I've been a full time programmer for some five years now. I've never had a programming test in an interview, and I've worked for three small mobile game dev companies. I've always felt competent at my work. Now I'm about to be interviewed by Google, and the mock interviews I've done online have shown me that the thing I thought I would be showing off in the interview -- my ability to communicate and work with team members while writing competent code -- and my ability to think about how ideas become cohesive products -- is not going to get me past the phone interview.

In one recent mock interview online, I had 30 minutes with my interviewer. I spent the time doing a solid analysis of the first problem he gave me, developing a repartee with him and describing my thought process. I thought I did well. But was flabbergasted to discover that he felt I had botched it because I had only solved the problem he gave me, and spent the entire 30 minutes on what he considered a medium, 10 minute problem.

Should I continue getting ready to show how communicative I should be, or should I focus on burning through problems as on a quiz in these phone interviews?

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    it really depends on exactly what that specific interviewer wants to see usually somewhere in the middle is good. Communicate effectively, but don't beat a dead horse. Once its been explained, move on. Don't keep explaining it. Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 14:58
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    I don't think there's a general answer to this. You need to judge how much time to spend on each problem based on how complex it is. It's a trade-off between communication and actually solving the problem, and doing so in a reasonable timeframe. Showing off your communication skills should form a natural part of the answer - if you go out of your way to try to show how communicative you can be, you're probably doing it wrong. Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 16:38
  • Part of communication is understanding the audience and tailoring your responses appropriately. Offer to go deeper on just about everything, but defer to the interviewer. That is, provide a summary of your thinking, get to the answer, and ask if they would like more detail on any part.
    – Peter
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 18:55
  • Have you tried to look for videos where people answer example questions? If you're not sure how much you should focus on what, those might be the most helpful. Reading general / Google-specific tech interview prep material should also be helpful, if you haven't read much of that. Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 20:05

4 Answers 4


It'll take about 20 seconds out of your allotted time to ask up front.

Do you want me to hack this out on my own, or are you ok with us discussing the approach and solution that I'm thinking of?

That gives the interviewer the choice as to whether to sit there picking his nails while you work, or for you to demonstrate your communication and analysis skills.

The ball is then in his court and he won't be able to complain about your methodology.

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    This works, so long as the interviewer is willing to tell them, but it seems like OP is worried that he/she's just not good enough at solving problems quickly, and if they can't solve x problems within the timeframe, then it doesn't matter whether he knows how to make a "cohesive product", whatever that means.
    – Catlard
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 15:19
  • In the case of top tech companies, most tech interview preparation material (including those supplied by the companies themselves) are pretty clear about how to approach these problems (give a brief overview of an approach first and then code while explaining, at least for algorithm problems). Asking this question would likely show a lack of preparation, and might also put the interviewer in an awkward position, since neither of those options are entirely correct. Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 18:46

Seems like you're worried that you won't be able to solve problems fast enough. My only advice is to keep practicing, you'll get there. Interviewing is a very specific (and weird) skill. Even if you don't solve enough problems in this interview and don't make it to the next round, doesn't mean that you won't find another job later. Keep trying!


Chances are Google knows people search for interview preps at their company knowing that it is competitive and intensive. They know you will google what they ask and what they're looking for in a interview in hopes to get the upper edge.

With that in mind, they'll probably dig into a lot of areas. They'll probably do a multi stage interview with a test, problem solving, and general questioning. It's impossible to say really, without going through the process ourselves. Be prepared for anything but most importantly relax, and be yourself. Good luck.


you need to burn through the questions.

don't worry about your communication skills, google test for that on the in person interview.

But to even have a shot at getting there, you need to know your algos back and front, and you need to do them fast as jam.

in the in person, again, algos back and front, and do them fast. your communication skills will have a 30-40 time to shine, but, in case you missed it, know your algos back and front and know them fast as jam

Reference - you need to trust me on this one. Alternatively, you can read any of the hundreds of books/articles/blogs about the google interview. Just... know your algos.

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    Some sort of back up references here would greatly improve this answer. Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 16:31
  • I agree with needing to know your algorithms very well and being able to figure them out and write them quickly, but Google expects decent communication during phone interviews as well (speaking as someone who's worked there). Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 17:16
  • @Duke sure. but OP sounds like they're failing the algos outright. no amount of comms is going to get them through if they fail the algo part.
    – bharal
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 18:46
  • @bharal If doing things slowly is failing them, then this is the problem. But it seems odd that speed should count for so much. Some of the best programmers I know are slow.
    – Catlard
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 18:54
  • @Catlard Well, you have to admit - these "slow" programmers you know would, naturally, be better if they were faster.
    – bharal
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 19:04

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