The Importance of System Design Interviews: A Guide for Every Level of Seniority

Yesi Days
3 min readSep 6, 2023

A system design interview is a specific type of job interview commonly used in the tech industry, especially for roles that involve software engineering, system architecture, or other technical responsibilities. This interview aims to evaluate the candidate’s ability to design and plan complex, scalable software systems.

Unlike traditional coding interviews, which focus on algorithms and data structures, system design interviews are more about high-level planning, decision-making, and problem-solving. You may be asked to design a system from scratch or improve upon an existing one.

At one point, I found myself preparing for this type of interview. I gathered a wealth of information that can be incredibly valuable and useful if you’re gearing up for a similar interview experience.

In this post, we’ll discuss the significance of system design interviews, delve into why they matter at various seniority levels, and wrap up a list of resources that helped me prepare for my technical interviews.

What is a System Design Interview?

A system design interview assesses your ability to design and architect scalable systems. The interview may involve developing a distributed database, a microservices architecture, or even a social network like Twitter. Unlike coding interviews, which focus on algorithms and data structures, system design interviews emphasize planning, scalability, and trade-offs in an architecture.

Importance Across Different Levels of Seniority

Junior Engineers

You might need to be more deeply involved in system design at the junior level. However, understanding the basics can make you stand out and set a strong foundation for future roles.

Mid-Level Engineers

It is expected that Mid-level engineers contribute to existing architectures. Here, knowledge of system design principles is vital for optimizing performance and working cohesively within a team.

Senior Engineers

System design knowledge is indispensable at the senior level. You’ll be responsible for making architectural decisions that could make or break a project. A deep understanding of load balancing, caching, and database design becomes critical.

List of Resources

I compiled a list of resources that helped me prepare for my technical interviews. I hope these can guide you too:

Books

“System Design Interview” by Alex Xu

It is indisputable that it is the best book for these topics, and I did not need any other. Also, Alex Hu also has a site called ByteByteGo, and I recommend you check it out and subscribe to his newsletter. He always shares interesting and essential information.

Online Courses

  1. “Grokking Modern System Design Interview for Engineers & Managers” on Educative
  2. “Mastering the System Design Interview” on Udemy
  3. Course on Exponent

Blogs and Articles

  1. Intro to Architecture and Systems Design Interviews
  2. How to prepare for the System Design Interview in 2023
  3. System Design Interview Survival Guide (2023): Preparation Strategies and Practical Tips
  4. Top 10 System Design Interview Questions
  5. System Design Interview: A Step-By-Step Guide
  6. 10 System Design Interview Questions (With Answers) I Wished I Knew Before the Interview
  7. Everything you need to know about Caching — System Design
  8. System Design interview with an Amazon engineer: Online file storage
  9. System Design Basics: Horizontal vs. Vertical Scaling
  10. Database Design Tips
  11. Choosing the Best Database in a System Design Interview
  12. System Design Master Template: How to Answer Any System Design Interview Question.
  13. System Design Basics: Proxy vs. Reverse Proxy
  14. System Design Interview Basics: Difference Between API Gateway and Load Balancer
  15. The System Design Interview Prep Handbook
  16. Apache Kafka Startup Guide: System Design Architectures: Notification System, Web Activity Tracker, ELT Pipeline, Storage System
  17. System Design — Rate limiter and Data modeling
  18. System Design — Scaling from Zero to Millions Of Users

Prep interviews

  1. UBER System design
  2. Amazon System Design
  3. Gaurav Sen YouTube Channel
  4. How to answer my favorite System Design question: Design Spotify

Conclusion

Whether you’re an entry-level engineer or a senior architect, understanding system design can make a significant difference in your career. It’s not just about landing the job but about excelling in it.

I hope this guide and the list of resources make your preparation journey easier. Remember, the key to cracking system design interviews is practice and a deep understanding of real-world architectures.

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Yesi Days

GDE Machine Learning | Data Scientist | PhD in Artificial Intelligence | Content creator | Ex-backend