Facebook TPM interview: the only post you'll need to read

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Technical Program Manager interviews at Facebook are really challenging. The questions are difficult, specific to Facebook, and cover a wide range of topics.

The good news is that the right preparation can make a big difference to help you land the job. We have put together the ultimate guide to help you maximize your chances of success.

Here's an overview of what we will cover:

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1. Interview process and timeline

1.1 What interviews to expect

What's the Facebook technical program manager interview process and timeline? It takes four to eight weeks on average and follows these steps:

  1. Resume, cover letter, and referrals
  2. Recruiter phone screen: one interview
  3. TPM phone screen: one or two interviews
  4. TPM onsite: typically five interviews

Let's look at each of these steps in more detail below:

1.1.1 Recruiter phone screen

In most cases, you'll start your interview process with Facebook by talking to an HR recruiter on the phone. They are looking to confirm that you've got a chance of getting the job at all, so be prepared to explain your background and why you’re a good fit at Facebook. You should expect typical behavioral and resume questions like, "Tell me about yourself", "Why Facebook?", or "Tell me about your current day to day as a technical program manager."

If you get past this first HR screen, the recruiter will then help schedule your first TPM screen. One great thing about Facebook is that they are very transparent about their recruiting process. Your HR contact will therefore walk you through the remaining steps in the hiring process, and will also share with you a helpful Facebook TPM interview guide PDF.

1.1.2 TPM phone screen

You'll go through one or two initial 45mins screens which usually happen over the phone with a current Facebook TPM. The types of questions you'll be asked are the same as during the onsite. Be prepared to cover: technical projects, architecture and system design, program sense, partnerships and leadership / team collaboration. More on this below.

The role of the phone screen is to make sure it's worth bringing you onsite. Your interviewer will therefore try to make sure there isn't an area where you are particularly weak and don't stand a chance to meet the hiring bar.

1.1.3 TPM onsite interviews

Onsite interviews are the real test. You'll typically spend a full day interviewing with Facebook technical program managers, software engineers and product managers. Each interview will last about 45 minutes and cover one of the following topics:

  1. Technical project retrospectice, where you'll be asked to deep dive into the technical aspects of past programs you've managed.
  2. Architecture and system design, where you'll have to design a large scale system from scratch to test your architecture skills.
  3. Program sense, where you'll be tested on your program management and executiong acumen.
  4. Partnership, where you'll need to demonstrate your ability to work efficiently with cross-functional teams (e.g. engineering, product, etc.)
  5. Leadership / Collaboration, where you'll need to show you've successfully lead teams in the past (e.g. motivate, resolve conflict, etc.)

[PRE-COVID] In addition to these interviews, you'll also have lunch with a fellow TPM while you are onsite. The lunch interview is meant to be your time to ask questions about what it's like to work at Facebook. The company won't be evaluating you during this time, but we recommend that you behave as if they were.

In some cases, Facebook may ask you to do a follow up interview after your onsite to drill further in one of the five areas listed above. This means you're close to getting an offer but the company wants to double check you're meeting the hiring bar for a given criteria (e.g. program sense).

1.2 What happens behind the scenes

Your recruiter is leading the process and taking you from one stage to the next. Here's what happens behind the scenes at each of the stages described above:

  • After the TPM phone screen, the interviewers you've talked to have 24h to submit their ratings and notes to the internal system. Your recruiter then reviews the feedback, and decides to move you to the onsite interview or not depending on how well you've done.
  • After the Onsite, the five interviewers will make a recommendation on hiring you or not and the recruiter compiles your "packet" (interview feedback, resume, referrals, etc.) If they think you can get the job, they will present your case at the next candidate review meeting.
  • Candidate review meetings are used to assess all candidates who have recently finished their interview loops and are close to getting an offer. Your packet will be analyzed and possible concerns will be discussed. Your interviewers are invited to join your candidate review meeting, but will usually only attend if there's a strong disagreement in the grades you received (e.g. 2 no hires, 3 hires). If after discussions the team still can't agree whether you should get an offer or not, you might be asked to do a follow up interview to settle the debate. At the end of the candidate review meeting, a hire / no hire recommendation is made for consideration by the hiring committee.
  • The hiring committee includes senior leaders from across Facebook. This step is usually a formality and the committee follows the recommendation of the candidate review meeting. The main focus is on fine-tuning the exact level and therefore compensation you will be offered.

It's also important to note that hiring managers and people who refer you have little influence on the overall process. They can help you get an interview at the beginning but that's about it.

1.3 How TPM is organized at Facebook

Finally, it's helpful to know how technical program management is organized at Facebook. At the time of writing, there are two different TPM organizations within the company. The Infrastructure TPM org, and the Product TPM org.

