About interviewing at Amazon: How to Get a Job at Amazon. what questions will be asked in the interview and what you need to know in advance
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Successfully passing an interview at Amazon is very difficult. The work, however, is even more difficult, but more on that another time. In my year at Amazon, I’ve done over 120 interviews. How to Get a Job at Amazon:
In addition, I have already recommended several dozen people on Amazon. Not everyone was invited for an interview, but of those who were called, most were unable to successfully pass the interview.
All this, as well as my own (as you can see, successful) experience of interviewing at Amazon allows me to give some advice to those who are just about to be interviewed.
However, the experience will be useful for many others who are interviewing for other companies, and who also conduct and organize the recruitment of people to their companies. Because, in my opinion, Amazon was able to build one of the best people selection systems out there. This is evidenced by the efforts that other companies are making to lure Amazon employees over to them.
Now I shook off the dust, re-read the old notes and was pleasantly surprised – they do not lose their relevance! In the second of them, I lamented that there are people who know how to pass interviews skillfully, but do not know how to work.
In my opinion, the interviewing system at Amazon allows you to reduce the risk of hiring such a person, if not to zero, then it is great to reduce it. How – see below. How to Get a Job at Amazon:
Amazon Leadership Principles
Amazon’s selection system is based on Amazon Leadership Principles. It is worth writing about them separately, it is worth it, while I note the main points. Amazon Leadership Principles are core values that employees must possess and guide in their work. How to Get a Job at Amazon:
Many companies have similar lists of values. But few people manage to make these lists not only a beautiful declaration written on the site and constantly repeated by managers and HR, but also a really working system. Amazon did it.
Amazon Leadership Principles guide how a company works in almost everything.
- Selecting people – checking the Leadership Principles.
- We evaluate the work of employees – we look at their commitment to Leadership Principles.
- We give feedback – we link it to the Leadership Principles.
- We make decisions – check with the Leadership Principles.
It sounds a bit sectarian, but that’s how it is. It works.
In my opinion, Amazon’s key innovation is Leadership Principles, not products, services and technologies. There is nothing unexpected and surprising about them. They are logical and simple (although sometimes they contradict each other for balance). But how we managed to turn these principles from the declaration into reality is a huge success. The basis for this is that we try to hire new people who demonstrate these principles.
Therefore, before submitting your resume to Amazon or responding to an invitation from an Amazon recruiter, I recommend reading the Leadership Principles. Read very carefully and thoughtfully. To understand for yourself how close the Amazon culture is to you. How to Get a Job at Amazon:
About interviewing at Amazon: How to Get a Job at Amazon.
Once again, working at Amazon is very, very difficult. Not everyone can stand it. And you will only enjoy working at Amazon if you truly enjoy the culture codified in the Amazon Leadership Principles.
I definitely don’t recommend going to Amazon for money and a career. No, money and career are all there. After Amazon, any company in the world will be waiting for you with open arms. But if you are close to Amazon culture, you will also get an incomparable drive from work, so you hardly want to leave.
It is very cool when you see people around you with glowing eyes who share your values. It is impossible to fake it, and it is not worth it – there are a million companies in the world where the demand is much lower.
I remember one of the candidates was very surprised at such attention to the Leadership Principles and said: “But this is all nonsense and fake”, “It cannot be that there are such principles in the company”. This is also a good test for whether or not you should go to Amazon. If you do not believe that this happens, you should not.
To be honest, before Amazon called me for an interview, I, to my shame, did not even know about these Amazon Leadership Principles (although many books and articles have been written about them). How to Get a Job at Amazon:
And when I found out, at first I did not believe that this happens. I thought that all these Leadership Principles were just a beautiful declaration written on the site, but in the harsh reality everything is different. I started asking my acquaintances who worked at Amazon. And all as one, even the most cynical pragmatists, confirmed to me that this is how it is, as it is written. How to Get a Job at Amazon:
Well, then I already fell on the hook of my own curiosity – I could not help but check it from the inside and not be convinced in my own practice that this happens. A year has passed, and now I know and see – how it happens. Although to this day it all seems like a miracle to me. We will assume that by this time I have convinced you that you have to go to work at Amazon (and if you are not personally convinced, then you don’t need to), so I’ll tell you about the interview process.
