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I'm a Google SWE that's coached 50 through the FAANG interview process. AMA
147 points by coachdarek on Oct 26, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 151 comments
My name is Coach Darek. I work at Google and I run a program that helps people get FAANG jobs for no upfront-payment.

Thought I'd reach out and answer any questions you have about the process/what you'd need to do here.

If you're interested you can check out my program - www.codebreakersacademy.com.

EDITED: Since this has been asked in a couple of comments. There is no age, location, or CS background restriction for CodeBreakers. We're fully remote and all ages/backgrounds are welcome and encouraged.

Don’t you think it’s silly that Google’s interviews are so ineffective that candidates need to learn how to “game” them? Asking as someone who’s been on both sides of Google’s interview process.

That's an interesting viewpoint, so I'd be interested if you could do a critique of the following claim[1]:

> Hackerrank-style interviews suck and they aren't representative (not even remotely) of real working conditions. But they are good at something: evaluating the tenacity and the drive of a candidate. You need to work hard to ace these interviews, and companies are looking for candidates who are persistent and able to work hard—even on things they don't choose to work on.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21123588

> evaluating the tenacity [...] able to work hard—even on things they don't choose to work on.

By that logic, surely every interview practice is justified? And the less related to the job, the better?

I could ask a programmer to build a wooden boat, become a proficient opera singer, or complete four marathons in a year.

To be completely honest, it's actually an intriguing idea. I wonder, assuming some basic level of competency, if you gave a candidate some completely orthogonal task unrelated to the career and they excelled at it (assuming no cheating), would they be a better hire than another candidate?

Maybe! Quite often success at work is determined by getting crap done that doesn't require the skills you trained for initially.

> if you gave a candidate some completely orthogonal task unrelated to the career and they excelled at it... would they be a better hire

This idea has been tried. It’s called college.

True enough, and it works to a certain degree I think.

This would also imply that there's probably fruitful hiring ground in picking from anyone inside your organization (where you have the most direct knowledge) who does their job well, no matter what it is.

I'm given to understand companies used to do this.

Let’s take it to another level: the candidate realises that if they kill a current employee with the skills exactly matching theirs, would you hire them (assuming you can’t prove they killed the employee but it’s blatantly obvious) or would you think that’s unacceptable?

In Terry Pratchett's Assassins Guild they would hire them.

I remember a book by Jim Cramer in which he told a story about how he was offered a job "if you go in that office and fire that guy, right now". He did, and was.

Hiring people on the basis of arbitrary criteria opens you up to indirect discrimination claims. If some protected class X just so happens to perform below-average on that arbitrary criteria, then members of that group can claim indirect discrimination. If the criteria have some rational relationship to the actual job, that's a defence that may succeed. If the criteria are arbitrary and have no rational relationship to the actual job, then that defence isn't going to work. (The fact that there was no discriminatory intention behind the criteria, even if true, may be difficult to prove – arbitrary criteria that discriminate against people in practice, and which have no obvious justification, are likely to be presumed to have a discriminatory purpose, and how can you rebut that presumption?)

Interesting choice of words, but unfortunately there isn't really anything you can do about discrimination in a tech job interview in California, especially age discrimination and the authorities don't send secret shoppers into the tech interview process so it continues. I suspect you are over educated (which is not a bad problem to have, except it will cloud your judgment until you dumb down a bit).

skissane isn't stating that there's no discrimination, just that legally the practice of (algorithm-based) tech interviews is unlikely to be found discriminatory in a US court of law. Yes, there definitely is discrimination to be found, although typically it's not as overt as IBM's age discrimination.

Talking about age discrimination in particular, it's difficult since often older hires may not have the shiny new skill on their resumes or may have something indicating that this person may not be keeping up with tech (the bias). One of the weirdest things about joining a startup is realizing that 98% of engineers are in their 30s or 20s, while not having any engineers in their 50s, 60s or 70s.

> By that logic, surely every interview practice is justified?

In a sense, they are. As long as the interview practice is well understood by the applicants, it only leads to filtering the applicants that cannot pursue the requirements for that practice. Granted, the FAANG interview process and filtering only works because the SWE jobs are desirable enough.

I understand that the required practices and filtering also lead to a certain type of applicant. This is the main fault of the system (the lack of diversity potential).

Without the tenacity to build a wooden boat I would never hire a programmer. How would they demonstrate that tenacity? Through a series of open ended questions in an interview.

> I could ask a programmer to build a wooden boat, become a proficient opera singer, or complete four marathons in a year.

You could, but you would get better results by posing more relevant challenges.

