Grokking the Product Design vs. System Design Interviews

Think Software
6 min readMar 22, 2022

In this article, we are going to discuss what are the differences between a Product Design vs. a System Design Interview. Now, a days many companies are asking Product Design Interviews as well (such as Meta) to even software engineering candidates. Most candidates do not understand the difference between a Product Design Interview vs. System Design Interview and thus they perform poorly in their Product Design Interviews. Here we are going to discuss what is the main focus of Product Design Interviews vs. System Design Interviews.

First we need to understand why many companies are asking Product Design Interviews for software engineering candidates. In the past, the Product Design Interviews were only targeted for Product Manager’s and Product Owner’s job positions. However, now many companies have started asking such interviews to even software engineering candidates. Companies are realizing now that coming up with a product design is not just a job of a product manager. There are many different stakeholders who are involved in designing a product and software engineers are one of them. They are involved as much in the product design as a product manager or a product owner and sometimes even more, specially if you are a staff software engineer, a tech-lead or an architect. As a software architect or technical leader, you are not only responsible for solving how to design a product, but you are also responsible to shaping the product itself and the future direction of the product. As an architect, when you own a product, it is your job to understand how the market is evolving around a product and what are the features that you need in your product to meet the evolving requirements.

Now, let’s see what are the difference between a product design vs a system design interview and what are the main areas to focus in each type of interviews. The following table shows those main differences and focus areas for these two types of interviews.

Now, let’s take an example of a Payment Gateway System Design such as Stripe. In a Product Design Interview, the main focus will be on the following: