Interview Guide Mar 02
Mar 023 rounds
The role of an Embedded Engineer
The embedded engineer role has been around for quite a while - it initially started getting hired for in the 1960s, when microprocessors and microcontrollers became more widely available.
The role of an embedded engineer can vary from organization to organization, so there’s definitely a bit of variability in the definition of the position. However, in general, an embedded engineer is someone who designs, develops, and maintains computer systems that are integrated into hardware products. This requires knowledge of both software development and the entire embedded system.
Embedded engineer salaries are highly lucrative; they earn an average $131,068 per year. Among the companies that hire embedded engineers include large technology firms such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft, as well as manufacturers like General Motors, Ford, and Boeing.
Given the widespread use of embedded systems in a variety of industries such as automotive, aerospace, and consumer electronics, the demand for embedded engineers is expected to continue to grow and evolve. This is especially true considering the increasing connectivity of devices and the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT).
Embedded software engineers play a critical role in the development and maintenance of embedded systems. This task demands a high level of expertise in software engineering, advanced problem-solving capabilities, and strong technical skills.
During an interview for an embedded software engineering position, you can expect to be tested on your coding proficiency and past experience. In addition, the interviewer may inquire about your collaboration and teamwork abilities, as this position typically functions within a team environment.
While the number of rounds vary from company to company, here's an overview of what the interview process looks like:
- Phone Screen
- Onsite Interview
- HR Round
Let's take a look at each round:
Phone Screening Round - Embedded Engineer Role Interview
The phone screen for an embedded engineer is typically an initial screening round to assess the candidate's technical skills and suitability for the role. The interviewer may be a technical recruiter or an engineer from the company who will ask you a few technical questions to gauge your experience and understanding of embedded systems. Candidates have reported being asked general programming questions that you can find easily on Leetcode.
Expect this round to be brief; the conversation lasts around 30 minutes.
OnSite Interview - Embedded Engineer Profile
There may be up to 5 interviews scheduled for your onsite interview. Candidates are typically informed in advance about what the interview process will look like. If not, you can always ask your recruiter during the phone screen or follow-up call about which different rounds you can expect.
General Programming Interviews for Embedded Engineers
This is a solely programming-focused interview round. According to reports from previous candidates who have interviewed for embedded engineering positions, the questions asked during this round typically fall in the LeetCode medium difficulty range and involve coding in C or C++.
However, it is important to note that the topics covered are usually restricted to trees and linked lists, with no questions on graph theory or related topics. Therefore, it may be beneficial for candidates to focus their preparation on these specific areas to increase their chances of success during this interview round.
Here are some common questions you can expect:
- Implement a function to find the height of a binary tree.
- Write code to traverse a binary search tree in a pre-order fashion, and print out the values of each node as it is visited.
- Given a binary tree, write a function to check if it is a valid binary search tree.
- Implement a function to reverse a singly-linked list in place.
- Write a code to find the middle node in a singly-linked list.
- Given two sorted linked lists, write a function to merge them into a single sorted linked list.
Important Interview Questions - Embedded Engineer Profile
Embedded Programming Interviews
The embedded programming interview round typically consists of both in-domain programming questions and theoretical questions related to embedded systems. In-domain programming questions focus on the candidate's ability to work with the specific tools and technologies used in embedded system development, while theoretical questions assess the candidate's knowledge of embedded systems concepts and principles.
Examples of in-domain programming questions that may be asked include:
- How would you write a low-level driver to interface with a specific hardware component in an embedded system?
- How do you optimize code for performance in an embedded system?
- What is the difference between a microcontroller and a microprocessor?
- How does DMA work and when would you use it?
- What is the purpose of a bootloader in an embedded system?
- What is the role of the linker in the software development process?
- What is the purpose of a Real-Time Operating System (RTOS) in an embedded system?
- How do you debug an embedded system when the target is not responding?
- What is the difference between big-endian and little-endian byte order?
- What is the purpose of a timer in an embedded system?
- How do you test and validate embedded software?
Embedded System Design Interviews
The embedded system design interview round typically focuses on the candidate's ability to design and develop an embedded system that meets specific requirements. The interview will typically be conducted by a technical team consisting of embedded systems engineers and hiring managers.
This round is similar to a classic system design interview but with a focus on the candidate's expertise in embedded systems.
The interviewer may present the candidate with a scenario, such as designing a portable device like a smartwatch, and ask them to walk through the design process.
Here are a few examples of questions that could be asked in the embedded system design interview round:
- Design a portable device such as a smartwatch. What hardware components would you include, and how would you interface with each component?
- You are tasked with designing a sensor-based system to monitor temperature and humidity in a greenhouse. How would you design this system, and what embedded devices would you use?
