Tips for preparing a FAANG interview (or for any large IT company)

I’ve been waiting to write something about interviewing with FAANGs for a long time, and in light of the recent rebranding from Facebook to Meta, and the resulting avalanche of Memes (including this one, reading FAANG now as MANGA 😂) i got the needed inspiration to hit the keyboard.

Just to be clear, while i currently work for a subsidiary of Uber, which is not considered a FAANG, it’s still a large company and the interview process was very similar to the ones i saw at Facebook and Amazon, therefore the content of this post is a summary of my own experiences and represents my personal point of view on interviewing with this type of companies.

1 Find an opportunity. Obviously the first step and just mentioned here for completeness, there is a plethora of videos on Youtube explaining how to tailor your resume, where to look, how to get recruiter’s attention, etc… and the 3 main options to get your feet on the door are:

  • Be referenced: The best route, if you know someone working at the company already then ask for an internal referral, you will most of the time skip the line for the recruiter filters. Just make sure to be a fit, employees have limited referral opportunities and some companies impose policies on this process as well.
  • Be recruited: Second best option, if you tailor your social networks good enough (specially LinkedIn) recruiters may reach you out.
  • Direct application: Using the job portals for each company, but bear in mind job portal applications are the recruiter’s last resort, as they go over internal candidates, referenced resumes and their own recruiting processes first. If you get a chance via direct application the congratulations, you must be really something, remember these guys hire the ~1% smartest people in the world. 

2 First screening with the Recruiter. The recruiter will email/text you to discuss the time for a first interview, usually a phone-call. This is the easiest yet the most important interview early in the process, you need to fill all the checkboxes the recruiter has in order to be recommended for the next round. Do your homework, give the recruiter a date 2 or 3 days after the call so you have time to prepare:

  • Carefully read the job description, look for keywords (e.g. technologies, languages, protocols, etc…) and prepare for anything you are not familiar with, focus on that since it may be your weakest spot. Recruiters don’t ask very technical questions but they may drop 1 or 2 prepared by the hiring manager, and there’s a standard answer which the recruiter will look along with your answer trying to match keywords as well.
  • Check the position background. Is it a new project, a current one, undisclosed, which is the business unit working on it? try to understand where you will be working at, or with who, and ask yourself questions. Prepare some straightforward questions for the recruiter (technical or not) to show them you are interested. I’d say this is key to move to the next round, they look for people really interested in the company not just someone looking for a big paycheck. 
  • The rest is sort of a regular interview, some tips here:
    • Salary expectations? Try to have an estimate or at least a minimum based on where the position is based at. “I’m open to an offer” is an answer valid only for us non-US residents, since it’s much harder for us to do the math.
    • Why do you want to work at X? have you ever think of what to answer here? you better do and don’t pull the “because it’s the most important company in the world” or “i just want to work in the US”, you need to make a connection here, something related to the technology stack or something very innovative they are doing, also bringing up the working culture and how interested you are is advisable.
    • What is your availability? i have noticed 2 things here, being a non-US resident they are already prepared for a ~4 to 6 month relocation time so it’s acceptable to say “i want to give my current employee 30 days of notice”, but even if they are willing to wait half a year -unless you are unemployed- saying “I’m available immediately” is not that good, it says a lot about your commitment (in a bad way). I have been a hiring manager before and can totally understand that, if they quit without any notice to their current employer what makes you think they won’t do the same to you?

If you did good some recruiters invite you to the next round by the end of the phone-call, some others take a couple days. Now pat yourself and schedule the next interview 1 week after if possible (the recruiter will give you deadlines) because it’s going to be technical and you need to prepare. Don’t set yourself short on time to prepare.

3 Technical Interview. Here you are right in the middle and passing this interview sets you for the final on-site, so study and prepare well for this one. Recruiters give you tips during the first phone-call so take good notes about what to prepare; each company has their own nuances, especially when it comes to working culture (for which you need to be a fit, no matter how good your technical skills are). Some tips for this interview:

A word of advise, make sure you actually have a cultural fit at the company you are applying. If you don’t like to be measured often to determine if you are a “keeper”, you probably don’t fit at Netflix as they seem to do “keeper tests” regularly. 

