Hardware design Interview topics and tips

Created: 05/12/2020Last update: 05/25/2020

Introduction

Interviews preparation topics and tips are tailored towards electronic system design in consumer electronic industry.

Roles and RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Key Responsibilities
    • We work on products such as phone, laptop, wearables, etc.
    • We do schematic capture and PCB board layout
    • We perform electrical validation testing
    • We work with embedded system engineers
    • We work with chip and component suppliers
    • We go to factory to support building the actual products
  • Common Job Titles
    • Hardware system integration engineer
    • Hardware development engineer
    • System EE
    • Hardware design engineer
    • Hardware engineer - board level and system
    • Hardware system validation engineer

Interview Topics

  • EE Fundamentals
    • Passives
      • RLC
    • Analog Circuits
    • Digital Circuits
    • Filter Design
    • Signal Transmission
      • Impedance control
      • Microstrip vs Stripline
      • Single ended
      • Differential pair
      • Termination
      • Loss
      • S-parameter
    • Signal Integrity
      • Crosstalk
      • Signal Reflection
      • Edge
      • Timing
        • Setup and Hold time
      • Eye diagram
    • Noise Mitigation
      • RF desense
      • ESD
  • High Speed Interconnect Design
    • Phy basics
    • Layout consideration
      • Impedance control
      • Skew control
      • Termination
  • Low Speed interconnect Design
    • Phy basics
      • Driver output type
      • Interface basics
    • Layout consideration
  • Manufacturing
    • PCB Fab
      • PCB Types
        • PCB/FPCB/Rigid PCB
      • Stackup types
      • Drill technology
    • Assembly
      • Component footprints
      • Component clearance
  • PCB Board layout Design
    • PCB Floor planing
      • Component Placement
      • Pin Breakout
      • Routing planing
      • Power plane planning
      • DFM
      • DFA
    • Stackup
      • Layers
      • Trace width and spacing
      • Via drill
      • Pads
  • Power System
    • DC to DC Switch Mode power regulator
    • Dc to DC Linear power regulator
    • Layout consideration
    • Battery
      • Selection process
      • Charging curve
  • Digital System
    • Main Memory Design
      • DRAM
      • NAND Flash
  • RF System
    • Antenna types
    • Matching network
    • Link budge
    • RF Dense design
    • Basics
      • Antenna gains
      • LNA
      • PA
      • RF Bands
      • Modulations
      • Channel Accessing Types
  • System Testing (Bringup/Debug/Validation)
    • Board bring up
      • Boot logic
      • Power on/off sequence
    • In Circuit Testing
      • Impedance (TDR measurments)
      • DCR
      • PDN
    • Functional Circuit testing
      • memory throughput
      • wifi throughput
      • sensor reads
    • Signal Integrity testing
      • Digital interface Phy timing and voltage
        • Edges (Rise and fall time)
      • Clocks
      • Jitter
      • Pre-compliance
    • Power regulators
      • power integrity
      • Battery charging
    • Coexistence
    • Thermal
    • EMC
      • ESD
      • Radiated and conducted Immunity
      • Radiated and conducted Emission
    • Reliability
      • Drop test
      • Tumble test
      • Thermal and Humidity
      • Long term interoperability test
  • System Design
    • Architecture
    • Design an embedded system
    • Design a power system
    • Design a general purpose computing system

Interview Tips

  • Preparation is the key!
  • Illustrate your thought process! Use the white boards.
  • Don't make it Q&A session! Navigate and frame the answer towards your strong areas. Don't just answer the questions be asked, but also expand deeper on how it relates to other disciplines and challenges that you faced.
  • Ask for clarification! Make sure you understand the questions.
  • Listen attentively and don't interrupt the interviewers
  • Show enthusiasm in the role and ask interviewers about their job roles and team dynamics.

Q&A

What goes on in the mind of interviewers?

  • We evaluate on reasoning and clarity of presentation.
  • We want to find collaborating and cool teammates whom we want to work with.
  • Fundamentals is the bare minimum and open ended questions are where interviewers are looking for creative, critical thinking, and problem solving skills.

Does rejection mean that I am not good enough?

  • Interview results are highly depended on the role, level, and the interview panels.
  • Some candidate are very smart but they don't fit the generalist EE role.
  • Some candidate have many years of experience but do not meet the senior engineering bar. Giving them a lower level is not appropriate.
  • Some candidate didn't brush up on the fundamentals.