A journey of a MS-HCI (Human Computer Interaction) student at Georgia Institute of Technology who is passionate about User Experience.
This blog is about my recent personal experience of interviewing for Facebook’s Product Design Internship. Of all the different companies I’ve interviewed with so far, I decided to write about Facebook. I will explain in detail about the steps I took, hoping you will get a sense of what to expect and what it’s like.
The content is mainly divided into four sections:
- Phone Screening
- Portfolio Review
- App Critique
My name is XXX and I am a University Recruiter at Facebook. I work on hiring interns for our Product Design team.
Can you fill out the some of the questions below so we can begin considering you for our open roles?”
As soon as I saw this email along with about 10 questions I had to answer regarding my background and interest (current school, preference of office location, visa sponsorship etc), my palms started to sweat. I had finally done it — I passed the resume screening and soon would be expecting a phone screening with a recruiter.
I applied for Facebook’s Product Design Internship in early November through a employee referral. Luckily, my best friend who I attended University of Michigan with was already working at Facebook for about two years. Since I had worked with him on various school projects in classes and that he already knew me very well, he was delighted to send over my resume, portfolio website and a paragraph to describe what kind of person I am.
“Be patient and keep an eye out for an email, always”
The first email I’ve received from the recruiter at Facebook was late November but truthfully, it wasn’t a fast process to get the phone screening scheduled. With the high demand and countless applications that they receive, I knew I had to be patient. However, it’s not easy to just sit tight and wait forever until one day, you get an email back. So, I tried to remind the recruiter once more by sending a follow-up email mentioning my soon-to-be received offers from other companies I had interviewed with.
“Are you available at 3pm today?”
Surprisingly, I heard back the following day asking for my availability later that same day. Since I had been ready for it, I immediately replied saying, YES with my phone number included in the email. Now, it had finally begun. Showtime.
Since I’ve been actively interviewing with other companies before Facebook, I was confident and definitely ready to talk about my background, past work experience, projects and most importantly, why I’m interested in Facebook. Some of the bullet points I had already written down were:
- My background — how I got into design
- Details on my past work experience related to UI/UX/Product Design
- Information about the projects that I have on my portfolio website
- Why I’m interested in the Product Design Internship at Facebook
- What is my passion, goal and what do I see myself in # of years
After spending an adequate amount of time preparing for the interview, I quietly waited in my room staring at the phone from about 5–10 minutes before the call so that I wouldn’t miss it. Soon after, the phone rang.
“Hello this is Geunbae”
I always try to answer my call this way so that whoever is calling me is aware that it’s me, no one else. I personally think it saves time for both the recruiter and myself while show my personality (not to mention it’s a great “UX factor”). After a quick back-and-forth exchange of how the days have been so far, appreciating the recruiter’s time to talk with me on the phone was next.
“Always be prepared to answer any questions, honestly.”
“Please tell me about XXX project you did”
Quickly after the recruiter introduced himself, he asked me this question right off the bat. To be honest, I had not expected this at all. Based on my past experiences, I had always explained about my background first and sometimes, about why I’m interested in the company and the role before I even got into any details about my past work/projects. But luckily, from having several practices already with many other companies earlier, I was able to successfully convey the steps that I took for the project. I walked him through my design process, how I work in teams, my role and what I learned from it.
“Cool! I feel your passion but let me ask you this, why are you interested in Facebook?”
Quickly after answering the details on one of project for about 5–10 minutes, I was asked to answer the question that I knew would be asked. Just for this question, I had interviewed all my friends who currently work at Facebook in addition to searching on Quora, Google and other online resources to extract other information that I don’t have.
Obviously, replying with “I’m interested in Facebook because it’s Facebook” doesn’t really cut it. It’s very important to be clear on why you are interested in Facebook and this also goes out to other companies that you submit your applications to. I mean, why would you apply to the companies you don’t want to go to or don’t know in the first place?