Netflix Values
  • Prepare your answers using the STAR methodology. This is almost standard, use this methodology to format your answers and communicate clearly “The Situation, what was the Task, the Action you took, and which were the Results”.
STAR Interview methodology
  • Prepare examples of previous professional and personal projects. Examples of successful projects, both professional and personal (but related to the job). In this type of question you are selling yourself, avoid using “we” and be more individualistic, communicate clearly what YOU did and which were your responsibilities. Use examples with SLAs/KPIs, budget management with numbers (savings to the company), specific timelines (e.g. I enabled the execution of X project in Y time with Z resources) and avoid fuzzy logic at all cost (e.g. “a concise but effective script” is less desirable than “an effective script with less than 30 lines of code”).
  • Be ready for technical challenges. If you are interviewing for a backend engineering position be ready to code on the fly, some companies like Google even have Youtube channels to help you prepare for technical interviews. If you are interviewing for infrastructure positions be ready to discuss protocols and situational questions (e.g. “if X happens, how would you solve it”).
    • In both cases if you don’t completely understand the answer is generally okay to ask for additional context, and if you don’t know the right answer you still get good feedback for looking into alternative solutions.
    • e.g. If you are asked how to disable the Spanning-tree protocol on a switch and you didn’t know that was actually an option, offer alternatives how to mitigate its range of action.
  • Use the Job Description as a study guide. Absolute must, anything mentioned in there can be asked during the technical interview. Also make sure you understand at your best ability the context where the technology mentioned there is being used.
  • Ask questions by the end of the interview. I can’t stress this enough, this is REALLY important, it shows interest and you can revert the situation at this point if your technical performance was “meh”. I’ll use myself as a reference here.

“While interviewing for a Network Engineer position at Facebook i was absolutely blasted with BGP questions (borderline scenarios beyond enterprise networking), but in the QA section i managed to impress the interviewer by asking about the OCP project and how did they handle rolling cabinets with pre-installed top-of-rack switches for new data halls to reduce the lead time to operations. I couldn’t have done this without reading a lot about OCP racks and their datacenter topologies. I’m pretty sure this is the only reason i could secure an on-site interview afterwards.”

If you did good in the technical interview you will hear from the recruiter soon. They will invite you to an on-site interview (not so common now during COVID times) and arrange all the logistics for you.

4 On-site Interview. This is it, the final step, all the logistics arranged for you from flights to rental car, and expense reimbursements. Expect a whole day of interviews, anything from 4 to 7 sessions face-to-face, videoconferences and hybrid ones, plus getting to know the offices for a grasp of the working environment. Due to NDAs i can’t comment on any specifics of the on-site interviews i have gone through but my tips to you are:

  • Have a good rest if you were flying internationally, ask the recruiter to schedule the interview for the day after your arrival.
  • Do all the technical preparation before the travel, during the flight and the day of your arrival just let it go or you might freak out.
  • When preparing the interview, try to get the names of the people you will be interviewing with, look them up on Google and LinkedIn, try get as much info as you can about their current position because the questions that may come your way will most likely be related to their domain of knowledge.
  • Look up on Youtube for any conferences on Technology, Frameworks, approaches specific to the company you are applying, and any other material that can serve as preparation, soak into their technical language.
  • Prepare follow-up questions, same as for the previous interview, asking questions leave a good impression as you are showing up interest, just be mindful of the timing for each interview session.
  • Enjoy it, it’s a unique experience and a very reduced group of people make it to on-site interviews with a FAANG, you are already something big, give yourself some credit.

I have not been able myself to cross the final line and get a job offer from a FAANG, i wrote about my rejection stories before, but i can say interviewing is like a muscle, with time you get better and stronger in the game, and my time has yet to come. Good luck to y’all. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.