Embedded Systems Engineer Interview Prep

Preparing for the embedded systems engineer interview requires a robust action plan and unwavering commitment. Since embedded systems engineers are responsible for designing, developing, and improving cutting-edge embedded systems, the interviews focus a lot on testing these skills in candidates. With regular practice and guidance from FAANG experts, you too can crack your next embedded systems engineer interview!

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In this article, we have put together everything you need to cover while preparing for an embedded systems engineer interview:  

  • What does an embedded systems engineer do?
  • Qualifications and skills required for embedded systems engineer jobs at FAANG
  • What’s the embedded systems engineer interview process and timeline like?
  • Preparation topics for an embedded systems engineer interview
  • Skills required to become an embedded systems engineer
  • Sample embedded systems engineer interview questions  
  • Embedded systems engineer interview tips

What Does an Embedded Systems Engineer Do? 

As an embedded software engineer at a tech company, you will have the opportunity of being a part of a team working towards pioneering, developing, and building cutting-edge technologies that will potentially change the way people interact with information and each other. The roles and responsibilities of an embedded software engineer are:

  • To engineer and build products that contribute to the company’s products and services ecosystem.
  • To help develop new technology tools that solve human problems and can be integrated into daily life easily. 
  • To design and develop superfast data center networks.
  • Designing, developing, testing, deploying, maintaining, and improving system software.
  • Managing your project priorities and deliverables.
  • Developing and maintaining performance measurement tools used by the company for debugging, analyzing, and testing embedded products.
  • Working on computer architecture, lower-level computer systems, embedded system products, and kernel development.
  • Analyzing and enhancing the efficiency, scalability, and stability of system resources.
  • Supporting software quality analysis and optimizing I/O performance.
  • Providing post-production support to clients.
  • Interfacing with the hardware design and development team for seamless integration and execution of the project.

Pro tip: When preparing for the role of an embedded systems engineer, work around the moonshot approach. A moonshot approach is driven by the desire to break new ground in the tech industry. It is based on the concept of 10× thinking and inspired by former President John F. Kennedy's successful mission to land a man on the moon.

Qualifications and Skills Required for Embedded Systems Engineer Jobs at FAANG

The following are some of the standard qualifications that recruiters at FAANG and other Tier-1 tech companies seek when hiring embedded systems engineers:

  • A bachelor's degree in computer science or computer engineering, a related technical field, or equivalent practical experience
  • Knowledge of hardware and software architecture and debugging
  • Experience in working with consumer electronics or embedded systems design
  • Experience in writing software in C or C++
  • Experience in working with embedded environments, schematics, trace, and board-level debugging

What's the Embedded Systems Engineer Interview Process and Timeline Like?

A typical embedded systems engineer interview process involves similar rounds as that of a software engineer. The main steps of the interview process are: 

  1. Phone Screen + Technical Screen
  2. On-site Interviews

The embedded systems engineer interview process can last for 6-8 weeks on average. Practicing patience is the key here to make sure that you are able to present your true potential in the future rounds. 

Application Process

Step one is to score an embedded systems engineer interview. You can apply to companies directly, or you can take the help of a recruiter. Make sure to provide your updated resume tailored to the company, team, and role you are applying for. If you can manage an employee referral, you may stand a better chance of getting shortlisted for further interview rounds.

Phone Screen Interview

Once your application is shortlisted, you will get a call from a recruiter who will conduct a phone screen round to get to know you better. The purpose of this round is to assess your level of skills and which team you would be the best fit for. Once you get past this first HR screen, the recruiter will schedule your next interview, which will involve solving a coding problem.

Here’s a coding assessment cheat sheet to help you get started. 

Technical Screen — Coding Interview

In the coding interview, you will be asked data structure and algorithm questions which you will have to solve on a remote collaborative editor. These questions will be pretty similar to the questions you'd come across in a software engineer interview. The level of difficulty of these questions will be similar to those of a fresh graduate. 

Onsite Interviews

On-site interviews usually involve five or six face-to-face interviews on various coding and embedded systems topics and are generally held at the company office. Each interview lasts about 45-60 minutes and is based on the following topics:

  1. Coding interview: In this round, you will be asked to solve basic algorithm and data structure questions similar to those you would encounter in a software engineer interview.
  2. System design interview: In this interview, you will be asked to design a high-level modern technology system like a social media platform or a product feature specific to the company.
  3. Embedded systems interview: Here, you will be evaluated on your approach to solving problems using embedded systems. Interviewers will also discuss your previous embedded systems projects in this round.
  4. Behavioral interview: These interviews evaluate whether your values align with those of the company or not. Interviewers also want to see if you will be able to work with the team you are interviewing for.