If you ask them to become singers, you'd get a whole lot of people with great voices, who may or may not be good engineers.

At least coding solutions to DSA problems has a fairly high (though not perfect) correlation with being a good programmer.

You can't hire, or even interview, everyone. If you pick some random skill that a reasonable subset of programmers have, then it's entirely plausible that being good at it will correlate with programming skill and supply a population large enough to hire from. But that won't provide you any shelter if it has disparate impact on protected classes.

That may be true but will also effectively exclude strong experienced candidates with options. It worked well for Google in post-dotcom crash frenzy of early 2000s but may not work very well today ;)

> That may be true but will also effectively exclude strong experienced candidates with options.

What options will you have as an experienced candidate which are competitive with FAANG?

I'm an experienced engineer, and my leading FAANG offers were over 50% higher than my top non-FAANG offer.

In fact, my non-FAANG offers as an experienced engineer weren't much better than the offers junior candidates get. So unfortunately, it seems if you're an experienced candidate who wants to be appreciated and rewarded for your experience, FAANGs are basically your only option. Non-FAANGs will pay you maybe 30% more than a junior, and for that they'd expect you to lead a team and work twice as hard.

Yep. You just nailed my latest hiring experience.

I moved on triumphantly from my previous programming job where I built a company's product from Greenfield to million a month with awesome performance and features.

Other start-ups in my area are offering me 5-10k more than I was making at my last job to do the same thing again. My counter offer from a large company was 50k higher for a laid back environment. Guess which opportunity I took.

Hilarious to me. One lead engineer is worth three junior engineer at least. I see startups doing the same thing over and over again. Hiring Junior developers fresh out of boot camp who are completely worthless, and refusing to spend money on high quality candidates who are interested.

> One lead engineer is worth three junior engineer at least.

Far more, I'd say. Fresh graduates and juniors are often held to almost no production bars at all. In many startups, you could be a junior for a year, accomplish very little, yet be in no danger of failing any performance metrics.

Before I left the startup world behind, I observed that seniors were often held responsible to 95% of the production that was happening at their startup.

You'd expect them to be paid x10-20 times as much as juniors, but instead it's typically no more than x1.3-1.4.

So as a senior engineer with a track record of shipped projects, I get to work harder than all juniors, be held to x20 their performance metrics, and for that I get 30% better pay?

No wonder every single senior engineer I know has a "FAANG or bust" attitude nowadays.

There’s a number of companies (mostly public, ofc) in the bay that pay competitively. In fact google is known for lowballing unless you collect offers from fb etc

What companies in the Bay pay better than Google?

Google is known for "low-balling" if you compare to Facebook. My Google offer was higher than both my Amazon and Microsoft offer by a significant margin, and these offers in turn were higher than almost any other offer I had in the Bay.

The only companies that got anywhere near Google on pay were some very exceptional unicorns.

Google will definitely “lowball” you if you don’t have competing offers. However once you do have them, google is very quick to match them. This is just my anecdotal experience though.

Not in my experience, nor that of my friends who got offers.

My typical friend who got a Google offer, already had a bunch of other offers by the time their Google process finally completed. Then the Google offer came in and it was typically higher than most or all of these outstanding offers. Often substantially so.

However, if you have an outlier offer that is based on some theoretical equity valuation ("an extra $1m in stock options based on our last fundraising round"), Google will not match it.

Frankly, they don't need to when their initial offer is already higher than most other options, and far safer.

Also from what I've seen, Google won't just match other offers, but they do have some specific companies whose offers they will match, like FB. FB is also one of the few companies that may offer you higher comp than Google.

My experience is that FB will offer a marginally better offer (30k or so more than G) for comparable levels, and those other public companies give a vaguely competitive offer that still falls short of G by about the same amount. Though I'd love to see actual data.

Is it necessarily gaming? It seems to me that this a focused opportunity for self-aware and ambitious folks to carefully study what's actually really important to organizations.

Honestly, I think 80% of what keeps candidates from succeeding is an unwillingness to conform their character and personality to the needs of the institution that is recruiting them.

That said, I don't want to be a corporate drone either. There are more important things in my life. Like family, health, my hobbies, etc.

Yes, I know that if I lived the organizational values of my company I'd get ahead. But honest, I'd rather go play catch with my kids than obsess about customers[1]

[1] https://sellernexus.com/amazon-mission-statement

I think people consider it gaming because hackerrank is not accurately representative of day to day as a FAANG engineer.

That being said I don’t think there’s a really great way to assess that in a 5 hour onsite interview. So hackerrank ends up being the best they’ve got.

If you can’t assess a candidate in 5 hours, you’re doing something wrong or don’t know what you want.

