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+Istvan Soos if you have time, care to share your thoughts on this?
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Istvan Soos's profile photoPéter Zsoldos's profile photo
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Though I'm not +Istvan Soos , my quick 2cents:

I also don't like the puzzle interview approaches - partly, because of the artificiality, but partly because it's one thing to know, and another is to actually do it (I've seen a number of people who can describe red black trees but are unable to recognize potential usages for a binary search in their own code).

I prefer working through real problems, and check the candidate's understanding of concepts like these on real code, in real life. E.g.: http://zsoldosp.blogspot.com/2010/08/on-hiring-programmers-writing-code.html

And my link collection for alternative interviewing formats is at http://delicious.com/zsp/interviewing

On the other hand, properly using the trial period of the employee (or initially hiring them as a contractor) could pretty much allow for a more relaxed, through interview process (think about discussing programming problems at the water cooler)..
 
It is a long rant about the fact that he doesn't like to solve puzzles :)

Personally, I think one should be hired based on the "organizational/cultural fit" - and that can vary from tech puzzles to golf course interviews. In the end, it is about the questions: "will he be able to do/learn his job?" and "will he/she be a good fit for the team?", and yes, sometimes it takes a long road to answer those questions.

In the special case of Google, Facebook and other top tech companies: if you have 20x-100x or even more well-established and acceptable applicants for each available spot, you will have a really hard time to decide. They do apply various filter to reduce the number of choices, just to make the process go on.
 
>>>So they contacted me and asked if I’m interested in “exploring opportunities” with them<<<
>>>In [...] case [...] you have 20x-100x or even more [...] acceptable applicants for each available spot<<<

So they do actually go out of their way to ensure there are so many applicants? I hope it's the case of evaluating the cultural/organizational fit (which is important and likely requires multiple interviews!), and not just being slave to a process (there must be 7 interviews for everybody) or simply indecisive (http://onefte.com/2011/10/10/what-does-your-recruitment-process-say-about-you/ :))
 
My (limited) experience is that Google is doing the rigorous process mostly to check the cultural fit.
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