System Design Interview: A Guide to Success


You’ve got the job. You’re ready to start working. But before you do that, there’s one more hurdle: the system design interview. A system design interview is a type of job interview where you will be presented with a problem in need of solving, and asked about your approach for resolving it.

What is a system design interview?

A system design interview is a type of technical interview used to assess candidates’ ability to design and implement a system. It’s a problem-solving activity that requires you to come up with the best way to solve a given problem within time constraints.

The interviewer will ask you questions such as: “How would you design an algorithm for this?” or “How would you build this feature?” The goal here is not just getting the right answer but also showing your thought process while coming up with an effective solution.

Learning how to prepare for a system design interview

In order to succeed in a system design interview, you need to understand the problem domain. This means researching the company, its products or services, and their users. You should also practice asking clarifying questions during your preparation phase.

  • Practice the types of questions you will be asked by doing mock interviews with friends or family members who can help simulate real-life scenarios.*
  • Make sure you’re comfortable communicating with your interviewer(s). It’s important that you speak clearly and concisely–this shows them how well-prepared for this type of work environment you are!

Know the problem domain, ask questions, and validate assumptions.

When you’re interviewing for a job, the interviewer is looking for a few key things. The first is that you have a solid understanding of the problem domain. This means having an idea of what problems exist in their industry and how they might be solved. You should also know the potential solutions to those problems, as well as their strengths and weaknesses.

The second thing they want to know is whether or not your approach will work in practice; if it doesn’t, why not? And finally, they need assurance that whatever solution you come up with will actually solve their problem without creating new ones (or at least minimize those risks).

Ask clarifying questions as you go along.

As you are working through the problem, it’s important to ask clarifying questions. This helps ensure that you have a good understanding of what is being asked and can work through it effectively.

  • Ask questions to confirm your understanding: If there’s something about the problem that you don’t understand or aren’t sure about, let them know! It’s better to ask now than later when it might cause more problems down the line.
  • Ask questions to clarify the problem: Sometimes a question may be worded in such a way that makes it hard for you (or anyone) not familiar with some aspect of its context; if this happens, ask for clarification on how exactly they want their question answered before proceeding further. This might also involve asking more general background information related directly or indirectly related topics surrounding given scenario; again these queries should always be based around ensuring clarity rather than simply seeking additional information solely because “you want more”.

Research the company’s products and services.

Before you go into the interview, make sure you’re as prepared as possible. One of the best ways to do this is by researching what products or services the company offers. For example, if you’re interviewing with Apple Inc., it would be wise for you to know its mission statement (“To make great products that enrich people’s lives”), vision statement (a world where technology helps humanity solve its biggest challenges), competitors (Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.), customers (individuals who purchase iPhones) and history (Steve Jobs founded Apple in 1976).

Make sure that you understand the big picture of the product or service and know what it’s trying to accomplish.

Make sure that you understand the big picture of the product or service and know what it’s trying to accomplish.

Interviewers want to see that you have done your research on the company and have a solid understanding of its mission. They will ask questions such as: “Why do we exist?” “What problem are we solving?” “What are our goals?” You should be able to answer these questions before going in for an interview, so come prepared with some research under your belt!

You should also be prepared with an explanation of how your solution fits into the big picture at hand–this is especially true if there are other people working on similar problems or projects within this field.

System design interviews are all about collaboration and communication between you and your interviewer in order to produce the best solution possible.

System design interviews are all about collaboration and communication between you and your interviewer in order to produce the best solution possible. The interviewer is not an enemy; it’s their job to help guide you through the process of solving a problem, not just test how quickly or accurately you can do so. They want you to succeed! So when things get rough, remember that this is not personal–it’s just part of the process.

Your interviewer wants to see that:

  • You understand what makes up a good system design solution (i.e., its components)
  • You have some idea about how those components should interact with each other


We hope that this guide has helped you understand the ins and outs of system design interview. They can be intimidating, but with practice and preparation, you can ace your next one! Remember to ask lots of questions, validate assumptions about users’ needs before designing solutions for them, and keep an open mind throughout the process of collaboration with your interviewer(s).

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