Being one of the largest tech companies on the planet, it should come as no surprise that landing a job at Facebook is not necessarily a walk in the park. This is especially true if you're looking to join the technical program management team. There's no denying that the technical program manager interview at Facebook is a difficult one. The questions are both challenging and Facebook-specific. Given the nature of the position, you can also expect them to cover many different areas including:
- Program sense: assesses how you manage resources, mitigate risk, etc.
- System design: tests problem-solving ability, technical knowledge, and ability to work with ambiguity
- Leadership, collaboration, and cross-functional communication: assesses your ability to collaborate, communicate, and get buy-in from various stakeholders.
- Technical project retrospective: you’ll go in-depth on a project you worked on, answering questions about your technical decisions, project planning and execution, group dynamics, and outcomes.
- Culture fit: assesses your “fit” across Facebook’s five values including “Move Fast” “Be Bold” and “Build Social Value.”
Feeling overwhelmed? Have no fear! The good news is that it is possible (and highly recommended) for you to prepare for the TPM interview questions at Facebook. We wrote this article to help you make the most out of that preparation. Doing so will ensure you can nail all the technical program management interview questions you will face. Read on for a thorough breakdown of what to expect as well as some commonly-asked questions.
What Technical Program Management Looks like at Facebook
Virtually all major tech companies have technical program managers within their ranks. That does not mean that the TPM departments necessarily function in the same, cookie-cutter way at each. Before we go any further, we should briefly outline what technical program management looks like at Facebook. Currently, the company splits its TPMs into two groups. These are Infrastructure TPMs and Product TPMs. The names are rather self-explanatory. Infrastructure TPMs work on Facebook's infrastructure (security, privacy, etc), whereas Product TPMs are much more product-oriented in their responsibilities. Those TPM candidates with a much deeper technical acumen will probably be better suited for the Infrastructure team. Those candidates with more experience in user-facing product features in lieu of substantial technical knowledge are better suited for the Product team.
Types of Technical Program Management Interview Questions at Facebook
While the exact questions that aspiring TPMs are asked will vary depending on the company, they, generally speaking, will fit into the three main dimensions of the role. These are system design, program sense, and cross-functional partnerships. However, as we mentioned, the Facebook TPM interview includes some company-specific kinds of questions, as well. These are technical project retrospective, leadership & team collaboration, Facebook Values. Let's take a closer look at each in a little more detail:
One of the most important aspects of being a TPM is the ability to think technically. During TPM interviews at Facebook and elsewhere, hiring managers will assess this ability with system design questions. These are interview questions in which a candidate is asked to design the system architecture of some product or service. Keep in mind, your interviewer is not necessarily looking for "right" or "wrong" answers here. Rather, they are chiefly concerned with investigating how you think and how you solve technical problems. Chances are, during the Facebook TPM interview, these system design questions will include some aspects regarding Facebook architecture.
As you can imagine, based on the name, program sense is another critical part of technical program management. After all, the role is centered around the management of "programs." A candidate's program sense refers to their capacity to understand/improve the programs they manage. Program sense involves such things as choice of methodology, the delivery/implementation of programs, the management of limited resources, and evaluating risks. Facebook, in particular, will be investigating their candidates' abilities to define program roadmaps, support their teams, manage resources, and handle the adversity that comes along the way.
Another crucial aspect of the TPM role is called cross-functional partnerships. This refers to the working relationships and partnerships that must be formed by TPMs as they go about developing and implementing their programs. When it comes to Facebook TPMs, the company assesses how candidates build relationships, get buy-in and feedback from peers and other stakeholders, and how they manage interpersonal challenges.
Technical Project Retrospective
One unique aspect of the Facebook TPM interview is something called the technical project retrospective. These interview questions will involve candidates being asked to dive deep into an ambiguous technical problem. Often, your interviewer will deliberately try to ask you about a subject outside your comfort zone or area of expertise. Here, your candidacy will be assessed based upon your ability to communicate your solution clearly, handle any constraints, and navigate through the problem itself. To help you prepare for this section of the interview, you can check out our system design fundamentals module in our TPM course.
