Acing the Interview: 7 Tips from Harvard Junior Who Bagged Internship Offers with Google, Apple and Facebook

Want to know the sure shot tips to crack interviews? Meet Jessica Pointing. This Harvard Junior is recently in news because of her outstanding performance in interviews with multiple big MNCs. She managed to bag internships offers from companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple, McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, Facebook and Morgan Stanley. She received offers for job roles in product management, consulting, data science, software engineering, trading and in investment banking.

Internship Offers with Google

Pointing, who is pursuing Physics major and computer science from Harvard University, for her outstanding performance gives credit to her intensive preparation done separately for interviews with each company and her stupendous interview skills. To enlighten other students with her interview skills, Pointing has published some of the pro-level tips on her blog, The Optimize Guide.

Here in this article, you will get to know her secret of cracking interviews with all these top global players. The tips have been enlisted and explained by our experts for the students’ better understanding.

1. Homework should always be the priority

Here by homework, Pointing does not mean daily class projects or assignments. Getting through with different companies demands distinct preparation from the candidate if he or she genuinely wants to clear each level of an extensive multi-level interview. On her blog, Pointing talks about industry-based research and preparation for interviews. She advises that preparations need to be taken for different companies. She also states that preparation for separate interview needs to be taken based on the job role. Like for an engineering job role, she recommends studying books like Cracking the Code Interview by Gayle Laakmann McDowell. Students can also consult Case in Point by Marc Cosentino.

2. Prepare a structure for resolving the problems

In her blog, Jessica explains how to eradicate the interview-related stress. She writes on her blog that it is very normal to black out and to forget all the hard-learned information and knowledge when you are giving an interview. Your stress and anxiety can lead the interview into a mess. To eradicate any chance of being looked like an unprepared candidate, she favors a problem-solving attitude. This problem-solving approach towards unknown problems can help candidates in facing tough interview situation. On her blog, she further jots down the structure that she followed while answering questions in the software engineering interview. She recommends the following:

• Repeat the question that has been asked. This will instantly help you to understand the question more clearly

• Elucidate the function input and output

• It is always advised to check all available assumptions

• Show a positive approach towards solving the problem in an unconventional way

• Candidates are always advised to talk about tradeoffs of the approach

• Next step is to code the explanation

The following important step is to test the solution with any standard test case.

Next, to make the solution more competent, you are advised to verify the solution with some edge cases as well.

She also discusses her planning for clearing a consulting interview

• The first step is the same; a candidate must repeat to make sure that he or she has understood the question all relevant details properly.

• The next step is all about explaining the objectives of the case. She also advises that the candidate must ask the interviewer if there are any more objectives.

• If the candidate is not clear about any ideas or solution, then he or she must think about unique ideas and solution.

• Based on the clarification, the candidate needs to generate ideas and then should frame solution.

• Then comes the organizing and structure of the answer.

• She also advises that if the candidate is using calculations, then he or she must give insight about the calculation and on why is the calculation necessary.

• Also, she recommends that the solution needs to be concluded with a summarization.

3. Progress with Practice

Pointing believes that the skill set for any particular interview increases with proper practice. She advises that before facing the interview, the candidates must practice mock interviews. Some companies have specific course structure that will prepare the candidates with proper interview skills. These recruitment-training providers organize some mock interview drives that are mainly company specific. By attending these interviews, candidates can get ready for the interview. While you are sitting for an interview, the main thing that you need to consider is building up your confidence level, and she advises to take up some mock interview session to develop your interview skills. Pointing says if it is possible to schedule the dream job interview last, go ahead and do it so that all the previous discussions with other companies can act as your practice interviews.

4. Have a backup plan

Backup plans are always advised as interviews can be stressful and even after doing all the essential preparation still things can end up in a bad way. So she advises that every candidate should always have a backup plan for the worst case scenario. She talks about this alternative path on her blog. According to her, it is always advised to plan alternative options to pursue if the dream job or internship opportunity does not pay off.

5. Prepare for what you know and what you don’t

The next recommendation that she features on her blog is drafting a question bunch for the dream interview. She advises that after every interview, a candidate should always jot down all the questions that have been asked to him or her. By making the customized question bunch, the candidate will feel more confident about the preparation. By writing down questions, the candidate will be able to understand in which areas the strength lies and on which areas the candidate needs to improve his or her skills. Only by making a question bunch, the candidate will clearly understand exactly where he or she is standing.

