There's no denying that 2020 has looked a little different than we all imagined. In less than a year since the novel coronavirus emerged, it upended the day-to-day lives of people. The same is true for businesses of all stripes, including tech. COVID-19 has fundamentally altered the way tech companies operate, and in turn, how tech interviews are conducted.
As a company that offers a comprehensive technical interview prep course to software engineers worldwide, we regularly swap ideas with hiring managers from top tech companies. We also stay abreast of the latest changes in tech interviews, thanks to feedback from our students who appear for interviews at FAANG and other tier 1 companies. Based on our findings, here's a list of the top 10 interview trends at FAANG companies to watch out for in 2021.
Trend 1: A surge in the number of candidates aiming to crack interviews at FAANG companies
In the year 2020, we have seen a distinct increase in the number of people preparing and trying to interview at top tech companies, and the trend is likely to continue in 2021. The desire for stability coupled with the fact that tech is now driving growth in almost all industrial sectors is leading to a lot more competition for FAANG companies, distinctly more than what we have seen in the past years.
The global economy this year faced potential unemployment and contraction not seen since the Great Depression. However, tech giants benefited during the lockdown from new consumer habits that analysts believe will turn into longer-term shifts in how people work or entertain themselves.
The broader stock markets tanked in recent weeks, but Amazon and Microsoft's share prices hit record highs. Facebook moved to acquire high-skilled talent, announcing the hiring of 10,000 new workers in 2020.
If we step back and look at the tech landscape in general, stock market indices, such as the NASDAQ and Dow Jones, are being propelled by software companies. Everybody now realizes that this is an inflection point for digital.
The impact of that on the tech interviewing side is that there is a flight to safety. Everybody preparing for tech interviews is now, by default, actively thinking of getting into only the top companies that provide stability and growth.
Trend 2: The remote interviewing model is here to stay
As we prepare to enter 2021 and the 'new normal,' we also expect to see innovations that change the tech interviewing landscape and increase psychological safety – the cornerstone of sustained talent acquisition in a remote interviewing model.
Top tech companies, such as Facebook and Google, have extended work-from-home options till 2021. Twitter and Square then went above and beyond to say workers could work from home "forever."
However, there are multiple implications of the remote interviewing model. Firstly, a remote interview is significantly different from an onsite interview, and sometimes it may be difficult for candidates to engage with an interviewer.
At the heart of this difference lies the focus on perfect coding. When you do an onsite whiteboard interview, you can get by with a little bit of pseudo-code, talk to your interviewer, and explain that you are making certain leaps along the way.
But when you are behind the screen, and somebody is watching you write code in real-time, that code needs to be inordinately perfect. And that adds a level of complexity to an already challenging process.
Trend 3: The democratization of all engineering roles
In 2021, working at FAANG companies will seem more possible than ever. A person in the Bay Area will be equally capable of getting into a top tech company as somebody in Buffalo or Bangalore. Hence, competition will increase significantly.
We have noticed this trend among students at Interview Kickstart. We have seen several people from outside the US sign up for our program.
This is because students now truly internalize and understand that they don't need to be in the Bay Area, New York, or Seattle. They could be anywhere and have a shot at working at these top companies.
Trend 4: Google and Facebook will remain the most preferred FAANG companies to work at
Both Google and Facebook are considered to be great companies to work at by engineers and they will remain so in the years to come. It is a well-known fact that once you've passed the intense interview process at either, in addition to a lucrative salary and several interesting projects to work on, many awesome perks await you. For years, these two tech giants have been on top of the list of the best places to work in the US.
Now, what will be below Google and Facebook, you may ask? It's what we call FAANG. Traditionally, FAANG was an acronym for Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google. Now, FAANG stands for companies that:
- Have a high technical interviewing bar: They are less forgiving in their interview process
- Offer high compensation: Roughly about 50% higher than average
- Work on some exciting problems that can be solved only at scale
Examples of such companies include Uber, Microsoft, Apple, Netflix, Amazon, etc.
Trend 5: Compensation at top FAANG companies will remain unaffected
Nearly 25 million people lost their jobs in 2020 as COVID paralyzed all sectors of the modern economy. In such times, top tech companies are bound to see a spike in the number of applications for a job role because of security and stability.
