TikTok’s Interview Process & Questions

The info below is based on conversations with Tiktok engineers in 2023.

Published: October 20, 2023

TikTok's Interview Process for Software Engineers: 5 Steps

Mid to senior-level engineers interviewing at TikTok can expect the following process, although there are variations from team to team:

  • Recruiter call (30 minutes)
  • Moral equivalent of an onsite (even though each interview is separate, and you have to pass one to get to the next) consists of:
    • Technical phone screen (30 minutes)
    • Second technical phone screen (1 hour)
    • System design (1 hour)
    • Behavioral (1 hour)
TikTok’s interview process: Recruiter call, Multi-step “virtual onsite” (where you have to pass each round to get to the next)

At TikTok, the process is decentralized, and you can usually interview for more than one team at a time. We have heard that certain teams do not allow this, but for the most part, it’s safe to apply to multiple positions. As each team manages its own headcount and process it is unlikely that you will be able to skip any steps for one team that you’ve already completed for another, i.e., you’ll still have to complete the full process each time. Your interviewers will all come from the team you are interviewing for.

As a lot of TikTok’s engineers are based in China, particularly their senior managers, you can expect to have interviews that overlap with Chinese business hours (e.g., Sunday evenings, other evenings).

Unlike other companies where your virtual onsite will have all of your interviews scheduled on the same day, at TikTok you are likely to do one interview at a time, having to pass each one to get to the next.

The entire process takes about 5 weeks, although it can move much faster, especially if you let them know that you need to have your interviews complete by a certain date, e.g., if you have competing offers. TikTok is very amenable to moving quickly if they think there’s a chance they’ll lose out, but you’ll have to actively and repeatedly remind your recruiter to move faster.

General tips for interviewing with TikTok:

  • Be prepared to interview during Chinese business hours and even to be asked questions in Mandarin if you’ve added it to your resume.
  • Be prepared for huge variations in the process between teams. TikTok is hiring like crazy, and they don’t have an official process.
  • Practice LeetCode-style questions! They rely heavily on these questions in your first few technical rounds.
  • If you need them to move quickly, they can, but you have to really push and keep pushing. That goes for scheduling, and it goes for getting an offer in a timely fashion as well. If you keep bringing up that you have another offer, they’ll move.

Step 1: Recruiter Call

TikTok’s recruiter call lasts 30 minutes, and it’s more informational than anything else. You’ll be briefed on the process and prepared for the first interview. You may also be asked some questions about the company and your background.

It’s really important, at this stage, to not reveal your salary expectations or where you are in the process with other companies. We’ve written a detailed post about salary negotiation that lays out exactly what to say if recruiters pressure you to name the first number.

If you have offer deadlines coming up and need TikTok to move faster, mention that on this call, and keep reminding your recruiter of it. We’d advise not going into details about where you’re interviewing til you’re ready to start negotiating (read more how to manage your negotiations at the start of your job search), but we do advise hammering home the point that you’re in a rush (if you are).

Step 2: Technical Phone Screen

TikTok’s first technical phone screen is relatively straightforward and should only take about 30 minutes. It’s usually done in HackerRank. If you brush up on LeetCode questions, you should do fine here.

Step 3: Onsite

At TikTok, there isn’t a discrete onsite portion of the hiring process. Instead, you will do each interview one by one and have to pass them one at a time to move forward. That said, once you get past the first technical screen, the order will look similar to other company’s onsite interviews. Onsite interview loops also vary depending on the role and seniority, but the below is generally what you’ll get:

  • Coding (1 hour). This is much more challenging than the technical phone screen and should last about an hour. The interview is usually conducted by someone on the team you are interviewing for and will use HackerRank. For more detail about the kinds of questions to expect, see the Coding section below.
  • System design (1 hour). This interview will be in HackerRank and will be conducted by a hiring manager on the team. For more detail about the kinds of questions to expect, see the System Design section below.
  • Behavioral (1 hour). This interview will be conducted by a skip-level manager. For more info about what questions to expect, see the Behavioral section below.

Types of Interview Questions to Expect at TikTok

The types of questions asked at TikTok vary by team, but you can expect a lot of industry-standard LeetCode-style questions.

Coding

Expect LeetCode-style questions here. Most teams are language agnostic. The first interview will be fairly simple, based on feedback we’ve gotten. The second one is a lot harder. A few of the engineers we spoke to recommended brushing up on synchronized read/write locks for the second interview, in particular.

Outside of concurrency and threading, below are the technical topics you’re likely to encounter in TikTok interviews. To compile this list, we did two things. First, we spoke to some current and former TikTok engineers. Then we cross-referenced all the anecdotes we heard with Glassdoor data AND our own data-set of mock interviews:

System Design

This round focuses mostly on large systems and will likely involve designing an entire service with scalability, reliability, and usability concerns in mind. Some example questions:

  • Design LeetCode. What technologies would you use and why? What are you optimizing for? How would logging work for every single user action on such a large scale? And so on.
  • Design a system that can handle logging on a large scale for every single user action. Imagine 100k users are coming in and there are 5 different services. Each service has to do its own logging and send it to one final database. How would you do this?

Behavioral

This varies by role, but be prepared to discuss your background, impactful projects you’ve worked on, and times you’ve shown initiative.

Culture fit seems to be very important to TikTok, even as they are growing so fast. Their teams are based mainly in China so that brings its own unique flavor, and you should be prepared for it.

How TikTok Makes Hiring Decisions

This varies from team to team, but it’s likely at the discretion of the hiring manager, with input from other team members.

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