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Spotify Software Engineer Interview

Interview Guide Jul 20

Detailed, specific guidance on the Spotify Software Engineer interview process - with a breakdown of different stages and interview questions asked at each stage.

The role of a Spotify Software Engineer

Spotify is a world-leading online music streaming service that has practically redefined the way people listen to music. As a Spotify Software Engineer, you'll be joining a team of pretty strong engineers -- and this is reflected in Spotify's reasonably challenging interview process.

You'll work on distributed systems, performance, and scalability - and if you get into the right sort of team, you can end up nudging the entire industry and music experience people have, in different directions. This sort of mission is quite visionary and inspiration - part of the reason why Spotify's Software Engineering roles are quite competitive.

As with most major tech companies, you'll work alongside other engineers who are experts in their respective domains, and you'll collaborate with product managers, designers, and other stakeholders to create a seamless user experience.

Software engineers are rather well compensated at Spotify, with salaries ranging from $127K-$307K+ per year for Associate Engineers to Staff Engineers. The exact compensation package understandably will depend on your skills, experience, and level of expertise, and usually includes additional benefits such as equity, health insurance etc

Spotify Software Engineer Interview Guide

The Spotify Software Engineer interview process can take anywhere from 1 to 3 months, and consists of 4-5 main rounds that assess various aspects of the candidate's skills and experience. It is said to have a classic medium to high level of difficulty, and each round serves as an elimination step.

The main rounds of the interview process include:

  • Online Assessment
  • Video/Telephone Interview
  • Technical-Based Screening Interview
  • 4 On-Site Interviews
  • Manager/Team Meeting (Optional)

Let's dive into each of these rounds in more detail to help you prepare for each stage of the interview process.

Relevant Guides

Spotify SWE: Online Assessment

Overview

The first round of the Spotify Software Engineer is an online screening test that evaluates your IQ, language, and math skills to determine your eligibility for the position. The assessment is conducted online and can be completed from the comfort of your own home. 

This initial screen determines whether you will move forward to the next stage of the interview process. Be sure to allocate sufficient time and review basic math and language concepts before taking the assessment.

Spotify SWE: Recruiter Interview

Overview

After successfully passing the Online Assessment, the next round is a Video/Telephone Interview. During this round, you'll have a one-on-one chat with one of the Spotify recruiters. The conversation will revolve around your background, past experience, technical skills, and the role you are applying for. 

This round mostly focuses on your soft skills, so it's important to prepare accordingly. Come to the interview armed with relevant examples of past projects and throw in a nugget about yourself that makes you stand out.

Interview Questions

  1. Tell me about yourself.
  2. Can you describe a project you worked on and your contributions to it?
  3. How would you approach collaborating with a team to solve a complex technical challenge?
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Spotify SWE: Technical-Based Screening Interview

Overview

This is an hour-long technical interview that assesses your technical skills and knowledge. You'll be asked about your previous experience, some technical domain questions, and given two Leetcode-like (usually easy) coding problems to solve.

The technical questions are fairly straightforward if you have industry experience. For instance, they may include java/backend domain questions or those pertaining to information security.

In addition to technical questions, you will also be asked to discuss any recent technical projects you've worked on in depth, including the challenges you faced and the solutions you implemented.

Interview Questions

  1. Can you explain the concept of MITM (Man-In-The-Middle) attacks and how to prevent them?
  2. Can you explain some authenticated encryption algorithms?
  3. Can you walk me through a recent technical project you worked on, the challenges you faced, and how you overcame them?
  4. Given a string, determine if it is a palindrome, considering only alphanumeric characters and ignoring cases. For example, "A man, a plan, a canal: Panama" is a palindrome, but "race a car" is not.
  5. Given an array of integers, find two numbers such that they add up to a specific target number. For example, given an array of [2, 7, 11, 15] and a target of 9, the function should return [0, 1] because nums[0] + nums[1] = 2 + 7 = 9.

Spotify SWE: Onsite Interview

Overview

The onsite round consists of four 1-hour long interviews, each focused on a different topic. These interviews will dive deeper into your skills, experience, and ability to solve complex problems. 

Here's an overview of the rounds:

  • Programming/DSA
  • System Design
  • Values/Behavioral
  • Case Study (Unique Interview)

Let's discuss what you can expect from each interview

Programming/DSA

In this, you can typically expect to be asked domain-specific questions about the tech stack you'll be using and some programming questions that will likely be focused on object-oriented concepts and topics such as strings, maps, and arrays as well as UDP/TCP protocols.

The domain questions are typically based on your preferred language and seek to evaluate your approach to certain aspects of the role you are applying for. For instance, if you are a backend candidate, you may be asked "how do you handle an on-call issue?"

The algorithmic problems will likely be similar to questions you've seen on LeetCode and be of medium difficulty. However, some candidates have reported this round to be their hardest since they were asked to solve hard-level LeetCode problems.

