Technical interview for Software Engineers: What to expect and how to ace it at Zalando

If you are a Software Engineer looking for a new challenge, you've probably wondered about the hiring process and technical interviews with us. To prep you for the specifics of a Zalando technical interview, we have put together a few tips and recommendations. 

5 min
11 July 2023

If you are a Software Engineer looking for a new challenge, you've probably wondered about the hiring process and technical interviews with us at Zalando. In principle, all technical interviews are designed to help you, your potential manager and team get all the information you need to decide on the right move. In this sense, our technical interviews are no different. But to prep you for the specifics of a Zalando technical interview, we have put together a few tips and recommendations. 

What to expect after you've applied

After our hiring team has pre-selected your application, you enter the interview process for software engineers. At Zalando, it typically consists of several steps: 

  1. an initial call with a Talent Acquisition Partner
  2. an interview with the Hiring Manager 
  3. a coding interview
  4. a system design and architecture interview
  5. and, finally, a general tech interview. 

An average interview process spans between 2–3 weeks, mostly depending on yours and the interviewers’ availability. The process may also vary slightly between departments and roles. For example, you may be given an additional coding challenge or another task, relevant for the position.

Technical interview from start to finish

Initial call with a Talent Acquisition Partner (30min) – We schedule this initial chat to better understand your motivation to join Zalando and your expectations from the role. We would also like to hear more about your strengths and career accomplishments, and to tell you more about the role, business area and Zalando culture. This is the time for your general questions about the company. 

Hiring Manager interview (30 min to 1 hour) –  Here, at the session with your potential lead, you’ll have an opportunity to talk about your experience, career wins, and the challenges you've faced. More than anything, we are curious to hear about how you approach new projects and collaborate with yours and other teams. Some hiring managers may ask a few technical questions or probe your general business understanding. For you, this is also a chance to find out more about the role and team, and decide how you feel about joining Zalando. Don’t be shy about asking questions!

Coding interview (1 hour) – To clearly understand coding requirements and implement them in a code is a key skill for software engineers to have. During the coding interview, you will be asked to write code snippets for sample problems, using a live coding environment. The interviewers will test your ability to understand given requirements and expect you to ask questions, if anything is unclear. Based on your solutions, you will discuss trade-offs about the code structure, the choices you've made on data structure, and the runtime and memory complexity of your code. Use this interview as an opportunity to show off your expertise and draw parallels with your prior projects.

System design and architecture interview (1 hour) – The purpose of this stage is to understand how you tackle solving a customer problem through designing a complex system. During the interview, you will be given a short description of a problem and asked to design a system with multiple elements brought together to solve it. The interviewer will assess the various aspects of the system, including architecture, scalability, technology choices, resilience, operational excellence, and security.

General tech interview (1 hour) – This session focuses on the end-to-end software development lifecycle, your unique know-how and experience. The interviewers –  leading engineers from the team – will ask you about your past projects and your role in them, and what you learned from them. Other questions will address the main concept technologies you used in your previous projects and those relevant for the role you applied for, software design patterns, operational excellence, as well as some computer science fundamentals.

A few general tips to prepare you for the interview process at Zalando:

  • Learn about our Zalando's tech community and read through our Software Engineering Blog
  • Get a better understanding of our company's culture, the values of our Founding Mindset and take a note of our commitment to Diversity and Inclusion.
  • Look into the technology and tools relevant for the role you've applied for. The Zalando Tech Radar offers a good overview of our technology landscape.
  • Get to know the teams and leaders of our tech departments, featured on the careers blog.
  • Always ask questions! Before your interview, think about what you'd like to know about your potential team, manager and role, and about Zalando. Here's some inspiration.  

Here are some tips to help you get ready for your coding, system design and general tech interviews:

  • Practise your coding and problem-solving skills. Use the REACTO strategy during the coding interview.
  • During the system design and architecture interview, be ready to explain your thought process and reasoning, and be prepared for questions on scalability and bottlenecks.
  • To prepare for the system design interview, you might want to browse some of the engineering community's go-to reads. We recommend "System Design Interview – An Insider's Guide" by Alex Xu and "System Design Interview – An Insider's Guide: Volume 2" by Alex Xu and Sahn Lam.
  • Brush up on your knowledge of data structures and algorithms, as well as computer science fundamentals.

Now that you are all set

The technical interview helps us assess your technical, problem-solving, communication and collaboration skills. But more importantly, it gives you a chance to learn more about the role you've applied for, the culture at Zalando and your potential manager. We hope that this process will help you see how you can fit in the organisation.

During the interview, we want you to feel confident, comfortable and well-prepared, so don't hesitate to ask questions or reach out to your Talent Acquisition Partner for support at any stage of the process.

Are you curious about working at Zalando, but haven’t applied yet? Check out our open Software Engineering Positions and apply today!