(2023) Acing Google Behavioral Interview Questions + Best Practices

How to crack the Behavioral Interview at Google

January 13, 2023
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Have you ever wondered how difficult it is to land a job at Google? Well, as it turns out, it's more difficult than getting into the most exclusive university in the world—Stanford. While Stanford accepts around 3.95% of applicants, Google's acceptance rate sits at around 0.67%.

Google is known for having extremely high standards when it comes to hiring, and their interview process reflects this. As an applicant, you need to be prepared if you want to stand out among your peers.

I sat down with our hiring managers from Google to discuss the Google behavioral interview. They shared insights that could give you an edge over other applicants.

Let's get started!

What Kinds Of Interview Questions Might Come Up?

As you're preparing for a Google interview, it's helpful to understand the kinds of questions that might come up in addition to specific topics or themes.

Generally, interview questions fall into one-of-two categories: situational and behavioral.

Situational Interview Questions

Situational interview questions are designed to help assess your ability to think on your feet and solve problems. These questions typically present you with a hypothetical situation and then ask how you would respond.

Based on your response, a good interviewer will be able to gauge your problem-solving skills, ability to handle stress, and more. Google's situational interview questions deserve an article of their own, so we won't be spending any more time on them here. For now, just be aware that they exist!

Example: “What would you do if you saw an employee misusing the company card?”

Behavioral Interview Questions

Behavioral interview questions are designed to help assess your past behaviors and how they may have impacted your work. Questions may focus on any number of topics, including:

  • motivation
  • work ethic
  • attitude
  • interpersonal skills
  • leadership ability
  • teamwork skills

To get at these topics, interviewers will ask you to speak about a personal or professional event from your past in which you had to use these skills. At face value, this makes answering behavioral interview questions simple. After all, it's not as if you need to think on your feet—you're just sharing a story from your past!

As we'll discuss in the sections to come, behavioral interview questions are extremely open-ended in terms of both content and themes. Experienced interviewers (like the ones at Google) will be looking to get very specific details out of your answers, so you need to be able to provide them!

Example: “Tell me about a time when you failed.”

What Does The Google Hiring Process Look Like?

Google's hiring process is relatively rigorous compared to many other tech companies out there. They really want to make sure they get their hires right the first time.

The full hiring process looks something like this:

  1. Resume Screening: Google recruiters will filter through thousands of resumes to identify those candidates whose skills and experience best match the needs of a given position.
  2. Phone Screenings (1-2 rounds): A recruiter will reach out to select candidates to conduct a brief phone screening. The purpose of this screening is to get a better sense of the candidate's qualifications and to answer any initial questions the candidate may have.
  3. On-Site Interviews (3-5 rounds): The on-site interview is the meat of the hiring process. Candidates will spend several hours at Google's offices meeting with various interviewers.
  4. Hiring Committee Reviews: After all the on-site interviews have been completed, a hiring committee will review each candidate's interview notes and contact teams to gauge interest. Candidates may be asked to meet with team representatives for informal interviews.
  5. Executive Reviews: If a candidate has made it past the hiring committee, they will be passed on to an executive for final review.
  6. Offer Process: If a candidate has made it through all of these steps, the only thing left to do is negotiate an offer!

While the process may vary slightly depending on the position and the recruiter, it's safe to say that you can expect a thorough and rigorous hiring process at Google.

Now, I hear you asking, “when do the behavioral interviews happen?”

The answer to that question is… constantly! Google loves behavioral interview questions. So much so, in fact, that they devote the first 15-20 minutes of every interview to behavioral interview questions. 

That means you'll be dealing with behavioral interview questions during the phone screening stage, the on-site interviews, and possibly even the hiring committee review stage.

So, we'd better go over how to ace them!

How To Ace Google's Behavioral Interview Questions

At Carrus, we're in contact with hiring managers and recruiters from FAANG companies (like Google) all the time. One thing we hear on a regular basis is some version of, “I wish people were better at telling stories”. 

The complaint they're getting at here is pretty simple to understand—and understanding it is invaluable for anyone hoping to ace a behavioral interview.

At their core, behavioral interview questions are opportunities for applicants to tell stories about their past experiences. Unfortunately, many people aren't naturally gifted storytellers.

Don't worry if that's you—you can use frameworks to structure your answers in a more compelling way! Enter the STAR framework.

What Is The STAR Framework?

We love the STAR (a.k.a., Situation-Task-Action-Result) framework at Carrus. So much so that we've written a six part series about it!

The STAR framework is a tried-and-true method for structuring answers to behavioral interview questions. It's used by people in all sorts of industries, from business to education, and it can be adapted to fit any type of situation.

Here's a quick overview of how it works:

  • Situation: Describe the context surrounding the challenge you faced. This might include information about your team, your company, or the industry you were operating in.
  • Task: What was your specific goal in this situation? What were you trying to achieve?
  • Action: What steps did you take to achieve your goal? This is where you get to share the details of what you actually did.
  • Result: What was the outcome of your actions? Did you hit your target? If not, what did you learn from the experience?

