How to Ace Your Google Behavioral Interview: A Guide

Working at Google is a lifelong dream for many tech professionals. We'll walk you through all the ins and outs of Google behavioral interview questions so you can make a good impression on your interviewer!

The Google behavioral interview is one of many you'll have to make it through if you're applying for a Google or Google Cloud job.

While behavioral interviews are guaranteed for most tech positions, they're often overlooked in interview prep. This is because at surface level they may not seem as hard to answer as Google's technical interview questions.

However, these open-ended questions are a key part of determining if you're the right fit for a job at Google. You should spend time preparing answers for the most commonly asked behavioral interview questions and other common PM interview questions and set yourself apart from the rest of the candidate pool.

Below, you'll find a behavioral prep guide. We cover the basics of the behavioral interview including sample questions, what to say to make your answer sound great, and how to practice for the interview before your big day. Let's get ready for your dream job at Google!

What is the Google Behavioral Interview—How Does it Work?

Google uses behavioral interviews to learn about a candidate's previous work and experiences.

Behavioral interview questions usually begin with "Tell me about a time you..." and seek to better understand your:

  • Leadership
  • Problem solving
  • Communicating
  • Teamwork
  • Cross-functional collaboration
  • and more.

If you'd like to learn more about the interview process at Google, check out Exponent's guides for each role.

Does Google Ask Behavioral Interview Questions?

Behavioral interviews at Google and Google Cloud Platform are a little different than other tech companies.

For starters, your first interview at Google will be a phone screen with a recruiter. In this interview, you'll get asked behavioral questions that will see if you're a quality candidate.

However, what sets Google apart, is that you'll also get asked behavioral questions at nearly every other stage of your interview as well.

During technical interviews your interviewer may ask you about your previous roles as a way to buy time or as an icebreaker to jump into the rest of the interview.

How Many Behavioral Questions Are Asked at Google?

Expect to answer many of these type of questions throughout your interview.

It's likely you'll hear 1 or 2 behavioral questions at each stage of your interview.

The number and style of behavioral inquiries will differ per position, but expect a lot of them!

How You'll Be Graded for your Google Interview

We wrote an entire guide on the Google interview rubric you should check out if you want to know how you're being scored.

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A Google recruiter will be searching for people that fulfill their company's four primary characteristics:

  1. The ability to think logically. This is sometimes referred to as "GCA" by Google. Google seeks people who are smart and able to adapt quickly to changing situations. Your interviewer will attempt to determine how you tackle difficult issues as you progress throughout the interview.
  2. Role-related knowledge and experience. Internally, Google talks a lot about role-related knowledge and experience. In short, they call it "RRK" or "RRKE." Don't expect to see these acronyms in your job descriptions though. Google and Google Cloud want to make sure you have the skills, expertise, and core competencies for the position. If you're applying as a Google product manager, this means you'll need product management experience with leading user research, implementing features, and working with software teams to build deliverables.
  3. Leadership. Google is always looking for leadership qualities in their employees. Specifically, they want "emergent leadership." At Google, you'll typically be working in cross-functional teams. This means that team members will need to take the lead to finish projects on a regular basis. Your ability to problem solve and lead will be more important than knowing a technical answer in some situations.
  4. Google Culture Fit: Google wants to make sure you'll be happy working at Google. Your interviewer will ask questions that try to determine if you naturally align with Google's core value. Are you open to situations with ambiguity? Do you have a bias towards action that helps you make quick decisions? Are you willing to work with others to build great products?

Most Common Google Behavioral Questions

Below are the most common behavioral questions asked at Google. How do we know? Our question bank is compiled by users who recently interviewed at Google!

To help you get ready for your Google interview questions, we've broken down each behavioral question into its own category.

They are:

  • General behavioral questions
  • Teamwork behavioral questions
  • Leadership and Managing Teams behavioral questions
  • Project Management behavioral questions

These categories are not categories that will be separated in the Google interview.

The behavioral interview will happen for every role at Google: product management, program management, data science, software engineering, and more.

General Google Behavioral Interview Questions

Example 1: Tell me About a Time You Made a Mistake

View more answers to this question.

