Technical writing requires a very delicate balance of good writing skills, technical skills, and the ability to simplify complex topics. For a multinational company like Google, it’s crucial to have tech writers who can write for the general public.
That’s why the hiring process at Google is more thorough. With a highly specific job description, qualified technical writer candidates often go through rigorous technical interviews.
In any case, in this article, we’ll go over a few common Google technical writer interview questions, along with some technical questions.
Let’s get started.
General Google Technical Writer Interview Questions and Answers
Keep in mind that these questions and answers will help you prepare and set you you up for success. However, don’t take these questions word for word. Your goal should be to understand the general concept of the questions and how to answer them.
We’ll start with some general questions and how you can answer them.
1. Why Did You Decide to Become a Technical Writer?
There are no wrong answers to this question. Interviewers often like to start with a question like this to gauge your overall interest in the job.
That’s why you don’t need to provide an elaborate story. All you need to do is briefly and concisely explain the whole process leading you to become a technical writer.
For example, you can mention how technical experience and content writing experience helped you become a technical writer. You can mention how you began writing technical documentation.
If you opted for a career change towards technical writing, you should explain the reasoning behind it.
What sparked your interest in technical writing? Do your best to describe your thought process.
Furthermore, keep in mind that your answer will almost always lead to a follow-up question.
Therefore, you can steer the interview with your answers.
Always answer questions in a way where you can further elaborate.
Try to nudge the interview where you want it to go so you can answer each question to the best of your ability.
2. Why are you interested in working at Google?
There’s a good chance this question will come up in the interview. Google is often looking for people who are looking to create long-term careers with Google.
Therefore, your resume and all the companies you have been working with will come into play here.
The more job-hopping you do, the better you’ll have to do with this answer.
In any case, you need to showcase an active interest in Google’s culture. It’s no secret that Google has a pretty specific work culture. You can start by praising that culture.
It’s also a good idea to mention that working at Google is a two-way street.
You provide your skills and in exchange, you receive direct experience working at one of the largest technology companies.
However, make sure you don’t overcomplicate your answer. That means it shouldn’t feel like you’re pushing your luck.
That will come across as desperation. Make sure your answer remains and feels genuine.
Therefore, always answer this question by factoring in your career aspirations, the work culture, and the opportunity to work with a multinational company.
3. Tell me about a time that you changed a process that wasn’t working.
This question may not show up exactly but some version of it will. The idea here is to gauge your proactiveness.
As a technical writer, you won’t have any managerial responsibilities.
However, that shouldn’t stop you from giving suggestions on process improvements.
The process can anything from your technical writing job to a completely different HR process.
There’s a good chance that you have several examples of this.
Provide the three top ones where your suggestions or changes helped increase efficiency, productivity, or even revenue.
If you don’t have any examples, you can always provide a personal example.
You can talk about your early career days. Start by detailing your working process.
Then, provide an outlook of how you do the same task today and explain what you changed and what improvements went into it.
Regardless of what kind of example you provide, make sure it leads to a tangible positive change.
4. If you were to build a computer from scratch, what parts would you need?
This kind of question will end up in at least one of the interviews. It may not be this exact question, but a version of it will show up.
The point of such a question is to gauge your process of approaching a problem.
Regardless of your technical expertise, there’s a good chance you may not be able to name every single part that makes up a computer.
However, what the interviewer wants to see is how you proceed with your answer.
That includes how you start; for example, what did you think of first? Did you start listing whatever came to mind? Or, did you use a process?
A good way to answer this question would be to ask what kind of a computer they’re talking about. This is to just make sure everyone is on the same page.
Then, proceed to list down different categories of functions that make a computer work. Then, start listing the parts that need to be a part of each category.
For example, you can list down the categories like power, memory, processor, and additional parts.
Start to list down the essentials and then move on to the specialized parts.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to overcomplicate your answer by talking about things like transistors. Similarly, you shouldn’t go into too many details.
Keep the answer direct and concise.