For me, I was very honest about my initial lack of knowledge regarding what it’s like to be a Product Design Intern at Facebook but made sure to note that I was already a heavy user of Facebook from when it was created. Well, as you all know the job descriptions for UX/Product Design roles are very similar all across the companies. So, it’s not 100% to understand what you would be doing as an intern. Also, all I heard about working at Facebook was, “it’s cool to work at Facebook. There’s so many benefits. It’s great for your career.” But for me, I wanted to dig deeper into the role, culture and what I would learn and experience during the 3 months period at Facebook (and even beyond that — working as a full-time employee). Then, I informed him about how I searched online and asked people who currently work at Facebook to find out discover in more detail. I wanted to show him that the reason for Facebook was way more than the company’s reputation. To share a bit of what I said:
- Facebook is a fast-moving culture and for me, I wish to work at a place where I can learn and experience a lot with the amount of energy that flows in the company.
- Facebook’s Product Designers take on key roles in shaping the product that billions of users see world wide. It requires a lot of responsibility, which makes me into a very motivated and passionate when I think about the people using Facebook.
- With the current expansion in different areas such as Social VR, there are a lot of things I’ll be able to take part in (I heard moving teams at Facebook is allowed which means I can explore a lot of different things!).
- Open culture — getting to know what other teams are working on, etc.
These answers are just a sample of what I said and had in my mind going into the interview — I think it’s very important that you should try tell a story. And please, don’t ever fake it or not be prepared for this. Always be honest about what motivates you and why working at Facebook as a designer — or any other role — seems interesting to you.
“I would like to proceed to the next step of the interview process. The next phase will be two video calls back to back. One is explaining about your past work/project experience (a.k.a Past Work Call) and the other is an app critique. They will be approximately 45 minutes each and I’ll provide you the detailed information via email.”
Shortly after I got off the phone with the recruiter who said that he would like to continue with my interview process, I received an email about the detailed description of the two back-to-back interviews along with the Medium article, A Guide to Interviewing for Product Design Internshipswritten by Andrew Hwang who is a Product Designer at Facebook.
I was also asked to provide my availability for the next two upcoming weeks. Considering that it was almost the end of my first term (the phone call was on the second week of December) and that I was anxious about getting an offer letter soon from other companies with the deadlines, I wanted to get it scheduled as soon as possible.
“Communicate well with whoever is helping you”
Communicating with the recruiter about scheduling is very important at every stage of the process. Sometimes, the recruiter might be piled up with his own work so that if I didn’t proactively provide the recruiter with my availability, the process could possibly take longer than necessary. After some back-and-forth communications which took about 1–2 weeks, the date was set for early January.
When I heard back from another company about an offer with a deadline, I reached back out to the recruiter at Facebook to see if we could schedule. Luckily, my recruiter was very quick on the reply and I was able to get it scheduled about a week earlier so that I’ll have just in time to hear back about my decision for Facebook. I recommend being completely honest and up-front with your recruiter so they can accommodate your schedule.
Past Work Call (Portfolio Review)
This part is almost standard in any other job interviews. I guess it’s an important step in the process of overseeing everything you have accomplished throughout your projects. It’s also a great way to demonstrate your portfolio design (and front-end development capability if you coded your website) and to portray your personality. For months, I’ve been working on revamping my portfolio website, hoping to bring a better user experience in navigation, design and layout of the content. Also, I had been practicing my opening remarks about the projects, and how I would go about explaining the details of them. Practice is what makes things better, obviously. After many practices, I was ready (at least I thought I was ready).
I talked with a Product Design Manager for this part of the interview and before the interview, I was asked to dial in to Facebook’s own video conference program (called Bluejeans) 5 minutes before the interview. I actually joined about 10 minutes before and even before that, I checked my sounds and what my background would look like so that everything was clean and designer-like (haha). Shortly after I joined, the Interviewer joined and I greeted him with excitement. He explained to me about what he does at Facebook, what team he works on and then, he started to ask me a few questions about my background.
“What is your background? How did you get into design?”