- You are designing a system that will be used in an industrial setting to monitor machinery. What design considerations would you need to take into account to ensure the system is reliable and can operate in a noisy environment?
- Design an embedded system that can control the temperature of a refrigerator. What hardware components would you use, and how would you implement the control algorithm?
- You are tasked with designing an embedded system for a small, low-power device. How would you optimize the software and hardware to minimize power consumption?
How to prepare for Embedded System Design Interview?
To succeed in this round, candidates should approach the question like any other system design problem but should highlight their expertise in embedded devices. They should be able to break down the problem into smaller components and design each component while considering the impact on the overall system. It is also important for candidates to demonstrate their ability to make trade-offs between different design decisions and to justify their choices.
It is important to note that it is acceptable for candidates to mention areas where they lack expertise, and instead focus on areas where they are more knowledgeable. However, there is still a certain level of common knowledge that candidates should have in embedded systems, such as an understanding of how to interface with different hardware components and an ability to optimize code for performance in an embedded system.
Behavioural Round - Embedded Engineer Interview Preparation
The behavioral round of the interview for an embedded engineer will typically focus on the candidate's soft skills and ability to work with a team. The interviewer will be interested in learning about the candidate's past experiences working on projects, as well as their communication and problem-solving skills.
Therefore, you can expect the following questions:
- Can you tell me about a time when you had to solve a particularly challenging problem while working on an embedded system? What approach did you take, and how did you eventually solve the problem?
- Can you describe a project you worked on where you had to collaborate with other engineers? How did you ensure effective communication and coordination between team members?
- Can you describe a time when you had to work under pressure to meet a deadline for an embedded system project? How did you prioritize your tasks and ensure the project was completed on time?
- What are the real-time operating systems that you have experience with? How do they handle priority and task scheduling?
- Can you explain the protocols that you have used in your previous projects? How did you ensure their security?
- What is your experience with reading schematics and data sheets for components? Can you explain a project where you had to troubleshoot issues related to hardware components?
- What is your experience in writing technical documentation? Can you provide examples of documentation you have created in the past?
- Can you explain a project where you had to optimize performance and efficiency in a real-time embedded system?
- How do you stay up-to-date with the latest technologies and developments in the field of embedded systems?
Foolproof your Prep - Embedded Engineer Interview Preparation
Start by brushing up on certain topics or areas of expertise and give yourself sufficient time to prepare.
One way to prepare for an embedded engineering interview is by reviewing typical embedded system interview questions and model responses, which can help candidates prepare impressionable responses for questions they might encounter. You can look up commonly asked embedded engineer interview questions on Glassdoor, TeamBlind, or interview preparation platforms like Prepfully which also offer mock interviews to help you practice your interviewing skills.
The advantage of practicing through a mock interview is that you are getting specific feedback on how you perform, from a field expert from your target company. Through feedback and advice, they can help you confidently address questions interviewers might ask you - in a way that demonstrates your skills in the most effective way possible.
Embedded Engineer as Career - Roles and Responsibilities
The specific roles and responsibilities of an embedded engineer can vary depending on the company and the project. Some companies use the term "embedded engineer" to refer specifically to engineers who work with embedded software, while others use it to describe engineers who work on the whole embedded system, including both hardware and software.
In some cases, the role of an embedded engineer may involve designing and implementing the software that runs on an embedded device, such as a microcontroller or processor. In other cases, the engineer may be responsible for designing the entire embedded system, which could include hardware design, software development, and testing.
Here are the major roles and responsibilities of an embedded engineer:
- Embedded engineers are responsible for designing, developing, and implementing software for embedded systems. This includes taking the system requirements and ensuring the software meets those needs and is optimized for the embedded environment.
- Developing, coding, testing, and debugging system software is another essential responsibility you will have as an embedded engineer. They must ensure the entire embedded system, including hardware and software components, is reliable and secure.
- Embedded engineers must progressively improve the efficiency and scalability of system resources, such as storage, memory, and processing power. This helps them optimize systems for all use cases and scenarios.
- Additionally, you must validate and integrate new product designs, third-party, and open-source software in existing systems.
- Embedded engineers must provide post-production support, maintain and debug software, and support end-users of the system.
- You will also be expected to collaborate with hardware design and development teams to ensure secure and seamless integration of all components.
Skillsets Needed - Embedded Engineer in Big Tech
Skills and qualifications that an embedded engineer must have are:
- Entry-level embedded engineers typically require a minimum of a bachelor's degree in computer science or engineering
- Embedded engineers require solid experience with basic embedded system software such as C, C++, and ADA.
- If you are appearing for a senior embedded engineers role, you should have 7 to 8 years of experience working on firmware development with real-time operating systems such as Windows CE, LINUX, TreadX, Nucleus RTOS, OSE.