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Understanding Technical Interviews at FAANG and How to Crack Them

Posted on 
August 23, 2021
|
by 
Team Interview Kickstart

Technical interviews serve as a yardstick to measure your programming skills, coding competence, personality, and overall caliber as a software professional. Tech interviews at large companies such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google (popularly called FAANG) and other tier-1 tech companies are particularly challenging. These companies want to hire and retain the top talent in the tech space, and the competition is fierce. 

Most candidates think if they’re highly skilled software developers, they’d be able to crack tech interviews at large tech companies without much preparation. But here’s the thing — no matter how good you are in your job as a software developer or how good your coding skills are chances are you may still fail to crack these taxing technical interviews. 

Cracking these interviews calls for a completely different skill-set which can be developed only through guided preparation and practice. You need to develop the skills that hiring managers are looking for and the ability and knack of demonstrating them during the short span of the interviews.

Despite the challenges and the extremely high level of difficulty of tech interviews, the perks of working at these companies are well worth the effort. Besides the annual compensations that come with steady hikes, companies like Google and Apple follow multiple employee-friendly policies that make your experience working with them enthralling, productive, and rewarding.

Alright, so technical interviews at FAANG are super challenging. We know that.
But that shouldn’t dissuade you from aiming for a great career.
So, where do you begin? Right here!

We want to take you several steps (or yards) ahead of your peers in your technical interview preparation through this article.

Here’s what we’ll cover in this article:

  • What is a technical interview?
  • Technical interview panel at FAANG
  • How are technical interviews organized at FAANG companies?
  • What skills are tested in tech interviews?
  • What should you wear for your technical interview?
  • How to stand out in tech interviews
  • What meaningful questions to ask during interviews
  • Frequently asked questions about FAANG technical interviews

Before we dive into the preparation guide, let’s understand what technical interviews in tier 1 and top tech companies are all about and how they differ from other job interviews.

What Is a Technical Interview?

A technical interview is an assessment of a candidate for specialist positions in the field of Software engineering, IT, and Science. Technical interviews are intentionally designed to be challenging and rigorous in nature to examine your problem-solving, coding, and technical abilities as well as your personality.

Tech interviews at FAANG are fiercely competitive. For instance, let’s take the example of Google. A highly reputed name in the tech industry, Google stands among the top companies to work for in today’s age and time. So, it’s a no-brainer that this tech giant receives tons of applications. The actual number is close to 3 million applications a year! However, its acceptance rate for software engineering roles is less than 1%.

Now, this may sound intimidating or downright nerve-racking to even the best software engineers and coders. However, here’s the silver lining — getting into Google or, for that matter, any FAANG company is quite plausible. All you have to do is prepare with the right strategy and develop the right interviewing skills that align with what the interviewers are looking for.

What Are the Different Technical Interview Rounds at FAANG?

First, let’s talk about the different components of technical interviews at FAANG, that is, the various stages of tech interviews. Contrary to the generic question-and-answer format of most job interviews, technical interviews involve a range of challenges and tests. Therefore, the phrase “Show, don’t tell” is quite literally the case in these interviews.

Although the specific interview details and procedures vary with the company, there are common core elements. They are:

  • Technical phone screening round
  • Remote coding assignment
  • Onsite or In-person interview

Let’s understand each one in detail.

Technical Phone Screening

Phone Screen interview is the first stage of technical interviews where the interviewer(s) tries to understand your fitment for the position. So, what kind of questions should you expect in the telephone screen interview round?

During a phone screening, the interviewers seek to gather general information about you and your professional background. 

Here are some questions they may ask:

  • Tell me about yourself
  • Why are you applying for this role?
  • Describe your role in your current/previous company  
  • What programming languages are you adept with?    
  • Mention an important project you worked on in your previous company  

Even though you may not be asked exactly these questions, the questions in the screen round will revolve around these areas. So, preparing your answers for them well in advance would help you easily clear this round.

After the telephone screening, the interviewer will determine if you are qualified and suited to proceed to the next stage.

Related read: How to Prepare for and Crack Phone Screen Interviews at FAANG

Remote Coding Assignment

The next interview round after the phone screen is a remote coding assignment. Before they interview you in person, most tech companies will test your coding skills through a preliminary test. These are usually conducted through a test-coding platform or a shared document.    

The coding assignments typically are related to the nature of your job position.
For instance, a remote coding assignment at Facebook can involve utilizing an Application Programming Interface (API) to perform a web-related task. Therefore, this assignment will evaluate your knowledge of SQL statements, web technologies as well as databases.

Mostly, these are take-home tasks. So, you can solve them using the resources you have at your disposal within an allotted time frame. 