Example 2: Tell me about a time you had to make a decision to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains.

View more answers to this question.

Additional General Questions for the the Google Interview

  • Why do you want to work at Google?
  • Tell me about yourself
  • What is your favorite Google product and why?
  • Tell me about a successful project you've worked on in the past
  • Tell me about a conflict you faced at work. How did you resolve the challenge?
  • Describe a time you had to make a change in your work style to finish a project?
  • Tell me about a time you had to get creative to complete a project.
  • Tell me about a time you created something from scratch.
  • What are your biggest achievements in your current or former roles?
  • Describe a time you failed or made a mistake. What happened?
  • What skills do you have that would make you a good fit for this position?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What's your career path?
  • Why are you leaving your current job?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Google Behavioral Interview Questions about Teamwork

It's inevitable that while working at Google you'll work with members of different teams. The most obvious crossover will be with other product managers, PMMs, or software engineers.

You'll need to have strong communication skills and be able to build trust among your teammates. These teamwork questions will try to understand how you work with others.

Your interviewer will press you to give examples from your previous work where you've worked with teammates to achieve goals.

They're looking for you to mention collaboration and achieving your goals while working with others.

Teamwork is a very important skill you'll need to highlight during your Google interviews.

Example 1: Tell me about a time you disagreed with someone and how you resolved it.

View more answers to this question.

  • Tell me about how you work with teammates or stakeholders who seem hard to work with
  • Describe a time you've worked cross-functionally. What were you working on?
  • How do you resolve conflict on your teams?
  • Do you like to work in small teams or big teams?
  • What is your ideal work environment like?
  • What is your ideal manager like?
  • How would you talk to a coworker who isn't collaborating with the team how you'd like?

Leadership and Management Behavioral Interview Questions

Google wants employees who have what they call emergent leadership. The Google interview process is designed to highlight your ability to lead.

Almost every job at Google will require you to work cross-functionally. This means that you not only need to lead your own teams, but will also need to work well with others who aren't always on the same page.

Expect to answer many questions about leadership in Google interviews. Your ability to lead teams through difficult problems will score high marks in your Google interview.

An Inside Look Into Google’s Coding Interview Rubric
Google hiring managers use a coding rubric to evaluate software engineers in their interviews. In this article, we’ll give you an inside peek for your prep.

Expect to have to answer questions about working on teams. How do you help other team members grow? How do you prevent employees from quitting in tough situations?

These questions are more common in leadership and management positions. However, Google is known to throw curveball behavioral interview questions from time to time.

You should be prepared for anything in the Google interview!

Example 1: Tell me about a time you made a bold and difficult decision

View more answers to this question.

Example 2: Tell me about a decision you made based on your instincts.

View more answers to this question.

Example 3: How do you run 1:1s with your team?

View another answer to this question.

As you answer this question, your interviewer is looking for these key things

  • Do you have experience managing large teams?
  • Do you understand the value of 1:1 meetings with your team?
  • Do you prioritize 1:1s over other meetings?
  • Are you invested in your employees' long-term career growth?
  • Are you gathering feedback from your team to understand how they're feeling about their role and work?
  • Can you explain your management style with key examples?

Here's what a good answer looks like:

  1. Tell the interviewer why you think 1:1 meetings are valuable.
One-on-one meetings are valuable to myself and my team. As such, I think it's important to meet with my team regularly so I can hear from them openly. Planning meetings and office chit-chat aren't the best place to get feedback, in my opinion.

2. Explain how you set up 1:1s and when you like to have them.

The first thing I do after joining a new team is block out my calendar to schedule 1:1 meetings with my team. In my first week or two, I like to get to know the people I'll be working with. What are their career goals and who are they as people? I then like to schedule 1:1s with all of peers and people who will report to me. I like to schedule these twice per month, but sometimes more often is needed. If possible, I'd invite another manager to join my first 1:1s to help give context. After that, I try to cap them at half an hour each week on the same days.

