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It is very exciting for me to have the chance to spend my summers 2020 at Mercari Japan. It was a roller-coaster experience from the point I applied for a Backend Engineer at Mercari Japan to the day I got the offer letter in my inbox.
I would be sharing my interview experiences in somewhat detail in order to give everyone a rough idea of how professional and interesting the process of judging a candidate is at Mercari.
I applied at Mercari for the position of Backend Engineering Intern during the first week of August. Along with most of the basic details, I filled referrer as a senior of my institute. This was a plus point since the recruiters (as I came to know later on in the process) personally ask the referrer for feedback on the candidate. Also, the referrer becomes your direct contact point with the HR.
NOTE: Since a lot of my seniors work at the company and I’ve had worked with most of them, I asked them to provide feedback about me as well in the selection process.
After around a week of submitting my application I received a response from the Mercari HR team asking me to get a No Objection Certificate from my University.
Once the certificate was obtained and sent, I received an on-line technical screen test to be completed within a week from the date of receiving it. The coding challenge was a timed round based on Data Structures and Algorithms with 120 minutes on hand to solve 5 problems. The choice of programming language was left to me.
A twist to the problems was that I was supposed to write it as good as I would write for production: good naming schemes, writing documentation, functional programming etc. The questions, absolutely in terms of DS / Algo, were pretty easy for me as well.
Just to give a more clear idea, I’m not a seasoned competitive coder and I do not do CP on a regular basis. Having said that, I read through entire “Cracking The Code Interview” book twice: once before the screening test and once before the second interview round. It is an amazing book and is great for gaining knowledge of algorithms and basic technical interview etiquettes.
Fortunately I cleared the online screening round!
Within a week or two of taking the test, I was informed and asked to provide five comfortable timings for interview. Once I provided the details and my free schedule, I got a response just the next day with the schedule for the interview.
The interview was over Google Hangouts with a Mercari software engineer. It was a pretty casual interview: starting with introductions and talking about interests, we moved on to discussing projects and experiences I’ve mentioned over my resume. It was pretty in-depth and I was asked to show the code for almost all the projects over my GitHub (given they were OpenSource). Later on, I was asked what were the projects I was most proud of and the challenges I faced while working on them.
We went through all the problems I had faced in developing those projects and was asked, given current knowledge, what are the amendments I’d like to make to my approaches in making the solution more efficient. All in all, this was one of the best interviews I’ve had; thinking over a lot of mistakes I had made in the past, talking enthusiastically about my past projects and being acceptable of how ignorant (or naive) I was earlier were some of the attributes that made me clear this round with ease.
After two weeks of the first interview, I was scheduled for another interview with the HR head who had initiated the entire process. This one was simple with basic questions regarding when I’m available to join, my year of study etc. These are basic stuff and I’ll not be going in detail here.
The only important questions of this round I believe were the ones asked regarding my motivation to join Mercari and why I wanted work in Japan. There were around four questions like this and it was quite fun sharing my views and motivation
Immediately after the HR round, I had my last round with an Engineering Manager. It is disputable if these are actually two different rounds or the same but I’d like to keep them separate. Continuing on the “motivation” question, I was asked why I’d prefer at Mercari than tech giants like Google and others. A few more questions on similar standards followed before we moved on to technical ones.
Under the technical purview, I was asked about previous experiences and the most challenging part at each of those internships. Once we were over this, we started discussing the technical stack used by Mercari and my familiarity with the same. Soon enough, I was asked a System Design basic question. I was scrutinized on each choice I made for the tech stack or communication method among various services of the architecture. This was an amazing experience since it was my first time answering a question like that in an interview (it also helped me clear a few misconceptions I had).
Well, the last interview of the application process was indeed very learning and interesting experience. I personally have a knack for solving system design problems since I’m more inclined towards DevOps and system engineering in general. The round was a blast with a few wrong choices
Now, came the hardest part (not literally). It took around 4 weeks for Mercari to get back to me with their final decision. It was really tough during this time since I was not applying for other places now since I really wanted to go to Japan and work at Mercari.
Mercari has a really effective process of interviews and judging the candidates on the skills that matter. I strongly believe that apart from raw ability (judged by DS / Algo), software engineering requires a bent of creativity and “hacky” nature in an individual in order to put available technologies in a perfect amalgamation. The process of judgment by Mercari fits really well in my purview of how one should be judging for the role of a Backend Engineer.
Now that I’ve the offer, I’m looking forward to spend an amazing summer in the land of the rising sun. I’m looking forward to spend time towards working on learning Japanese, studying more about their culture, watching some anime and try to get more fitter.
Applications and interview preparations always take a toll on your personal life as well as health (and you get more “healthy” )