Here are some tips for the coding assignment round:

  • Be forthright about any clarifications you may need to fully understand the problems of the assignment. You don’t want to be in a situation where you get the problem wrong and have to redo the whole test again.
  • Don’t wait until the last moment of the deadline to submit your assignment. Make sure you submit your solutions well within the time frame.
  • Describe the approach you took to solve the problems and why.
  • Communicate promptly about any unforeseen reasons/situations that’ll likely cause you to miss the delivery deadline.

Onsite or In-person Interview

The next and final round is the actual technical interview, also known as the in-person interview. It involves an in-person evaluation of your merits and programming skills by the interviewers. It also involves coding challenges that you must complete in their presence.

How Are Technical Interviews Organized at FAANG Companies?

Every company has a different way of organizing technical interviews, even though there may be some overlap in rounds of an interview or its core components. The interview processes also vary within the company for different job positions.

Here, we walk you through the organization of technical interviews in FAANG companies. This is, of course, from a broader perspective, and there will be changes in the details depending on the role, department, business function, and interviewers.

So, let’s begin.

Facebook

First off, a Facebook recruiter will get in touch with you upon reviewing your resume. Then, they’ll arrange a series of phone or video interviews to evaluate your interest in the job role as well as your fitment for the role. 

After clearing this round, you will face an in-person interview at the company with your potential teammates, managers, and other team members. For tech roles, Facebook interviewers will ask you to complete take-home tasks or whiteboard coding tests to be completed within 30 minutes. 

In addition to reviewing your coding solutions, Facebook considers a candidate’s approach to solving the problem. When preparing for an interview at Facebook, do consider and practice articulating your thought process in solving problems.

Related read: We explain the Facebook interview process in more detail here and also about the technical interview questions to expect during your interview with the social media giant here. Do check them out. 

Amazon

Candidate selection process at Amazon begins with a series of online assessments. The number and type of assessments depend on the job position you’re applying for and must be completed within a specified time frame. 

There are two common types of assessment at Amazon.

  • Work sample simulations: Work sample simulations call for you to complete certain virtual tasks. They usually take 20 minutes to 1 hour to complete and evaluate your interpersonal abilities, problem-solving capabilities, and prioritization skills. 
  • Workstyle assessments: Workstyle assessments typically take up to 10-20 minutes and revolve around Amazon’s work culture and leadership principles.

After you pass these evaluations, you will undergo a phone interview and an onsite interview. Your personality and knowledge of Data Structures, Algorithms, Programming Languages, Operating Systems, etc., will be tested here.

Related read: If you’re looking to crack a technical interview at Amazon, you should read this interesting piece we wrote on How hard is it to get a job at Amazon?

Apple

The end-to-end interview process at Apple takes around 1 to 2 months to complete. First of all, a hiring manager evaluates a candidate through a phone screen. 

Next, you go through another round of phone screen with an engineer, including technical questions and a coding challenge on a shared platform. Once you clear these tests, Apple invites you for the onsite interview. 

The onsite interview at Apple consists of multiple rounds, and their technical interview topics include Data Structures, Algorithms, and Distributed Systems Design.

Related read: To read frequently asked questions at Apple technical interviews, head to this post we published here.

Netflix

The hiring process at Netflix begins with a phone screen with a hiring manager, which approximately lasts an hour. This is followed by a second phone screen that includes several open-ended technical questions and discussions on programming languages and technologies you are familiar with. Netflix also asks you to complete a coding challenge via a shared editor. 

Its onsite interview consists of two parts: 

  • Technical Interview
  • HR Interview

Candidates applying to technical positions at Amazon should be well prepared to face whiteboard challenges, Leetcode problems, and technical interview topics around data structures and algorithms.

Related read: To learn how to land software engineer and developer jobs at Netflix, click here.

Google

Google’s hiring process begins with a brief online assessment in the form of a coding quiz. Before diving into in-depth coding rounds, the company evaluates you through shorter conversations over a phone or video call. 

Next, you receive a small project or a remote coding assignment. After the completion of this task, Google conducts the onsite interview consisting of 3-4 rounds. Hiring managers at Google ask open-ended questions that evaluate your technical skills, interpersonal skills, and personality strengths.

Related read: If Google is your dream company to work at, here’s a post for you about how to get software engineering jobs at Google.

Technical Interview Panel at FAANG 

The technical interview panel varies with the size of the company. Here are the most common mix of people in the interview panel for FAANG and larger tech companies and startups and smaller ones.

FAANG and Large Companies:

Technical interviews at larger firms typically include a panel of HR staff, a recruiter, and a member of the engineering team. The interviewers in these companies want to cover a lot of ground in a limited time, so they usually have a formal list of questions, some of which may be tricky. Make sure you’re prepared and open to face all kinds of questions that come your way and handle them with a calm, relaxed, and confident demeanor.

