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Interviewing at Canva, for Grads


Hear from Canva’s freshest bunch of grads on their experience so far at Canva and tips to nailing the interview process

Hear from Canva’s freshest bunch of grads on their experience so far at Canva and tips to nailing the interview process

The interview process can be really intimidating, especially as a grad. I’m Sam, a Frontend Engineer at Canva. Only 18 months ago I was sitting on your side of the table, being interviewed for a graduate position here at Canva.  I distinctly remember how nervous I was, and how desperately I wanted to impress the interviewer.

Working here at Canva has been one hell of a ride so far.  As a frontend engineer, I’ve been really lucky to learn from accomplished mentors, have a real impact on our fast-growing product, and make great friends along the way.  Somehow, I even got renamed to Sparky because there were too many Sams. If I knew what lay ahead of me in my journey here at Canva during my interview, I would have been even more excited!

To pay it forward, my fellow grads and I have collated five top tips to help get through the interviewing process, keeping those pesky butterflies in your stomach at bay:

Tip 1:  Be proud and honest 

While it can be nerve-racking to be in the hot seat interviewing as a grad, I find it really helpful to remember that you’re not alone in this experience.  Everyone at Canva’s been a grad once.  For some, it might be a distant memory, but for many it wasn’t that long ago.  You might even be interviewed by somebody who was in your exact position only a year ago.  Being a grad isn’t something to feel ashamed about.

“Have confidence in yourself. It’s really easy to think “I’m not good enough” before the interview process even starts, but it’s not your job to determine if you’re good enough, that’s the interviewer’s job.”

Rhys, 2020 grad

As I’ve become an interviewer myself, I’ve learned a lot about the way we ask questions. Ultimately, the goal of an interview is to let you show your strengths. We’re not trying to tick people off on a set list of questions.  Rather, we’ve got infinite questions to let you showcase your abilities.  So don’t stress yourself out if you don’t feel you got to the very end.  It’s really important to feel proud and about what you can do to give yourself a bit of confidence going to the interview.

"If you lose your train of thought, [say] that to the interviewer - they'll be understanding of that because interviews are scary!"

Teresa, 2020 grad

Tip 2:  Get real

Most grads who come to Canva find our engineering interview questions different from other tech companies. Generally, our interviews focus more on practical tasks you’d do on the job.

"To practice for the interview, just build something! Canva’s interview process is very practical based so focus on learning to build stuff rather than memorizing algorithms."

Spencer, 2020 grad

In a frontend interview, this might look like building part of an app and talking through the decision.  For backenders, they might have to think about designing a service and write some related code in Java.  When doing this, you’ll be able to run and test code as you normally would.  Whatever normal looks like to you, that’s probably okay.

"I remember Canva was one of the few places that actually had a working editor that would run the code.  Not only is it faster to debug problems, but I think it helps the stress of checking your intuition as you're going through the problem."

Josh L, 2020 grad 

Tip 3:  It’s OK to not know

One of our six values at Canva is “Pursue Excellence”.  We use the word pursue for a reason - we’re always adapting and learning.  At Canva, excellence is a journey about doing the best work of our lives.

"Admitting that you don't know something, but also include your interpretation of it shows really good initiative. "I'm not sure if this approach is correct or good but my current thinking is this. What do you think?"

Teresa, 2020 grad

Remembering the names of very specific functions or other trivia isn’t really reflective of the work we need to do. We don’t look for memorization in our interviews.  Of course, we expect engineers to remember fundamentally how to program, but looking things up is a normal part of life.  In most interviews, you’ll have access to documentation.  It is always really inspiring for interviewers to see interviewees who know how to solve problems themselves.

Be honest when you don’t know something technical and know how you should best go about finding the answer.

For example, the interviewer asks “How would you go about getting the coordinates of the mouse on a page in Javascript?”

Grad: “Hmm, I haven’t actually done that before. I think it might be something to do with the event object like what’s passed to an onclick event. Can I go check the event object documentation to see?” *goes and checks MDN Event object docs*

Josh L, 2020 grad 

Tip 4:  It’s your time. Take it!

Sometimes interviews can feel like being on a game show.  There’s an interviewer asking you complex questions, you can feel the time ticking by.  3… 2…. 1…. Buzzz! It can feel like you’ve just got to spit out the answer before the buzzer goes.

Unless you’re interviewing to head up Canva’s game show team, I can promise the buzzer is just a figment of your imagination.  Every day at Canva, people make decisions at different time frames, but very rarely are decisions needed in the heat of the moment.  It is always acceptable to pause, clarify the question if needed, and say something more considered.  Your interview is your time to shine. We expect everybody to take some time to truly do that.

"When you’re asked a question in an interview, don’t feel pressured to answer straight away, especially if it’s a technical question. Take some time to think about your answer and how to phrase it rather than try and word vomit to stall for time while you actually think of the answer."

Spencer, 2020 grad

Tip 5:  Your interviewer is your friend

None of the Canvanauts interviewing you are trying to trick you up.  Everybody wants to empower you to do your best.

"Work with the interviewer as if they're your mentor.  Listen when they are talking since they're probably trying to give hints.  If they probe you with clarifying questions, it means your answer is not clear or it's not going in the right direction."

Teresa, 2020 grad

There’s a chance that somebody who interviewed you will end up being your coach or mentor at Canva. One of our core values is to “Empower Others”. This is something we extend to the interview process as well.  We all want you to do your best.  Everybody wants to see your passion and excitement.

Give it your best!

Hopefully, these top tips from our past grads help you with your interview at Canva. I think if you take these in and give the interview your best, not only can it lead to something great, but the interview themselves can be fun.  You’ll meet some nice people and get to talk about some interesting problems. On behalf of all our grads at Canva, we wish you the best of luck. Have fun!

If you haven’t thought about Canva yet, we’re hiring!  Not only are we the coolest startup on Kippax St, working at Canva is an exciting opportunity to grow, learn, and empower the world to design. To learn more about our openings, please visit our website.