Preparation Topics for an Embedded Systems Engineer Interview 

Here is a list of topics you should cover during your embedded systems engineer interview preparation:

Coding Topics

System Design

  • Designing complex architecture systems and platforms
  • Product features

Embedded Systems Topics

  • Basic electronics: Oscilloscopes, logic analyzers, multimeters for debugging
  • Design Patterns: Factory, singleton, observer
  • Microprocessor basics: Interrupt processing, assembly code, registers
  • Microcontroller basics: DAC, ADC, Timers, DMA, PWM, watchdog
  • Memory: NAND, NOR, DRAM, SRAM, wear leveling
  • Basic protocols: I2C, UART, SPI, LIN
  • Advanced protocols: SATA, USB, PCIE, CAN, MOST
  • Concurrent or parallel programming: MPI for SMP
  • UML Diagrams: Class, Component, State, Sequence
  • Python or Perl for scripting
  • Embedded programming: Debouncing switches, rotary encoders, resistive ladder switches
  • Embedded systems software architecture: software design, integration, and programming
  • Build environments: cmake, makefile
  • Basic DSP and FPGA/ ASIC design 
  • IoT Devices: Audio stacks (microphone, DSP, and filters), HMI programming
  • Complementary programming languages: Rust, Go, Python

Behavioral Topics

Do check out our complete list of engineering interview prep topics and solved technical questions.

Skills Required to Become an Embedded Systems Engineer

According to experts, here are some more skills most FAANG companies look for in an embedded systems engineer are:

  • Programming
  • Microprocessor ecosystems 
  • Memory management
  • Circuit design
  • CAD design
  • Measurement tools 
  • Internet of Things
  • Data processing and analysis
  • Networking and security
  • Designing and implementing hardware-software interfaces
  • Hardware bring-up and debugging of i2c, SPI, Ethernet, PCI-e, and other peripherals
  • Designing and implementing kernel/userspace frameworks and interfaces
  • Working with offload engines in video, networking, crypto, and machine learning
  • Modern video formats, ML algorithms, codecs, and related frameworks
  • Strong foundation in data structures, algorithms, and software design
  • Processors and GPU programming
  • Performance analysis tools and optimization experience
  • Embedded systems development, device drivers, RTOS concepts, and hardware-software integration
  • Foundation in ARM or x86 assembly, Linux kernel, system BIOS, and device drivers
  • Embedded systems design with preemptive and multitasking real-time OS, IP protocols, hardware subsystems, and OS coding techniques
  • Defect tracking tools, software configuration management tools, and peer review
  • Reading datasheets and schematics for components
  • Knowledge of hardware, such as electronic boards, is required.
  • Technical writing
  • Soft skills

Sample Embedded Systems Engineer Interview Questions 

It’s always good to have an idea of what an embedded systems engineer interview could be like. In this section, we’ve listed common questions asked at embedded systems engineer interviews:

General Questions

Listed below are some generic questions embedded systems engineers are asked during interviews:

  1. Explain the working of the I2C interface.
  2. How will you make a finite state machine work in an embedded system?
  3. What’s an atomic operation?
  4. When targeting embedded devices, how will you avoid memory fragmentation?
  5. Tell us some ways you will reduce power consumption in your embedded system.
  6. What is a semaphore?
  7. Can you use a semaphore to interrupt context in Linux Kernel?
  8. What is a watchdog timer?

Microcontroller Questions

  1. When building an embedded system, how will you decide when to use a microcontroller and when to use a microprocessor?
  2. How is a microcontroller used to determine the high-voltage level frequency on a bus?

Real-Time OS Questions

  1. Which real-time software metrics are the most important, according to you?
  2. What are the pros and cons of using a real-time OS on a mid-range micro-controller?

Specific Coding Questions

  1. Given an array of numbers nums of size n, find an array of numbers products of size n, such that products [i] is the product of all numbers nums [j], where j != i. (Solution)
  2. Write a code to determine whether an integer is even or odd.

Puzzle Questions for Embedded Engineers

  1. How would you weigh a train without using any scales?
  2. If you see two light bulbs in a room and three switches outside, how will you determine which switch operates which bulb?
  3. Why are sewer caps round in shape?

Read Top 20 Interview Puzzles for Software Engineers for more.

Embedded Systems Engineer Interview Tips 

Here are a few crucial tips to help you prepare for your embedded systems engineer interview: 

  • Practice the moonshot approach to embedded systems solving problems.
  • Your interviewer will give you a vague coding problem. This is an opportunity for you to ask for details and specifics so that your solution is as close to their expectations as possible. Ask questions about system requirements here and determine what customer base and scale you’re building for. 
  • Practice some tough interview-style coding questions on a whiteboard without using a compiler.  
  • Practice mock interviews with yourself, your peers, or a complete interview prep guide like Interview Kickstart.
  • When practicing, make it a point to think out loud and explain your thought process to the interviewer. 
  • Start timing yourself when you practice system design questions. A lot of attention is given to how you manage your time and how efficiently you come up with the solution. 
  • Sign up with Interview Kickstart to practice interviews with experienced coaches, hiring managers, and tech leads from FAANG companies

Also, check out these system design interview tips from experts to leave no stone unturned in your embedded systems engineer interview prep!

Land Your Dream Job as an Embedded Systems Engineer!

Although the road to bagging an embedded systems engineer job at FAANG+ is difficult, expert help is at hand! If you are unsure how to apply or where to start preparing, enroll for Interview Kickstart’s Embedded Software Engineering Interview Coursethe first-of-its-kind, domain-specific tech interview prep program designed specifically for Embedded Software Engineers. 

Our interview preparation courses are taught by FAANG tech leads and seasoned hiring managers. With such a cracking team of instructors, Interview Kickstart is a powerhouse of expert knowledge and guidance on nailing FAANG interviews

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