SWE Interviews at Meta Explained by Former Meta Interviewer
By Evan King
Oct 3, 2023
The Timeline: Know What to Expect 🤔
Let's start by breaking down the process so you know exactly what to expect what applying to become a SWE at Meta. The interview has 4 phases:
- Purpose: To evaluate if your skills and experiences align with the job requirements.
- Process: Your application and resume are reviewed, focusing on relevant skills, experiences, and notable projects or roles.
- Note: If your application comes through a referral, it may receive additional attention or priority during this phase.
Recruiter Call (15 Minutes):
- Purpose: To provide an initial interaction and share information about the upcoming steps in the interview process.
- Process: If your resume is selected, you will have a 15-minute call with a recruiter. This call is informational and is not an evaluation of your skills.
- Note: You can use this opportunity to ask preliminary questions about the role or team.
Technical Screen (45 Minutes):
- Purpose: To assess your technical skills and problem-solving abilities.
- Process: The technical screen takes 45 minutes and will typically involve solving 1-2 technical problems (often from platforms like LeetCode) that assess your coding and problem-solving skills.
- Note: The difficulty of the questions can vary, and it may involve either two questions of varying difficulty or a single, more complex question.
The Full Loop:
- Purpose: To conduct a comprehensive evaluation of your technical and interpersonal skills.
- Coding Interviews: You will undergo two or three additional coding interviews similar to the technical screen.
- System Design Interview: Applicable for candidates applying for E4 level positions or above.
- Behavioral Interview: This section evaluates your interpersonal skills and examines how you’ve navigated team environments and conflict resolution in the past.
Navigating through each of these stages necessitates a blend of technical proficiency, clear communication, and an understanding of Meta’s culture and working style, which will be discussed in detail in the ensuing sections of this guide.
Recruiter Chat (15 minutes) 💬
After your resume makes it through the initial screening, the first human interaction in your interviewing journey at Meta will be the Recruiter Screen. This 15-minute call is pretty straightforward and is generally relaxed in nature. Your recruiter will use this time to give you a high-level overview of the role you've applied for and what the interview process will entail.
A few key points about this call:
Purpose: The recruiter is not evaluating your technical skills here. Rather, they are ensuring you understand the role and providing you with a clear picture of the upcoming steps in the process.
Your Role: While it’s not an evaluation, make sure to listen attentively and ask any preliminary questions you might have regarding the role or the subsequent interview stages. Express your enthusiasm for the position and ensure to convey any important information about your availability and timelines.
Next Steps: At the end of the call, the recruiter will work with you to schedule the Technical Screen and provide additional resources that might help you prepare for the upcoming technical evaluations.
Remember, while informal, this interaction sets the stage for your upcoming engagements with the team, so ensure to be professional, punctual, and engaged during the call.
Technical Screen (45 minutes) 🧑💻
The initial significant step in the evaluation process is a 45-minute video call, during which candidates are typically asked to solve 1-2 coding problems. This phase is crucial for assessing a candidate’s technical skills and problem-solving methodologies. Typically, the coding is conducted within an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) that does not permit code execution. Consequently, this emphasizes the necessity for candidates to meticulously check and validate their code.
What to Expect:
Problem Complexity: Expect to encounter two LeetCode-style problems of escalating complexity during this phase. Don't waste your time looking up or paying for "Top FB Questions," as they hold little weight. There are hundreds of interviewers, each of whom selects their own problems. The key is to be deeply acquainted with major data structures and cultivate a sharp instinct for pattern recognition.
Your performance during this screen will be assessed along four primary axes:
- Your ability to parse, understand, and articulate complex ideas is central here.
- Are you elucidating the rationale behind a proposed solution?
- Can you develop and weigh different solutions, employ apt data structures, and discuss space and time complexity?
- Your skill in refining and optimizing solutions will also be under the lens.
- Can you translate theoretical solutions into executable code fluently?
- The clarity, organization, and logical structuring of your code will be evaluated.
- Are you contemplating various test cases or providing solid justifications for your code's correctness?
- Your aptitude for navigating through your logic to identify, understand, and resolve bugs is vital.
- Are you proactively seeking clarity and requirements before delving into coding?
- Remember, this should be a dialogic process. Engage in a conversation with the interviewer, articulating your thoughts clearly and being receptive to cues or feedback.
Equipping yourself for the Technical Screen demands not only a comprehensive understanding of data structures and algorithms but also a coherent, logical articulation of your thought process and solutions. The balance between analytical depth and clear communication is pivotal. Keep these facets in mind as you prepare, and remember: every challenge is an opportunity to showcase the depth and adaptability of your engineering skills.
The On-site (or full loop) 🔁
Moving past the Technical Screen, you'll enter into the full loop which can be either on-site or remote. This day of ~4hrs of interviews is meant to comprehensively evaluate your technical proficiency, system design prowess, and interpersonal skills. The Full Loop typically consists of additional coding sessions, a system design interview (if you’re interviewing for a role E4 or above), and a behavioral interview, each crafted to scrutinize distinct aspects of your capabilities as a potential Meta engineer.