The process consists of two steps – a phone interview (Phone Screen), if successful – a personal interview (Onsite loop). Before the process begins, your resume must go to Amazon: either you send it there yourself, or one of the employees will recommend you (employee referral), or our recruiter will find you. How to Get a Job at Amazon:
In any case, with rare exceptions, a recruiter will briefly talk to you before the Phone Screen in order to understand your general adequacy, the correspondence of knowledge and experience to the position in question, and motivation.
Motivation is very important. Even if it was not you who sent your resume, but Amazon found you and is trying to steal you, be prepared that all subsequent interviewers will communicate with you as if you dream of working at Amazon. You will definitely be asked a question:
Of course, you can answer: “I don’t want to, you’re hunt me” (as I did in my time), but you can also not repeat my mistake. As they say, whether you want to change jobs or not, if you have already entered this process, your goal is to reach the offer. If you don’t like it, you can always refuse.
But not to reach the offer… It’s better then not to participate in the process at all. Therefore, if you decide to step into the interview process, consider answering this question. How to Get a Job at Amazon:
By the way, the opposite is also true. My advice to all interviewers: even if you didn’t like the candidate from the first minutes, conduct the interview in such a way that this person dreams of going to work for you. Let you refuse him and even know this after a minute of conversation.
He may tomorrow become your customer, your partner, and maybe sometime a leader. He will tell his friends and acquaintances about his interview experience. Therefore, it is always better if the candidate leaves, albeit frustrated by the refusal, but motivated. Than the other way around. How to Get a Job at Amazon:
Let’s get back to the process. If a Hiring Manager is interested in your resume, you will be invited for a telephone interview. If you pass it successfully, then you will be invited for a personal interview. Which in most cases takes place in one of the Amazon offices (but sometimes by phone). If everything is fine there, wait for the offer. But you still have to get to it, and first – a telephone interview. How to Get a Job at Amazon:
The goal of this step is to understand that your experience and knowledge is broadly adequate for the position in question. It usually lasts 60–90 minutes and is most often carried out by videoconference. Make sure that you have good internet and good conditions for videoconferencing: you do not sit in panties in the kitchen, your wife does not walk behind your back in curlers. Or a husband – let’s respect diversity. How to Get a Job at Amazon:
Often at this stage, a couple of Leadership Principles are also evaluated in order to understand whether to call you to the next stage or not. Based on the results of the telephone interview, a decision is made, one of four:
- Call for the next stage – personal interview.
- Call for another telephone interview, check some additional questions.
- Refuse to be considered for this position, but recommend for other positions at Amazon.
- Refuse to be considered for this position without recommending others.
In 95% of cases, they return to you with an answer in no more than two days.
How do I prepare for a telephone interview? Read the Job Description carefully and understand how you can prove that you have relevant experience and knowledge, what stories you can tell from your professional experience that confirm this. How to Get a Job at Amazon:
I am often asked about the Solutions Architect position that I employ the most – how well do you need to know Amazon Web Services (AWS) to successfully interview on AWS? As a rule, we do not assess knowledge of specific technologies, but knowledge of relevant technologies and experience with them in general, but not AWS specifically.
We have a lot of people who have successfully passed interviews without knowledge of AWS at all. But of course, knowing AWS is a big plus. Especially certified, such as AWS Solutions Architect Associate. This demonstrates not so much the knowledge and experience itself as the motivation and ability to learn (by the way, Learn and Be Curios is one of the Leadership Principles at Amazon). Therefore, it will not be completely superfluous to look, for example, the keynote from the latest Re: Invent.
I warn you – after that, you will unbearably want to try AWS technologies in practice. After that there will be no way back. How to Get a Job at Amazon:
Also, read the Leadership Principles again. This time, in order to remember stories from your experience, which will demonstrate that you have each of the 14 Leadership Principles. I recommend writing two or three stories for each principle.
