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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 Paperback – September 4, 2012

3.9 out of 5 stars 67 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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

"Amusing."―Denver Post

"A helpful guide."―Christian Science Monitor

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

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 8.5.2012 edition (September 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316099988
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316099981
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,539 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First of all, William Poundstone is a very good writer, and a bright guy to boot. This is a good book just to give you the answer to those crazy puzzles you often find not only in interviews, but in puzzle books. It's a pleasure to read and you really learn a lot. A book worth buying no matter what you are trying to find---a job--solutions to puzzles and more.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found this to be an entertaining and informative read about the riddle-type questions that are now so popular in job interviews. Some of the advice offered could give you ideas on how to answer such questions if you are faced with them during an interview. Importantly, it could help you better structure your thought process and demeanor when tackling such interview questions. However, this book alone would probably not help you get a job at Google or anywhere else - riddles or not.

The most interesting thing I found in this book is the admission that other companies have adopted riddle questions because they are trying to be more like Google. However, such interviewers usually don't understand the reasoning or objectives behind Google's riddle/mathematical problems and therefore a worthy response to a riddle asked at Google may get you different results at other companies.

I had fun comparing my answers to the riddles to the answer key in the back of the book, but I believe that it has only made me marginally better as an interviewer. I still think that getting hit with a riddle during an interview at any company makes your success more of a crap shoot.
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