Predicting the success of an employee and how well they will perform on a brand new team/stack over the course of potentially several years is very challenging and likely impossible especially when the people interviewing you aren’t even on the team you’ll work on. Hence this is why leetcode interviews are the best they’ve got.

No doubt. That’s my point — if you have a process that’s easy to effectively game with coaching, what’s the point?

A company could probably save lots of time and money by cutting some of the fluff in the process. From the pov of a candidate with a good job already testing the waters, these companies come off as trying to hard to add objectivity in situations where it doesn’t exist.

Motivation to game and being coachable seem like desirable skills.

These are also the things that we are looking for most in CodeBreakers students.

Saying that tiny puzzles are the best you can do is a very large leap from saying that you can't predict an employee's performance.

Someone's job performance over time depends on lots of different factors, many out of the control of the company. Understanding someone's potential and risk can be the result of conversations about what they have already done and possibly looking at what they've done. No irrelevant puzzles needed.

It is gaming if some online class and/or few weeks of prep give you an edge.

I don’t think it’s just a few weeks of gaming. Maybe if you do 60 hours a week.

We’ve found that an average undergraduate or masters in CS or STEM field who just knows how to code basic Python will require ~250 hours of total work to become interview ready for FAANG. That’s a lot of time which is why I wouldn’t consider it gaming a system.

“An average” is not what google is after (at least officially).

"Average" is the starting point. After learning data structures algorithms and how to communicate, they are no longer an average candidate (by FAANG standards)

I guess if you really think 250 hours is what separates average from faang level that answers it.

250 hours is a lot of time!

It’s not. It’s about 30 full time days. 6 weeks unpaid leave gets you there.

It's unrealistic to expect someone to spend 30 full time days (6 unpaid weeks) on that kind of material in one go. I've done it myself and gave up multiple times in the process. More than 2-3 days full-time and I burn out immediately. Even doing it just on nights and weekends is incredibly tiring (especially after a normal days work). It's incredibly tiring to do leetcode or similar for 8+ hours/day every day. Especially in the beginning when you start out - because you will feel completely hopeless with the process.

Just FYI - this interview process isn't a one and done thing. You have to refresh yourself at least every year with ~80 hours of prep. Otherwise, you're going to be really bad at it when you search again.

Definitely not one and done! But I doubt you will be searching every year? Maybe once every 5 years hopefully on average. And in the sister comment I mentioned taking unpaid leave to do it, which will be paid by the next company paying you more salary. If I lived in the US where this would make a difference I'd be doing it now. However where I live there is only Google (not FAAN etc.) and they don't pay as much as in the US, so probably not worth it.

I agree, that's actually how I prepared. Unfortunately, most don't have the luxury to dedicate 30 full-time days. Many that we work with our university students with courses or full-time employees. This is why the 250 hours if a pretty big barrier to entry.

Those 6 weeks where you're studying full-time unpaid seems like a lot of time to me. That's 250 hours that you can't spend on what is actually important in your life (maybe friends, family, relationships).

Ok, lets say you earn $80k a year. Google will pay you $120k. So you stand to make $40k in 1 year extra if you get the job. And if you don't get the job the skills transfer to other interviews anyway, so you'll get some kind of job at, lets say $100k.

You ask for 6 weeks unpaid leave. Could be one block, or 1 day a week for 30 weeks. This will cost you $10k gross by my calculations.

Even if you get the $100k job, you are $10k up after 1 year, with no friends and family time sacrificed at all.

As a bonus you were effectively paid for 6 weeks to learn CS skills rather than bash out features and not learn any new computer science skills.

Thanks for the breakdown. I appreciate the chance to see your perspective. When you attach those numbers to it, taking that 6 week unpaid leave makes sense financially. Your comment makes me consider a 6 week sabbatical sometime in the future.

Yeah it sucked, but when I was living at home with my parents I had to put those things aside.

I'm always impressed when I hear stories of quiet, but strong dedication to reach critical long-term goals.

I have a friend that is in his late twenties and is now a partner for a boutique investment shop. About four years ago he made a commitment to pass the CFA 1 in nine months. Studied a little each day after work, and then studied more on the weekends. 180 hours total. Passed the CFA 1 without any fan fare. Hardly told a soul. Did the same for the CFA 2 the following year. Didn't tell any colleagues. No fan fare. Boss was pleasantly surprised when he listed the new qualification on the firm website.

He does the exact same thing the following year for the CFA 3. His wife tells someone at the firm, and when he walks into work they throw a surprise celebration for this very impressive accomplishment (many people spend a decade reaching CFA 3).