6. Behavioral questions are also significant; focus on them

A proper interview skill develops with overall preparation. And this training includes those behavioral aspects which are also important while facing interviews. A candidate should present the best self in front of the interviewers. Behavioral questions fall into different categories, like leadership, challenges, teamwork and successes. She advises on her blog that when it comes scoring high marks in behavioral questions, candidates need to identify stories and achievement from his or her life that feature leadership qualities, challenges that have been overcome and teamwork capabilities.

7. Invest ample time to prepare for the interview

Before facing the final interview, candidates must spend the required amount of time for practicing and reading. Every candidate should develop the interview skills from the grassroots level and then only he or she can expect to bag their dream internship or job. Pointing also advises that prior to sitting for the final interview with your dream company talk to HRs about which industry will suit your plan the most. She warns against applying to multiple random companies and job roles. She recommends doing a thorough research before selecting your preferred sector.

Internship Interview Questions at Google

(Source: Glassdoor)

  • How would you sort a list that you are given in multiple chunks across different machines because it is too big to store on a single computer’s hard drive?  
  • Leetcode plus one. A multi-thread locking problem. A BFS problem in a grid.  
  • Describe how you would organize an Excel spreadsheet of given data based on certain requirements.  
  • Questions about HashMaps and Binary Trees  
  • say you have a huge file on disk, too big to fit in memory, and it has a list of N 2d (x,y) points. How can you find the K points that are closest to the origin?
  • Given a string A consisting of n characters and a string B consisting of m characters, write a function that will return the number of times A must be stated such that B is a substring of the repeated A. If B can never be a substring, return -1.

A = ‘abcd’
B = ‘cdabcdab’
The function should return 3 because after stating A 3 times, getting ‘abcdabcdabcd’, B is now a substring of A.

You can assume that n and m are integers in the range [1, 1000].

  • Consider an undirected tree with N nodes, numbered from 1 to N. Each node has a label associated with it, which is an integer value. Different nodes can have the same label. Write a function that, given a zero indexed array A of length N, where A[j] is the label value of the (j + 1)-th node in the tree and a zero-indexed array E of length K = (N – 1) * 2 in which the edges of the tree are described, returns the length of the longest path such that all the nodes on that path have the same label. The length is the number of edges in that path.


A = [1, 1, 1, 2, 2]
E = [1, 2, 1, 3, 2, 4, 2, 5]

This tree is shown below. A node follows the form label, value.

———-1, 1

—–1, 2        1, 3

2, 4      2, 5

The function should return 2, because the longest path is 2->1->3, and there are 2 edges in this path.

Assume that 1

  • Question: Write a function that takes a list L and returns a random sublist of size N of that list. Assume that the indexes must be in increasing order. That is, you cannot go backwards.


L = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]
N = 3

The function should return one of these lists:

[1, 2, 3]
[1, 2, 4]
[1, 2, 5]
[1, 3, 4]
[1, 3, 5]
[1, 4, 5]
[2, 3, 4]
[2, 3, 5]
[2, 4, 5]
[3, 4, 5]

  • Given a list L of video names and their watch rates, write a function that will return the videos with the top 10 watch rates. Video names may appear more than once.


L = [(‘abc’, 10), (‘def’, 15), (‘ghi’, 10), (‘abc’, 12), …, (‘xyz’, 100)]

The function should return [‘xyz’, ‘abc’, …, ‘def’, ‘ghi’]

  • Consider a binary tree of N vertices such that children of node k are 2*k and 2*k+1. Vertex 1 is the root of the tree and each node has an integer value associated with it.

Such a tree may be represented as an array of N integers by writing down values from consecutive nodes.

The tree can be represented as an array [-1, 7, 0, 7, -8].
A node is said to be at level x if the length of the shortest path between that node and root x-1. So, the root is at level 1, the children of root are at level 2, and so on.

Your task is to find the smallest level number x such that sum of all nodes at level x is maximal.

Examples: Given array A such that: A[0]=-1, A[1]=7, A[2]=0, A[3]=7, A[4]=-8. The function should return 2.

Input : [-1, 7, 0, 7, -8] 

Output : 2

  • Imagine you have a special keyboard with all keys in a single row. The layout of characters on a keyboard is denoted by a string S1 of length 26. S1 is indexed from 0 to 25. Initially, your finger is at index 0. To type a character, you have to move your finger to the index of the desired character. The time taken to move your finger from index i to index j is |j-i|, where || denotes absolute value.
  • Write a function solution(), that given a string S1 that describes the keyboard layout and a string S2, returns an integer denoting the time taken to type string S2.