Leadership & Team Collaboration
Cross-functional partnerships are indeed a central dimension of technical program management. Facebook is unique, however, in that they are also interested in the leadership abilities of their TPM candidates and how they function within teams. As such, these interview questions will be focused on managing team dynamics, resolving conflicts, and inspiring team members and other stakeholders.
TPM hiring managers at Facebook will be evaluating your candidacy against the corporate values of the company. It's for this reason that you should be sure to study and review these. Try to brainstorm how the ways your previous experience can highlight your alignment with the five following values:
- Move Fast: Speed is critical for Facebook TPM. Think of the ways you found ways to implement your programs most expediently.
- Be Bold: Facebook wants TPM candidates who are not risk-averse, but rather have the boldness to try new ideas, even if they fail. As such, don't be afraid to be open about your past failures (and successes) in your previous roles.
- Focus on Impact: What are the ways that you prioritize tasks or strategies to maximize their impact?
- Be Open: Facebook's stated aim is to connect the world through its social media products. As such, an inclusive and open approach is one of its core values.
- Build Social Value: Being a social media giant, Facebook wants to build products that create a more connected, social world.
Examples of Facebook TPM Interview Questions
Here is a list for you to review some TPM interview questions that we have collected from previous interviews conducted at Facebook and elsewhere.
- How would you design Facebook Messenger? Watch the answer to this question here.
- How would you design the Facebook Newsfeed? Watch the answer to this question here.
- How would you design Whatsapp?
- How would you design a typeahead box for a search engine? Watch an expert answer to this question from one of our mock interviews here.
- Describe a situation where you changed the process to make it better and more productive.
- How have you managed risk in a project?
- Build a solution for Facebook employee travel.
- Tell me about a time you dealt with a conflict with engineers.
- Give an example of how you negotiated between two teams.
- Describe a situation where you negotiated a win-win situation.
- Talk about a time you had to tell someone no.
Technical Project Retrospective
- What happens when you type a URL in the browser? Check out the answer from our Technical PM Course here.
- When Should You Use Http vs. Https? Check out the answer from our Fundamentals of System Design Course here.
- What is database sharding? Check out the answer from our Fundamentals of System Design Course here.
- When would you choose TCP over UDP and vice versa?
Leadership & Team Collaboration
- Tell me about a time you had a conflict with someone. How did you resolve it, and what did you learn?
- How do you earn the trust of your team members?
- You have a coworker who is not comfortable working on the team. What steps would you take to make the person more comfortable?
- Give me an example of a calculated risk that you have taken where speed was critical. (Move Fast) Watch an expert answer to this question here.
- Tell me about a project that failed. (Be Bold) Watch an expert answer to this question here.
- Tell me about a time you had to make a decision to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains. (Focus on Impact) Watch a Senior PM at Capsule answer this question here.
- Tell me about a time when you had an idea you proposed that was not agreed on. (Be Open) Watch an answer to this question here.
- Explain the most complex product you have built so far. (Build Social Value)
Tips For A Successful Interview
Create Your Personal Story Bank
As you can see, there is a wide variety of potential interview questions that you will be asked during your interview. There is simply no way to prepare for each and every one of them, nor is there any way to predict which you'll be asked. As a result, the best way to prepare for such ambiguity is to come with a personal story bank. This is a collection of 5-10 stories from your previous experiences that you know best and can speak the easiest regarding. So, while the TPM interview questions themselves will be a mystery until they are asked, chances are you will have some stories in the bank that you can fall back on.
Complete Some Mock Interviews
One of the best ways to prepare for an interview is to practice beforehand using mock interviews. You may be wondering where to find these, considering your friends and family probably are not up to the task of pretending to be a Facebook TPM hiring manager. Lucky for you, you can be matched with fellow job seekers and industry insiders using Exponent's peer-to-peer mock interview platform. Check it out here.
Meet with an Exponent Coach
Finally, one of the most effective ways to prepare for a Facebook TPM interview is meeting with an expert coach with an inside look at the company. Interview coaching is one of the few ways you can get that inside scoop from someone who has successfully completed the TPM interview and has worked at the company. Not only that, they can help give you an objective assessment of exactly where you would stand as an aspiring Facebook TPM while giving you individualized constructive criticism to help improve your weaknesses. With Exponent, you can schedule a session with Liana Gevorgyan, a Senior TPM at Facebook. Click here to book a coaching session today!