Looking to land an entry-level software engineering position at social media giant Meta? Be prepared to interview for an engineering position but know that after you’re hired finding your team isn’t determined right away. That’s because Meta takes a boot camp approach with entry-level software engineers.
New hires spend approximately six to eight weeks learning how programming works at Facebook and talking to different teams that are hiring. It allows new engineers a week or so with each team before deciding where they fit best, according to a recently hired entry-level engineer.
The tech giant told employees last month, according to a Fortune magazine report, that it planned to reduce hiring software engineers by 30 percent this year. That means Meta is aiming to hire between 6,000 to 7,000 new engineers this year versus more than 10,000 under its previous plans.
Some of the topics you might be questioned on include data structures, binary trees and recursion. That was the case for this entry-level software engineer called A, who asked to go by the initial of their first name.
Meta Interview Questions
- Tell me about your previous work.
- What are you interested in and what gets you excited?
- How would you solve this problem? What kind of data structures would you want to use?
- Find the smallest number in a binary tree.
- Figure out the depth of a binary tree.
How to Prepare for a Meta Job Interview
Regardless of what department you’re looking to join, the social media giant offers an FAQ on how to prepare for Meta interviews. And if you are specifically seeking a software engineering role, it provides a number of job interview preparation resources in a private portal, including sample questions, once you become a Meta job candidate.
The recruiters will give you a general sense of the topics and questions that will be asked but, you won’t receive specific questions, A said. However, this type of information can be found in reviews on websites like CareerCup and Glassdoor.
Meta’s Phone Screen Might Surprise You
If you’re used to an interviewing process that gets progressively more difficult after the phone screen, then you may be surprised to hear that Meta takes a different tack.
Its recruiters and resource materials warn engineering candidates that the phone screen will carry the same degree of difficulty as follow-up interviews, said A.
“If you want to predict a person can run a mile under eight minutes, you don’t tell them they have 12 minutes.”
Conducting a phone screen that carries the same level of difficulty as an in-person interview offers two main benefits for both the interviewee and interviewer, said Gayle Laakmann McDowell, founder and CEO of CareerCup and author of Cracking the Coding Interview.
The point of a phone screen is to predict whether or not somebody will pass the onsite interviews and then perform well once they are hired, McDowell said. Plus, if the phone screen wasn’t as difficult as the in-person interview, you could mislead the job candidate into believing that the in-person interview will be just as easy.
“If you want to predict a person can run a mile under eight minutes, you don’t tell them they have 12 minutes,” said McDowell. “You’re going to waste a lot of people’s time.”
During A’s phone screen, the interviewer presented a problem and asked for their strategy in solving it. These questions aren’t testing your knowledge but your problem-solving skills, communication skills and your coding skills, McDowell said. It’s not about judging how good your answer is.
Meta Interview: 3 Tips for Software Engineers
- Sharpen up your skills and take practice coding tests at sites like LeetCode or Codewars.
- Know that at Meta the phone screen will carry the same level of difficulty as the followup interviews.
- Research more specific interview questions on forums like CareerCup and Glassdoor.
5 Questions Meta Interviewers May Ask Entry-Level Software Engineers
Q: Tell me about your previous work.
These types of questions generally seek to determine your ability to drive through challenges, collaborate, and think through trade-offs in a given situation, said McDowell.
Q: What are you interested in and what gets you excited?
Interviewers tend to value job candidates who are passionate about something, even if it initially appears to be irrelevant to the job they are seeking, said McDowell.
“I interviewed a guy who was really into his chickens, which seemed completely irrelevant to the product management job he was seeking at Google. He talked about building a chicken coop in his backyard and having to learn a whole bunch of new information to create some sort of machinery to open and close the chicken coop,” McDowell recalled, adding that the chicken example ultimately did have some relevance and he was hired.
And even if an interviewer may find some of the passions that you mention are not initially relevant to the job opening, it does allow the interviewer a chance to get to know you and provide you with a good candidate experience.
Here’s a sampling of some of the questions Meta asked A during the second round of job interviews and McDowell’s perspective on these questions. One of the interviews was on behavioral questions and the other two interviews were technical.
Q: How would you solve this problem? What kind of data structures would you want to use?
“What they really want to hear is your problem-solving process,” McDowell said in reference to these types of interview questions. “What they’re doing is essentially an IQ test tailored to software engineering skills.”
With this problem-solving question, employers believe that if you hire somebody who’s smart and gets things done, it will go a really long way towards benefiting the company, she noted.
Q: Find the smallest number in a binary tree.
“My guess is that this was a really simple warm-up question, to avoid overwhelming the candidate on a tougher question. The ultimate goal of these interviews is to ask a hard question to see how someone can solve a hard problem without looking up the answer,” McDowell said. “It’s basically to see if someone gets a hard problem at work, can they figure out a solution?”
Although software engineers won’t likely need to use binary trees during the course of their work, hiring managers include them in their job interview questions because most job candidates are familiar with them and it rounds out their toolkit of questions, McDowell said.
Q: Figure out the depth of a binary tree.
Asking a question to figure out the minimum element of a binary tree is also an easy warm up question, McDowell said. She noted easy warm up questions can assure an interviewer that the job candidate will have some basic knowledge of what they are talking about before drilling into the more difficult questions.
Questions about binary trees, arrays, link lists and recursion are among the categories where dozens of questions are typically pulled for entry level software engineering roles.
“All of these questions are getting at the same thing,” McDowell said. “Are you smart? If you get a hard problem at work are you going to be stumped and give up? Or will you have the energy and brain power to push yourself through it”