Google offers multiple positions every year including technical writers, UX writers, and many more. And for most of you, working at Google as a technical writer is no less than a dream.
Google receives applications from candidates who clearly understand the job description and fulfill the mentioned initial criteria to apply.
To make yourself stand out from thousands of those applicants, make sure your CV/resume, experience, and skills resonate with the mentioned job requirements.
The first step in the hiring process is an interview. Furthermore, Google conducts thorough and detailed interviews to hunt for the right talent. Thus, this article provides a detailed insight into a technical writer's interview questions and answers most asked by Google recruiters. But, keep in mind that, questions and their nature can vary and not everyone will ask the same questions again. Thus, we will only provide insights on the ways to answer the questions in the best ways.
Let’s dive right into the details on what questions google can ask, and how you should answer them.
Google Technical Writer Interview Questions and Tips to Answer Them
Google conducts 3-4 technical interviews before the final selection. So, the hiring process lasts for 3-6 months of screening the candidates and finally hiring the most skilled talent.
In this blog post, we provide a list of technical and non-technical questions asked at a Google interview. We pulled the questions from verified sources like Glassdoor and candidates who were interviewed at google for a technical writer’s seat.
We also provided some tips on how you should answer these questions. If you're interested in learning via video, watch below. Otherwise, skip ahead.
Let's dive in.
Technical Questions for Google Technical Writer Interview
Below are listed some technical questions you can expect in a Google technical writer interview:
1. What are the typical obstacle a technical writer faces during information gathering?
By asking such questions, the interviewers judge your technical skills in the hiring process. This is one of the most common technical questions interviewers ask in a Google interview.
Such questions are seamless for qualified technical writer candidates, while a candidate with lesser experience might not be familiar with the deeper challenges of gathering information.
A typical tech writer faces the challenge to gather credible information from known sources. In addition to that, coordinating effectively with the SME(s) to extract viable information is also a daunting challenge. Tech writers face another difficulty when the write-ups are not reviewed properly by SME(s).
Furthermore, it is very obvious that if you do not have clarity of your expected target audience, you do not have clear expectations. Thus, unclear expectations mean limited information.
The interviewer is assessing your knowledge of the challenges of technical writing. So, the best answer to such interview questions is to narrate the above-mentioned process and issues.
The examples are not limited to the above-mentioned challenges, it is a good chance that you have much more detailed answers to these interview questions.
Think of a difficult project you worked on in the past. List the challenges you faced till its accomplishment. Use technical terms to shape your answer most fruitfully.
2. What are the documentation and publication tools that you have worked on?
Again, this question assesses your technical and soft skills. There are no right or wrong answers for this question, you just have to communicate your knowledge on technical documentation software.
This question is relatively easier for qualified technical writer candidates with multiple years of experience. But, for a non-experienced candidate, such interview questions might become tricky. You may know one or two basic documentation tools but a compact and generic answer can lower your merit.
The best practice to prepare the answer to such a question is to explore and research. Although you cannot master a documentation and publication tool when preparing an interview, you can develop an overview of the tools in your mind. This way, you’ll know how to answer technical questions like these.
Another trick behind asking such a question is that interviewer is testing your abilities to cope with the latest market trends. Thus, make sure that you familiarize yourself well with the latest tools and software.
Some of the advanced publication and documentation tools are Document360, oXygen XML author, Flare, Notion, WordPress, and Github.
Do not just provide them the names of software, instead make your answer more conversational by mentioning the tool you love the most, and stating the reasons for preferring one tool over the other.
3. What format is used for sending information inside an organization?
Such interview questions assess your internal organizational communication skills and technical writing knowledge. If you had the experience working in an organization as a tech writer, then this question is no hurdle for you.
Even if you don’t have experience working in an organization, you can explore answers to this question with a simple google search.
Typically, when you have to communicate and send information inside an organization, memos are used.
Memos are used to communicate policies, rules, and official news inside an organization. These are the most traditional means for written business communications.
As memos are solely defined for internal communication, there are letters, which are used for external business communications. External communication means communicating with business stakeholders and SME(s).
Thus, in answer to such questions, the interviewer assesses your knowledge of communication means. This question can also be asked in terms of communication skills.
An interviewer can also ask this question to judge your knowledge of the memorandum's format. The best answer is to narrate that all organizations are independent, and thus they are free to design their custom format for memorandums.
If you're looking to master the technical writing skills so you can professionally answer these Google technical writer interview questions, check out our world recognized technical writing course:
4. If you were to build a computer from scratch, what parts would you need?
Such sort of questions is usually asked in a technical writer’s interview. This does not mean how well and correct parts you can list to develop a computer, instead, the interviewer wants to look up the process you follow while listing the parts.
Sometimes the question can be molded in terms of a laptop, a mobile, or even a microwave. They are just assessing your approach to tackle a problem.
These questions can also fall under a social experiment’s category, where they want to attest to your processing skills.