The Infrastructure TPM org is a centralized organization that was started by ex-Microsoft program managers. It rolls into the Head of Infrastructure and delivers large scale infrastructure programs. TPMs in that group tend to have a specific area of focus such as network engineering, data centers, capacity, etc. This is the first TPM org that was created at Facebook and it usually hires candidates with a deep technical background.

The Product TPM org focuses on user facing products (e.g. Newsfeed, Messenger, etc.) and rolls into the Head of Product Management for FB Apps.  This group was created because a lot of PMs at Facebook don't have a technical background. Yet, some user-facing product features do require strong technical chops (e.g. using machine learning to detect harrassment on FB). Product TPMs are therefore the bridge between engineering and product in these cases. Their role is similar to product manager technical role at Amazon.

2. Example questions

Let's dive in and look at the five types of interviews you can expect at Facebook:

  • Technical project retrospective
  • Architecture and system design
  • Program sense
  • Partnership
  • Leadership

We've analyzed questions reported by former Facebook TPM candidates on Glassdoor.com and identified the ones that were most frequently asked for each interview type, listed below.

2.1 Technical project retrospective

Facebook TPMs tend to work on very technical programs. The technical project retrospective therefore aims at testing your technical depth.

This is the part of the interview process where you need to show that you have thorough technical knowledge of the past programs you have worked on. You should be ready to cover the following topics for the programs you choose to talk about: technologies and architecture used, technical dependencies and tradeoffs, resource planning, risk mitigation, etc.

We've listed a typical sequence of the questions you can expect in this interview below.

Facebook TPM interview questions - Technical project retrospective

  • Tell me about a project you managed end-to-end
  • Tell me about the architecture design and technical details for that project
  • Tell me about how you managed technical dependencies and tradeoffs for that project
  • Tell me about how you managed technical risks for that project
  • Tell me about how you managed resource planning for that project

2.2 Architecture and system design

Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp all have 1bn+ monthly active users. Facebook TPMs therefore need to be able to design systems that are highly scalable. The system design questions you'll be asked are typically open-ended and will feel like a discussion if things go well.

This is the part of the interview where you want to show that you can both be creative and structured at the same time. You should be ready to gather requirements, design a system at a high-level and then deep dive into relevant components with your interviewer.

Here are some common system design questions asked in the Facebook TPM interview reports which can be found on Glassdoor. For more information, we also recommend reading the following guide on how to answer system design questions, and practicing system design questions in this course.

Facebook TPM interview questions - System design

  • How would you design Instagram
  • How would you design Whatsapp
  • How would you design Facebook Live
  • How would you design a travel booking system for Facebook users
  • How would you design a transfer system for large files
  • How would you design an online collaborative editor (e.g. Google Docs)
  • How would you design a typehead feature (e.g. Google search autocomplete)
  • How would you design Twitter's trending topics
  • How would you design a distributed Botnet
  • How would you design a system that can handle millions of card transactions per hour

2.3 Program sense

Facebook TPMs design and execute programs from end-to-end. It's therefore important that they have a strong ability to plan, work with others and unblock situations when needed.

This is the part of the interview process where you need to show you think about programs in a comprehensive way (e.g. resources, risks, KPIs, etc.) and have a track record of executing flawlessly.

We've listed a typical list of questions you can expect in this interview below. Notice you should be ready to answer hypothetical questions (e.g. How would you do XYZ), and behavioral questions (e.g. Tell me about a time you did XYZ).

Facebook TPM interview questions - Program sense

  • What is your step-by-step approach to manage programs?
  • How do you make trade offs between time, resources, scope and risks?
  • How do you define roadmap milestones and execute your projects?
  • How do you manage risks for your projects?
  • How do you define KPIs for your projects?
  • How do you manage cross-team dependencies and deliverables?
  • How would you handle performance decline in a program?
  • How do you sunset a program?
  • Tell me about the most difficult situation you've been in as a TPM
  • Tell me about a time you were late on an early milestone
  • Tell me about a time you changed a process to make it better
  • Tell me about a time you were on an extremely tight deadline

2.4 Partnership

Facebook TPMs usually work in cross-functional teams with other engineers, product managers, designers, data analysts, etc. They need to be able to communicate clearly, work with others efficiently, build trust and relationships, etc.

This is the part of the interview process where you really want to show that you are good at working with others and driving successful cross-functional collaboration. Be prepared to talk about situations where you've troubleshooted project bottlenecks, negotiated design components with engineers, adapted your program when requirements changed, etc.

We've listed a typical list of questions you can expect in this interview below. Again here, you should be ready to answer both hypothetical questions (e.g. How would you do XYZ), and behavioral questions (e.g. Tell me about a time you did XYZ).

