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Googleyness & Leadership: A Key Interview Question

google interviews Jan 12, 2022

Imagine you work in a place with a negative culture. What would you do about it and how would you improve it?

If you want to work for Google, this is a question that will likely come up during your Googleyness & Leadership (G&L) interview. Most G&L questions tend to be behavioral, but that is not always the case. You could face a hypothetical question. Let’s take a look at the key items to consider regarding this important G&L interview question.

Item #1—C.F.A.S.

I won’t go into full detail about the C.F.A.S. method again (click here to read the full article breaking down each step), but it stands for “Clarify. Framework. Assumptions. Solution.” It is a tried and true technique for organizing your thoughts and presenting a strong open-ended response with clear transitions from point to point.

Item #2—Solution

First, let’s imagine you have a fairly unresponsive interviewer. They aren’t going to give you too much. They want to see how you respond in a difficult situation. Here is an example you may want to follow. By following the C.F.A.S. method, we can walk through the step-by-step process of answering this particular Googleyness & Leadership interview question.

Step 1: Clarifying Questions

Here are a few good questions you can ask your interviewer:

     Is this negative culture only on my team or across the whole organization?

     Has it always been this way or was a shift triggered by something that happened?

     Where is this negative culture coming from? Is it based on leadership? Is it about the overall strategy, process and vision? Or, is it something related to benefits?

     What is the size of the hypothetical company (small, medium or large)?

     Is this my personal opinion or do other people feel this way?

     Have there been any past and/or recent attempts to try and fix this culture problem?  

Step 2: Framework

A few concepts we would want to focus on to solve this challenge are:

  • Establish really strong goals
  • Look at historical data
  • Bring in the critical stakeholders
  • Focus strongly on communication and inclusivity
  • Training and education
  • Review specific success measurements 

Step 3: Assumptions

Start by restating any information that your interviewer clarified for you (if applicable) and add a few specific assumptions. In this case, our interviewer, Sue, did not answer any of our questions. So, let's dive right into assumptions. First, let’s assume that this negative culture is across the board and that it is somewhat facilitated or supported by leadership and other people within the organization. Next, we can assume that it’s common knowledge and everyone knows about it.

Lastly, it’s smart to assume that there have been attempts made to improve the culture. However, nothing has really worked yet and it’s up to you to find a positive solution.

Step 4: Solutions

Let’s look at one potential solution, focusing on communication as the key issue. Here’s how I might structure my response:

“Let’s start with the right mindset right away. All communications should start with positive intent to help us recover from a negative culture. I really want to take an empathic approach with anyone I speak with on the team. In addition to empathy, I want to create a communication space where there is psychological safety. This is a critical facet of communication to allow people to share their thoughts and feelings without fear of negative repercussions.

“First, I would reach out to my direct teammates and leads, and get their approval to start the communication process. I am going to focus on two items:

  1.   Coming in with a listening mindset—Hearing what they have to say, understanding any built-in biases and observing their reactions.
  2.   Centering questions around opportunities—How can we create better ownership? How can we improve alignment?

“Then, we will end each meeting with a mini action plan and clear commitment that I will include them in any next steps. Sue, we could definitely go into more detail on the types of questions I would ask in these meetings. We could talk more about the critical item of the action plan. Or, we can shift our focus to training and education. Is there any component you would like me to focus on next?”

This is just one potential solution-based response to consider for this key Googleyness & Leadership interview question. In the full video, I cover two additional solutions based on other frameworks and assumptions.

If you would like to learn more about interview training for Google and other companies, follow my YouTube Channel for new videos every other week and weekly interactive live streams. You can also follow my blog or sign up on Practice Interviews for additional tips and resources.

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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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