/ Interviews

Google Coding Interview Rubric—An Inside Look

In this guide, you’ll learn about Google’s coding interview rubric. We'll cover how scoring works for algorithms, coding, communication, and problem solving.

Whether we're talking about its world-famous search engine, YouTube, or one of its many cloud-based apps, millions of people use Google products every day. The software engineers at Google work on some of the most influential products in the world.

Google is often seen as one of the best places to work, with tens of thousands of people applying for jobs there every year. As a result, being a software engineer at Google can be an incredibly fulfilling career.

Google places a significant emphasis on technical skills for its engineering teams. This means that the coding interview rounds are crucial for aspiring software engineers. Hiring managers at Google will make recommendations during these coding rounds based on your performance.

The way they judge and score your coding interview performance is using the Google Coding Rubric:

Table of contents:

Google Coding Interview Rubric Overview

Google Canada Offices in Kitchener’s Innovation District
Photo by Dylan Carr / Unsplash

Given the breadth and scope of Google engineering interviews, you may expect the interviewer's coding rubric to be elaborate.

Interestingly, the rubric is quite simple.

It consists of only four categories, each consisting of four possible scores. These categories are Algorithms, Coding, Communication, and Problem-solving.

Candidates can receive a score of 1 to 4 in each of these, with 4 being the best possible score.

The Google Coding Rubric may look something like this:

Algorithms

Cyborg by Lazarus_al

First and foremost, a candidate's knowledge and experience with algorithms is a significant category of the Google coding rubric.

This category is concerned with the candidate's:

  • Ability to optimally use algorithms
  • Understand trade-offs of different algorithm types,
  • Understand the use of data structures

Obviously, high scores in each category are vital for an ultimate job offer. But being able to effectively answer questions about algorithms is of the utmost importance in the Google software engineer interview process.

  • 4 Points: The candidate effortlessly illustrated several solutions along with their drawbacks. The candidate selected the most optimal algorithm to solve the problem, and in doing so, clearly displayed a deep understanding of algorithms.
  • 3 Points: The candidate solved the problem but not optimally. The candidate demonstrated some or adequate knowledge of algorithms.
  • 2 Points: The candidate chose a sub-optimal algorithm for their solution. The candidate may have struggled with developing their solution, requiring some guidance from the interviewer. The candidate displayed some misunderstanding regarding algorithms and data structures.
  • 1 Point: The candidate could not solve the problem. The candidate demonstrated little to no understanding of algorithms and data structures.

Study up on some Google algorithm interview questions here.

Coding

Cyborg by  Nina Markaryan

The fact that your interviewer will be evaluating your coding ability is unsurprising. Nevertheless, there is only so much you can reveal about your coding skills during the length of a Google coding interview.

As such, Google hiring managers consider things like:

The coding portion of the interview is graded as follows:

  • 4 Points: The candidate wrote working and clean code with no syntax errors. The candidate showed an outstanding understanding of paradigms in their chosen programming language.
  • 3 Points: The candidate wrote working code with few syntax errors. They may have experienced some minor difficulty with their solution with a less-than-ideal use of language paradigms.
  • 2 Points: The candidate wrote code with some syntax errors. The candidate struggled to produce the naive solution. The candidate displayed a poor use of language paradigms.
  • 1 Point: The candidate could not produce a working solution with major syntax or logic errors present in their code. The candidate displayed a poor understanding of programming paradigms and constructs.

Continue Reading: Google coding interview questions

Communication

Cyborg by Lazarus_al

Communication is an essential part of any successful interview.

The best candidates communicate clearly and effectively throughout every section of an interview, whether it's for a coding, behavioral, or culture-fit interview round.

An interviewer needs to follow you along to properly evaluate your merits. Only so much can be demonstrated during these coding interview rounds. Therefore, it is critical for candidates to properly communicate their thinking and decisions to fill in the gaps.

Here is how the communication rubric may look:

  • 4 Points: Throughout the interview, the candidate communicated with perfect clarity. The interviewer had no difficulty understanding the candidate's thought process, the trade-offs of the candidate's different approaches, and how the candidate approached the problem. The candidate's answers were well-organized and succinct.
  • 3 Points: The candidate communicated with their interviewer adequately throughout the interview. The interviewer may have needed to ask the candidate follow-up questions about their thought process, the approach, etc.
  • 2 Points: The candidate did not communicate very well or clearly throughout the interview. The interviewer may have had difficulty following the candidate's thought process. The candidate may have been disorganized in their answer or jumped right into coding without properly explaining themselves.
  • 1 Point: The candidate could not communicate with any clarity. The interviewer had extreme difficulty following or understanding the candidate's thought process or approach. The candidate may have stayed silent for much of the interview, even when directly addressed by the interviewer.

