Gayle Laakmann McDowell

Gayle Laakmann McDowell is the founder / CEO of CareerCup, and the author of Cracking the Coding Interview and The Google Resume. Gayle has worked as a software engineer for Microsoft, Apple and Google. She holds a bachelor's and master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania in Computer Science, and an MBA from the Wharton School. She currently resides in Palo Alto, CA.

One Way to Prepare for Behavioral Interview Questions

Posted In Looking in Tech
Interview Prep
Tip of the Day Most of what happens in an interview is unpredictable, but you can be sure you’ll be asked some behavioral questions. These are the queries like, “What would you do if a team member kept avoiding you when you had issues to discuss?” or, “Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your manager.” How do you prepare for that kind of question? One way is to create what I call a “preparation grid.” In it,… continue…

Don’t Ignore Location When Looking for a Job

Posted In Looking in Tech
For many job seekers, location is an afterthought. Even if they do consider it, it’s more of a “does this city seem nice?” question. What many people don’t realize is that location can make an enormous difference to your career and your future earning potential. Go To the Company Headquarters When I joined Google as a software engineer, I fought to be in the then-brand-new Seattle office. I loved Seattle and had close ties there. In retrospect, this probably wasn’t… continue…

My Interviewer Is Wrong. What Do I Do?

Posted In Looking in Tech
While it’s usually candidates who make the mistakes in interviews, interviewers can screw up, too. Handling that kind of situation can be tricky. If you back down completely, you’ll be “confessing” to a factual error that you never actually made, which may damage your interviewer’s perception of your performance. If you argue too much, though, your interviewer may perceive you as hostile and arrogant, and could reject you. And, there’s always the off-chance that your interviewer is testing you to… continue…

How to Make Obscure Accomplishments Sound Awesome

Posted In Looking in Tech
Accomplishment award-Thumbnail
While many impressive accomplishments are easily understood by anyone in the field, others are not. How do you show off something when people just don’t care? The key is to make them care. You need to make what you’ve done meaningful by showing that it’s relevant and impressive. Let’s take an example: First Place in FooBar Programming Contest Is this a serious accomplishment? It’s certainly not a bad thing, but a recruiter has no idea how impressive it is. We… continue…

Is a CS Master’s Worth Anything to Programmers?

Posted In Looking in Tech
Grad Students Thumbnail
Some argue that a master’s degree is “the new bachelor’s.” That is, so many people have bachelor’s degrees that you need a master’s to stand out. There is some truth to that. But is a master’s degree in Computer Science worth it for programmers? There are a number of factors to consider here. What will it cost you? Master’s degrees are expensive. You might pay as much as $40k / year for tuition at a private university. On top of… continue…

How Long Should You Keep College Details on Your Resume?

Posted In Looking in Tech
College students have a tendency to throw everything plus the kitchen sink into their resume. This makes some sense. After all, when you don’t have that much experience, you want to list as many qualifications as you have. As you gather more experience, though, there comes a time when you’ll have to cut some of that junk from college. The question is: When? It totally depends on who you are, what else you’ve done, what you’re applying for and how… continue…

What Interviews Say About a Company’s Culture

Posted In Looking in Tech
Any Questions
We hear a lot about how interviewing is a two way street, and how you should be interviewing the company to learn as much about them as they’re learning about you. But did you know that you can learn a lot about a company while they’re asking you questions? The types of questions a company asks says a lot about it and what it values. Coding and Algorithms These are the types of questions you’ll find at the “elite” tech… continue…

Mastering the Behavioral Interview Question

Posted In Looking in Tech
Not everything about the interview process is predictable, but you can bet that you’ll be asked a few behavioral questions – and probably a few behavioral questions per interview. Behavioral questions can be questions like, “what would you do if _______?”, but more likely they’re of the form, “Tell me about a challenging interaction with a coworker on _____ project.” Contrary to popular belief, you can and should prepare for behavioral questions. Yes, I know it’s “just talking about yourself,”… continue…

What to Do When You Don’t Know the Answer

Posted In Looking in Tech
girl questioning
I talked before about why it’s good to tell your interviewer when you already know the solution to a problem. But what happens when you don’t know the answer? What do you do then? If it’s an algorithm question, not knowing the solution is the normal case. You’re not supposed to know the answer! Your interviewer is asking you these questions to test how good you are at problem solving. It wouldn’t be a very good test of problem-solving skills… continue…

From Tester to Developer: Making the Jump

Posted In Looking in Tech
Some people love testing — and with good reason. Poking around and figuring out how to break stuff can be a lot of fun. A role that’s often called “Software Engineer in Test” or “Software Design Engineer in Test” (abbreviated SET or SDET — essentially writing code to automate testing) appeals to people for similar reasons. You’re breaking stuff, but you’re still writing code. At many companies, there’s an added benefit of getting to work with newer technologies, since you’re… continue…