A couple months later the managing director moves to have the firm make him a partner. Easy decision. You had a junior analyst quietly dedicate themselves to substantially improving their skills.

Now, while his salary is certainly quite impressive as a partner and for someone that young, the true freedom he has achieved is being given responsibility of a new order of magnitude to establish things he wants to establish in that world (internal values maybe, many new types of clients, new employees he can then bring up through the firm, etc.).

Point is: good on you. You're a lesson for most of us.

I used to work as a SWE at Google, and we sometimes "joked" that the process ("here's a list of computer science topics, we expect you to know all of them, take as long as you want to prepare") was designed to identify insecure overachievers.

> Don’t you think it’s silly that Google’s interviews are so ineffective that candidates need to learn how to “game” them?

Don't you mean "effective"? I assume that given the ratio of applicants to positions, the primary purpose of the interview process is to eliminate as many unacceptable candidates as possible, not to identify as many acceptable candidates as possible.

The FAANG interview is meant to reduce the number of false positives, however, the cost is having a lot of false negatives. This isn't really a problem for them since they have so many applicants.

If by “effective” we mean “deny most everyone” then yeah it’s very much so. If we mean “hire people right for the job” then no one actually knows this because a test would require control group. I would argue that if some leetcoding and other rote can make a significant difference it’s probably not effective.

Actually, people try to game the Google interview precisely because it is effective.

Are SAT Prep classes learning to game the SAT?

Maybe this isn't the place to post this, but it's been on my mind, especially with the recent release of Catalina, iOS 13, and iPadOS and this post made me recall.

With the hiring bar and exercises like FAANG put candidates through, one would expect if it's working well, why are the products, software, getting worse? I would think they would get more talented, educated, and smart engineers.

It seems like it's the opposite though. Catalina has to be the most bug ridden macOS I recall (I've been using macOS since 9), same goes for iOS 13/iPadOS. Not to mention the included software applications such as iTunes, Podcasts, ... I've read similar problems with Windows and Android, so I don't think it's only happening at Apple and I don't mean to specifically call out Apple, but that's the ecosystem I spend the most time with.

I feel as if the software quality should be improving. It would have less bugs, be more efficient, and run faster. I feel as if it's not though. It seems like it gets worse. This seems to be a problem with modern games too.

Great question, but off topic. I think it would be a great Ask HN though. That said, why don't I just pile on here: yeah Catalina - what a steaming pile.... :)

How can you simultaneous work at Google and take cash for helping candidates pass the Google interview process. Seems like a massive conflict of interest and ripe for gaming.

This is a really common question and I’d be happy to elaborate.

I don’t collect any referral bonuses from google nor do I provide any internal google questions to students. What we do is teach data structures and how to communicate these ideas in an interview setting.

The parts that’s “gaming” is that the interview process is quite standardized which I’ve found a way to prepare others for.

Regarding conflict of interest, big tech companies have decided being good at hackerrank interviews = being a good engineer. So I’m training good engineer in their eyes which is a good thing for tech giants.

I was contacted by a Google recruiter once when I was a "programmer/analyst" but not for a software engineer position. I got as far as talking on the phone with the hiring manager, but was not called for an interview. Apparently I was obviously "not their type", but it wasn't a technical screen, so I don't think I was disqualified for lack of knowledge of say, data structures.

So, I still kind of wonder what it takes to be hired for a job that isn't the stereotypical Google SWE, because even though I didn't (and still don't) think of myself as a super genius, it's a fact that I was doing data processing for them which they were paying a handsome amount for (which didn't trickle down to me) so I felt I was qualified by definition.

The majority of general Google SWE interviewees rarely interface with a hiring manager; they're only interviewed by other engineers.

But if you are training the candidate for either FAAN and not for G, would G see this as a conflict?

I would be stunned if this is how Google views the situation.

If they didn't view it this way then I presume they'd probably be opening themselves to litigation - in some country...

Lots of questions if you care to answer:

What does the curriculum look like? I’m on a phone and it wasn’t obvious

What percentage take the course and don’t succeed at getting a job offer?

What percentage get a FAANG level offer?

What does the typical successful “candidate” look like that takes the course?

How is this better than just doing leetcode/CTCI/CIU[0]?

How does this differ from /better than similar programs like techlead’s one[1]

What happens if you pay the $8k upfront and fail to get an offer?