Startups:

In startup land, it’s highly likely that a firm does not have a fully functional human resource unit. Therefore, the interviewing panel will include member(s) of the engineering team, CTO, and/or a senior developer. 

While this applies to both kinds of companies, in startup interviews especially, you have the liberty to steer the conversation instead of passively answering the questions as the interview processes are often less rigid.

Related read: FAANG vs. Startups: Which Is Better for Software Engineers?

What Skills Are Tested in Tech Interviews at FAANG?

Recruiters of tech firms usually look for some specific characteristics in a potential employee. Your technical interview preparation must include developing and nurturing the following skills:

  • Programming
  • Project management
  • Problem-solving
  • Data analysis and business intelligence
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Communication

Interview Kickstart has trained over 5000 software engineers in interview preparation for FAANG and big technology companies, and we’ve done that with above 95% success percentage. Majority of our alumni have been able to land multiple offers from the top global tech companies.

If you’d like to know more about how we train our students, what our exclusive 2-month coding interview prep course entails, and what makes us better than the rest – we invite you to attend this free webinar where one of our founders will answer these questions for you. Registrations for this webinar are open. Click on this link to register now!

What Should You Wear for Your Tech Interview?

Whoever said, “Dress like you want to be addressed,” could not be more apt. One of the most common questions in an interviewee's mind is - “what to wear?”, and rightly so! 

Wear a well-tailored suit, perhaps a bespoke shirt, and a nice pair of shoes, and notice how you feel. It’s important to feel good and confident about yourself, to be able to exude the same during the interview.

However, being well-dressed should not be confused with only wearing a suit. For most FAANG companies, you can opt for a lesser formal outfit, such as business casuals. But no matter what your attire is, make sure you accessorize it with a dash of confidence.

If you do not wish to waste too much energy choosing your outfit, go with this — dress one level above the company’s dress code. For instance, if the company follows a casual dress code, you should be wearing business casuals. To find out a company’s dress code, you can either refer to their social media handles or simply ask the HR/recruiter.

How to Stand Out in Technical Interviews 

As we mentioned before, FAANG companies receive loads of applications for every job posting. Even though a few hundred candidates are shortlisted out of a million, it’s still a large number of candidates that you need to differentiate yourself from.

Let’s help you with this. Here are important prep tips to make you stand out from other candidates during each round of technical interviews at FAANG companies. 

Phone Screen

Congratulations! Your resume has caught the eye of the company. Now, the phone screen is your shot at making an excellent first impression. 

Always remember to sound confident, calm, and collected when answering the questions. These questions usually aim to analyze your technical and soft skills. This is a great opportunity to display your enthusiasm, learning abilities, and communication skills.

How to make yourself stand apart in a phone screen interview?

Be Honest

Tell your interviewer about your previous roles, strengths, and expectations from the future job position. The key here is to be honest when communicating about your background, as recruiters are adept at evaluating people. Avoid inflating your achievements just to impress the recruiter.

Answer With Scenarios

We said it before, and we will say it again: show, don’t tell.

When faced with behavioral questions, answer them through past experiences. For instance, if the interviewer asks, “tell me about how you work under pressure,” do not give a headfirst, generic answer. Instead, talk about a situation in your previous job roles when you handled the pressure well and managed to meet critical deadlines. 

Keep the Role and Company in Sight

A simple trick to set yourself apart from the crowd is to tailor your answers to correspond with the job role and the company you are applying for. When your answers relate to the given position and organization, it signifies that you do not just want any job but that you’re keen on getting that particular job in that specific company.

Remote Coding Challenge

Remote coding round is an intrinsic part of the technical interview process in FAANG companies. A remote coding challenge varies with every firm but has the same objective: evaluating your technical skills. Startup companies may not include a remote coding challenge at all. Instead, they usually conduct onsite interviews right after a phone screening.

Remote coding challenges evaluate the following:

  • Coding skills
  • Ability to test code as they are written
  • Time management
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Collaboration skills

How to ace the remote coding challenge?

Prepare for Both Kinds of Remote Challenge

Some firms present you with take-home tasks that you must complete within a given time limit. This time frame can vary from 24-48 hours. Here, you have the luxury of using multiple resources necessary to complete the task.

Other companies require you to face a real-time monitored challenge to examine your coding skills. Generally, this assignment takes place through a video interview coupled with a web-based code editor such as Collabedit, CoderPad, or Google Docs.

During your tech interview preparation, practice solving both kinds of challenges to not be thrown off by the format.

Do Not Cheat

You must complete the given task by yourself and on your own devices. Don’t cheat or get help from others. More often than not, interviewers conduct follow-up rounds where they ask questions related to the coding problem you solved in the remote challenge. If you resort to external help during the challenge, your lack of clarity might be evident.

Don’t Skip the Bonus Requirements

At times, remote coding challenges are accompanied by an optional “bonus” requirement. To truly stand out from the rest, complete these requirements and earn some brownie points.