Facebook TPM interview questions - Partnership

  • Tell me about a time you bridged the gap between engineering and less technical cross-functional teams
  • Tell me about a time you got buy-in from peers who were initially resistant to your idea
  • Tell me about the most difficult challenge you had working in a cross-functional team
  • Tell me about a time a resource from another team did not want to work on your project
  • Tell me about how your kepts stakeholders up to date for a given project
  • How to you get resources from other teams to work on your projects?
  • How do you get multiple cross-functional teams to work together?

2.5 Leadership / Team collaboration

Facebook TPMs lead programs and usually don't have direct authority over most of the resources they work with. They therefore need to be able to lead teams by influencing and motivating others, resolving conflicts when they arise, driving alignment across their team, etc.

This interview will feel similar to the Partnership interview but will focus on pure leadership rather than your ability to work in a cross-functional environment.

We've listed a typical list of questions you can expect in this interview below. In addition, we've also included typical behavioral questions (e.g. "Tell me about yourself", "Why Facebook?", etc.) that you might get asked in any Facebook interview for comprehensiveness.

Facebook TPM interview questions - Leadership

  • Tell me about yourself
  • Why Facebook?
  • Tell me about a conflict you resolved in your team
  • Tell me about a time you disagreed with your team / manager and how you handled the situation
  • Tell me about a time you received difficult feedback you received from a manager
  • Tell me about a project you worked on where goals were ambiguous and changing
  • Tell me about a time you struggled to work with one of your colleagues
  • Tell me about a time you struggled to deliver a program

3. How to prepare

Now that you know what questions to expect, let's focus on how to prepare. Here are the four most important things you can do to get an offer as a Facebook technical program manager.

3.1 Learn about Facebook's culture

Most candidates fail to do this. But before investing tens of hours preparing for an interview at Facebook, you should take some time to make sure it's actually the right company for you.

Facebook is prestigious and it's therefore tempting to ignore that step completely. But in our experience, the prestige in itself won't make you happy day-to-day. It's the type of work and the people you work with that will.

If you know TPMs, engineers or PMs who work at Facebook or used to work there it's a good idea to talk to them to understand what the culture is like. In addition, we would recommend reading about Facebook's 5 core values and hacker culture.

3.2 Practice by yourself

As mentioned above, you'll have five types of interviews at Facebook: technical project retrospective, system design, program sense, partnership and leadership.

For the technical project retrospective, we recommend selecting one or two projects and writing answers for the different questions we have listed in the previous section. Remember that the main purpose of the interview is to test your technical depth. So, make sure you are comfortable with all the technical details regarding the programs you decide to talk about.

For system design interviews, we recommend using Grokking the System Design Interview. You can both study system design basics using the course and practice interview questions.

For program sense interviews, we recommend diving into how Facebook does program management. A good starting point is the following two blog posts by Nick Corral and Anand Parikh who are both senior TPMs at Facebook. You might also find the following Facebook TPM video helpful. In addition, you'll want to write down answers for the program sense questions we've listed in the previous section.

For partnership and leadership interviews, we recommend learning our step-by-step method to answer behavioral questions. You can then use that method to craft answers for the main questions we have listed above.

Finally, a great way to practice all these different types of questions, is to interview yourself out loud. This may sound strange, but it will significantly improve the way you communicate your answers during an interview and really makes a difference in our experience. Play the role of both the candidate and the interviewer, asking questions and answering them, just like two people would in an interview. Trust us, it works.

3.3 Practice with peers

Practicing by yourself will only take you so far. One of the main challenges of TPM interviews is to communicate your different stories in a way that's easy to understand. As a result, we strongly recommend practicing TPM interviews with a peer interviewing you. A great place to start is to practice with friends if you can.

3.4 Practice with ex-interviewers

Practicing with peers can be a great help, and it's usually free. But at some point, you'll start noticing that the feedback you are getting from peers isn't helping you that much anymore. Once you reach that stage, we recommend practicing with ex-interviewers from top tech companies.

If you know a TPM or a software engineer who has experience running interviews at Facebook or another big tech company, then that's fantastic. But for most of us, it's tough to find the right connections to make this happen. And it might also be difficult to practice multiple hours with that person unless you know them really well.

Here's the good news. We've already made the connections for you. We’ve created a coaching service where you can practice 1-on-1 with ex-interviewers from leading tech companies like Facebook. Learn more and start scheduling sessions today.

TPM Interview Coaching

Any questions about Facebook TPM interviews?

If you have any questions about Facebook TPM interviews, do not hesitate to ask them in the comments below. All questions are good questions, so go ahead! 

Applying for other companies? Check out our other company guides for Google, and Amazon, and our TPM interview guide