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Save Time in System Design Interviews with Customized Whiteboard Questions

Written By Raghav Gopalakrishnan | April 12, 2021

Illustration of a woman standing on a stool, holding up a pen to a giant whiteboard

Back in May 2020, we launched the HackerRank Whiteboard to replace the physical whiteboard interview. Since then, we’ve had roughly 35,000 successful virtual whiteboard interviews.

But we didn't stop there. We understand that system design interviews can be more organized, objective, and even fun if done in the right way.

That’s why we are introducing the ability to create customized Whiteboard questions in an effort to save time in the interview while still providing a great experience.

The Problem with Basic System Design Interviews

The main goal of system design interviews is to assess a senior engineer's ability to understand and design scalable systems.

Some questions that might be asked in these interviews include, “How do you design the architecture of the Facebook News Feed?” or “How do you design the backend architecture for Netflix?”

Although these are good questions to work off of, there are a few problems: 

  1. These problems are highly open-ended and take more than an hour to discuss. This eats up a lot of precious engineering time. 
  2. Since these questions are not always customized and related to the job domain, the candidate experience is not the best. 
  3. There is no clear beginning or end to these interviews, which can lead to bias. 

Introducing Customized Whiteboard Questions for a More Relevant Interview Experience

It's time to ask questions with more context and relevance to your domain.

For example, if your company is developing technologies for the marketing domain, you can set up a whiteboard question to design a URL shortener for marketing links. In the question, you can cover:

  • How to handle redirects
  • How to delete expired URLs
  • How is a unique ID created for each URL

You can also give a basic architecture of the URL shortener to get started. This will save a lot of time for interviewers and provides a much better candidate experience. 

Whiteboard settings of the "System Design: The Marketing Glitch" question in the Hackerrank library

How to get started

To help you get started, we have created some amazing whiteboard questions in the HackerRank library.  

Bonus? You can use these questions on your screening tests too. Read more on how to create and use a whiteboard question here

Start your free trial of HackerRank today!

I think the question feature in whiteboards helped improve the interview experience since it easily helps me share the problem with the candidate. Before, I had to screen share an image, so this is way, way better.“ - Mariano Sappia, Team Lead,


Photo of Raghav Gopalakrishnan, Product Manager at HackerRank

As a product manager at HackerRank, Raghav Gopalakrishnan is committed to creating great interview experiences for candidates and interviewers alike. Overseeing both CodePair* and developer experience, Raghav leverages his background in engineering to empower customers to create more effective, candidate-friendly technical interviews. He’s passionate about building intuitive and impactful products.

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