Sometimes it happens that one example from life fits several principles – it’s okay. The main thing is not to find out that you have only two or three good stories. Unless, of course, you have more than one year of experience, repeating the same story for all occasions is not the best indicator. How to Get a Job at Amazon:
A little bit about how to tell stories. And in general, about the communication style adopted at Amazon. This is also one of the main things (besides the conformity of the classification and experience of the chosen position and the Leadership Principles) that are assessed in the Amazon interview. And I will say right away, one of the main reasons for refusal, especially for candidates from our country.
I recommend giving answers to interview questions briefly, succinctly and to the point. Supporting the answers with figures and facts. Before you answer – it is better to take a break and think. It’s better than thinking out loud anyway, trying to buy yourself time to think, hiding behind general words. How to Get a Job at Amazon:
It’s so hard to speak. But this is very important. Including because all interviewers at Amazon will take detailed notes on interviews, not verbatim, but in general terms, recording your answers. It will be great if you make their life easier by trying to answer briefly but succinctly. And on the topic. I recommend always starting with a one- or two-minute version of the story, then asking the other person if it is worth explaining something in greater detail.
At the same time, it is useful to tell stories using the so-called STAR technique: first, the description of the situation and the task (ST = Situation, Task), then – your actions (A = Actions), at the end – the results (R = Results).
Everything seems to be simple? But no. Our people love to talk. Especially about yourself beloved. And the one-minute story is turned into “War and Peace”, losing listeners even at the first description of the ball. Don’t do that. If, of course, you want to get to Amazon.
An example of how to tell stories? You are welcome. Here is one of the stories I was preparing. As a story illustrating the Think Big principle:
Here, at the same time boasted here. A word about bragging. An interview is not the place to be modest. It often happens that the candidate constantly repeats “we did it”, “we achieved it” out of a desire to appear modest. Be careful with this, as as a result it may seem that you yourself did not do anything, just stood there.
But it is also not worth to stress too much on “what a wonderful I am”. In general, be yourself. Do not try to appear more modest than you really are, but do not try to appear immodest. Being yourself is in every sense the best tactic. Then work for you for the real, and not for the seeming.
What stories to cook? Other things being equal, it is better to choose stories from the recent past. And it’s even better to choose larger-scale stories, since your level will be determined from the examples given.
It’s also good to think not only about success stories, but also about failures (there will definitely be questions about this). It looks strange when a candidate, when asked “tell me about a situation when you failed to fulfill your obligations,” answers “I always do what I promise”. How to Get a Job at Amazon:
This answer is the best way to demonstrate insincerity. When preparing a story about failure, think about what you learned from the story. If the answer is “everyone is foolish,” think again.
These self-talk tips come in handy in a phone interview, but most of all in a personal interview. Let’s go to it.
If you did well on the phone interview, you will be called in for a personal interview. It takes place in one of the Amazon offices (rarely by phone). Typically consists of five hour interviews (even in office interviews, some are over the phone, be prepared).
One of the interviewers is necessarily the hiring manager himself. The other two, as a rule, are people in the same position as the one for which you are interviewing, often your future colleagues. Another person is one of those roles with which you have to interact (for example, when interviewing for Solutions Architect, one of the interviews will be with the Account Manager). The fifth interviewer is Bar Raiser. It is worth talking about him in more detail, since his role is unique.
I recently read a book about the history of Amazon – “The Everything Store”. The book is very interesting, I highly recommend reading it. Even if you’re not going to work for Amazon. It tells the most honest and sometimes unpleasant story of Jeff Bezos and Amazon.
And it also says that when Amazon began to grow rapidly, it became clear that such a rapid growth, including the number of employees, has a great risk. That the quality of the people hired will decline. You need to hire a lot and quickly. And where to find them, the stars? How to Get a Job at Amazon:
So you have to make compromises, plug the holes and take people not what you want, but those that we can afford and have managed to find. The hiring manager is always interested in filling the vacancy as soon as possible. Therefore, no matter how good he is, he sometimes, even imperceptibly to himself, compromises and sees in the candidates what is not in them.
