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Google GCA Question & Answer—Engineering Role

google interviews Dec 08, 2022

What if you are asked a Google GCA question that is focused on helping Google improve something, but feels like it is outside of the core focus area? In other words, it doesn’t seem like it would be something within the scope of the role. Here’s an example of a general cognitive ability (GCA) question:

How would you design a program that would encourage more employee referrals? 

This would seem like an HR question. However, this is the type of question you might also get when interviewing as an Engineer, Product Manager or Salesperson. Today, I want to talk about how you can answer this sample GCA question differently if you are interviewing for one of these three roles.

We are going to focus heavily on the first three of the four components of the C.F.A.S. method (Clarify. Framework. Assumptions. Solution.). I won’t get too much into the solutions, but I will show you how to set it up within your answer.

Item #1—Role Specific

If you really want to have great success with your GCA answers, you should answer questions through the lens of the role. It will simply produce better responses. And, it will make it easier for your interviewer to connect with you. They are likely in a similar role. Solving in this way makes your answer more specific. Being more specific can help you be more memorable and it allows your interviewer to follow along as you dive deeper into the details.

Item #2—Past Experience

First, remember this is a hypothetical question and your answer should reflect this. However, you still need to utilize your past experience to fuel your answer. Clearly restate the question and then ask for a minute to gather your thoughts. Then, ask yourself: “When was the last time I was part of an initiative to enhance anything?”

This will get you into the enhancing mindset, and get you thinking about how you helped with larger initiatives outside of your normal scope. You can start to use some of those past experiences as fuel to answer the question. Don’t try to create everything from scratch. Use what you’ve already been through to guide you in your GCA answer.

Item #3—Practice

Items 1 and 2 are straightforward, but it can be easier said than done to implement these approaches. This is why practice is so critical. You need to practice your approach for better results.

In order to gain confidence with these steps, it will take a lot of practice. And of course, I recommend practicing with a human being. There is a misconception out there that GCA questions are a certain type of questions, while hypothetical and open-ended questions fall into another category. They are really all the same. Learning to take this approach with any hypothetical or open-ended question will benefit you in your GCA interview. You will have way more overall success with the right practice and preparation. 

Sample Answer (Engineer)

Today, we are going to answer this sample question wearing the hat of an Engineer. Stay tuned to the Practice Interviews Blog next week for the sample answers for Product Managers and Salespeople. 

Start by imagining an unresponsive interviewer. You need to own your answer and make it as engaging as possible. Let’s review the question:

How would you design a program that would encourage more employee referrals?

Clarifying Questions:

“Have we ever utilized technology when designing referral programs in the past? I would also want to know if we are dealing with any restraints from a technology perspective. Are we focusing on encouraging Engineer referrals or just referrals in general? I want to understand the scope. Is this initiative engineering focused? Is this local, U.S. or globally focused?

“Lastly, is there a specific timeline from a metrics perspective or rollout perspective? Do we want to do this immediately, in the next quarter, or over the course of a whole year?” 


“Okay. There are a few concepts that would really help our solution. One would be focusing on ease of use. That is going to be critical for people we are trying to encourage. We always want to be thinking about scale. We want to make sure the system is reliable and maintainable. We also want to focus on some level of automation.

“I think we should start by focusing on ease of use, but is there another area you would like to focus on?”


“Let’s make a few assumptions. Let’s say we want to test a more automated solution. However, we are going to start testing by only working with Bay Area engineers. Let’s assume we want to complete all this testing and have a really good plan in place by the end of Q1 next year. Let’s assume what we are trying to do is to get more employee referrals by automating how current Googlers can figure out the updates to their first connections on LinkedIn. For this last piece, we would probably want to collaborate with a product team on how to add these features into our applicant tracking system.”


“If we’re going to solve by starting with ease of use, we can solve by doing…”

I’ll leave that last part up to you Engineers because that’s the area you know best. For more insight on this topic and to hear the other sample answers, check out my full video below:

To stay in touch with the latest interview training resources and tips, follow my YouTube channel, visit my blog or sign up on the Practice Interviews website.

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Jeff H. Sipe

Jeff has interviewed over 1000 people in his career and previously spent five years working at Google headquarters in Silicon Valley. You likely found Jeff through YouTube and you will find the same level of dedication in his one on one practice interview sessions.

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