What You Need to Know about the Facebook Product Design Interview

Posted 1 month ago by Viba Mohan

It’s been a couple of weeks now, two, as I’m writing this, since I got the email. I’d had a super long day so I was lying down feeling sorry for myself when I saw this:

Hi Viba, I came across your application and am impressed by your experience and design work. I work on hiring students for our Product Design teams across Facebook. We’d like to consider you for our open roles in 2019.

A moment like this is exactly what I’ve endlessly been working towards for the past year and it had finally arrived — I made it through the resume screening of one of the Big Four companies. Damn.

Now, when you’re a part of the first batch of design students in your university like I am, making it to the big leagues is tough. It’s hard to know if you’re working in the right direction and it’s equally tough to prepare for something like this. You just don’t have enough people to measure up to.

So naturally, when I got the email, I was worried about prepping. How do you even start right? I mean you’ve got one chance to ace this, and you have to give it your all.

Which is why I decided to write about it, with the hopes that it helps someone else.

The best thing about a company like Facebook though, is that their recruiters are absolute gems. Mine walked me through every step, checked up on me before the interviews and was also nice enough to look at my portfolio and tell me how I could improve.

We started off with a quick call. It was scheduled for the day after I received the email.

The Phone Call

This call is to make sure that you’re a good fit for the company — you have the same mindset, similar ethics and to see if your background matches their requirements.

The questions were simple but recruiters can tell if your answers are genuine. They tend to dive into what you say and understand why really you want this job.

Apart from the generic questions, be prepared to answer:

At the end of this call, I was put through to the next round and my recruiter sent me a couple of emails regarding what to expect.

We then scheduled my App Critique and Past Work interviews for the next week.

Past Work

This is exactly like any other portfolio review — you present your work and explain why you did what you did.

Considering that the portfolio I submitted was my Medium link, my projects were far too wordy — which is something Tanaya Joshi has been telling me to fix forever. But since when do teenagers listen to excellent advice huh?

So on the days leading up to my interview, I rebuilt my portfolio — not the projects themselves but just the presentation.

I also prepped by presenting it to anyone who’d listen to me. I used Sahil Khoja’s article as a guideline for this.

I pitched to both designers and non-designers to get a variety of opinions. And I tried to pick up on the parts where my narrative was scrappy and went back and fixed it up later.

The interview by itself was alright. My interviewer was super nice from the start, and the follow up questions he had weren’t tough.

This is the general pattern I recommend:

Also, do not try to walk them through your entire process. You have 45 minutes to show them 2 projects, keep it brief and to the point. I know it’s tempting to talk about every little step you took, but it isn’t important. Focus on getting to the point.

Think about it this way, Facebook breaks product design into 3 parts:

  1. Product Thinking: Who are you designing for? What problems are you trying to solve? How are you solving them? How does this align with business goals?
  2. Interactions: Is it intuitive? Is it easy to find what you want?
  3. Visuals: Hierarchy, branding, typography. Is it aesthetic? Do the visuals over power or complement the design?

So in this segment, your interviewer is trying to identify your strengths. Play up to this if you can. Which is why your entire process isn’t what they’re looking for.

Stick to what’s relevant.

App Critique

In this round, you go over an app with your interviewer and analyse the reasons that it’s designed the way it is.

I did a quick critique with my professor but the actual interview was quite different. Your interviewer wants to focus on how design decisions impact users and the business. College juries and critiques tend to focus more on the former and less on the latter.

Even though I was very worried about this round, there is no real necessity to prepare for it because it’s quite straightforward.

But I’ll give you a couple of pointers anyway:

Here is Sahil Khoja’s example of a good app critique of Venmo:

The people problem that Venmo solves is ‘How might we make payments more fluid and reduce all the friction in the process?’

Venmo does this using several interaction and visual patterns. Firstly, the home page has no reference to money or $ signs. Rather, we see a feed. This feed gives users the impression that sending and receiving payments is a social interaction, rather than interaction involving pain and friction. This is realized through the visual patterns that the feed allows, such as the ability to comment or like a payment.

Venmo’s top level navigation emphasizes the sociability of the application more, as you might be able to witness celebrities conducting payments through the ‘global’ icon or simply track your activity with the ‘people’ icon. While top navigation breaks iOS patterns, this decision was crucial to emphasize the social networks of the application.

Additionally, the top level icon allows a user to discover and use the primary action: Pay or Receive. If people aren’t making transactions on Venmo, Venmo will die. Additionally, if you peek into the Hamburger menu, you can see it hides all the bank related items as Venmo’s goal is distance itself away from a bank and moreso be a ‘Twitter/FB for payments.’ While the Hamburger menu is seen as a cop-out, it works very well from a business perspective.

See what I mean? Get into the details. Dig deep. Be insightful. This is a test to see if you think like a designer. And if you’re really into product design, this shouldn’t be too tough.

The app you’ll be critiquing will be a famous one — something both you and your interviewer are familiar with. So think Uber, Google Maps, Spotify and Snapchat.

And with that, I was done with the interview. What a week, huh?

Facebook is remarkable. It’s been truly dynamic from the start. If you’ve got an interview with them coming up, you really needn’t worry — everyone is super friendly and it honestly feels like they’re all rooting for you! So sit back, don’t fret and do your best.

I’m so glad to have had this opportunity to have interviewed with them and now all that’s left is to wait for the results of my interview.

This article was originally published on Viba’s Medium page.

I read, I run and I design | www.vibamohan.com | Follow me on Twitter.

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