3. How do you structure 1:1s?

Generally, I like to have a few topics we can talk about in each meeting. However, I prefer to leave this time as unstructured if possible. This is the one time per week I get to listen to my coworkers and understand their thoughts and feelings. I open the floor to them to guide the meeting in a particular direction. If they don't have anything they'd like to discuss, I use my list of topics to gain insights. Last year, I had a 1:1 with a software engineer. They seemed more quiet than usual and had recently missed a deadline for a project. When I pressed for more information, they shared that the work feels monotonous lately and that their skills aren't staying sharp. We developed a plan that week to help advance the developer into backend engineering work. These backend skills were new and helped propel the developer closer to a full-stack engineer career path that they were hoping to grow in.

Why is this a good answer?

This is a great answer because it shows that you have experience running one on ones. It also shows that you take the time to be thoughtful about their structure.

This answer uses a real-world example about your leadership and how you used 1:1 time to improve an employee's morale. This positive outcome was driven by insights you gained talking directly with an employee about their work rather than jumping to conclusions.

Here's what a bad answer looks like:

I don't really like 1:1 meetings. I want my team to have the time to focus on their tasks so we don't miss deadlines. However, I'm always available on Slack or Discord if employees want to reach me. My phone is always on and I can respond to questions quickly rather than waiting for a dedicated time each week. If a meeting is needed, I'll put something on the calendar to discuss it deeper. Luckily, I haven't had many issues pop up from my development teams in the past.

Why is this a bad answer?

This answer is bad for a lot of reasons! It shows that you aren't proactive in setting up 1:1 meetings with your team. It also shows an immature management style. You fail to mention why one on one meetings matter and how they can improve outcomes. Finally, mentioning your Slack availability implies that you're always working. This sets a bad tone for employees who might feel like they always have to reply at odd hours to your requests.

Great answers to this question show that you:

  • Understand that one on one meetings aren't just another meeting on your calendar. Your management style explains that you want to get to know your team better.
  • Are passionate about your coworkers' growth and career path.
  • Have experience managing one on ones and that you can extract value from the time together.
  • Are committed to keeping 1:1 meetings as a regular occurrence and will be there for your team members.

Additional Leadership Questions for the Google Interview

  • Have you ever had to demonstrate leadership even though you weren't technically in charge?
  • Describe a time you helped your team navigate a tough situation.
  • Tell me about how you develop team members.
  • Tell me about how you retain talent on your teams.
  • Tell me about a time you had to make tradeoffs to complete a project.
  • How do you deal with ambiguity when working?
  • What do you think separates a good manager from a good leader? How would you rate your ability to manage and your ability to lead?
  • How do you address skill gaps or clashes between strong personalities?
  • How do you ensure that your team is diverse and inclusive?

Google Project Management Behavioral Interview Questions

The last type of behavioral questions to prepare for your Google interview are around project management. How do you lead projects from beginning to end?

Some of the questions below are role specific. That means you'll see common questions like how to manage a software team if you're interviewing for an engineering manager role.

If your role will be leading and managing others, expect to get asked questions about how you'll guide your team to the finish line. How will you deal with complex issues that may affect deadlines or project management needs? How will you communicate to stakeholders?

Example 1: Tell me about a time you worked on a project with a tight deadline. How did you handle it?

View more answers to this question on Exponent.

Example 2: Tell me about a time you faced technical and people challenges at the same time.

Example 3: How do you set up projects for success?

Your interviewer is asking how you:

  • manage multiple projects by getting stakeholders aligned,
  • review processes,
  • delegate key tasks,
  • conduct standups,
  • work in sprints
  • create milestones to keep projects on track

Remember: Everyone has the right to their own viewpoint regarding project management methodology. Whether you prefer Scrum, Agile, or Kanban—or anything else—it's more important to demonstrate that your leadership style is well-rounded and successful rather than use any particular tool.

