Failing The Google Coding Interview: A Learning Story

Failing The Google Coding Interview: A Learning Story


4 min read

Motivated by the belief that we learn more from failures than successes, today I'm sharing my personal story about failing the Google Coding interview in late 2021. I believe this ordeal taught me valuable lessons which I later applied to sail through the same interview two years later.

How I got the Google Interview

As a senior year college student with an unremarkable resume boasting merely one internship and a good GPA, I applied to Google online. Google's cozy hiring policies meant that I was called in for an online assessment, the first step in Google's interviewing process. Google Online Assessment helps in weeding out candidates who lack a basic understanding of coding, and in my opinion, works even if its questions and solutions are available online.

While I didn't feel the need to prepare a lot for this preliminary round, its simplicity shouldn't mislead you into underestimating the rest of the process.

Preparing for the Onsite Interview

Post the online assessment, I scheduled my onsite interview a month or two later, to allow for enough preparation. The intensity of the actual tasks took precedence over academics in my final college year, pushing me to focus more on honing my technical skills.

The major part of my preparation involved working on the Blind 75 list of questions, a newly released set back then and now a go-to list for coding enthusiasts. To ensure I grasped the solutions well, I attempted most of these problems twice.

I ended up practicing approximately 50 random LeetCode questions, giving special focus to medium-level problems"

Alongside this list, I built the Blind 75 list and extended it to 150 problems, addressing comprehensive and beginner-friendly issues.

The Google Onsite Interview Experience

The preparatory phase climaxed into an engaging and learning experience in Seattle. The day was composed of task-related discussions interspersed with an office tour, lunch, and access to refreshments.

The activity centered on a meeting room with a large whiteboard where I had five consecutive interview rounds– four codings and one behavioral.

Round 1: The Importance of Understanding The Problem

Starting on a rough note, I messed up the first round, not due to inadequate coding skills but the dismissal of an important tenet of problem-solving, understanding the problem well. My enthusiasm got the better of me and I rushed into the process, failing to cross-check my interpretation of the problem. While this mistake only required a minor modification in the codes, it reflected negatively on my approach.

Round 2: Communication Is Key

Round two taught me the importance of communication. Instead of assuming that the interviewer wanted a complicated solution and taking unnecessary trouble, I should have checked it with the interviewer. An open discussion could have not only saved time but also prevented any miscommunication.

Round 3: Coming Up With The Expected Solution

The third assessment was smooth sailing except for the fact that my solution differed from the one expected by the interviewer. Although my approach was just as efficient, I speculated if this discrepancy cost me some points.

Round 4: Implementing The Optimum Solution

Coming up just short of the target, I could identify but not implement the optimum solution for the fourth problem. The interviewer had to nudge me toward the solution, which I then coded promptly.

Round 5: The Googliness Round

Lastly, the half-hour-long behavioral round was a relaxing session that tested basic interpersonal skills and compatibility with the work environment. Owing to a misunderstanding, the interviewer almost began with a coding problem but was quick to adapt once notified about the intended behavioral discussion.

The interviewing process wrapped up with a farewell and a trip back home filled with apprehensions about my performance.

The Learning

Three weeks later, the fear did manifest into a rejection email, leading to a phase of regret and self-blame. Reflecting on the blunders of misinterpreting problems and complicating solutions, I wondered if potential corrections could have led to selection.

On the brighter side, this experience ended by teaching me some invaluable lessons in problem-solving, communication, and patience.