System Design Interview Survival Guide: Tips to Navigate Interviews

System Design Interviews are challenging for many developers because they aim to test not just technical knowledge but critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as well. The focus is not on your coding proficiency. Rather, your success in a System Design Interview depends on your ability to reason through and defend trade-offs in your design. 

We asked our partner Educative to give software engineering jobseekers a look into what they should know about getting prepped for their next System Design interview. Here’s what Educative advised.

Preparing for the System Design interview

When preparing for a System Design Interview, you should focus on mastering three key areas: 

Start with the basics of System Design, like data durability, replication, and partitioning. Then, study web architecture topics like N-Tier applications, HTTP, and caching. Finally, apply this knowledge to design real-world systems. 

Educative offers comprehensive courses to help you build these skills, including our popular Grokking Modern System Design Interviews for Engineers & Managers, which was developed by former systems engineers from Facebook and Microsoft. With focused preparation, you can approach these interviews with confidence.

Top System Design interview questions

Here are some tips to help you answer questions during System Design Interviews:

  • Start by listing required features, expected problems, and traffic estimates to show your planning skills.
  • Discuss trade-offs at each decision point and ask clarifying questions when asked vague questions.
  • Highlight your awareness of emerging technologies like machine learning and emphasize your understanding of modern microservice architectures.

Try answering these top questions:

  1. Design a chat service
  2. Design a ride-sharing service
  3. Design a URL-shortening service
  4. Design a social media newsfeed
  5. Design a social message board
  6. Design Instagram
  7. Design a file-sharing service
  8. Design Google Docs
  9. Design a video streaming service
  10. Design an API Rate Limiter
  11. Design a web crawler
  12. Design a proximity service
  13. Design typeahead
  14. Design Google Maps

Need a handy template to approach System Design problems? Let’s use “Design a ride-sharing service” (i.e. “Design Uber” or “Design Lyft”) as an example.

An Uber System Design question focuses on creating a ride-sharing service. The system should have a plan for scaling to accommodate growth.

  • Key functional requirements include location tracking for drivers and riders, displaying nearby drivers, initiating payments, and providing real-time ETAs and trip updates.
  • Non-functional requirements include system availability, reliability, scalability, and consistency.
  • Challenges include minimizing latency, efficiently pairing drivers and users, handling lost connections, and storing cached location data.
  • Tools like the S2Geometry library can help in location-based calculations, and distributed storage can help you manage user locations.

Worried about your upcoming System Design Interview prep? Or just want to build a working knowledge of foundational System Design concepts? Educative is a great place to get hands-on with System Design fundamentals for interviews and beyond.

Educative’s interactive courses are designed to show you how to solve real-world System Design problems. Created by industry experts, this course provides detailed walkthroughs of essential System Design concepts and example questions you will likely encounter in interviews.

If you are ready to invest in System Design prep, here are some helpful resources:

Source: Talent Acquisition -


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