If you don’t know the answer to the question, tell the recruiter that you don’t know the answer but you can provide educated guesses.
Technical and Job-Related Google Technical Writer Interview Questions and Answers
After the general questions, the interviewer will know whether you’re a good fit. At that point, they’ll start to test your technical knowledge.
There’s a good chance that they’ll pull up your work samples and code samples. There may be questions on a document you’ve written or there may be strictly over-the-top technical questions.
Regardless, the following are some common technical questions that may pop up.
5. How do you go about interviewing SMEs?
A technical writer often needs to consult subject matter experts and companies. Especially when it comes to Google products that are B2B in nature.
At that point, technical writers may need to interview small and medium-sized enterprises.
Technical writers have to make sure that they make the best of such interviews.
Meanwhile, they need to be careful how they approach the interview.
That’s why this question may be tricky because it will directly evaluate how you manage third-party stakeholders.
If you already have experience interviewing SMEs, you can just explain your process.
Make sure you list your process step-by-step and provide as many details as possible.
If you don’t have the relevant experience, you’ll still need to provide a viable process.
It’s best to approach the answer top-down. That means you should list down how you think the entire process would go from contacting the SMEs to interviewing them.
Then, provide more details to the best of your ability on each process.
6. Tell me some examples of good technical documentation.
This question aims to test your overall experience in technical writing.
If you’re completely new to technical writing, your answer will differ massively from a seasoned technical writer.
Considering that the interviewer will be someone who understands technical writing, they’ll easily be able to tell the difference.
Therefore, this proves to be a great test to see whether the candidate reflects the resume.
There are no best answers when it comes to a question like this. Your answer will simply depend on your experience and research.
However, if you provide answers based on research, there’s a good chance that will reflect negatively on you.
Therefore, try to provide unique examples of good technical documentation.
For example, Slack’s technical documentation is usually very unique, engaging, and genuinely fun to go through.
In any case, good technical documentation will be helpful, complete, engaging, and maybe entertaining in some cases, depending on the target audience.
Try to provide at least three such examples and explain why you think they’re good examples.
7. How is technical writing different from creating writing?
This is another question that aims to test your knowledge of technical writing.
You’ll most likely get this question if your technical writing career is the result of a career change.
In any case, you should be able to clearly identify the differences between the two.
The recruiters aren’t looking for dictionary definitions. They’re looking for how you explain the difference.
That includes the cues you use, the examples you put forward, and your overall approach.
That’s why it’s important to provide a unique answer to this question. Don’t try to repeat an answer you found online.
Start by explaining the fundamentals of both forms of writing. That includes their purpose, the audience, and the process that goes into it.
Then, emphasize the process of each form of writing. At this point, you should start providing examples.
Utilize real-life examples to back your answer. If you can, provide examples using prior experience.
8. Tell me some things you take care of while writing for a user?
This question is about your writing process and how you approach each document.
Technical documentation has unique target audiences and you have to curate the documentation accordingly.
There are some general rules to follow when you’re writing for a user, but there are also specific nuisances to keep in mind, depending on the documentation.
Therefore, you should start by listing the general rules you follow.
That can be things like making sure there’s not too much technical jargon.
You can also talk about the importance of using cues, proper structure, good formatting, and more.
Then, you should list down specific rules by following up with an example. It’s best to stick with one example.
Provide a scenario and then mention all the additional nuisances and things you will be taking care of.
9. How would you explain coding to a non-technical person?
This question can come in various forms. It’s more likely that the interviewers will provide you with a coding sample and ask you to explain it in layman’s terms.
In any case, your job is to simplify a technical subject so that anyone can understand it.
Since this is the crux of the technical writer’s job, it’s crucial to impress the recruiters with your answer.
You don’t have to elongate this answer.
The best way to answer it is to talk about how you would approach this while writing documentation.
What’s your process for simplifying a technical and complex topic?
Use an example and detail your process that leads to simpler explanations.
