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The Ultimate Systems Design Interviews Checklist to Get Into FAANG+ Companies

Posted on 
November 22, 2021
Utkarsh Sahu

Systems Design interviews can be significantly difficult at FAANG+ companies, given the complex nature and vastness of the concepts. That’s precisely why you need a comprehensive system design interview checklist to ace these interviews. As such, interviews at top companies, including the Google System Design interview, cover design monitoring system interview questions, caching, network protocols, and other related systems concepts. In this piece, we’ll look at the best System design interview checklist to help you nail your next design interview.

Systems interviews are usually lengthy and take place during the on-site stage of technical interviews. Whether you’re a fresh graduate or an experienced engineer appearing for a software engineering or domain-specific interview, referring to an exhaustive systems design interview checklist is absolutely necessary. If you wish to answer difficult Google System design interview questions or Facebook system design interview questions, make sure to cover every single concept in the System Design interview checklist.

This ultimate Systems Design Checklist will help you understand the range of topics to prepare and what concepts are important from the perspective of design interviews at FAANG+ companies.

If you’re a software engineer, coding engineer, software developer, engineering manager, or tech lead preparing for tech interviews, check out our technical interview checklist, interview questions page, and salary negotiation e-book to get interview-ready! 

Having trained over 9,000 software engineers, we know what it takes to crack the toughest tech interviews. Since 2014, Interview Kickstart alums have been landing lucrative offers from FAANG and Tier-1 tech companies, with an average salary hike of 49%. The highest-ever offer received by an IK alum is a whopping $933,000!

At IK, you get the unique opportunity to learn from expert instructors who are hiring managers and tech leads at Google, Facebook, Apple, and other top Silicon Valley tech companies.  Our reviews will tell you how we’ve shaped the careers of thousands of professionals aspiring to take their careers to new heights. 

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In this article, we’ll look at the Ultimate Systems Design Checklist to help you prepare for FAANG+ interviews. Here’s what we’ll discuss in this piece:

How Many Design Rounds Do Tech Interviews Have?

Before understanding what the ultimate system design interview checklist covers, let’s look at the nature of design rounds in technical interviews. Design interviews mostly take place during the final stage of the technical interview process, i.e., the on-site interview. Depending on the seniority of the position you're applying for, the on-site interview may include 1-2 design rounds.

Note that domain interviews also consist of design rounds. For example, if you’re applying for a Machine Learning Engineer position, there will be 1-2 design rounds.

Important Topics for Systems Design Interviews

1. Basics of systems design

  • Online Processing
  • Batch Processing
  • Stream Processing

2. Basics of networking

  • Network protocols
  • Webserver
  • Cryptographic hash functions

3. Scaling distributed applications

  • Reasons of scaling (data size, throughput, fault tolerance,
    geolocation and hotspots)
  • Horizontal scaling
  • Vertical scaling
  • Load balancing
  • Server proxy (reverse and forward)
  • CAP theorem
  • Content distribution networks

4. Replication 

  • Single leader
  • Multileader
  • Leaderless

5. Sharding techniques

  • Partitioning vs. replication
  • Partitioning of key-value data
  • Partitioning and secondary indexes
  • Rebalancing partitions

6. Measuring the performance of scalable systems

  • Performance metrics of a scalable system: Correctness, availability, throughput, response time
  • Service-level agreements

7. Cache

  • Reads and writes
  • LRU cache
  • Strategies
  • Consistent hashing

8. Storage and retrieval

  • Key-value stores
  • Relational database and tree index
  • SQL, normalization, and keys
  • ACID transactions
  • Big data
  • NoSQL

9. MapReduce and distributed file systems

  • MapReduce Framework
  • Distributed file systems

10. Searching in a corpus of documents

  • Inverted index
  • External sort merge
  • K-way external sort-merge
  • Distributed sorting

11. Systems design case studies 

  • URL shortener
  • Streaming services
  • Chat messenger server
  • Recommendation system
  • Maps
  • Search Engine
  • Unique ID generator

12. Object modeling (not required for all companies)

  • Basics of UML
  • Design patterns: Composite pattern, decorator pattern, facade pattern, visitor pattern, flyweight pattern, proxy pattern, command pattern, observer pattern, strategy pattern, state pattern, factory pattern, singleton pattern, 

13. Basics of API design

  • RESTful API design
  • SOLID principles

14. Concurrency (not required for all companies)

  • Parallelism vs. concurrency
  • Blocked vs. running
  • Mutex
  • Cross-process mutex
  • Condition variable
  • Semaphore
  • Atomic operations
  • Deadlock

Note: This System Design interview checklist is specifically for software engineering roles. Domain-specific interviews will include design rounds, but the extent of topics covered is different. For Google System design interviews or Facebook system design interviews that are domain-specific, you only need to focus on a subset of these topics, which we cover comprehensively in our domain-specific interview prep courses.

