5 Tips to prepare for a Software Engineer Interview at Zynga

Let’s be honest – interviewing for a job is a daunting task.  Over the 3.5 years I have spent at Zynga I have done a lot of interviews from entry level engineers to CTO’s.  I thought that it would be beneficial in today’s post to share 5 pieces of advice in preparing for a software engineer interview at Zynga.

Love Games

This might sound silly – but if you don’t love being involved with games – then you might not enjoy the heart of what Zynga is and does.  Software Engineers at Zynga all love to play games, make games, analyze games, critique games and so forth.  Any engineer in the world can be given a task and set to work to accomplish it – but an engineer at Zynga who loves games can be handed a new feature spec, can analyze/critique it and decide how best to implement it so as to provide the best user experience possible.  Don’t be surprised in the interview if you get questions such as “what is your favorite game”, “what makes social games fun”, etc.

Brush off the CS Fundamentals

Our best Engineering Managers and Engineering Directors are all CS gurus at heart.  The vast majority of your interview will most likely be tailored around probing into your full arsenal of CS skills.  Software Engineers at Zynga deal with such large problems at scale that without having a solid base into algorithms, logic and problem solving you may find yourself struggling to have a successful career. That isn’t to say that you won’t get proper mentorship at Zynga, the opposite is in fact the case, but rather a solid CS base is required to build upon.

Show off your Awesomeness

Like interviewing at other companies, you only have a short amount of time to make yourself shine.  I didn’t make up the rules – it is just the way interviews in general happen.  Don’t hold back on selling yourself.  We want to know about your accomplishments and strengths.  We want to hear you explain the career challenges and difficulties you have overcome in the past.  Ask yourself what the 2-3 most important skills, traits or points that you want to share with each interviewer.  Work that information into the answers of your questions.  Remember that the person interviewing you is looking for someone to fill a particular gap within their organization or product.  Share with the interviewer how your strengths and experiences will fill that gap.

Prepare for the Whiteboard

Let’s face the truth – as a software engineer it is really easy to bloat your resume.  Experience has proven to me that there is no better interview session then one where the candidate pumps out sample code right then and there.  As a software engineer candidate for Zynga you will be asked to code on a whiteboard.  Every single candidate that I have green-lit to offer has provided me with solid code examples up on a whiteboard.

Ask good Questions

Too often candidates come up to Zynga and ask silly questions.  Several weeks ago I made a post about interview questions I hate.  Steer clear of questions like “What product do you work on”, “How long have you been with Zynga”, etc…  These questions are bad for two reasons. 1) they offer no real value to you as the candidate about what your career at Zynga will be like and 2) they provide the interviewer with no additional insight into your greatness.  Prepare meaningful questions that either give you more detail into what your day to day will be like – or that share additional insight into why you would be a great fit at Zynga.

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