[0] https://github.com/jwasham/coding-interview-university

[1] https://www.techseries.dev/

Edit: FYI your domain is 1 letter away from https://www.codebreakeracademy.com (which is a very different thing)

The curriculum has 3 main parts: data structures/algorithms which include a review of the frequently asked topics such as binary trees, linked lists, heaps, etc. This covers the theory behind them, but also how to use them in the context of interviews. As our students work through these topics, they work with a coach who acts as a private coach. Then it's mock interviews where experienced engineers give feedback and tips on how to improve. Lastly, we help with the recruiting process which can involve connecting students with engineers at other companies for referrals.

So far over 90% of our students succeed at getting a job offer. We rarely give up on students seeking jobs and we work with them until the are hired.

~70% end up getting a job paying >125k. Sometimes it's not FAANG, but still a really good tech company.

Our candidates come from very diverse backgrounds. Most have some CS or a STEM background, but the best predictor we've found is consistency; will you sit down and work through our curriculum consistently.

The difference is that you get a community/network of coaches and other students preparing for interviews as well as the structure.

I didn't buy techleads' but I've noticed it's been on a "limited time" sale since August. Looks like they just charge 1k for an online course with fairly little guarantee of results.

Thankfully it hasn't come up yet, but we're not in this to take $8k from someone and not help them. If there's a good reason why CodeBreakers wasn't a good fit and you paid upfront, we're open to discuss refunds.

Tech Leads course is low quality and basically a cash grab. Very similar to DailyCodingChallenge (see the 26% one star rating of their book on Amazon), who also cashed out and actually advertise through Tech Lead.

I knew it. Seems fishy

I think Tech Lead has good advice, but the closest you get to any substance in their course outside of some well summarized algo primers is a recorded mock interview of Joma basically failing a NCG interview topic (results that anyone would agree would result in a pass and zero offer even if it was a preliminary phone screen). Although, I do like Joma’s content when he’s not just interviewing smug Bay Area posers ;)

Re: Domain

I know, I already got the domain so I didn't think of changing it -_- maybe down the road I will haha.

Taking 15% of income (I assume that's pre-tax) post-offer seems insane. Having gone through and passed FAANG interviews, I certainly wouldn't recommend paying that much.

Kind of brilliant, IMO. Target borderline or insecure candidates, give them just enough help that they're thankful, and take in 30k. Rinse and repeat for ten hours a week and pull in 300k or more a year.

Although some candidates come into CodeBreakers with already very strong interviewing skills, the majority of our students come from pretty modest CS backgrounds and resumes.

That’s a good point, if someone is capable, driven and has the resources to navigate the process on their own I encourage everyone In that situation to do so.

CodeBreakers is for those who fee like they would benefit from the support network of our coaches, community of students, resources and structures curriculum. Most of our students once they get the job they want, they are pretty happy with the ISA.

Of course it's not worth it if you can pass it yourself.

Plenty of people would gladly accept this offer. I would accept the google offer with a 15% pay cut in a heartbeat. No hesitation at all.

It's not like you get in the door and you're set for life. If you're really incapable then you'll struggle to get pass bootcamp and with the frequent performance reviews.

I have to say that at first read, my first though has been : do African sorcerers can now publish ads on HN to sell their magical powers ?

Not to be rude or mean to Coach Darek that I can only guess genuinely wants to help people. But, to me, it does tell a lot about hiring practices at FAANG.

Those interviews does not actually tell you that much, sometimes deter competent persons, don't really weed out bad seed, and yet are the alpha and the omega of the industry.

Edit: downvote accepted as long as I have actual counter argunment. Doing an exercice in the vacuum does not tell if you can grasp existing code nor if you'll work well in a team.

I appreciate the kind sentiment. Interviewing and hiring the right candidate for a job is a near-infinitely complex problem. I mentioned in an earlier post that 5 hours to assess an employee's performance will have lots of false positives / false negatives. Is this the best way to interview? Probably not. If this style of interview can be a good predictor in a large sample size then maybe it's justifiable. I'm assuming the FAANG companies are doing it with lots of statistics backing it up.

I'm not so sure aout those statistics ... Are they published ? The trouble is the whole industry is copying those practices.

In other industries/sectors, when you have 15/20 years of experienced, are you grilled, tested and probed like a junior ? I wonder.

I'm not sure if those statistics are published, but FAANG companies drive all of their business decisions with data; recruiting shouldn't be any different.

> when you have 15/20 years of experienced, are you grilled, tested and probed like a junior?

We get this question a lot. We just worked with an engineer with 20 years of experience. He signed up for CodeBreakers because he knew that although he's a much more experienced programmer than I, he was aware that he needed help with the whiteboard interview if he wanted FAANG.

His Google onsite interview had 3 data structures and algorithm interviews, 1 system design, and 1 behavioral/leadership interview.

