Zynga Interview Experience

Today I was interviewed by Zynga, the social gaming company. Some of the details of the interviews are covered by an NDA, so to be safe I’ll just talk about my feelings at a high level. To keep people’s identities under wraps, I’ll refer to them using the first one or two letters of their names (for my own memory’s sake).

Zynga is a neat company, clearly a start-up, and they were flexible and friendly as I came for my interviews. Things were not too structured. They did not tell me the interview schedule beforehand, even though most of the people I talked to seemed to expect that they had. “R”, the University Relations Specialist, briefly showed me around their offices, pointing out the teams that worked on games like Farmville and Mafia Wars. They have a nice setup. He mentioned that they’re trying to mimic in some ways the Google feel. I did a summer internship with Google a couple years ago, and “R” also did an internship (I think) with Google (though in Palo Alto), so we had that in common. He invited me to sit in a small conference room, where I talked with “S” and “Aa”.

There was a 30-minute break in the middle, but they didn’t tell me when it was. The last person I talked with before the break was “A”. About 10 minutes after he left, I called “R”. He was very willing to help out, as it seemed that the interviews were not too well coordinated, so he had to move things along manually. He did a good job of it, though, as long as I took the initiative to reach out to him as instructed. In the snack rooms, they have something called “Perky Jerky”, a caffeinated beef jerky. I tried some. It was very salty. “R” tried some, too (it was his first time as well). He later told me it caused him to be jittery. Fortunately I didn’t feel too much of an effect, though it was probably more jitter-inducing than normal jerky.

After the break, I talked with “Am”, the first developer for the day. She definitely came across as a developer type; quite serious and methodical. After she left, “R” thought I was done for the day. It was about 4:15 PM. Earlier in the day, he’d mentioned I’d probably finish around that time. But the original email from “Al” said I would be there until 5:15 PM, so I wasn’t sure. Furthermore, “Aa” had said I’d also get to talk with “Tr”, so I was wondering what happened. It’s good that I brought up the discrepancy, as it turned out that “Tr” was in fact scheduled to interview me. He was one of the most enjoyable to chat with, and we had similar visions for where Zynga could be headed in 2010. Of course, he had to throw in a programming question too. Nothing too hard, but I’m not too confident in how I handled it. I got the right solution, but only after a little prodding on his part. Why do all companies ask for code on whiteboards? Computers get the job done better :)

By the end of my interviews, I was more impressed with Zynga than when I first walked in. I wasn’t sure if there were people there who have a similar vision as what I’ve been imagining for the future of social gaming on mobile devices, but now I know that at least “St” and and “Tr” do. There’s so much more they can do in the mobile space; they’ve barely scratched the surface so far. I think they’re heading in the right direction, especially if they can attract and hire the right mobile developers to really make it happen. “Tr” and I agreed that the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad are going to be key social gaming devices in 2010, so iPhone OS app developers are going to be crucial to success this year.

I mentioned to “R” that it would be nice if Zynga could make the process a little more transparent, perhaps making the actual schedule more clear to both the interviewers and the interviewee. There was a bit of a disconnect communication-wise, but an interviewee who’s paying attention to things can keep things moving along smoothly. I think my amiability and awareness made things easier; I imagine that someone who expects to sit back and let the company handle the whole process can fall through the cracks. Overall, it was a good experience, and I’m glad they gave me the opportunity for the on-site interview.

5 Responses to “Zynga Interview Experience”

  1. translator says:

    Hi Elliot,

    I have an onsite interview cmng up soon. Could you please tell me how tough the programming questions are ? Also, are the interviews only technical in nature or is it a mix of tech/non-tech questions ?


  2. mike says:

    Hey, Elliot

    Good post. Can you be more specific about the type of coding questions they asked you. Also what position were you interviewing for?

  3. madu says:

    Ha….I had a similar experience….one person interviewed me…then they made me wait 45 minutes after which I had to ask someone to contact HR. Later HR came and said the interview is over. The company is great but the level of coordination of interviews is very poor.

  4. venu says:

    Hi,I have an interview with zynga for internship…can u please suggest how the interview will be..based on datastructures and algorithm…

  5. Venu says:

    Hi ,

    I have an onsite interview soon. Could you please tell me how tough the programming questions are ? Also, are the interviews only technical in nature or is it a mix of tech/non-tech questions ?

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