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Chapter 10: “Non-Google” Interviews – The Complete Guide to Google Interview Preparation

This is the last chapter of our The Complete Guide to Google Interview Preparation series.

If you keep following our blogs, I hope you are quite clear about how to prepare for a Google interview. Many people may ask if this guide also works for non-Google interviews as well. This is the whole point of this chapter.

The short answer is yes, you can use this guide to prepare interviews for most top companies like Facebook, Uber, Airbnb and so on. This is exactly the reason that you see some folks just got offers from all those companies.

In this chapter, I’m going to discuss non-Google interview styles, preparation “shortcut” and how to prepare specifically for one company.

 

Surprisingly Similar

If you have interviewed with a number of companies, you’ll notice how similar the interview processes are. What’s more, same questions can be asked by different companies.

In hindsight, this makes a lot of sense. Companies are trying to invent accurate and efficient system to evaluate software engineers. At this point, the most widely adopted approach is general coding interview plus system design interview. This mechanism allows companies to get maximum information about a candidate within a single day.

Of course, a much better way is to temporarily hire the candidate for three months and make the hiring decision after that. However, no company can afford this.

As that being said, due to various constraints, the “Google style interview” is the optimal solution so far.

This is a good news for candidates. You can absolutely spend half a year preparing interviews and it just works for most companies automatically.

 

Solid Foundation

This is the last time for me to emphasize computer science foundation in this guide. Having similar interview processes means a solid foundation is more important than ever.

A completely wrong strategy is to jump into coding questions on day one. What’s more, they would go to Glassdoor to find recently asked questions by company XYZ and prepare for it. Without a good grasp of computer science foundation, this approach is really focused on the least important thing. The even worse thing is not only this won’t work for that particular company, it just wastes your time for all companies.

On the flip side, if you start focusing on the foundation at the very beginning, you’ll be in a good position no matter which company you are preparing for. This compound effect can’t be more important.

 

Play The Long Game

I don’t want you to have the feeling that our posts can give you tricks that immediately boost your chance with no effort. Instead, I encourage everyone to play the long game.

Start your preparation as early as possible and take the whole process as a way to improve yourself rather than passing an exam. As I mentioned in the very beginning, if you have only a week left, this guide is not for you. I’m focused on helping people who can work consistently towards goals and don’t rush for immediate gratification.

This strategy resonates with all the tips we provide. If you have at least a couple months left, go build something. Working on a project is the best way to improve your technical skills and you’ll find it rewarding in both coding and system design interviews (especially the latter).

It’s a toxic mindset to always look for shortcuts. If there is any shortcut, the shortcut is to work consistently.

 

Company-specific Preparation

Companies may still have some specific type of interviews. One example is that Amazon usually has a coding test as the first round of interview. My advice is very simple – don’t worry about this too early.

I would suggest people still follow their initial preparation plan. Focusing on foundation and practicing coding questions are always needed. You won’t be able to pass the online coding test without a good grasp of basic data structures and algorithms.

Right before your interview (maybe one week in advance), you can do some company-specific preparation. Glassdoor is highly recommended and you can find tons of questions that are asked by your target company recently. In other words, you should do this at the very last step of your preparation and more often than not, you’ll find little difference between companies.

This is exactly the reason that when people ask me how to prepare for Amazon’s online test, I would suggest them just do whatever you need to do and in essence, there’s no difference at all.

It’s worth noting that some startups have very difference interview style and this tip doesn’t apply for it. For instance, many startups would give candidates a real project and would expect them to finish over a weekend or within hours. If you have been working on many real projects, this shouldn’t be hard for you.

 

Summary

If there’s one takeaway I’d like you to get, it must be focusing on the “root”. Most people tend to be short sighted and spend most of the time working on the “leaves”. Without a solid foundation, you might be able to solve one problem by chance, but you can never solve all of them.

I’m glad that many people are telling me they found the guide useful and has helped them land their dream jobs. If you have further questions, feel free to drop me an email or comment on the blog.

The post is written by Gainlo - a platform that allows you to have mock interviews with employees from Google, Amazon etc..

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