S1 = abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz

S2 = cba

Input : S1 = abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz, S2 = cba 

Output : 4





using namespace std;
int solution(string& s1, string& s2)
    map dict;
    for (int i = 0; i         dict[s1[i]] = i;
    int ans = 0;
    int prev = 0;
    for (int i = 0; i         ans = ans + abs(dict[s2[i]] – prev);
prev = dict[s2[i]];
    return ans;
int main()
    string s1 = “abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz”;
    string s2 = “cba”;
    cout }

Other Questions (General)

  • What is your favorite Google product, and how would you improve it?–Associate product manager, January 2016
  • If you wanted to bring your dog to work but one of your team members was allergic to dogs, what would you do?–Associate account strategist, December 2014
  • If ads were removed from YouTube, how would you monetize it?–Associate account strategist, January 2016
  • What do you know about Google?–Administrative business partner, February 2015
  • Design an evacuation plan for the building.–Business analyst, November 2014
  • Which do you think has more advertising potential in Boston, a flower shop or a funeral home?–Account strategist, October 2015
  • What is your favorite Google product, and how would you improve it?–Associate product manager, January 2016
  •  If you wanted to bring your dog to work but one of your team members was allergic to dogs, what would you do?–Associate account strategist, December 2014
  • A coin was flipped 1,000 times and there were 560 heads. Do you think the coin is biased?–Quantitative analyst, September 2015
  • What does “being Googley” mean to you?–Product specialist, December 2015
  •  Name a prank you would pull on x manager if you were hired.–Google applications support engineer, June 2014
  •  What is your opinion on whether or not individuals should be required to use their official name when opening a Gmail or Google +  account?–Administrative assistant, April 2014
  •  What would you want to do if you didn’t have to work?–Interaction designer, September 2014
  •  What scares you?–Business analyst interview, September 2014
  • How many ways can you think of to find a needle in a haystack?–Business associate, May 2014
  • If you could be remembered for one sentence, what would it be?–Associate account strategist, March 2014
  •  If you could only choose one song to play every time you walked into a room for the rest of your life, what would it be?–Associate account strategist, March 2014
  •  How do you think the digital advertising world will change in the next three years?–Creative director, January 2016
  • What three things would you change at your university/workplace if you were CEO today?–Account strategist, April 2014
  • You have a grocery delivery service (similar to Amazon Fresh) that delivers food within 24 hours. Estimate how many trucks you need to operate this service.–Product manager, November 2015
  • List six things that make you nervous.–Android support level III, July 2014
  • Estimate the number of tennis balls that can fit into a plane.–Intern, December 2015
  • How would you explain cloud computing to a 6-year-old?–Product manager, November 2015
  • Tell me what you think about Google charging users $1 per month to use Gmail.– BOLD candidate, October 2015
  • How many haircuts do you think happen in America every year?–Business associate, May 2014
  • List six things that make you nervous.–Android support level III, July 2014
  • Describe AdWords to a 7-year-old.–Associate account strategist, December 2014
  • Tell me something about you that isn’t on your résumé.–Associate account strategist, March 2014
  • What is the market for driverless cars in the year 2020?–Product manager, November 2015
  • If you had access to a bank’s database, how would you use that information to design an ATM for elderly people?–Associate product manager, February 2015
  • Model raindrops falling on a sidewalk (sidewalk is 1m and raindrops are 1cm). How could we know when the sidewalk is completely wet?–Software engineer, January 2016
  • Do you prefer earning or learning?–Software engineer, January 2016
  • How would I explain the importance of HTML 5 to Larry Page and then to my grandma?–Creative specialist, January 2016
  • Tell me a joke.–Executive assistant, March 2014
  • If I gave you $10 million right now, what would you do?–Associate account strategist, May 2014How many cars travel across a bridge each day?–Advertising interview, September 2014
  • Would you remove the link to an extremist piece of writing?–Legal assistant, December 2015
  • Define a service that would allow you to travel to the future.–Interaction designer, December 2015
  • How could you solve humankind’s biggest crisis given $1 billion and a spacecraft?–Database administrator, December 2015
  • How many cars travel across a bridge each day?–Advertising interview, September 2014
  • You have a colony on Mars that you want to communicate with. How do you build a system to communicate with them?–Associate product manager, November 2014
  • How would you improve a shoe factory?–Field operations specialist, November 2014

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