System Design

In this round, you will be evaluated on your ability to design and implement a high-level system. The interviewer may ask you to design a system for a specific use case or to solve a particular problem.

It typically depends on your interviewer how this round will go; while some opt for a decent or straightforward approach while others ask more high-level questions.

Keep in mind, the focus of this interview will be interest in your problem-solving process and approach rather than quick solutions. You will be expected to show an understanding of the core components of a system and how they work together. They may also ask you to explain your design choices and to identify potential weaknesses or areas for improvement.

Values/Behavioral

In the behavioral interview, the interviewer is trying to gauge how you'd respond to Spotify's work culture and how you'd address challenging scenarios.

Spotify's behavioral questions are fairly standard in most interviews since focus is on your soft skills—candidates have reportedly been rejected for a lack of self-confidence and inadequate communication skills.

Therefore, it's crucial to practice your communication skills before the interview.

One useful tip is to practice with mock interviews to get comfortable with answering questions and delivering concise, effective responses. Another tip is to research Spotify's culture and values and try to align your responses with them.

Case Study (Unique Interview)

The case study round is a unique interview at Spotify where the interviewer tries to simulate an on-call issue response scenario. It is typically to evaluate the candidate's ability to solve real-world problems under pressure and assess their thought process in a complex, time-sensitive situation.

To give you a quick picture, you will be presented with a realistic scenario related to the role you have applied for. You will then be asked to work through the problem, identify potential solutions, and present your findings to the interviewers. The interviewers may ask follow-up questions to further evaluate the candidate's approach.

Tips

  • Before the interview, review common system design principles and approaches.
  • During the interview, communicate your thought process and ask clarifying questions as needed.
  • Practice with a mock interviewer, ideally a Spotify Software Engineer to learn how to tackle the different curveballs of this interview.

Interview Questions

  • Can you explain the difference between TCP and UDP protocols? 
  • How do you handle a situation where the server is down? 
  • Explain the use of maps in Java.
  • Write a program to reverse a string in Python.
  • What are some benefits of using object-oriented programming over procedural programming?
  • Design a system to handle millions of user requests per minute.
  • How would you design a recommendation engine for a music streaming service like Spotify?
  • Design a system to detect fraudulent activity on an e-commerce platform.
  • How would you build a distributed cache for a web application?
  • Design a system for handling real-time data processing for a social media platform.
  • Can you tell me about a time when you had to work on a project with a tight deadline? How did you manage your time effectively?
  • Give me an example of a time when you had to work with a difficult colleague. How did you handle the situation?
  • How do you handle constructive criticism in the workplace? Can you give me an example of a time when you received feedback on your work?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to make an unpopular decision. How did you handle it?
  • Can you describe a time when you faced a setback or failure? How did you respond to it?
  • Imagine that Spotify is launching a new feature and you are responsible for ensuring its smooth rollout. Outline the steps you would take to ensure that the feature is functioning correctly, including any testing or monitoring processes you would put in place. Also, explain how you would communicate any issues or delays to stakeholders.
  • You are a member of the on-call team and receive an alert that a critical service is down. Walk me through your troubleshooting process and how you would escalate the issue if necessary.
  • Spotify has just released a new feature, and users are reporting performance issues. How would you go about investigating and resolving the problem?
  • Imagine you are leading the development of a new feature for the Spotify app. What steps would you take to ensure the feature is built to scale and can handle high levels of traffic?

Spotify Software Engineer Roles and Responsibilities

  • Your primary responsibility will be to develop services and pipelines that combine social and music data, often focused on Spotify's "social music" strategy. You'll be expected to continuously design, develop, and deploy new services and features using Java, and potentially other programming languages as needed.
  • Collaboration will be a key aspect of your role, as you'll work closely with other software engineers on your team. You'll also have the opportunity to learn and take on leadership responsibilities as you go.
  • Working as part of dynamic, cross-functional agile teams, you'll play a crucial role in driving and delivering new product objectives. To do this, you'll need to leverage a wide array of technologies and languages, and sometimes even contribute to open source projects.

Spotify Software Engineer Skills and Qualifications

  • While a degree in computer science or a related field is typically preferred, it's not always a hard requirement for the Spotify SWE role. More important than your degree is your technical expertise and experience in the industry. 
  • You should be fluent in multiple programming languages, both dynamic and static typed, with a strong emphasis on Java. Additionally, you should have deep experience working with Linux/Unix systems, as well as modern storage platforms like KV stores. 
  • It's important to be comfortable working with large data sets and have experience with distributed and scalable systems, especially in high-volume applications.
  • You should also have a strong understanding of system design, data structures, and algorithms, as these skills are critical for success in this role.
  • Finally, it's important to care about your work and be passionate about what you do, as this will help you thrive in Spotify's collaborative and innovative environment.