Here's what a good answer looks like:

"There are a myriad of ways to run a successful project. But every successful project needs a few key things. First and foremost, it's critical to define exactly what success means — for me, success is defined by completing an effective project that addresses a company need, meeting internal deadlines, and maintaining team morale.
To have the greatest impact, you must first obtain alignment and buy-in from all of the team members: engineers, product managers, marketers, and salespeople — everyone who has a stake in the project. It's critical to establish alignment before getting started so that we know how much development time will be required and how many people will be needed to complete the task. I also try to understand if there are any dependencies on other teams that may cause roadblocks down the line.
There are a few methods for meeting time constraints that I have discovered to be useful. Start by establishing a timetable with engineers and the product team, then stick to regular checkpoints or milestones. This will allow you to allot time for design, development, and QA.
I always try to pick a senior engineer as the tech lead or DRI for each project. This person will help translate all the project requirements into tasks, so it is easier to assign work and track progress.
Finally, I believe regular standups and sync meetings with my team help us stay on the same page. It's easier to build momentum for a project and uncover issues when communication stays open and honest. This is a good management practice in general. Different teams or remote employees may not be proactive in talking to each other about project questions they have. So facilitating these types of meetings helps develop projects faster.

Why is this a good answer?

This answer:

  • defines project success
  • gets stakeholders aligned on what needs to be done
  • plans for potential future issues before they become real
  • uses real-world examples of project management tasks to demonstrate a holistic understanding of project management.

Additional Questions About Project Management for the Google Interview

  • Tell me about a time you owned a project from beginning to end.
  • Tell me about a time you analyzed data to make a decision about a project.
  • Tell me about a time you analyzed data to measure the impact of a new feature or product
  • What will your first 90 days look like in this new role?
  • Tell me about a time you made improvements to development processes
  • How do you deal with stakeholders and multiple opinions on how to complete a project?
  • What methodology do you use to manage projects?
  • Tell me about your flexibility and processes in agile environments?
  • How do you prioritize tasks when working?
  • How do you make decisions about product improvements?
  • How do you manage a product's lifecycle?

How to answer Google behavioral interview questions

As you can see, the Google interview is no joke. Behavioral interview questions cover the entire spectrum of your skills as an employee.

They're not just learning about your previous work experience. They're about learning about who you are and if you'll be a good fit at the end of the Google search. (Pun intended).

How to Answer: Style and Format

Before you start answering a question, spend time understanding what's being asked.

Understand that your answer should focus on your most recent and relevant accomplishments at work. Share them in the job interview with clear and concise sentences. Don't ramble.

What is the STAR Framework?

We recommend using the STAR framework in the Google interview process to answer questions.

STAR is short for:

  • Situation
  • Task
  • Action
  • Result

You may have heard of the STAR method before or even subconsciously used it yourself. At its core, it encourages you to break your answers into four parts. Describe the situation, what task you were given, what action you took, and what results you achieved.

Internalizing the STAR framework will help your answers shine through.

Here's how to use the STAR method to answer any Google interview questions you get asked.

This technique is a common interview strategy at dozens of interviews. So much so that we made a complete course on how to answer questions in both behavioral and technical interviews.

Read More: The STAR Interview Framework

Situation

Start your answer by telling your interviewer the context of the situation. What was your role? Were you a team member or a product leader? How was the market responding to your products or work? Set up the situation so that your interviewer knows how to frame your past experiences.

Task

What was the problem your team was facing? Don't jump into your thought process for solving just yet!

Your hiring manager needs a clear idea of what problem you were trying to solve. Did users hate your new feature? Did a database crash that stored sensitive information?

What task were you doing or what problem were you trying to solve?

Action

After you set the stage for your interview question answer, you'll want to talk about the nitty gritty.

Challenging projects require creative solutions. Describe in detail how your previous experience led you to arrive at a solution. Talk about specific actions you took to address the problem or task.

Results and Impact

Finally, talk about your results and impact.

What positive outcomes came from your example? How you measure success will be important no matter what role you're in at Google.

Use specific numbers, revenue, or tangible examples to highlight your point.

Making a Good Impression in Your Interview

Before we share resources on how to nail your upcoming Google interview, here are some final tips on making a good impression with the hiring manager!

Keep Your Answers Short and Concise

You finally landed an interview at Google. You're excited and eager to impress!

But remember to keep in mind that your interviewer likely has dozens of candidates to interview. Long-winded answers to Google interview questions may be hard to follow.

