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January 26, 2012 / Leslie

Review & Giveaway: Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?

Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?
by William Poundstone

Genre: Business
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Publish Date: January 4, 2012
Format: Hardback | 304 pages

Are You Smart Enough To Work At Google? guides readers through the surprising solutions to dozens of the most challenging interview questions. The book covers the importance of creative thinking, ways to get a leg up on the competition, what your Facebook page says about you, and much more. Are You Smart Enough To Work At Google? is a must read for anyone who wants to succeed in today’s job market.

The first part of the book is an entertaining, inside look at how many of today’s major companies go about choosing new hires. The author delves into their background and hiring practices and examines what information the interviewer is seeking from job candidates. Actual questions are discussed and analyzed, and some of them are real doozies. Companies may be looking for creativity or logic or common sense, but often the questions seem completely unrelated.

One of my favorites was how Nordstroms screens female applicants. A simple three-part test:

• Is the applicant wearing black?
• Is she wearing heels?
• Is she wearing a watch?

The answer to all three should be yes. This screens out 90% of the applicants. It’s arbitrary, but since there are so many applicants they feel there is little reason to hire anyone who doesn’t know their secret dress code. Moral of that story, research the company before you go on your interview.

At the end of each chapter are some sample questions. The second half of the book are the answers to each of these questions by chapter. The author points out what would be a good answer, a bad answer, and why there’s a difference. Tips and advice are offered on how to answer questions and how to salvage an interview that appears to be doomed to failure.

This is much more than a guide on interviewing techniques. It was a fun read and now I know I’m not smart enough to work at Google.

About the Author

William Poundstone is the author of twelve books, including How Would You Move Mount Fuji? and Fortune’s Formula, which was Amazon Editors’ pick for the #1 nonfiction book of the year in 2005. He has written for the New York Times, Harper’s, Harvard Business Review, and the Village Voice, among other publications. He lives in Los Angeles.

Giveaway Information

The publisher has generously offered two copies for giveaway. If there are more than 30 entries I will add another copy.

  • Contest is open to those with an address in the US or Canada.
  • To enter leave a comment. It is not necessary to be a subscriber or follower to enter but new subscribers are always welcome.
  • The deadline for entry is Sunday, February 12th. Winners will be chosen by a random drawing, contacted by email and will have 48 hours to respond with a mailing address.

Contest is now closed.


  1. Anna (Diary of an Eccentric) / Jan 26 2012 10:52 am

    This does sound interesting and might come in handy given today’s job market. I certainly wouldn’t pass that secret dress code test! No need to enter me.


    • Leslie / Jan 26 2012 11:54 am

      I wouldn’t pass either. There’s a 50/50 chance I’d show up in black but heels? Nope. And what’s a watch? I thought my cell phone took care of knowing the time.


  2. Arlee Bird / Jan 26 2012 11:32 am

    As one who has been on the job market for a good while I find the criteria in the example of Nordstroms to be someone disturbing in its close-mindedness, but understandable from a corporate culture standpoint. I’ve been hearing a lot about this book and it sounds like a helpful read for those like me. I’m no longer sure where I fit in.

    By the way I took a sample Google test that was online a while back and I guess I failed. I don’t think I’m smart enough to work at Google according to the test.

    Tossing It Out


    • Leslie / Jan 26 2012 11:56 am

      I’m in the market now too and a lot of this is disturbing as some of it serves to eliminate older workers. It’s good to know what to expect though. And I don’t think google would want me either!


  3. Suko / Jan 26 2012 1:39 pm

    Leslie, I stopped wearing a watch because my cell phone became my “watch” a few years ago. It’s also my “alarm clock”. and a great source of entertainment (music, games, etc.).

    I’d love to read this book. I’m sure it has a lot of good advice and tips, judging from your excellent review.

    I’ll post this giveaway in my blog’s sidebar. 🙂


  4. Debbie Rodgers / Jan 26 2012 2:09 pm

    Oh, please, please, pick me! I wear black, I wear heels and I wear a watch 😉


  5. Man of la Book / Jan 26 2012 3:31 pm

    Ya’ know… I’m not big on these type of books but this one actually sounds good.


  6. The Book and Movie Dimension blogger / Jan 26 2012 9:16 pm

    How shocking hiring someone based on whether they do something one way or not. Sounds good to read.

    (at) yahoo (dot) com


  7. Amy M / Jan 26 2012 11:18 pm

    Sounds like a very interesting book! I may learn a thing or two 🙂


  8. Leeswammes / Jan 27 2012 6:11 am

    Interesting book! I never knew they’d check things like what you wear in detail. I’d think “overall” impression would be sufficient. I never wear heels because I have back problems. But then, who wants an employee with back problems (erm… I almost never have back problems when I don’t wear heels, but well…).


  9. Meg / Jan 27 2012 3:07 pm

    Sounds like an informative and interesting read! Though I do wear some item of black every day, you won’t find me in heels or a watch unless it’s a very particular occasion. 🙂


  10. Anne / Jan 30 2012 9:27 am

    Many thanks for this interesting giveaway. I wear a watch daily. and dress conservatively.


  11. Megan / Feb 2 2012 10:19 am

    Sounds like an interesting read. I wouldn’t pass the interview, I don’t even own a watch!


  12. Marci / Feb 4 2012 6:57 am

    I have wanted to read this! My fingers are crossed.


  13. Maureen / Feb 6 2012 9:41 am

    It looks like an interesting book. I took their quiz and did terrible.


  14. Jon Burt / Feb 11 2012 11:01 am

    The excerpt was interesting. Looks like a good resource.


  15. Lilian / Feb 11 2012 3:06 pm

    I was reading a review earlier at another blog, and I HAD to put it on my to-read list!

    makes me want to try Google’s exam.

    but, thank you for the gieaway and I really hope I win! *crosses fingers*


  16. Darlene / Feb 11 2012 5:52 pm

    Sounds interesting! Please enter me in the draw, and thanks for the giveaway!

    I’m an RSS subscriber.

    darlenesbooknook at gmail dot com


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