Junior engineers have 4 data structures interviews and 1 behavioral now. 80% of the interview is the exact same.

I can attest to this as someone who went through a hazing routine called “whiteboard screening” at the fruit company for senior EE roles. Because I was a local candidate was invited on 3 different occasions for whiteboard screening and I didn’t progress onto the onsite. Sigh! I have been in the industry for 13 years now and seriously considering a pivot. Guess why I am on this thread. This hazing routine is the norm for STEM these days Mechanical/product included. Tho the supply demand is flipped on those.

> Coach Darek that I can only guess genuinely wants to help people

He also wants to make money.

These “income share agreements” seem to be an emerging phenomenon. I wonder if anyone here could comment on any limitations to their use. When someone voluntarily signs an agreement giving me P percent of their income from working as E, for Y years in return for some consideration C: are there restrictions on (P, E, Y, C)? And what sort of laws/rules generally regulate these in the U.S.?

They seem dubious at best, at times I’m surprised that people don’t just find ways to have a lawyer break the agreement after they’re hired. In certain cases it could be cheaper to do that than continue being robbed.

Maybe are loopholes if someone wants to go find lawyers and pay enough legal fees. Thankfully we haven't had to deal with this issue as our students have been pretty satisfied.

I wish I could comment more on the legality of the income share agreements, however, I end up leaving that discussion to a lawyer so I don't have much input here.

How does one individual with a full time job at Google provide 24 x 7 availability for mentoring?


I try to be the most efficient with the time that I do have while making sure that I still finish all my work at Google. Somehow there just ends up being enough time for everything.

I'm finding this very hard to believe. I can't imagine Google being ok with you conducting mentoring session during the work day.

So it's just you then? One person correct? On the home page its states there's a team of software engineers.

We have a team of coaches that work across FAANG and other big tech companies; I haven't uploaded their profiles to the website yet though. EDITED: Although I'd be happy to connect you with some of them directly.

I typically don't take mentoring calls during the workday. I fit them in before or after most of them.

I would certainly be interested in this connection offer. I applied with Google once but the offer they gave was not a high enough level. I'd love to talk about how to get a reasonable offer and interviews. Please see my profile for email if you have the time.

Sure I’d be happy to! If you’d like to schedule a time to chat with me, our website www.codebreakersacademy.com has a Calendly link available to book a time directly.

Thanks for doing this, looking forward to learning from you.

Is there a demand in FAANG for programmers but in Europe, and if so how much of a difference is it between US and Europe?

What would you say is a single trait which differentiates candidates to FAANG? Specific college, programmer from a young age, already established experience or personality, etc.

And finally, is it true that a lot of candidates are socially inept? I.e. lack interpersonal skills, verbal and non-verbal communication, if so, how big of a role does it play in an interview?

I know there is a big Google office in London so I would assume that there is also a big demand for engineers at other FAANG across Europe.

I think there is a big myth that FAANG engineers are somehow different than anyone else. Anyone who is willing to invest the time to properly prepare for the interview process has a a great shot at getting the job. Most people don't know HOW to best prepare which I find is what holds most people back.

I wouldn't say that candidates are socially inept. However, I've interviewed candidates where communication issues turn a possible hire into a no-hire. Communication is as important as technical skills because you need both to pass.

> Is there a demand in FAANG for programmers but in Europe, and if so how much of a difference is it between US and Europe?

Google, Microsoft and Facebook have large offices in London. They also have offices in Zürich, where the pay is much better, though only Google has a large presence there.

All the FAANG companies will generally hire anyone who passes their interview process as long as the office has open positions (it usually does) but the US generally has much much higher demand than Europe. London is no comparison to the bay area. Not even really the Seattle area.

(Though I'm happy in Europe)

> What would you say is a single trait which differentiates candidates to FAANG? Specific college, programmer from a young age, already established experience or personality, etc.

The ability to, given a reasonable time, solve an enormously broad range of problems (which is what I see the interview process as testing for).

FAANG engineers usually aren't "frontend", "backend", "iOS" or "Android" engineers, they're just "engineers". It's usually expected that they can grab someone from anywhere in the company, put them anywhere else in the company and within ~6 months have them productively contributing code.

Of course there are exceptions to this, like research positions or design/UX engineers but generally that's the expectation.

> And finally, is it true that a lot of candidates are socially inept? I.e. lack interpersonal skills, verbal and non-verbal communication, if so, how big of a role does it play in an interview?

My biggest issue with interview candidates has been people who don't talk. The interview isn't as much about solving the problem as how you solve the problem. If you just hear the problem and start silently coding an answer on the board, that's nice but it won't get you a hire recommendation. I need to know what your thought process was, what other options you considered and why you settled on the implementation you chose. I also deliberately leave the problem somewhat ambiguous so that you have to ask questions.

