand the thinking process of the candidate, rather than looking for one particular right answer. Since the book provides answers to the various riddles and puzzles one can perhaps face, it makes a good reference, and also a good read. But ultimately, people who think out-of-the-box are the ones who stand out and they don’t need a book to help them.”

Vishnu Mamidipudi, who recently faced the Google interviewers but could not make it through after the second round of interview, says, “I was faced with questions like ‘Why are manhole covers round, what angle does the clock make at particular times of the day, and on an empty stomach how many sweets would one eat for it not to be empty. These questions are logical and anyone who has analytical abilities should be able to answer the question. In my case, I was not prepared and perhaps reading a book with puzzles and brain-teasers would’ve helped me. So, to an extent, the book will give people an idea, and even practice of how to solve riddles and brain-teasers.”

On the same lines, another HR executive from the city, N Manasa, believes that such a book will definitely make an ideal read since most interviews consist of logical questions to test one’s aptitude. “A book that is on the lines of an interview will definitely make a good read and help people understand the interview process better,” she opines.

Ultimately, whether or not Poundstone's book is a trump card for you to get into Google, or anywhere else, the brain-teasers and puzzles should, at the least tickle your grey cells.



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