Coding Interviews (2-3 sessions, 45 minutes each)
The number of interviews in this stage hinges on your level: for interns or new grad positions, expect to navigate through three coding interviews, whereas candidates for E4 and above will face two.
What to Expect:
Varying Complexities: Erase the myth that you'll encounter two medium-level LeetCode problems - the reality is not so formulaic. Interviewers, each with their own favorite questions and focuses, might present you with one or two problems of varying difficulty and complexity.
Unpredictable Challenges: As in my own practice, for instance, I favored a question that asked: "Given a string with only alpha-numeric characters and parentheses, return a string where the parentheses are balanced by removing as few characters as possible." Initially, candidates might gravitate towards a stack-based solution, but as the dialogue progresses, I’d nudge them to consider an alternative that uses no extra space, adding an extra layer of complexity to the single question.
You are evaluated on the same four axis as with the technical screen.
Problem Solving: Comprehensive understanding, multi-solution development, and optimal solution derivation.
Coding: Fluent and logical conversion of solutions into executable code.
Verification: Thorough code verification through varied test cases or logical justification.
Communication: Active dialogue, clear articulation of thought processes, and receptivity to feedback and cues.
System Design Interview (1 session, 45 minutes for E4+)
The System Design interview at Meta is a detailed discussion where your ability to design complex systems or products is carefully examined. The interview is customized for the position you are applying for, whether it's related to systems, product, or front-end design. Expectations and main points of interest during this 45-minute interview can vary. Although basic preparation is the same for all candidates, it is crucial to prepare specifically for the focus area of your applied position.
What to Expect:
In-depth Discussions: Delve deep into technical discussions concerning product ideas, scalability, data structures, technologies utilized, and the comprehensive aspects of building a software solution.
Varying Scopes: The span of questions may vary widely, from system and product to front-end focused problems that necessitate connecting multiple concepts seamlessly.
No Single “Right” Answer: System design problems are notorious for their open-ended nature, inviting a spectrum of potential solutions.
Example Questions might include:
- Designing a music streaming service like Spotify
- Building a Facebook chat
- Architecting a global video distribution system
This time, you're evaluated against the following four criteria:
- Organize the problem space, constraints, and potential solutions meticulously.
- Engage in reducing ambiguity, identifying pivotal problems, and defining a design-oriented requirement set through your queries.
- Design a workable solution, either addressing the entire problem or parts of it, while maintaining a panoramic view of the overarching problem.
- Dive into technical details as needed and articulate dependencies and trade-offs proficiently.
- How are you safeguarding against potential risks and failure points?
- Ensure your visions and technical ideas are communicated with clarity and coherence.
- Actively understand and address feedback provided during the interview.
Behavioral Interview (1 session, 45 minutes)
The Behavioral interview at Meta is a 45-minute session where interviewers look at your past behaviors, actions, and decisions in a work environment. The goal is to understand your work habits, your interests in technology, and the impact you want to make.
What to Expect:
- Inquisitive Deep Dive: Expect the interviewer to delve into your background, discerning what ignites your passion in tech, and understanding the kind of impact you aim to create.
- Expansive Questions: Be ready to traverse through various aspects of your past and current projects, discussing specific scenarios, impacts, and gleaned learnings.
- Tales of Growth and Conflict: You’ll likely be asked to narrate instances of conflicts and your journey of continual professional and personal growth.
Examples of areas they might probe into:
- Disagreements with colleagues or managers and your resolution tactics.
- Scenarios where you sought out growth opportunities or tackled constructive criticism.
- Instances where ambiguity was embraced and navigated through.
Your narrative and examples will be analyzed through the lens of five critical signals that have historically correlated with success at Meta:
- Your history of disagreements and resolutions.
- Your capacity to empathize with divergent viewpoints.
- Your propensity for identifying and seizing growth and learning opportunities.
- Your receptiveness and action towards constructive criticism.
- Your operational strategy within ambiguous and swiftly altering environments.
- Your decision-making and productivity maintenance amidst information scarcity.
- Your experience and strategy in propelling yourself and others towards goal attainment.
- Demonstrating your impact and maneuvering through challenges and obstacles.
- Your communicative adaptability with teams and cross-functional partners.
- Your strategy for tailoring communications contingent on the work and audience.
Getting a job at Meta isn't easy, if it was, everyone would do it, but with careful preparation you'll be well on your way. This first step was the understand the process. Now, it's time to practice. For coding interviews, practice with the Blind75 or via AI simulations. For system design, read a detailed guide on the steps you should take in an interview and practice several common questions on an AI whiteboard. For the behavioral interview, practice reflecting on your previous experiences by answering commonly asked interview questions with an AI coach.
Lastly, once you're ready, there is no better way than to practice via mock interviews with people who have sat on the other side of the table. At Hello Interview, we have Meta Senior Hiring Managers and Staff Engineers on staff to conduct expert mock interviews that will help you pinpoint exactly how you need to improve to land the job. Book a mock interview to get started.
Evan, Co-founder of Hello Interview and former Tech Lead at Meta, possesses a unique vantage point, having been on both sides of the tech hiring process. With a track record of conducting hundreds of interviews and securing offers from top tech companies himself, he is now on a mission to help others do the same.
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