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Customer Review

43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Book With a Misleading Title, May 31, 2012
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This review is from: 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)
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. The problem descriptions are good and the explanation of the solutions (including frequently working from the "easy" answer through to the "best" one) is very good for non-technical people to read. For software engineers, particularly reasonably experienced ones, the explanations can definitely border on pedantic and overly obvious. There's also some awkward use of technical terms that make it clear it's not written by an engineer. For non-technical people, however, it's written in an accessible style with good humor that will likely add to the fun. The problems are frequently legitimately tricky no matter who the audience is, but again, they're not the types of things that are asked at Google. It's a good thing to read on the subway to/from work -- problems are bite-sized, so you can knock one or two off during the ride and pick up where you left off.

I saw an exchange of comments between the author of this book and the author of "Cracking the Coding Interview" on a couple of reviews. For what it's worth, the author of "Cracking" is more accurate from my perspective -- and her book is far, far better at preparing for a software engineering interview.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 11, 2012 11:06:00 AM PDT
Franco Arda says:
Excellent review. I especially enjoyed your view on techy vs. non-techy.

Posted on Jun 21, 2013 8:26:11 AM PDT
Dave F says:
FYI - here's proof that Google doesn't use brainteasers:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/20/business/in-head-hunting-big-data-may-not-be-such-a-big-deal.html

Quote from Laszlo Block, the head of People Operations at Google:
"On the hiring side, we found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time. How many golf balls can you fit into an airplane? How many gas stations in Manhattan? A complete waste of time. They don't predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart."
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