Spend only about 30 seconds setting up your answer using the STAR method. Don't waste precious interview time explaining why you got your last job because you happened to be at Starbucks at the same time as the hiring manager!

Then, when you get to the meat and potatoes of your answer, don't waste time either!

Focus on only the essential details. Don't bore your interviewer with long-winded stories that aren't relevant.

Highlight your skills, how you solve problems, and stick to the facts.

Don't Be Afraid to Talk About Yourself. Don't be Shy.

Your interview is your time to shine. Don't be afraid to tell your interviewer about your most important accomplishments and how you helped make them happen.

Sometimes candidates only ever talk about their team and company accomplishments.

Google interview questions are designed to learn about you as a person and how you fit into the company. Don't be afraid to highlight your personality.

After all, questions like "how many golf balls..." are meant to be fun and creative problem-solving exercises.

Expect Follow-Up Questions

Your interviewer will most likely ask you follow ups after you answer. Don't be afraid of them! Follow up questions show that your interviewer is listening to your replies and wants to know more.

Practice answering both the questions themselves and the follow ups. You can see sample answers below that you can practice.

How Does Failure Improve Your Skills?

Failing at work is something to be embraced. Failure and learning from your mistakes helps you become a better leader and team player.

As you're answering behavioral questions, tell your hiring managers how your mistakes have shaped you!

If you fail without learning anything it could be a pretty big red flag!

Prepare for the Interview

You've studied the questions and you've even practiced going through our sample answers to learn the best ways to impress the hiring managers at Google.

These are our final tips on how to knock your behavioral interview out of the park.

Google Culture Fit

You probably already know this, but working at Google requires a lot of time and dedication. It's not for the faint of heart!

Before you apply to a product manager or software engineer role at Google or Google Cloud, figure out if you actually want to work there!

Google's reputation precedes itself. For years it's been a premiere tech company to work for.

However, just because Google is one of the world's most successful companies doesn't mean it's a good fit for every employee.

Spend time talking to current employees to see if you'd enjoy working there. If you prefer to work in small teams with slower deadlines, Google may not be for you.

Ask yourself these questions.

  • Do I want to work in a big team or at a startup?
  • Do I want to feel like I'm part of something bigger?
  • What does career growth look like at Google?

Reach out to people you know on LinkedIn or connect with peers to ask questions of current employees. Spend time watching day-in-the-life videos of Google employees on YouTube.

Spend time to figure out if your career goals align with Google's mission.

Before your interview, it also helps to look over these key resources from Google about their company philosophy and vision.

This prep will help you get a little closer to understanding Google's mission around the world.

It's impossible to get inside Sundar Pichai's head to know what technical questions or behavioral questions he'd like to ask you before you work at Google.

But brushing up on Google's culture will help you align your answers in an interview.

Practice Your Answers

If we could make this answer pop off the page, we would. Interview candidates are often vastly underprepared when they walk into their first round.

Spend time practicing your interview answers for weeks before you interview. Well practiced answers will help you speak clearly and not waste time highlighting your skills.

What Do You Want to Highlight?

Before you start practicing answers, write down a list of your biggest accomplishments or facts about your professional life.

  • Successes at work with new products or features
  • Failures or mistakes that helped you grow
  • Teams you've worked in and times you've shown leadership

Look through each of Google's core values and find a moment in your past that hits on each of them.

Use these stories as you practice answering the sample questions above. Find ways to weave past successes and failures into your answers to give a full picture of yourself to the interviewer.

Practice Mock Interviews

Every day, dozens of candidates use Exponent's mock interview tool to practice their interviewing skills.

You'll take turns asking and answering questions that will test your interview readiness.

Your peers are available to meet every day at 8AM and 6PM PST. Schedule mock interviews for behavioral questions.

Talk to Current and Former Google Employees

Exponent's coaching portal connects you with tech professionals in every field at dozens of companies.

Practice mock interviews, get career advice, and prepare for your next role. Our expert coaches can help you practice behavioral interview questions so you're ready to answer any curveballs thrown your way.

Practice makes perfect when it comes to preparing for your upcoming Google and Google Cloud behavioral interviews.

How are you preparing for your behavioral interviews? Let us know in the comments below!

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