Tips to Stand Out in System Design Interviews at FAANG+ Companies

An ultimate system design interview checklist is incomplete without proven tips that can help you nail FAANG+ interviews. These tips will help you better approach your Google or Facebook system design interview questions.

Practice Mock Interviews With Experts

One of the best ways to hone your interviewing skills and strengthen weak areas is to practice mock interviews with industry experts. As such, mock interviews should definitely be part of the ultimate system design interview checklist. At Interview Kickstart, you can practice mock interviews with experts who have 25+ years of industry experience. Our instructors are members of the hiring committee at FAANG companies and know exactly what it takes to ace tough technical interviews.

Plan the Functional and Non-Functional Requirements (FRs and NFRs)

During your interview, it is important to call out the Non-Functional and Functional Requirements in the design. Check with your interviewer while you do this, and clearly clarify the different types of requirements. 

After doing so, here are some aspects that you should plan out:

  • The main user-interaction points
  • System consistency, latency, and availability
  • Analyze whether the system will need a write-heavy or a read-heavy interaction

Create Your HLD Optimally

Creating HLDs, or High-Level System Diagrams, should form part of your system design interview strategy. We recommend it too, and it should be part of your system design interview checklist while prepping for your interview. Creating HLDs comes with consistent practice. You need to spend at least 1-2 weeks brushing up the important concepts in design and mastering how to create HLDs.

Your HLD at the interview should aim to cover the following components:

  • The different types of services that the system will accommodate. Adopting a Microservices-based approach is optimal in this regard. 
  • The different user-interaction points and how users are going to interact with the system in general.
  • How individual services interact with each other and the various protocols that need to be in place.
  • Check for areas and points that need caching and the type of caching.

Below are some aspects that your system should have:

  • Caches and Databases
  • User interaction points
  • Services
  • Load Balancers
  • CDNs, Messaging Queues, and other tools as may be required

Make sure that you think aloud during the interview to give the interviewer an idea of how you’re planning the design of your system.

Find the Ultimate Resource to Help You With Your Systems Design Interview Prep

Finding the ultimate technical interview resource can do you a world of good fortune. That’s because a great resource will impart the right guidance, enabling you to adopt a successful prep strategy to nail your design interview. A great resource will also help you tackle tough Google system design interview questions and Facebook system design interview questions. 

Interview Kickstart is a technical interview prep school that trains experienced students for coding and systems design interviews at top tech companies.

FAQs on Systems Design Interview Checklist

Q1. What should systems design topics form part of the system design interview checklist?

The important topics to cover for Systems Design interviews at FAANG+ companies are load balancing and caching, network protocols, API modeling, sharding techniques, databases, and systems design case studies.

Q2. How long would it take to cover all the topics in the system design interview checklist?

To comprehensively cover all the topics in the system design interview checklist, you should give yourself at least three weeks to prepare. 

Q3. How do you approach low-level Facebook system design interview questions?

To approach low-level design questions, you should master a programming language, specifically practice LLD system design interview questions, clarify the questions with the interviewer and adopt a top-down approach like think high-level and then drill down.

Q4. How many design rounds do FAANG interviews have?

FAANG interviews can have 1-2 systems design rounds, based on the seniority of the position in question. 

Q5. Can domain-specific interviews also have systems design rounds?

Yes, domain-specific interviews will have systems design rounds that are relevant to the particular domain. For instance, a data engineering interview will have a dedicated data engineering-oriented design round.

Q6. How many systems design Interview questions can you expect at technical interviews?

Technical interviews have systems design rounds during the On-site interview. You’re usually asked one problem-based question and a few theory questions on core systems design concepts.

Gear Up for Your Next Systems Design Interview

If you’re getting ready for an upcoming technical interview, register for our free webinar to get insightful guidance from industry experts on how to nail technical interviews at top tech companies. 

We’ve trained over 9,000 engineers to land multiple offers at the biggest tech companies and know exactly what it takes to nail tough technical interviews. 

Sign-up for our free webinar now!

Last updated on: 
August 8, 2023

Utkarsh Sahu

Director, Category Management @ Interview Kickstart || IIM Bangalore || NITW.

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