– Ah, it is not difficult to deceive me, I myself am glad to be deceived!
Therefore, we need to come up with a mechanism (and I’ll write about mechanisms at Amazon sometime) that will allow us to “keep the bar” for hired candidates.
Therefore, at Amazon, the goal of any hiring is to hire someone who is better than 50% of the existing employees in that role on this team. Therefore, each interviewer, choosing between “yes” and “no” after the interview, should ask himself this question and only with a positive answer to it say “yes”:
If the answer is yes, you also need to give an answer to the question of what exactly. Amazon relies on facts, not feelings. Hard? Very! This is why Amazon is so hard to get into.
Is it always possible to maintain this principle? Of course not. But we are trying very hard. And it’s clear that if we didn’t try to constantly raise the bar, it would inevitably go down. And the Bar Raiser (literal translation – “raising the bar”) is responsible for ensuring that it does not go down.
So, the book “Everything Store” describes the appearance of this mechanism in Amazon. And it is even written that Amazon borrowed this idea from its neighbor in Seattle, Microsoft. In which, unfortunately, I have not seen such an approach for 15 years of work. It’s funny. How to Get a Job at Amazon:
Who are the Bar Raisers? Any Amazon employee can become a Bar Raiser by fulfilling certain criteria (term of employment, job reviews, number and quality of interviews conducted, demonstration of Leadership Principles).
As a rule, they get to Bar Raisers at the invitation of one of the existing Bar Raisers. They participate in many interviews, see many interviewers and can assess their qualities while remaining independent and disinterested.
The main task of Bar Raiser is to make sure that we do not lower the bar for candidates, that we conduct interviews correctly, that the selected candidate is indeed better than half of the existing employees in the chosen position and that there is good evidence of this. How to Get a Job at Amazon:
More often than not, by the way, Bar Raisers are not managers. And at the same time, they can also evaluate people for leadership roles. Moreover, Bar Raisers are often far from being hired. My best example when Bar Raiser was Beauty Category Manager from Amazon.de. That is, a person sells lipstick and mascara!
And this does not at all prevent him from evaluating a person in a personal interview. Since the most important thing that we evaluate in a personal interview is the presence of Leadership Principles at the candidate.
We, of course, also assess the competence to do the job. For this, the interviewers have at least two people in the same position. How to Get a Job at Amazon:
Even in a personal interview, as a rule, they evaluate:
- Motivation. Already at this stage, it should be clear and understandable – otherwise why did the person come?
- And a person’s understanding of the role for which he is hired. This is where many candidates are cut off – they come for an interview and at the same time do not really understand what kind of position they are being considered for. Be ready.
But the Leadership Principles are the most important thing. Since the rest can be taught (especially if everything is good with the Learn and Be Curios principle), but the Leadership Principles – they either exist or they are not.
When preparing for a personal interview, I highly recommend reading the Leadership Principles again (or better, several) and thinking about examples that demonstrate that you have each of the fourteen. And come up with a story about each example, as I said above. One often hears the question from candidates:
Are we not afraid to tell all the insides of the interview process (and we tell each candidate about this in advance, giving the opportunity to prepare)? After all, the candidate will be so prepared and impersonate someone who he is not? I have already written above about whether to impersonate someone else in an interview. In my opinion, the benefits are highly questionable.
If you are not really close to all 14 Leadership Principles, you are unlikely to enjoy Amazon and you are unlikely to be successful here. Therefore, be yourself and treat the interview process as a free psychological test to determine your compatibility with the Amazon culture.
You were successful – you will like it here, you will be successful. It didn’t work out – not a reason to get upset. So Amazon is simply not your company. There are a million other companies on earth where you will be happy.
But let’s say we set out to deceive the system and tell a fake story. Most likely, you will be caught on subsequent clarifying questions. And it will be noticeable that you are inventing something there. How to Get a Job at Amazon:
And one of the most important Leadership Principles Amazon is Earn Trust. If the interviewer has doubts about the veracity of your stories. Or if somewhere you start to contradict yourself, it will be noticeable, and a red flag will immediately appear. Therefore, I strongly advise against composing. It will not work, and there is no need.
