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Staff Review: Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?

Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?
William Poundstone
Oneworld Publications

“You are shrunk to the height of a penny and thrown in a blender. The blades start moving in 60 seconds. What do you do?”

I picked up Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google off the back of a past colleague of mine having just sat an excruciatingly intricate interview process with Google herself. The whole concept intrigued me and I was ready to be floored by the strategies and trends employed against interviewees vying for coveted professional real estate.

What I learned is that the Googleplex remains an intangible entity for the majority of the workforce, a dream destination for some, a hallowed house of horrors for others and always, an ever-changing kaleidoscope of innovation.

Reading the tactics designed to stump, challenge and illuminate those elite few candidates – considered personified gold to companies such as Google – is somewhat unnerving. The book succeeds in getting you to question your own abilities. How would I have answered that? What would have been a better way to phrase that response? Am I creative enough to think on my feet? How can I wow them with my skills in this type of interview? Is IKEA more adept at thinking outside the box than I? I hand it to the author, William Poundstone, for not allowing his material to start heading into a death spiral of despair and mortification. What he has carefully and humorously constructed is ultimately a stimulating read. The focus isn’t purely on Google, more so the development of high tech hiring habits. It navigates a stable of deliberately perplexing questions that don’t necessarily have a “right” answer, but a company preferred response. While not necessarily giving you tools to combat such an event, should you find yourself facing HR at a Fortune 500 company, Poundstone gets you thinking about the possibility. For example, in the changing global landscape how would you reply to the following?

“Explain what a database is to your eight-year-old nephew, using three sentences.”

Their answer is brilliant: A database is an iPod for information. With an iPod, you can store thousands of songs and still find any track you want quickly. A database does the same thing with information that people have stored on a computer or the Internet.

After reading Are You Smart Enough To Work At Google I can’t confirm that I would have made it through their front gates, but I can take away that creativity starts with belief, that owning your own destiny is important, and if you can back your dreams with some logic, you’ll go far.

Find the book here, and buy at your local bookshop.

Staff Bio

Alicia Pridgeon alicia pridgeon photo

There is a tangible relationship between content and people. Having realised my love for this affinity many years ago, the book industry has since helped fuel this passion. I’ve been on both sides of the proverbial book coin from retail sales to publishing. My first ever job as a kid was at my local library. Ultimately I want to read and engage with things that pique my interest and make me think outside the box. I do love a good book and even a fabulously trashy one on occasion! I’m the kind of person who buys books for looks as well as content.

Outside of my lust for literature I play hockey and love every moment of it. I listen to Triple J, mainly as my heart has a romantic notion of festivals and live music. Tragically, I am also addicted to TV series.

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