Thanks to its famously easygoing culture and fabulous perks, Facebook is one of the most in-demand places to work — and getting a job there is no easy feat.
To get a better sense of what it takes to land a highly coveted position with the social media giant, we recently spoke to one employee who walked us through his interview process and shared what it’s really like to work for the company.
Nicolas Spiegelberg earned a Masters in Computer Engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 2006.
After graduating with a 4.0 GPA, he worked for a telecommunications company in Alabama for a few years — but had a serious interest in the “greatly unrealized potential of online social networking.”
Spiegelberg, 32, tells Business Insider he was “hooked on the idea of working for Facebook from the start.”
In 2009, “Facebook had fun programming puzzles that you could solve and get your performance evaluated online,” he says. “I solved a variant of the Stable Marriage Problem and submitted the answer. Turns out Facebook recruiting saw the results, and I got an interview request from a recruiter as a result.”
The first step was a 45-minute phone screening. “Most of the interview was spent on a coding problem but there was a decent chunk of time at the end where I could ask the engineer questions about their job and what motivates them to work at Facebook.”
Spiegelberg was invited to California to meet with hiring managers in person. He went through a total of four interviews with a quick break in the middle.
“It was refreshing from some of the other 10-plus hour interview slogs that I’ve been through in the past,” he says. “I feel like they got a good assessment of my skills while not spending so much time that I was too drained to perform well at the end.”
Spiegelberg says if you’re flying a long distance, Facebook normally gives you an extra day to rest before your interview. “I strongly recommend taking it so you can relax, freshen up, and give it your 100% the next day.”
He says two of his in-person interviews focused on coding and algorithms. “They give you problems that require you to take the common programming structures (lists, graphs, caches) and combine them together to solve a single problem,” he explains. “The problems are a little contrived, but definitely mirror the sort of problems you encounter on a day-to-day basis here.”
Another interview focused on work philosophy. “The interviewer had me walk through tough problems I had solved in the past and various lessons I learned from it,” says Spiegelberg. “Facebook wants to make sure that you want to constantly improve and can use lessons from the past to apply to current challenges.”
And the final interview focused on system design. “I believe my particular question was to design a traffic light system,” he recalls. “Facebook doesn’t ask this anymore — but the basic gist was to see if I could take a complicated problem and break it into parts. Nowadays, we focus more on designing some of the basic products that comprise Facebook.”
Spiegelberg says he wasn’t a shoo-in after that round.
“It turned out, my packet created a big argument during candidate review. One person really didn’t want me hired. However, a couple different interviewers thought that Facebook would be making a mistake by letting me go. The people who fought for me were able to convince management to reassess me on the criticisms of the negative interviewer and I had two follow-up phone screens.”
Spiegelberg has seen candidates demoralized because they didn’t do well in their interview, and they just give up. “What they don’t realise is that Facebook values somebody who will go to bat for you. That’s why you need to give it 100%. You actually have multiple chances to convince Facebook hiring managers that they are making a huge mistake if they let you go.”
Spiegelberg did just that and eventually won over the sceptics.
In November 2009, he landed a job as a software engineer in Facebook’s California headquarters, and in January 2012, he relocated to Facebook’s New York office, where he was promoted two years later to Engineering Manager.
“I love it here,” he says. “There is so much opportunity for personal and professional growth. I started by joining a brand new team that created Facebook Messenger, scaled their storage system to billions of users, open sourced my work, and traveled all over the world to share my experience at conferences.”
“Then, I moved to New York to help start an office,” he continues. “A year ago, I moved to Mobile Infrastructure and am learning how to scale out a completely new set of challenges. There are always new, unexplored growth opportunities for engineers here.”
Facebook is always at the top of workplace rankings, including Glassdoor’s list of the best companies to work for. Spiegelberg says Facebook’s mission, culture, and values are what make it such a great place to work. “Making the world more open and connected for billions of users is a high impact and personally rewarding mission. Friends and family are constantly sharing how Facebook helped them connect with people they care about.”
Internally, he explains, the Facebook culture is also very open and connected. “You can learn about any area of Facebook, even it’s not immediately related to what you do.” If you don’t fully understand how Facebook’s News Feed works, for instance, you can go watch an internal presentation. “If you’re wondering what Zuck thinks about Occulus, ask him this Friday at the company Q&A.”
Spiegelberg says Facebook values building products that people love by moving fast and being bold. “As an engineer, this means that you’re empowered to fix problems instead of resign yourself to them. Engineers are constantly trying to move faster and make a better experience.”
Another important thing to know, especially if you’re interested in working for Facebook: it’s imperative that you study up before you apply for a job.
“Facebook attracts people that want to make an impact,” he says. “Our interview process might be tough, but you know that your coworkers are individuals with the same perseverance that you demonstrate,” he explains.
“One of my favourite quotes, echoed by multiple Facebook engineers, is an ancient Latin proverb: ‘Fortune favours the bold.’ Maybe you’re a great fit for Facebook; maybe it’s something else. You’ll never know if you don’t try,” he says. “The act of being bold and putting your all into preparing for your dream job can only end well.”
To read another detailed overview of the mechanics of interviewing at Facebook, check out Carlos Bueno’s post here.
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