The STAR framework is great because it almost forces you to tell more compelling stories (and thus give more compelling answers). To show you how this works in action, let's look at an example question:

The STAR Framework In Action

Using the STAR framework, an answer to the behavioral interview question might look something like this:

Tell me about a time you failed and what you did afterwards.”

  • Situation: “When I was a technical project manager at an ecommerce development agency,  I was in charge of deploying an online store for one of our clients. But I was too ambitious and underestimated the amount of work it required. In short, I promised a deadline that we didn’t meet. We needed 3 months, instead of the 2 months promised.” 
  • Task: “To re-establish expectations, I told the client about our mistake and promised implementing additional marketing automation functionalities to the website. I also confessed that the mistake was entirely my own, rather than the team’s.”
  • Action: “They weren’t happy, but understanding and appreciated our token of goodwill.”
  • Result: “We successfully set up the online store, and the client ended up being very satisfied with the results. Our marketing automation work helped them convert a ton of search traffic that would have bounced into newsletter subscribers. He is still one of the agency’s most loyal clients, and they’ve since worked with the agency on tasks related to marketing automation. The whole experience taught me a ton about setting the right expectations and how providing value can lead to outsized returns!”

This answer is not only well-structured, but it's also compelling. It's the kind of answer that would make a hiring manager sit up and take notice.

Common Google Behavioral Interview Questions

The Google behavioral interview questions you'll be asked will depend on the role you're interviewing for. However, there are some common themes among the questions asked by Google recruiters.

Generally, you'll field questions from four different categories:

  1. General
  2. Leadership
  3. Project Management
  4. Teamwork

Let's go over each of these categories in a bit more detail!

General Behavioral Interview Questions

As you might expect, Google behavioral interview questions that fall under the category of general are fairly broad. For example, here are some common questions:

  • “Describe a time when you took on too much work and how you handled it.”
  • "Tell me about yourself."
  • "Why do you want to work at Google?"
  • "Has a role ever forced you to adapt?"

Leadership Behavioral Interview Questions

Google recruiters love to ask leadership-based behavioral interview questions. In fact, in some ways we'd say this is the most important category for applicants to prepare for—after all, strong leaders tend to be some of the best hires an organization can make.

For example, you could be asked:

  • "Give me an example of a decision you made as a leader. What was the outcome and what did you learn from it?"
  • "What's your management style?"
  • "How do you handle conflict within a team?"

Project Management Behavioral Interview Questions

Google behavioral interview questions about project management are another common type. For example, you might get asked:

  • “Describe how you would manage a team project whose scope or goals had changed without warning.”
  • "Tell me about a time when you had to manage a complex project."
  • "What's your experience with agile methodology?"
  • "How do you handle scope creep?"

Teamwork Behavioral Interview Questions

Finally, you can expect to field at least a few Google behavioral interview questions about teamwork. For example:

  • “What was the most difficult team project you ever worked on? Why was it so challenging? How did you and your team overcome those challenges?”
  • "Describe a time when you took the lead on a project with minimal guidance."
  • "Tell me about a time that you supported your team, even if it wasn't part of your job description."

Tips For Acing Google's Behavioral Interview Questions

Finally, here are our top tips for acing your Google behavioral interview questions:

  1. Focus on giving detailed answers. Google interviewers want to see that you've carefully thought about your response—and the best way to show this is to give a lot of detail in your answer. Don't be afraid to go into lots of different details; it will help convince the interviewer that you really know what you're talking about!
  2. Be prepared to share a couple of different stories. Since behavioral interview questions are so prevalent at Google, be prepared for the fact that you'll need to tell a few different stories in order to answer them all. Make sure you have plenty of well-prepared examples ready to go! We recommend coming in with four fully fleshed-out stories prepared.
  3. Anticipate tough questions and prepare responses in advance. Google interviewers are known for asking some pretty tough questions. So it's important that you anticipate the kinds of questions they might ask, and have a few well-thought-out responses ready to go. This will help you stay calm and collected during the interview itself!
  4. Research the company and its values in-depth. The first step to acing your Google interview is to research the company thoroughly. This means not only learning about their products, services, and mission, but also getting a sense of their culture and values. Try immersing yourself in resources like Google's own website and social media accounts, as well as industry publications and blogs that focus on Google's work.

Time To Start Prepping

Behavioral interview questions are designed to assess how you've handled situations in the past. As such, they're one of the best ways for interviewers to get a sense of your true character—and whether or not you'll be a good fit for the job.

With that said, behavioral interview questions can be pretty tough to answer if you're not prepared for them! At Carrus, we believe 1-on-1 and group coaching is the best way to prepare for the kinds of behavioral interviews you're bound to face as you begin applying to FAANG companies.

We work with coaches who have inside knowledge of the companies you're applying to. Book a few sessions, practice your responses, and feel prepared going in! To see what we do first hand, try one free session on us!

Additional resources

Other Google related reads on Carrus:

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