Make sure you continue the same example throughout. Then, by the end, provide an easy layman’s definition.
This will show your process of converting complex information into simple and easy-to-understand documents.
10. What would you do if you didn’t receive any feedback before a release?
Whenever you write technical documentation, you receive feedback so you can improve upon it if required.
That may be good feedback or bad. In any case, feedback is essential to make sure the final release is flawless.
No matter how much experience you have, you can still make mistakes. And, you can still do a better job.
Therefore, you should always be open to feedback and willing to learn and adapt.
So much so that if you don’t receive feedback, you should consider it a problem.
That means your answer to this question should be that you will contact your manager and ask for feedback.
One is to make sure that the documentation goes through proper peer review, proofreading, and editing processes.
Two, to get personal feedback to use it for professional improvement.
Both things show initiative and the drive to do better.
Meanwhile, it also shows your dedication to making sure the final release of any technical documentation is up to the mark.
11. Where would you use UML or Unified Modeling Language?
Even though the interviewers know you have a good idea of such things, they still ask these questions to hear the answer from your perspective.
That helps them see how you understand the concept.
Answering this question should be straightforward. However, do make sure you add your own take.
Start by explaining that a standard modeling language or UML is critical to visualize the design of a system.
It helps developers in their efforts to specify, visualize, and construct.
The documentation that comes out of the entire process helps technical writers conduct technical communication.
After you explain the basics of a Unified Modeling Language, proceed to give an example.
You can give an example of your experience with a UML.
12. What is the Document Development Life Cycle (DDLC)?
This is another question that aims to check your knowledge of key technical writing concepts.
Regardless of how much experience you have as a technical writer, you should still be able to define such concepts completely.
Keep your answer and explanation concise and to the point.
To answer the question, explain that the Document Development Life Cycle is the process of making any document sound clearer and easy to understand.
It’s a series of steps to ensure the final document is clear, concise, and legible.
Some of the steps include requirement analysis, design phase, writing the content, editing, proofreading, fact-checking, publishing, and maintenance.
More or less, it’s the process that each technical writer has to follow whenever they’re developing documentation.
You can include additional steps to showcase your experience with different technical writing processes.
It’s also a good time to mention any custom documentation process you came up with.
Remember that your answers should not only be correct but should also show proactiveness and dedication.
What to Expect in your Google Technical Writer Interview
While Google usually has at least three interviews, they can vary depending on your location. For example, you may be on your phone screens or in a conference room in front of a committee.
In any case, the Google technical writer role follows a strict set of responsibilities. That means their jobs tend to work in the same capacity. However, technical writers at Google are only responsible for one product at a time.
That means they have to work with a product manager, software developer, and other team members of that product team. Therefore, their interview process also depends on what product they’re opting for.
The interviewer may also ask different questions depending on your location. For example, if you’re applying to the Mountain View, Bay Area Google office, there’s a good chance that your interview questions will be more thorough.
Furthermore, the hiring process for any Google interview is fairly long. It may range between three to about six months on average.
The reason for that is there are several levels to the job interview. You will have to submit initial writing samples when you apply for the job. However, all technical writer interviews still administer writing exercises.
In some cases, you’ll also have to commit to a post-interview writing test. However, you’ll only see that part of the interview phase if you’re applying for a full-time technical writer position.
If you’re applying to become a contract tech writer or a tech writer intern, you won’t have to go through the additional exercises.
Regardless, it’s completely possible that you may apply weeks ago only to receive word that there are more interviews. Therefore, don’t get distracted or phased by all the interviews. Instead, make sure you’re prepared for them.
Wrapping It Up
The best way to nail any interview is to anticipate what’s coming. Use the questions and answers above to get an idea of what to expect and prepare accordingly.
Go through Google’s writing instructions to make sure you write according to their standards in their tests.
Other than that, after your interview, always opt for a small reverse interview. Make sure your questions are answered shortly after the interviewer is done with their questions.
Don’t leave anything to good luck and do your best to prepare for your Google technical writer interview.