Usually the people who don't talk aren't socially inept though, they're not comfortable with English.

Big FB office in London also. Ping me if you want info or referrals.

Did you get approval from your manager, or legal?

Yup, cleared everything with legal/HR.

Isn't this a conflict of interest with Google?

Nope! We don't teach anything Google-specific, we focus on teaching programming fundamentals that apply to any technical interview.

15% of income post tax is incredibly steep. Why wouldn’t someone just pay $8k upfront? If you plan to actually use the service and get placed with a half decent salary, any of the other options are a complete rip-off.

Many who might be interested in CodeBreakers fear investing $8k and end up with nothing. That's why we offer the ISA option to work with everyone's budget. Candidates planning to use the service seriously to get placed are encouraged to choose whichever payment options that works best for them; that's why we have both options.

How does 9 reviews all giving 5 stars equate to an overall rating of 4.5 starts?


Trustpilot uses a Bayesian Average to determine the overall rating which is the 4.5 stars.

Here's a link explaining their methodology - https://support.trustpilot.com/hc/en-us/articles/201748946-T...

What happens if I take the coaching program, land a job offer but that offer is less than what I would like/be able to accept?

Do I still owe you the % fee? or is it only after actually taking the job?

I mean, if I don't taje the job but got the training anyway, that seems like I would be "pirating" the course. But if I am not comfortable taking the offer because partner/kids/rent/whatever, I would still be out of pocket several thousands without the high paying job.

Interesting concept nonetheless and definitely would consider it!

Hey saganus, this has come up with previous students actually. They asked and also felt bad about getting free help, but really it's our fault for either having too high of a salary target or not giving them better coaching. That's we didn't charge them when they took the job; CodeBreakers will never pressure a student to take a job to meet the ISA, we're here to help people get the jobs they want. If the ISA doesn't align with that, then we have bad ISA terms and need to modify it.

If the standard ISA listed on our FAQ page doesn't work for you (maybe you already have lots of experience and are looking for something far north of $80k), then we can discuss alternatives that make sense for your goals and life situation.

Sounds fair. Thanks!

Wow, I can't believe Google lets you do something like this. Personally owing a coworker tens of thousands out of pocket for getting you a job seems like a really fucked up power dynamic.

I wouldn't descibe it as a power dynamic; that's not what we do. We teach our students programming fundamentals that help them do well in interviews outside of just Google as well as prepare them to be better engineers.

Which major tech company has the most difficult interview process?

Anecdotally I would say Dropbox. My friend who had a 4.0 in College who got offers everywhere else didn’t pass Dropbox’s interview. He’s a PhD student at MIT now.

Famously (until a few years ago at least), even places like MemSQL, Palantir, Quora, Yandex were all famous for interview processes tougher than the regular FAANG.

Rejection doesn’t mean difficulty. All of my worst students work for one of those companies. All of my best were rejected by the same company. Trust me; the competence gap was astronomical.

It sounds almost like the scatter plot of grades and competence at an actual job (or perceived competence at least) isn’t a straight line.

I agree with this, and I had students like that too, but no way, not in the case of this particular company. It had to be deliberate, or maybe they were just hiring their drinking buddies. I don't know, but it could not have been anything approximating engineering competence.

What is and isn't difficult depends chiefly on the candidate. Ask me about WASM and I'll fail miserably, but if you ask me about GPU architecture I may fare better.

What's with the recent spade of coaching engineers for FAANG companies?

Seems like a niche "industry" with lots of potential cash grab opportunity.

So you've worked at Google for "only" 1y2m and already coached 50 people to work at a FAANG? Or you started this earlier?

Is this restricted by geographic location, or does this work for remote workers too?

Imagine for a second you have an applicant from rural Southeast Ohio, which is a very economically depressed region, and they can't relocate. Is relocation the only way to get a decent job for such a candidate? I understand if FAANG is out of their reach what with being out in the sticks.

Please post the income share agreement.

Is the income share agreement for life?

Nope, it’s only for 1-year.

Presumably you also get a referral bonus from Google?

Because of CodeBreakers, I decline any referral bonuses from google. It usually doesn’t matter anyways since you only get the bonus if candidate has never applied to google before; most people have at some point so it rarely pans out.

Do you have any idea how FAANG companies treat disabled people, people who need accessibility etc? Does that make a difference? I know they're not legally allowed to discriminate but... no one is, everyone does.

During the interview, expect them to be fairly generous with accommodations; the disabled are a protected class and they're scrupulous about observing the rules.

