Google’s core premise “Focus on the user and all else will follow” is stitched into the DNA of the company. If you search for design jobs on Google’s careers page, you’ll see this adage repeated in every job description you come across.
Unsurprisingly, Google is a top target company for anyone interested in user experience (UX) or design. If you have an intuition for building elegant, intuitive user experiences, experience in UX, product design or interaction design, and a strong portfolio, Google might be a great fit!
Because Google is a popular destination for designers, the loop can be grueling. Read on for an overview of what to expect, and how to prepare for each stage of your Interaction Design interview at Google.
Interaction designers work with a diverse group including researchers, writers, content strategists, program managers, and engineers to build cutting-edge products that feel comfortable and familiar.
Understanding users first is key to the Google approach to design; as an interaction designer, your team will generate and use data to understand and even predict the emotions and behavior of users.
Armed with that understanding, interaction designers craft the user experience from end-to-end. You’ll spend time:
Perhaps most importantly, you’ll champion user-centricity in your designs at every stage. Things move fast at Google, but focusing on the end user will keep you on the right track.
Interaction design interviews follow a similar structure across Google, but of course, your individual journey may vary. Expect up to eight total rounds including:
We’ll cover each in more detail below.
Once you’ve passed the initial recruiter screen, things move fairly quickly at Google.
After the on-site interview, you’ll probably hear back from your recruiter within one or two weeks, though the process can take longer in some cases. If the feedback is good, you’ll enter the team matching process, which is variable - there may be multiple teams interested in your application packet, and role availability can change quickly. Don’t lose heart at this stage - stay engaged, and make sure you speak with a team that appeals to you.
Not including team matching, the whole process takes from four to eight weeks. Including team matching, some interviewees reported waiting 4 months from initial screen to signing an offer, so be prepared for a long-haul.
At minimum, you’ll have a short (~30 minute) call with a recruiter to get to know you at a high level. You’ll answer questions about your experience, your career goals, and your interest in Google.
You may also have a technical screen with Google designer. If you’ve spent a good amount of time on your portfolio and you’ve practiced presenting your work, this round shouldn’t be too difficult. You might get questions on:
Both of these calls typically happen on Google products (like Google Meet)
Past interviewees report that Google offers three design challenges, and you pick one to work on, usually over the course of a week.
Typically, these are everyday-design questions; nothing Google-specific.
Takehome design challenges are opportunities to shine, so we suggest going above and beyond where you can! This signals that you care about your work, and are serious about joining the company - a quality all employers look for.
The onsite interview contains a few specific rounds, each of which takes roughly 45 minutes. Some interviewees have multiple technical 1:1 rounds, others have multiple behavioral rounds; this may vary. Be sure to prepare for a minimum of one each of the following:
Each of these rounds is unique; let’s explore some questions you may be asked as you move through each.
The general prompt for this round is to deep-dive a project from your portfolio.
It’s a good idea to leave 5-10 minutes for Q&A at the end, but interviewees report that Google lets you “drive” this round.
During the Q&A, expect follow-ups that will assess not only your:
Example questions past interviewees have gotten include:
When preparing your portfolio presentation, we recommend choosing a project where you worked with a cross-functional team, but took full ownership of the project - and maintained a focus on the user throughout. Google looks for these core qualities (collaboration, user-centricity, and ownership) in all its interaction designers. Be sure to hone your presentation down to a tight 30 minutes maximum!
Google wants to know if you have "Googleyness", a value the company uses to describe those who fit in well with the culture. Though the term has various definitions, including being able to work despite ambiguity and being able to work well in a team, the general takeaway is to not come off as a jerk. You should also focus on communicating well: enunciate, speak slowly, and speak with meaning.
In addition to “Googleyness”, interaction designers at Google are typically asked questions about their past experiences as well as hypotheticals meant to tease out how candidates will work with team members, perform under stress, and work through conflict.
Questions interviewees have been asked include:
We recommend building a story bank with at least 3-5 good, meaty projects you can speak to in detail. They should map to Google’s core values and to the characteristics we mentioned above:
Practice talking these through until you feel confident you can handle follow-ups with ease. If you’re prone to rambling, be sure to review the STAR format and hone your responses accordingly.
Technical design interviews are meant to suss out the depth of your technical knowledge and your skill with common design technologies and tools. At Google, these rounds tend to be 1:1 rather than panel interviews, and you may get a mix of behavioral-type questions as well. For example, you may be asked how you handoff deliverables to engineering - the focus may be on the tools and technology you’re comfortable with, but if you look closely, there’s a behavioral element around communication skill as well.
Expect questions like:
Whiteboarding challenges can be scary - like system design questions for engineering, the sheer open-endedness of the prompt can feel paralyzing.
Typically, you’re expected to reach the stage of wireframing, but this is a lot to manage in just 45 minutes.
Past interviewees report they’ve been asked questions like:
We recommend taking plenty of time to practice questions like these. It’s easy to get flustered without sufficient experience - confidence, logical thinking, and structured creativity will help you stand out from the crowd. A few common pitfalls include:
Given how competitive it is getting your foot in the door at a company like Google, leveraging your network could be the magic piece of the puzzle that finally gets you a call from a recruiter!
Before you go about looking for referrals though, we recommend preparing your elevator pitch. Why Google? Why should your referrer recommend you instead of someone else?
In addition to your elevator pitch, your resume should reflect as many conceptual connections to the job listing as you can. For example, ask yourself how your previous experience connects with interaction design at Google. What lines can be drawn between your previous work and the duties outlined in the job posting? Ensuring that you come across as a strong referral goes a long way towards making your referrers feel comfortable recommending you.
Ready to make the leap? Check out Exponent’s Job Referrals now!
Google’s secret sauce lies in its ability to focus on users through intelligent use of data. The volume of user data Google has at its disposal is staggering; interaction designers are expected to have the skills to leverage this in their designs.
Of course, you’ll be supported by a cross-functional team including data scientists and user researchers, but showing competence with data can give you a huge leg up.
Be sure to bring with you to your interview plenty of data and quantifiable results from your previous design roles. You'll want to highlight the impact your designs had at earlier companies - in quantifiable terms wherever possible.
Yes, you’re the candidate - you’re meant to answer questions in an interview - but modern tech interviews are not a one-way street. Instead, they are meant to be dialogues between candidates and hiring managers. Ideally, both should be evaluating whether they are a good fit for one another.
Nevertheless, substantive questions by the interviewee also serve another vital purpose. Asking questions (and asking good questions) demonstrates to the Google hiring managers that you are invested in and care about the design role you're applying for. They don't want to fill their open positions with people who just treat it as another job. They want to fill it with Googlers.