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Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?: Trick Questions, Zen-like Riddles, Insanely Difficult Puzzles, and Other Devious Interviewing Techniques You ... Know to Get a Job Anywhere in the New Economy Hardcover – January 4, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


"Serious ammunition to pack for your next job interview."—Kirkus

"Poundstone offers strategies for making the best of nerve-racking situations, decoding interviewer's hidden agendas, and salvaging a doomed interview, in a solid treatment peppered with mind-bending puzzles. Poundstone's energetic, compelling writing...makes the book fun even for nonjob seekers."—Publishers Weekly

"A neat little manifesto on interview technique...Touring through a huge number of puzzles, he provides a truly exhaustive account of all the factors you're meant to consider when thinking your way through the solutions. Tackling [them] is incredibly gratifying, when you're not withering under the baleful eye of a potential employer."—New Scientist Culture Lab

"For those in the job market, Poundstone provides a handy survey of killer questions and how to answer them. For others, he offers the challenge of matching wits with people at America's most innovative companies. As for employers, he presents a timely warning about creative thinking and why job interviews don't work...The format affords Poundstone room to display his scientific knowledge, mathematical fluency and knack for explaining the arcane in playfully precise sentences."—Bloomberg Businessweek

About the Author

William Poundstone is the author of twelve books, including How Would You Move Mount Fuji? and Fortune's Formula, which was Amazon Editors' pick for the #1 nonfiction book of the year in 2005. He has written for the New York Times, Harper's, Harvard Business Review, and the Village Voice, among other publications. He lives in Los Angeles.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (January 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031609997X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316099974
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #226,208 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

William Poundstone is the author of two previous Hill and Wang books: Fortune's Formula and Gaming the Vote.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

332 of 369 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Y. Galloway on January 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover
As someone who did many phone and onsite interviews at Google, served on a Google Hiring Committee for several years, and even developed a general interview style/format for an Engineering subgroup, I have to say that this book would be worse than useless for someone trying to get hired by Google, at least on the Engineering side. This is based on browsing through the available pages online here.

At least since 2003, Google Engineering does not ask puzzle/riddle questions in interviews. In fact, we're specifically told not to ask such questions. And any Hiring Committee worth its salt would, when given feedback from an interviewer indicating they'd asked such questions, at the very least email/talk to the interviewer and tell them not to do it again, and if a substantial part of the interview had been such questions, would throw out the interview feedback.

Heck, the author didn't even fact check the list of Google perks given early on; the hybrid car rebate was eliminated several years ago, and the mass ski trips came to an end when the company got too big.

If you're smart enough to work at Google, ignore this book completely and search the web or your professional network for accounts of the interview process by people who've actually worked at and done interviews for Google.
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Dave F on May 31, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really wish this book didn't have the tantalizing (and very misleading) title. It's basically a book of brain teasers that are very loosely associated with Google or other tech firms. As background: I *did* read the entire book and have also interviewed at many tech firms and startups for Software Engineering positions. Including navigating through many difficult interviews at Google to receive an offer from them and speaking with *many* fellow engineers who have also interviewed at Google. So this review is from the perspective of software engineering, not sales or the many other (important) positions that exist at Google but aren't at the core of its business.

With an interview at Google imminent, I purchased the Kindle edition of the book on a whim to help study. It mostly plays on myths of what the interview questions are like at Google, i.e. "Trick Questions, Zen-like Riddles, Insanely Difficult Puzzles, and Other Devious Interviewing Techniques..." Unfortunately if you use this as a study guide for a Software Engineering position, it's going to waste your time. Let me say that again in another way: this book will not help to prepare you for a Software Engineering interview at Google. In fact it might be detrimental because you'll spend valuable time and brain cycles working out the (fun!) brain teasers in this book rather than brushing up on the algorithms and CS fundamentals that are so much more important.

(As an aside: I will say that despite the ban on brain teasers at Google, I *was* asked a brain teaser on one of my last interviews. Out of 8 interviews and well over 20 problems, it was only 1, though. And it isn't in the book.)

Read this book if you want to read fun brain teasers and work through challenging problems.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Baze on August 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I don't know what this author's thinking, but Google (and similar companies- Goldman Sachs, Yahoo!, Apple, Microsoft, Cisco, etc.) don't really ask such questions. This sounds more like very specialized boutique firms or even graduate programs.. maybe even start-up company interviews. I know from my friends at Google (where I've interviewed) that their questions were really straightforward, and required much knowledge about yourself, your practice/discipline, and the company. As some reviewers already noted, some of these companies aren't even allowed to ask such questions.

In fact, for one of my computer programmer friends, the interview went really... casually. Her situation was probably a break from the norm, of course, but these questions and puzzles were just absurd, in her (and my) opinion.

Nevertheless, the book is well written and very accessible. The author starts off the book with almost a prose-like style of writing, and hooks you in from the very beginning. He even sounds really believable! If only his premise were true, I'd give this book a solid 5 stars.

The ideas presented are worth thinking about and trying to solve in your spare time. Who knows- you might even become brighter from working through them. They're really fun, challenging, and entertaining. However, they are not representative of the real interviews that prospective employees endure.

Bottom line- buy it, I guess, if you enjoy puzzles. However, you can find much better (and resourceful) puzzle books out there.

Hope this helps. Comment if you have any questions!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By ServantofGod on August 20, 2012
Format: Paperback
First of all, thanks to all those reviewers who informed us that Google does not ask questions like those in this book at all. Ironically, this book would not have drawn a high level of attention without such an eye catching title. No matter what, I like the brainteasers in this book much. A good stock for your washroom, very likely. For preparation of job interviews, I am not so sure.

p.s. Below please find some of the favorite questions/passages of mine for your reference.
"You're in an 8 by 8 stone corridor. This is the prince of Darkness appears before you. What do you do?" - Chris Sells, Microsoft Program Manager pg21
When there's a wind blowing, does a round-trip by plane take more time, less time, or the same time?
What comes next in the following series? SSS, SCC, C, SC...
You put a glass of water on a record turntable and begin increasing the speed slowly. What will happen? pg19
It is difficult to remember what you read, especially after many years. How would you address this?....Do you read at all? Pg29
What happened in 2001? Mention 9/11, and you'll be coolly informed that there are other good answers. The correct responses: "The iPod was introduced" and "The first Apple store opened". Pg38
If you were a cartoon character, which one would you be and why? pg45
It's OK to question your interviewer. When asked to provide a solution, first define and framework the problem as you see it. If you dont understand, ask for help or clarification. If you need to assume something, verbally check it's a correct assumption. Describe how you want to tackle solving each part of the question. Always let your interviewer know what you are thinking as he/she will be as interested in your progress of thought as your solution.
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