As a person like me, who comes from a Psychology background and not design, it’s very important to always have an answer to this question. Actually, everyone should be able to answer this question regardless of your background. Also, based on my own experience of interviewing with many companies, almost everyone had asked me this question. My two cents is that, if you successfully deliver the message, you will get a great start on your interview because there is a high chance that this question will be asked at the start.
“Please tell me about a project that you recently worked on. Walk me through your process.”
Obviously, because it’s a portfolio review call, I knew I would be asked this question. From countless times practicing and the fact that the most polished projects I had on my portfolio were quite recent, I was confident in explaining them. The way I had my interview was something like this:
- Explain briefly about the project (target user, their problems, objective, approach etc)
- Ask for a preferred way that the interviewer would like to hear (typically chronologically and as you go along, the interviewer will interrupt, asking questions about your thought process and decisions)
The interviewer was sometimes looking for detailed information about my thought process and sometimes he was also interested in how I cope within the difficult team dynamics. Some of the questions he had for me were:
- Explain to me about your role within the team
- Did you have any constraints/conflicts during the project?
- Why did you choose your target user group like that in the first place?
- How do you think your research phase has influenced your design process?
- What kind of prototyping tool did you use? (He then asked me all these questions about why Framer.js is a great tool for doing high fidelity prototyping apart from the tools like InvisionApp or Origami)
After answering his questions and explaining in detail about the project, he seemed impressed at the detailed layout of my portfolio content. However, instead of asking to take a look at another project like I thought he would do, he decided to give me a surprise task.
“Always listen carefully. You never know what comes next.”
“As you may know, I’m in XXX team and we strive to do XXX. Are you aware of XXX feature at Facebook? Could you explain to me why that exists and how would users think about it?”
My eyebrows went up. I was very surprised. However, I instantly knew when he started saying that it was a chance for me to show him what I can do for task given in the moment. Although I would have been more comfortable talking about my other project, I had no time to think about that. I listened carefully at what he wanted me to do.
It’s incredibly important to know the Facebook product well; however, it’s also okay to pause and think carefully about your answer. You can also ask the recruiter or interviewer to clarify their question if you need help or don’t understand what they’re asking.
“I guess we’re almost out of time. Do you have any questions for me?”
By the time 45 minutes were almost over and the fact that I had my app critique call right after, I only had about 2 questions to ask. Even though I was being evaluated mostly about my projects and the ways I communicate the findings, I wanted to ask him questions regarding to his experience of working with designers.
App Critique Call
About five minutes after I got off the call with the Product Design Manager, I waited steadily in my chair, expecting to chat with the next interviewer. Prior to scheduling, I was asked to remain in the same video room.
For this part of the interview, I talked with a Product Designer this time for this part of the interview. For the app critique call, it’s basically choosing an app on your phone and critiquing as you go along with the interviewer. It’s possible that you get to choose your own app and it’s also possible that the interviewer might ask you to download a specific app that’s already on his/her mind. I’ve asked some of my peers and my connections on LinkedIn and it clearly different based on who you interview with. So, I advise you to do this to increase your chance of getting this part of the interview right:
- Download the most common apps (ex. Yelp, Spotify, LinkedIn, Google Maps, Slack, Uber, Youtube but but it most likely won’t be any of Facebook’s apps like Instagram, Whatsapp and Messenger)
- Understand deeply what the app is trying to accomplish, who their target user group is, your initial feeling when opening the app, etc. (some question can be high level questions but some can be specific like the UI, interactions, buttons, fonts, etc)
- Know the current design guidelines and the recent app design trends to add spice to your discussion
- Talk about human factors (finger) and how certain interactions seem uncomfortable/comfortable for the users
- Explain your ideas in ways that the interviewer can understand easily of what you’re trying to say (ex. if I’m in a situation where I’m driving, this button is too far away…). Tell a story.
- If you think the interviewer seems to have a different idea, don’t be afraid to ask his/her opinion. Be willing to learn from the experienced designer. You are just a student applying for internship, and should be interested.
“Could you tell me what kind of apps you have on your phone?”