And they test Leadership Principles with various questions, in the answer to which you need to recall one of the stories from your experience. For example, about Think Big (setting big goals) you can ask this: “Tell us about a situation when you took a big risk. What was this risk? ” Or: “Tell us about a situation when you were working on a task and saw that you can do something much more than originally planned.”
By the way, my story about the Imagine Cup above fits both questions perfectly, you just need to change the nuances.
Expect to be asked mostly questions like the ones above in your Amazon interview rather than typical interview questions like “How do you see yourself in five years?” or the once popular questions “Why are manholes round?”
You will also not be asked, most likely, to tell about your resume and what you have been doing in previous and current jobs. Some candidates are discouraged and even offended by this (“I’m such a fine fellow, but no one wants to know about me!”). Be ready.
By the way, in the excellent book of the former HR VP Google “Work Rules!” (highly recommend) there is very convincing evidence in favor of the fact that it is pointless to evaluate a candidate by his university or by his answers to questions about hatches.
But assessing it by structured behavioral questions is the thing. This is very difficult to do, since it requires developing a methodology for testing and evaluating candidates. Amazon got confused and developed.
And now, before a new Amazon employee gets the right to conduct interviews and evaluate candidates, he will first have to undergo internal training about this, then attend as a shadow at several interviews of more experienced colleagues, then conduct several interviews himself, when a more experienced colleague looks at him, and only after that go into battle. In general, the whole process.
After all five interviews have passed, each of the interviewers fills out a form for the candidate: votes “yes” or “no” (making sure that the candidate is more than half of the existing employees in a comparable position), evaluates each of the Leadership Principles assigned to him and evaluates each of the assigned to test competencies.
And he sends a detailed report of the conversation with the candidate, giving, at least concisely, all the questions asked and the answers received and giving his assessment to the candidate as a whole and to each assessed parameter. How to Get a Job at Amazon:
Then all the interviewers get together, read each other’s reports and vote. Since each interviewer is assigned to test his own competencies and Leadership Principles, this allows, by exchanging reports, to get a complete picture of the candidate, although everyone sees and evaluates something different.
After voting, everyone discusses the candidate, exchange opinions and vote again. It often happens that after a discussion, the opinion about a candidate changes to the diametrically opposite one. But in the end, everyone comes to a consensus. The process and the result are monitored by Bar Raiser, and his task is to make sure that by taking this candidate, we “raise the bar” of the team.
At the same time, the hiring manager cannot say “I am in charge here, I decide everything, I like the person, and I take him under my responsibility.” Pressing on the Bar Raiser will not work either, they are assigned randomly and in such a way as to be independent. This ensures the objectivity of the process. In doing so, we are guided by the basic principle:
Moreover, we do sometimes make mistakes and do not take good people. Unfortunately. But this is an inevitable price to pay to reduce the risk of being wrong and not taking good things.
After a personal interview within five days (as a rule), the candidate is returned with an answer – “yes” (we are making an offer) or “no”. If the answer is no, you can try again after six months.
Uff. He seems to have told everything. Thank you for reading this far. Summing up the results. The most important things to do to prepare for your Amazon interview:
- Understand if you need it. Read the Leadership Principles and understand how close they are to you and if they seem nonsense. In case of any doubt, it is better not to continue further – the interview process at Amazon is very complicated and requires preparation. And the personal interview itself is an occupation that requires both effort and time.
- Read carefully the requirements for the position and understand what evidence you have of the required qualifications.
- Read the 14 Leadership Principles again and understand what stories you have that support the required qualifications and principles. Think not only of success stories, but also of failures!
- Practice telling these stories briefly, succinctly, to the point and with the facts.
- Prepare for your interview by reading articles and watching talks on topics related to your chosen job. Go to AWS – check out the keynote from the latest Re: Invent! Better yet, apply for certification (for technical roles AWS Solutions Architect Associate , for business – Practitioner).
Disclaimer: I’m not representing Amazon in any way with my posts, opinions written here are strictly my own.