You can answer it by mentioning the two most important parts of a computer, for example, the central processing unit, and a display screen. Consider these two parts as two different sections, and then under each section, list the sub-parts. For example, mention the hard drive, processor, and memory elements for a CPU. while on the other hand, mention an LED display, and a picture tube for the display unit.
Try avoiding going into more electrical details, like mentioning the resistors, and transistors. Instead, focus on the most major elements first.
5. Evaluate one of the writing samples that you submitted?
In this question, the interviewer is assessing your ability to critically analyze and judge a write-up. There are no right or wrong answers to this question, instead, just list down how would you evaluate your work in terms of the organization’s goal, and the audience’s goals.
In addition to that, pick up a challenging project of yours that you submitted as a sample. Then, review it in terms of goals.
You can also mention which tools you used in the creation of that samples. Apart from that, list your initial objectives, and mention your target audience. And from here, state the procedure of how you worked to obtain an outline and a working prototype through the use of different documentation tools.
To strengthen your answer, state the standpoints where you lacked to achieve the goals. Don’t forget to list the accomplished milestones of the writing sample.
6. What is your process for interviewing SMEs?
As a technical writer, you often need to communicate with higher authorities to understand the main goals. Thus, this involves communication with the stakeholders and SMEs.
Keep in mind that major tech companies like google are involved in B2B relations. Thus, it is customary for Googlers to stay in touch with SMEs.
In addition to that, recruiters want to assess how you manage the small and medium-sized enterprise stakeholders. Furthermore, your approach to interviewing the SMEs to make the best out of it is crucial for interviewers.
If you have experience working in a bigger tech company like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook, you might have interviewed a stakeholder. You can just mention the process of how you carried out such interviews.
But, if you’re a fresher, and have no such experiences, you still need to answer the viable approach to interview SMEs. Staying silent or proposing that you are not aware of the interview approach will demerit your position in the views of the recruiter.
You can do so by making a simple google search or contacting someone who already made such interviews. Then, explain the process in a step-by-step style for a positive result.
7. What is DDLC?
Another technical question they can ask from technical writers is about DDLC. This question again tests the technical knowledge of a tech writer intern.
Memorize that DDLC stands for Document Development Life Cycle. It is a document development process, with a target of making easier and clearer documentation that is easy to comprehend.
DDLC is a cyclic process of document creation that follows specific processes. An experienced technical writer is familiar with the life cycle of document development. Apart from that, this process improves the documentation quality and enhances its precision.
Furthermore, we can call it a unification process for documentation writing. Below are listed the step-by-step phases of a DDLC for content creation:
- Researching, analyzing, and planning
- Content developing and reviewing
Hence, in answer to such questions talk about these phases of DDLC. It is a good practice to dive a little deeper into details, but make sure that you do not consume whole time in answering everything in thorough detail.
As Google has a thorough and strict interview process, they can ask the question in other words, like What are the phases of documentation development or what are life cycles and phases of content creation?
8. What are an Array and a Dictionary?
The google technical writer interview questions can include queries regarding arrays and dictionaries. Although it may not seem, in the technical writing world, these terms have technical meanings.
An array is an “ordered collection” of items. Ordered means that each item in an array is assigned an index integer, each item is in an explicit order. To understand in a better way, know that if we swap the items of an array, the order will not be the same. Meanwhile, note that an item can appear twice in an array.
On the other side, a dictionary is an “indexed collection” of items. Each item in the dictionary is assigned a key, and the items can only be accessed by their keys. While in the case of dictionaries, the items’ order does not matter. An item can appear twice in the dictionary and can have different keys. At the same time, two different keys can point towards the same item.
If you have a computer science or software developer background, think of “Hash Tables” to understand the context of dictionaries.
Both these terms are used in technical writing. To understand the use of arrays and dictionaries, consider the scenario of a magazine. A magazine can carry different articles, and these articles have to be in order. Thus, each article can be considered an item, and stored in an array. And, if you want to change the order of articles, you’d only change the orders of items in that array.
Now that you have understood the technicality behind these terms, you’d understand their context in terms of technical writing. You must elaborate your answer in front of recruiters to assure that you have a sound understanding of arrays and dictionaries.
9. Are XML and HTML similar?
It is not wrong to expect such technical writer interview questions.
XML stands for Extensible Markup Language. This language helps to write bigger documentation for technical companies. XML is itself a software, and also a hardware tool. We can store the content in this software, and it helps to provide a data structure.
On the other hand, HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language. It is a coding system, that is used to organize and display the data on a page.
Note that, both these terms are entirely different, with sort of similar names, and due to which one can interpret them as the same terms.
Again, as it is a technical question, thus prepare a technical yet sound answer and relate it in terms of technical writing.
10. What are the phases that contribute to forming SDLC?
Google is a multinational company, and the recruiters can come up with questions regarding DDLC and SDLC.
We have already explained DDLC, and now let’s know what is SDLC in technical writing.