Since I thought it was more common for the recruiters to ask this question instead of calling out an app, I had the list generated and organized in my phone. I had about 10 apps in mind to mention, all of which I do use on a daily basis (it’s pointless to mention the apps you don’t use). For the apps that I had in mind, I had been studying them, practicing on my own and even calling my friends to do app critiques together on the spot.
“Don’t be lazy. Don’t think you’ll get lucky”
Although you can get lucky and the interviewer might pick the app that you wanted to critique, it’s nothing more than gambling your chance of getting closer to the internship you want. Yes, you can critique it without any preparation and that’s great but I personally think it’s good to be fully prepared for the interview, especially if you’re really interested in that company. After all, many of the UX/Product Design internships or even full-time interviews have this as a standard interview process. So, getting to know the most popular apps is a great way to prepare for whatever comes in the future. Also, as a designer going into this field, I think it’s more than just good to learn about them — it’s a must!
“I would like you to critique XXX app. What do you think?”
The interviewer might choose the app that you listed or he/she may give you a chance to pick the app. For me, the interviewer chose Spotify and thankfully, it was an app that I did take close a look at.
“Please tell me what you think of it as soon as you open up the app”
I walked him through the overall purpose of the app and touched on the various aspects of the designs. I also mentioned about it’s recent transition into the bottom navigation tabs from the hamburger button (I read this from an article while I studied) in addition to mentioning how the app uses big, rectangle pictures as a part of the design. Moreover, I talked about the the weight of the font being different in appropriate situations. There was a lot more that I told him and it was basically a back and forth conversation. Sometimes, he asked me questions like, “why do you think the designer did this or that? What would you do differently?”
“How about this, I’ll ask you to add XXX to your playlist. Walk me through that process. Share with me what you think about the process.”
The interviewer asked me this question after we talked about all the details of the app. We had looked at all the tabs (Home, Browse, Search, Radio and Your Library) along with the design, interactions, icons, fonts, user flow etc. To be honest, it was a very fun exercise to do and there were points where we both agreed on what needed to be changed and the things that were fantastic. It felt as if I wasn’t in an interview at all, but instead talking to a friend about an app that I use everyday; however, this obviously doesn’t mean that we were fooling around. It was serious business.
“Now that we’re almost out of time, do you have any questions for me?”
I went just over the 45 minute mark and I guess it was okay because it was the end process of the interview. I was exhausted after being so tensed up for almost 2 hours of interview. However, there were questions that I wanted to ask specifically for the interviewer who is a Product Designer at Facebook. If I get the internship, I wanted to understand what it feels like to work at Facebook as a designer, definitely a lot more in detail. So, I asked on some of the personal traits, skills and knowledge that I would benefit me during the 3 months internship period and after during full-time. Also, I asked about his experience so far working at Facebook in regards to culture, career and opportunities. And… there were actually two or three more questions I asked but I frankly don’t remember (forgive me I was exhausted)
Facebook is one of the top companies in the world and it’s certainly a great experience to do an internship there. There are only a few people out of thousands of applicants who get a taste of what it’s like to work at Facebook (for Product Design Internship).
For me, even getting my feet wet with Facebook’s interview process was no doubt, a valuable experience. Before the interview, during the interview and now, after the interview, I feel much more motivated to work hard and learn more about the skills that I lack. Moreover, there are definitely things that I need to improve on.
Soon, I’ll be receiving a decision about the result of my interview (UPDATE: I got an offer!). Whatever it may be, I wanted to share my experience so that other people who are going to be in the same situation can read my blog and get a sense of it. I hope this blog post will provide you with some insight and benefit you in a certain way.
Thank you for reading and best of luck in your future!
- “Ways to make the most out of the HCI Masters program (Part 1)”
- “How to Structure Your First UX Design Portfolio”
- “Having a Psychology background is already a huge step towards User Experience (UX)”
About the Author
Geunbae is a Master's degree student at Georgia Tech studying Human Computer Interaction. Before, he received his Bachelor's degree in Psychology from the University of Michigan. He will be going to Facebook as a Product Design Intern this Summer. View Geunbae's LinkedIn profile here.