In the workplace, it's kind of a double-edged situation. FAANGs and similar big companies will be really generous with equipment, accommodations, and so forth in general. On the other hand, if the disabled person isn't visibly (emphasis on visibly) as productive as others, well, they can become persona non grata very, very quickly. The disabled person is competing with non-disabled people who are smart, aggressive, and eager to get ahead (promotions and bonuses add up to big money), so expect no mercy beyond whatever little your friendships get you.

I can't speak for other companies, but I can assure you that Google emphasizes extreme scrutiny that there is as little implicit bias as possible throughout their interview process.

Where is the free roadmap to big four tech companies from the FAQ? How does the upfront pricing work; I assume someone with a CS degree and some experience requires lesser coaching effort.

Sorry about the confusion with our website and the roadmap. We’ve been changing our website around and still have missed a couple of things.

Upfront pricing is paid 2-weeks after starting the program for the exact same coaching the ISA students receive and will work with you until you get hired.

Something new we’ve implemented is that we can adjust the mentor ship fee depending on your experience interviewing. Usually this involves just having a chat with me with a mini mock interview. If you’re already pretty strong, then we can give a discount.

Where do you see the labor demand going over the short, medium, and long terms for your clients? Ie what could happen to slow the market or accelerate it.

The demand for coders is likely only going to increase in the short, medium and long run.

FAANG companies have increased their employment of engineers by almost 10% for the past 3 years. I don't see the software engineer market slowing down anytime soon. Even if FAANG companies see competition from disruptive startups, those disruptive startups will need to hire engineers too.

If I don't have FAANG on my resume and no open-source contributions are my chances doomed? Does age matter? What could I do to improve my chances?

Absolutely not. We've worked with people of all ages and backgrounds, many without a formal CS background. So having no open-source contributions is totally fine.

Things to improve changes - Find people to refer you. This pretty much guarantees an interview. - Prepare for the technical interview. This does take time, but it's a really good investment. Websites like Leetcode are really good. If you can Leetcode medium's in 30 minutes, you're golden. - Get people to mock interview you. This is something we make a HUGE emphasis on in CodeBreakers.

Google recruiter reached out to me for a role in MV. I said I’d like for an NYC position. I forward my resume to him and he said he’ll forward it to NYC team. After that no reply from him. I followed up and he said they decided not to move forward.

Then 2 months later I got someone to refer me at Google. I applied. The applications get stuck for 2 months now and still pending. No phone, no email, nothing from Google whatsoever.

Can you tell me what happened? Did I get shadowbanned by Google?

Besides Leetcode, are there any other websites that would be at the top of your recommendation list for preparing candidates?

You can use archives like the ones you find in Hackerrank / SPOJ, or participate in contests run by Codeforces / Codechef.

They recruit everybody even if you don't work for a faang company. If you have software engineer as a title I think a google recruiter will reach out to you. Same with Facebook and amazon.

+1 having software engineering experience for 2+ years, recruiters will probably reach out. If you have a referral, then that pretty much guarantees the interview.

You mentioned that there is no restriction on the location of the candidate. So, how does the ISA work when a candidate gets a job outside US?

We've mostly been focused on getting candidates jobs within the US. We're working with several international candidates on how to get them jobs in the US. I've already begun conversations with lawyers to create an ISA that applies to roles outside of the US; mostly likely it will be similar but exchange rate adjusted.

+1 on this one. Even I also wanted to know, do you help candidates based outside of the US(in my case I'm currently based out of India with 2+ years of work ex in Analytics domain currently working as ML Engineer ) secure SWE roles preferably outside of the current country of residence.

What are your thoughts on ATS? What does it take for older, non-traditional candidates to get past the initial resume filter?

Every candidate is different, but generally, if you have experience as an engineer and can get someone to refer you, then you will likely be able to get an interview.

What's a good source for practice questions? Many problems on Leetcode are completely unsuitable as interview questions.

I would say if you picked only one resource (outside of CodeBreakers of course :P) that Leetcode is your best bet for the data structures / algorithm interview.

If you can do random LC mediums in ~40 minutes you’re in pretty good shape.

How many months on average does the program take for unmarried individuals working full time?

Several of our students have done CodeBreakers whole working full-time jobs both married and unmarried. On average it took around 4-5 months based on about 10-15 hr/wk commitment.

Is there any age or location limitations?or any other restrictions.

No age restriction or location limitation. We work fully-online with flexible scheduling.

Our students come from all ages, cs backgrounds and locations.

You may want to correct “receieved” typo here:


Thanks! Updated :)

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