Onsite Interview and Whiteboard Challenge

Onsite interview is the most daunting stage for most candidates. At this point, you will visit the office, get familiar with the team, and get a feel of the work culture. Additionally, you’ll most likely face a whiteboard challenge, wherein the interviewer will present you with a coding problem to solve.

However, before you proceed to solve the given problem, keep these points at the back of your head:

  • Ask clarifying questions before writing the code.
  • Give your interviewer a window into your thought process and talk them through your code.
  • Do not get flustered; keep calm and speak clearly and precisely.
  • Refer to concepts by their formal names and avoid ambiguous words. For instance, instead of using the word “result,” refer to it as an output, return value, or side effect.
  • If you are stuck at some point, do not panic. Think out loud and try out new ideas. Demonstrate that you are trying your best to solve the problem at hand calmly, without getting flabbergasted.

How to Be the Perfect Candidate?

We agree that the first impression is important. However, it’s not as crucial as the last impression. Part ways with your interviewers on a good note to stand out as a memorable candidate. 

Here are some ways to do this right.

  • Send a short email to the recruiter or hiring manager thanking them for their time.
  • If a panel conducted your interview, consider reaching out to them individually or sending a group email with a general note of thanks.
  • If you don’t hear back from the company within a week, you can reach out to them via a follow-up email. You can reiterate your interest in the role and enquire about the potential next steps.        

Few More Bonus Tips!    

These are a few additional bonus tips to follow when preparing for technical interviews at FAANG, other large and small tech companies, and startups.

  1. Study the crucial CS fundamentals
  2. Choose a programming language and master it
  3. Improve your coding skills through regular coding challenges
  4. Understand tech fundamentals
  5. Have one or two relevant projects to talk about at the interview
  6. Learn how to manage time strategically during coding interviews
  7. Enhance your communication skills through mock technical interviews
  8. When it doubt, find a coding mentor or a study partner
  9. Join a coding boot camp or take up relevant courses
  10. Increase your knowledge on the subject by reading good coding books

Common Technical Interview Mistakes to Avoid

When it comes to technical interview preparation, knowing what not to do holds just as much importance as knowing what to do. Given below are some interview mistakes that you must keep at bay.

  • Showing up at the interview underprepared
  • Solving a given code without giving it considerable thought
  • Not putting in enough effort to communicate
  • Not being humble during the interview

What Meaningful Questions to Ask in Technical Interviews

A memorable interview is a two-way street. To establish a lasting impression on the interviewers, have a balanced conversation; the interview should not be a one-sided Q&A session. Look for opportunities to ask meaningful questions to the interviewing panel.

Here are some good questions that you can ask your potential employer during interviews.

  • What are the required skill sets or characteristics to excel at this job position?
  • What are the challenges that an individual in this role would face?
  • How is the company’s present work culture?
  • What tools, tech stack, or frameworks does the company use?
  • Is there a scope of growth in this job position?
  • Does the company offer training for this position?
  • What is the next step in the hiring process?

FAQs on Technical Interviews at FAANG

  1. What to bring to your coding interview?

You don’t need to carry a lot of things to a technical interview. A pen, notepad, and printed copies of your CV should suffice. There’s no need to bring your laptop or coding samples unless the recruiter requests for them.  

  1. How should I create a good first impression during an interview? 

In addition to dressing appropriately and wearing a dash of confidence, you can start the interview with a polite greeting, thanking the interviewers for meeting you. Something like — “thank you for meeting me today,”I am pleased to meet you,” or “thank you for taking the time to see me today.”

  1. How do you answer the question — why should we hire you?

The answer to this question should be unique to you. This is where you highlight your skills and experience that will be beneficial for the company in the short and long run. Plus, convey your excitement to work for the company, what makes you a valuable addition to the team, and how working for the company will affect your career goals.

Improvement Is the Guaranteed Result of Preparation

Preparing for technical interviews, especially the challenging ones, steer you on the path to becoming a better software professional with improved coding, problem-solving, and behavioral skills. You become more confident at taking and cracking interviews. 

Therefore, your technical interview preparation plays a pivotal role in your professional prospects. 

After all, to be prepared is half the victory.

If you’ve put in the effort, you must know that you’ve gained an incredible experience in your professional life irrespective of the results. So, make sure that you pat yourself on the back.

Interview Kickstart offers a comprehensive technical interview preparation course to software engineers with over 95% success rate. With over 70 instructors, coaches, and interviewers from top tech companies, we’ve helped thousands of software engineers and developers land their dream jobs. 

To know more about how we can help you nail your next tech interview, register for our FREE online webinar hosted by one of our founders and get all your questions answered.


Attend our Free Webinar on How to Nail Your Next Technical Interview

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