Since so many people will apply to fewer openings at these companies, one might think it's safe to assume that compensation might be affected.
However, to our pleasant surprise, compensation remained unaffected at top-tier companies in 2020. In fact, something very interesting happened at Interview Kickstart; the highest compensation received by our alum was in 2020, and the amount was $780,000! We expect to see the same trend in 2021 as well.
Trend 6: Every hiring manager will want a coding interview
Ahh, the infamous coding question during interviews! This trend has been developing for a few years now. However, in 2021, we expect the number of coding rounds in tech interviews to increase significantly.
Now, almost every company seems to conduct a coding interview round. Whether you are a staff software engineer or an entry-level intern, hiring managers will almost always ask you a coding interview question.
Even candidates interviewing for roles such as a solutions engineer or a test engineer, which are peripheral roles, have to go through a coding interview round. Do we agree with it? Not necessarily.
Candidates applying to these roles never really have to write in-depth code during the day-to-day job, nor does the ability to code shows an individual's real technical competency. Yet, the reality is that even for these roles, candidates need to prepare for coding questions during interviews.
Trend 7: Move toward more balanced interviews
As mentioned, every company focuses on asking coding interview questions to candidates. Additionally, these companies have increased the difficulty level of these coding questions.
However, when core software engineering roles are concerned, the number of those questions will be reduced. Some coding questions will be replaced by design and domain questions, and soft skills and communication skills for engineers will make a very distinct arrival in 2021.
"One may think that engineers should only focus on writing code. However, today, a majority of tech companies also focus on soft skills. There's a move toward hiring a well-rounded engineer vs. just a cerebral engineer who keeps sitting in one corner and keeps churning his head. Yes, there are core CS skills tested, but in the same seriousness, people are testing your domain skills as well." - Soham Mehta, co-founder at IK.
Trend 8: A CS degree is nice to have but not a necessity to build a career in FAANG companies
A CS degree is important if you want to land a job in FAANG, but it is not a necessity anymore. Google is one of the many companies that realizes book smarts don't necessarily equal strong work ethic, grit, and talent.
The four-year education system is getting disrupted and one has to observe that several universities offer online courses and coding boot camps for cheap. CS skills are also becoming more democratized.
Does this mean you can get into FAANG without a CS degree in 2021? Simply put, yes. But the non-traditional road toward the world of top tech giants is obviously a tougher one than if you had a CS degree.
Trend 9: Interview prep is now table stakes
Technical interviews, especially at FAANG companies, require a comprehensive prep approach covering both fundamental and complex topics. If you're not well-prepared, you'll find yourself grasping at straws when you're asked to solve questions you've never encountered before.
For technical interviews at FAANG companies, you can expect questions from a wide range of topics that fundamentally fall under the following four categories:
- Algorithm and data structure
- System design
- Domain-specific skills
- Behavioral skills
It's almost always the case that questions asked at these interviews vary starkly from what your experience covers. Even if you're a fairly experienced programmer and an excellent employee in your current organization, you can expect questions out of the realm of your current knowledge and skills in interviews.
The difficulty in cracking these interviews is real. Statistically, it is tougher to get into FAANG than to get into an Ivy League School. Hence, you are expected to prepare really well for these interviews. Not doing so would be foolhardy.
Trend 10: All FAANG companies love prep
Top tech companies, such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, Uber, and LinkedIn, understand that cracking technical interviews is incredibly difficult. Hence, they send out prep material to candidates. These companies tell you what to expect in an interview and guide you toward what you need to prepare before you come onsite.
Tech giants are always on the lookout for talented folks, and hence they invest heavily in the interview process. They put their best engineers out there to interview candidates. And so, if they get candidates who aren't prepared, it is an overwhelming waste of time and effort.
There you have it - our perspective on interview trends at FAANG companies to watch out for in 2021. It isn't an exhaustive list, but we hope it gives a direction to your technical interviewing plans for the upcoming year. The pandemic has changed the world and put it on a whole different trajectory moving forward, but that doesn't necessarily mean things are for the worse. With changing company requirements and interview processes, staying on top of the latest trends can provide a competitive edge.
Get started with your tech interview prep by signing up for our free webinar today.