SDLC stands for Software Development LifeCycle. Same as a DDLC, it also comprises six different phases. Below are listed the phases of SDLC:
- Requirement gathering and analysis
In technical writing, SDLC is used for planning the documentation. It starts with user goals, which are then used to extract the requirements. Functions follow up through these requirements. These requirements then lead to products development, and hence technical writers use this information to create product documentation.
Familiarize yourself with the phases of SDLC, and rock your answer with the above-provided explanation. If you are not aware of the exact answers, then go with your slight knowledge and thoughts about the topic.
Above, we have provided a list of some technical questions that can be asked in a Google technical writer interview. Now, let’s jump towards the tips to answer the generic google technical writer interview questions.
Non-technical Questions for Google Technical Writer Interview
Here’s the list of some generic questions asked by Google interviewers.
1. What do you like about technical writing?
Interest matters the most when opting for a job. Thus, the interviewer will make sure that the candidate has enough interest in the job or not.
Now, as it is Google and not a random startup, the Google interviewers will ask such questions to test whether the candidates are interested in the job description, or they are just applying for the sake of Googler’s tag.
Again for this question, there are no right or wrong answers. You can just communicate the process that you love the most in technical writing.
Whether it is researching or interviewing the SMEs, whether it is the software you enjoy or the writing process itself, communicate it with the interviewers. Assure them that you are truly passionate about this role and that you enjoy the technical writing.
Reflect positivity in your answers to rock this question.
2. How do you scale from copywriting to technical writing?
This question is usually for the candidates who are transitioning their careers from different roles to technical writing. Thus, whether you’re a copywriter or a creative writer, the interviewer can ask this question to assess your technical writing knowledge.
Thus, the best practice to answer this question is to list the differences between these two roles. In addition to that, also mention why you wanted this career change, and especially why applying to Google.
Furthermore, try to make your answer unique and more trustable. Do not exaggerate and overkill by discussing your career goals.
There are tons of differences between technical writers and copywriters on the internet. But, the fact that the interviewer asks this question because they want to know your approach as you are the one transitioning your career.
Make your answer seamless, unique, and interesting to rock this phase of the interview.
3. How do you deal with a difficult team member?
As technical writing is a collaborative skill, the interviewers will assess your teamwork skills. The main question can vary but the context remains the same.
Apart from testing your teamwork skills, this question assesses your problem-solving skills as well.
Henceforth, the best approach to answer this question is to mention patience and trust in the process. Not just patience, the communication skills solve the tough phases.
Propose that, as you have experience working in tough environments, you have learned how to tackle stressed teammates through effective communication.
Try to avoid the use of negative words, and make sure the outcome from your answer is positive. Defend properly your teamwork and problem-solving skills, and you’ll ace the answer to this question.
4. What are the steps you follow when you start a new topic?
In this question, the interviewer wants to gauge the process of your writing. Writing is all about solid research before starting to write. And this initial research follows a certain process.
In technical writer interviews, the process and planning for a process are crucial. Thus, the recruiters assess the interviewer’s mind, and how you adapt a certain process for a writing task.
If you have experience or a custom method you adapt before writing, express that to recruiters. Make sure you don’t do the researching part, as research is the most crucial step of technical writing to familiarize yourself with a new topic.
Apart from that, assure that you mention the use of technical documentation tools in your writing process.
If you are a fresher with little or no experience, then you still have to come up with a viable answer.
The best practice is to mention the step-by-step process of planning, researching, outlining, drafting, and reviewing a writing piece.
These are some of the generic questions for a technical writer job interview at Google. There are chances that questions won’t be repeated as same, but the usual context lies in the same region. Thus, prepare and research well before an interview.
In general, there is a post-interview writing test that you have to submit to google. They may also ask you to submit code samples along with a writing test.
Google interviews are technical and thorough, thus the best way to rock an interview is to prepare for it. Apart from the interviews, Google has a highly specific job description for each role, so read it carefully and prepare yourself accordingly for the interview process.
Go through the above-mentioned technical and non-technical questions to anticipate what kind of queries they can ask to assess your skills. You can anticipate what’s coming in your interview, and prepare relevant confident answers.
Other than these on-site interview questions, they request writing samples. In addition to that, they assign you some writing exercises and assignments to assess your skills. In short, the Google technical writer interview process is highly specific and niche-focused, so do not expect any generic interview questions.
Furthermore, Google highly appreciates a reverse interview. So, at the end of your interview process, it is your turn to interview the interviewer. Sounds confusing, right? Make sure you ask follow-up questions from the recruiters to know more about the role. You can come up with questions like “What skills are you looking for in a candidate?" or "What programs do you provide for upwards mobility?"
Luck matters but preparation and hard work come before luck. So, prepare well to rock your google technical writer interview. We wish you good luck with your interview at Google.
If you are new to technical writing and are looking to break into the industry, we recommend taking our Technical Writing Certification Course, where you will learn the fundamentals of writing and managing technical documentation.
Josh is the founder of Technical Writer HQ and Squibler, a writing software. He had his first job in technical writing for a video editing software company in 2014. Since then, he has written several books on software documentation, personal branding, and computer hacking. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.