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Part of the point of the whiteboard is that it's not a real development environment. Google interviews are usually designed to test how you think, not how well you can place a semicolon. The point is, it's okay if you miss a brace or forget the name of a method. It also allows you to mix diagrams and psuedo-code in with 'real' code in an easy way. (also, I can't think of a better environment to give them. You can't provide everyone with their favorite IDE with all the code hints, so in the end it's just going to be a dumb text editor anyway)

Working on a whiteboard is definitely a skill, but one that's worth developing if you plan to work with others on a complex project.

That said, they really shouldn't have been giving this guy standard CS questions. Sure, you want to make sure that he understands why writing his string concatenation loop the wrong way will result in O(n^2) behavior, but he was interviewing for a front-end position.

The front-end interviews are a mix of front-end focused interviewers and gen-eng interviewers (usually 3 & 2, respectively). That's because the frontend-SWE position involves writing JS/HTML/CSS to run in a browser, but it also involves writing the server code that generates that JS/HTML/CSS (same reason that Java or C++ is part of the job req). We care very much about efficiency when your code runs on tens of thousands of servers.

There are also a bunch of algorithmic questions that come up in the browser as well, because unlike a lot of sites, Google actually cares about latency. You often can't use a library function if it involves pulling in a 300K library, nor can you write an O(n^2) algorithm if it involves locking up the browser.

Then ask about browser caching, expires headers, js/css minimization, yslow (or page speed :/), CDNs, and generic front end stuff

A non-trivial percentage of visitors hit Google Search with an empty cache and no cookies. I know the numbers but aren't sure I can share them, but it's enough that relying on caching to solve latency woes doesn't work.

In 2007 Yahoo shows that ~40-60% of users hit their pages with an empty cache[1].

Newer numbers would be good :)

[1] http://www.yuiblog.com/blog/2007/01/04/performance-research-...

That's fine, but are you asking your frontend devs to solve Google's latency woes as a normal part of their interview?

From my experience, they do ask those questions.

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