When Sundar Pichai smartly handled the trick question and clinched the job at Google

Getting a job at Google is like a dream come true for hundreds of thousands of job seekers. And that's why the interview process includes many trick questions that put applicants at a tough spot. Sundar Pichai, however, left the interviewer impressed with his answer.

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Do you know that you only have a 0.2% chance of getting accepted at Google? Even for Sundar Pichai, CEO – Alphabet Inc. (NADAQ:GOOGL), it wasn’t easy.

When it comes to a job interview, each of us wants to stand out. Whether adding those extraordinary skills to our resume or simply answering the tricky questions, we all want to impress the interviewers.

But what to do when you don’t know the answer? Will you come up with your version or say, “I don’t know”? It isn’t easy to decide at the moment when you have people evaluating you for your dream job.

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Sundar Pichai Interview at Google

When Google interviewed Sundar Pichai for the position of VP of product management in 2004, he experienced a similar challenge. He shared his experience in 2017 at the Indian Institute of Technology at his alma mater. 

In the fourth round, the interviewers asked Pichai about his thoughts on Gmail. However, the problem was Google launched the service on the same day itself and being 1st April, Pichai thought it was just an April Fool’s Day joke by Google. However, the interviewers were serious about their questions. 

Pichai smartly responded that he could not answer this question because he hadn’t used the product till now. In the IIT chat show, he said, “During his fourth interview, someone asked, have you used Gmail? I said no. So, he showed me how Gmail worked. When the fifth interviewer asked me the same question, I was able to answer it correctly”. 

Most candidates tried to make their answers before moving to the next questions, but Pichai did the exact opposite thing that impressed the interviewers. Indeed, he was rewarded with a job in the world’s biggest tech company. 

Considering that applicants at Google only have a 0.2% chance of getting accepted, Sundar Pichai’s revelation made headlines.

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What are the key learnings from Sundar Pichai interview at Google?

The interaction sounds simple and teaches us to admit what we don’t know rather than building answers that might unknowingly insult the product. Pichai showed a few notable things during his interview.

1. He admitted his failure

Isn’t each of us running after achieving the greatest success in life? When we achieve something, we proudly pat our back and claim the credit, while at failures, most of us disown things and try to shift the responsibilities to others.

Pichai showed a fantastic example of accepting what he failed to search about the company and demonstrated acceptable reasons for not knowing the facts. Interviewers are also humans, and they understand that we all make mistakes. So, admitting your failures is much better than faking perfection. 

2. Explained the valid reason behind 

He didn’t stop after saying, “I don’t know.” Further, he added that he couldn’t use the product, which was quite acceptable because Google launched Gmail on the same day, and initially, it was an invite-only program. 

His answer displayed a sense of curiosity, one of the main reasons interviewers continued to evaluate him for the job. The rest others made their answers and were disqualified in the later rounds. 

3. Redirected the conversation   

You cannot afford the quiet time where you keep staring at the interviewer and want him to take the conversation ahead. Pichai was well prepared for the situation, so he immediately shifted the conversation by discussing why he didn’t know about Gmail. 

Because of this, one of the interviewers showed him how Gmail looked and worked. When Pichai used it for a while, he understood the product and was ready to answer further questions. In the next round, he was again served with similar questions, to which Pichai responded confidently. 

The research by Taylor & Francis Online 

Taylor & Francis online published research on a similar topic that explained the importance of Intellectual Humility. The study concluded “that intellectual humility is associated with openness during a disagreement, and that a growth mindset of intelligence may increase intellectual humility.” 

It means that people who admit what they don’t know are better learners than those who try to form their own opinion without knowing the facts. 

This research surely adds some weight to how Pichai responded during the interview.

How to answer tricky interview questions? 

Various resources and guides are already available about the topic that easily explains scenarios and ways to answer all those tricky interview questions essential to claiming the job. But Pichai showed the simplest way to do it.

  • Be real! If you don’t know something, say “I don’t know” with a valid reason for not knowing. 
  • Never fake perfection or build your answers. Interviewers are much more experienced than you. 
  • Take it easy. It’s okay not to know about certain things. Of course, we are not Google. 
  • Always show a willingness to learn. 

Every tricky interview question is different, and so does the answers. But these are a few universal answering laws that will help you in most scenarios. It’s good to learn about all those critical things that can happen during an interview, but it’s great to be simple, curious, and real. 

Regular interview stats 

Everyone cannot appear for a Goggle interview; every interview is not as difficult to crack. But you can increase the hiring probability by looking at these regular interview stats. 

  1. According to Seedscientific, “33% of recruiters know if they’ll hire someone within the first 90 seconds.” The website also states, “Interviews last about 40 minutes on average.”
  2. WhatToBecome says, “75% of recruiters use behavioral questions to assess soft skills”.
  3. LegalJobs reported, “You only have 7 seconds to make a good first impression.”

It’s not easy to secure an interview for a high-paying job, so make sure you research well about the company and give your best when you appear. 

Conclusion

Sharing the interview experience with Google, Sundar Pichai showed the simplest way to react when you don’t know the answer to any question. Be confident, and explain a digestible reason why you don’t know about it. That’s it! It is good to accept and learn from mistakes rather than covering them. 

The biggest organizations are always searching for talents who can learn over time and add value to their companies. They want people who can think well in critical situations and make decisions, not robots programmed to perform certain tasks. 

The next time you appear for an interview, remember the lessons from Pichai and a popular phrase called KISS “keep it simple, stupid.” 

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