Schedule Now: Daily peer-to-peer mock interviews.

Problem-Solving

Cyborg by Thierry Fousse

Last but not least is the problem-solving section of the Google coding rubric.

While the other categories may concern your technical skills more directly, this category is more interested in how you approach solving the problem more generally.

Hiring managers will see if you consider different approaches while evaluating their trade-offs. Here is where asking clarifying questions is most important.

Ultimately, your interviewer will grade this section based on how organized, structured, and well-rounded your problem-solving approach is during your interview.

Here's how the problem-solving interview rubric looks:

  • 4 Points: The candidate had no trouble finding a well-thought-out and accurate solution to the problem. The candidate did so with enough time to discuss trade-offs, related problems, alternatives while asking the interviewer clarifying questions.
  • 3 Points: The candidate developed a working and accurate solution but did not have much time to discuss sub-problems, alternatives, or trade-offs.
  • 2 Points: The candidate showed some adequate problem-solving skills in their solution. The candidate's approach may have been unorganized or arbitrary at some points. Did not ask clarifying questions or touch on additional information regarding the problem.
  • 1 Point: The candidate's problem-solving skills were poor. The candidate may have been unable to solve the problem or did so without much thought. Their approach was highly unorganized, random, and ineffective at solving the problem at hand.

Practice your problem-solving with some challenging Estimation interview questions here.

The Final Score

Photo by Fernando Hernandez / Unsplash

While there are four points to each of the categories, there are six possible final scores that candidates can receive after their interviews. These are:

  • Strong No Hire
  • No Hire
  • Leaning No Hire
  • Leaning Hire
  • Hire
  • Strong Hire

Interviewers will select one of these based upon their scores on the rubric and their performance in the interview.

For instance, 4's across the board would be a Strong Hire. Nothing but 1's, on the other hand, would be considered Strong No Hire.

How to Practice For the Google Coding Interview

Cyborg by Marina Mogulskaya

While this coding rubric is undeniably simple, what makes up the categories themselves is anything but.

Luckily, every part of this coding rubric can be practiced before the big day. Here are some of the most effective ways to do so:

Review Data Structures and Algorithms

One of the best ways to practice the fundamentals of the Google coding interview (data structures and algorithms) is to complete Exponent's Software Engineer Interview Course.

The course is packed with everything you need to ace your upcoming SWE interviews. You'll dive deep into concepts like Sorting Algorithms, Dynamic Programming, Recursion, Hash Tables, and more.

Practice Interviewing and Your Communication

Communication skills during your interview are incredibly important.

You could otherwise be an amazing engineering candidate, but because of poor communication, your hiring manager might not realize that.

The best way to sharpen your communication is completing some mock interviews using a platform like our peer-to-peer mock interview tool.

Work on Problem-Solving

When it comes to developing your problem-solving skills for a coding interview, the best thing you can do is code as much as you can.

In this regard, experience is the best teacher.

For instance, you can contribute to open-source software projects or complete coding exercises on platforms such as HackerRank or Leetcode.

HackerRank, for example, allows you to complete practice questions about algorithms, data structures, along with programming challenges in languages such as Python, C++, and Java.

Ace Your Software Engineer Interviews With Exponent

Taking a closer look at the Google Coding Rubric may give you a good idea of how hiring managers at the company evaluate candidates.

However, candidates will need to go beyond acing the coding interview rounds to get an offer from Google.

Exponent gives you access to everything you need to ace your upcoming software engineering interview!

💬 Study SWE interview questions asked at some of the biggest companies

📖 Check out our company-specific Software Engineering interview guides

👯‍♂️ Practice your behavioral interviewing skills with our mock interview practice tool.

👨‍🎓 Take our complete Software Engineering interview course.

Anthony Pellegrino

Anthony Pellegrino

I’m a rather bohemian freelance journalist and tech content writer. Philosophy/CS student - A.I.,Consciousness, Social Sciences.

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