“We believe in building a culture of high standards” — Jeff Bezos
The Amazon interview process for software engineers is challenging. The questions are tricky and cover a wide range of topics. However, the good news is that the Amazon interview process is consistent. Hence, you can land a software engineering role at Amazon with the right preparation. To help you get there, we have put together this ultimate Amazon Interview Process guide.
Here's what we’ll cover:
- The Amazon Interview Process
- How Long Does the Amazon Interview Process Take?
- Amazon-Specific Interview Procedure
- Amazon Interview Questions — Key Technical Areas
- Preparing for Amazon Interviews
- What Exactly Is Amazon Looking for in Candidates?
The Amazon Interview Process
The basic eight-step interview process at Amazon is as follows:
Step 1. HR email or call
The first step of the Amazon interview process is when a recruiter contacts you via email, call, or LinkedIn. At this point, they'll ask for your resume. So have one prepared.
Which resume outline should you use? Find out here.
Step 2. Online assessment
Online or take-home assessments are mostly for internship and new graduate positions. However, Amazon sometimes uses online assessments for experienced job roles as well. The organization gives three different online assessments before progressing to the phone screening stage. The different types of online assessments are:
- The first online assessment consists of 7 debugging questions. You need to solve them in 20 mins.
- The second online assessment consists of 2 coding questions. You need to solve them in 70 mins.
- The third online assessment has two parts. The first part is work stimulation and usually takes two hours. The second part is logical reasoning. It has 24 questions that you need to solve in 35 mins.
Step 3. Phone screening
This lasts about 45 minutes to 1 hour. A typical phone screening round is where the recruiter will assess your interest and fit for the role. They will also ask fundamental questions about your background and work experience.
Step 4. Video interviews
If you pass the phone screening round, you'll be invited for a video interview. This interview lasts for about 45 to 60 minutes. It will involve a hiring manager or a peer of the same level as your role. They will ask more in-depth questions about your resume.
Be prepared to answer coding and system design questions. You'll also be asked behavioral questions and relevant experience you have for the job. You should use this meeting as a chance to learn as much as possible about the job.
Step 5. Final “Loop” Interview
Amazon will invite you for an on-site interview, also known as a “Loop,” once you clear the video interview round. Due to the current stay-at-home orders, all loop interviews are conducted virtually. Loop interviews are anywhere from two to nine interview rounds, usually in succession. The number of interviewers depends on the level of the position. For example, a Level 5 (L5) position would have five total interviewers; an L7 would have seven, and so on.
Your interviewers will also comprise a senior member with 4+ years of experience, called a “bar raiser.” A bar raiser is an Amazon employee who is trained to be an interview expert. You will not know who they are. They serve as a mediator for a bias-free hiring decision. Their job is to determine whether you will “raise the bar” if you join the organization.
The bar raiser will focus on:
- The types of questions you ask
- Whether you fit Amazon’s leadership principles
- If you see the bigger picture of the product or the role
- Whether you are customer-centric
The final loop interview is typically the most difﬁcult. We recommend that you prepare yourself for an hour-long intense conversation with some of the brightest minds. The previous rounds could be exhausting. If you find yourself not feeling 100%, reschedule the loop interview, so you are fully ready to be mentally focused.
Step 6. Hiring meeting
Behind the scenes, a hiring committee decides on an offer or no offer and collectively sets your level (which dictates your salary range). Usually, you will know the result within one week of ﬁnishing ﬁnal interviews. There’s not much you can do at this stage, but if you haven’t already, deﬁnitely send a “thank you” note to the people you have met.
Step 7. Reference check
A reference or background check generally involves contacting your former employers, mentors, co-workers, and educators. The goal is to obtain information about your knowledge, skills, abilities, and character.
If you apply for a position above L5 at Amazon, you will have to provide one or two reference checks, sometimes more for senior roles. These checks are conducted by the HR manager or hiring manager over the phone and last about 15-20 minutes.
Step 8. Offer rollout
If everything goes well, the recruiter will give you an offer, usually within a day or two of the reference check. However, it can sometimes take longer. If you choose to negotiate, a separate compensation committee will approve the adjustments. The recruiter will send over the necessary paperwork if everything is cleared.
Salary negotiation is a must-have skill to unlock big offers at big companies. Read this guide on how effectively negotiate to land an offer you deserve.
How Long Does the Amazon Interview Process Take?
The Amazon interview process can take anywhere from three weeks to three months. The timeline depends on various factors such as the level of the position, everyone’s schedule, etc.
For example, the more senior the position, the longer the process due to the number of interview rounds. Also, it is sometimes challenging to get all hiring managers, VPs, and directors in the same room at the same time to make a decision.
Amazon-Specific Interview Procedure
Let’s break down the primary components of an Amazon interview and the types of questions that make Amazon interviews different from any other tech company interviews.
System Design Interview Questions
Amazon builds scalable, reliable, cost-optimal, and performant systems, and system design is an integral aspect of them all. Millions use Amazon’s distributed systems and platforms. Hence, Amazon focuses more on system design questions.
Candidates with at least three or four years of software engineering experience must prepare for system design questions if they want to land a job at Amazon. These questions usually involve a web-based component, such as the design of an online store or a URL shortener.
Read Amazon System Design Interview Questions to get an idea of what questions you can expect.
Behavioral Interview Questions
Throughout the interview process, Amazon tests whether the candidate is a good cultural fit. Your work style and values will be assessed through what are called “Work Style Assessments” and “Work Sample Simulation.”
- Work Style Assessment: These are approximately 10-20 minutes long, centered around Amazon’s culture and leadership principles. Here, the company wants to understand your work style, and you help them do that by selecting statements that best represent your choices and interests and your approach to everyday tasks.
- Work Sample Simulation: These simulations can take anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour to complete and require you to demonstrate your problem-solving, prioritization, and interpersonal skills. Depending on the role, the tasks might involve interpreting data from charts, answering customer questions, resolving issues, and more.
Some popular Amazon behavioral questions are:
- Tell me about an instance when the path forward was not clear. What decisions did you take to move ahead?
- Tell me about a time that you tried to accomplish something but failed. What were your learnings from the entire situation?
- What were some occasions when you showed initiative?
- Tell me about a time you motivated others — either your team or your colleagues/peers.
- Give me some details about when you had to delegate projects effectively. What were the strategies used, and how did you manage conflicts?
- Have there been instances when you coached someone?
- Tell me of a time when you adopted fact-finding and research skills to solve a problem.
- What excites you about Amazon, and why do you want to work here?
- What do you expect to learn by working at Amazon?
Read Amazon Behavioral Interview Questions for more.
Amazon’s Leadership Principles
When preparing for an Amazon tech interview, make sure you know Amazon’s leadership principles inside-out. You can easily find these on Amazon’s career page.
Amazon gives significant importance to Leadership Principles throughout the interview. The company has a strong focus on customer obsession. So go through their leadership principles carefully before your interview and ensure that you showcase these effectively during the course of the interview.
Amazon Interview Questions — Key Technical Areas
Let’s look at the major topics that candidates get during Amazon interviews.
- Data Structures: Most of Amazon's work involves storing data and providing access to it in the most efficient ways. Thus, you must be well-versed with how data structures work and compare them based on their usage applications.
- Databases: As you will be working with a lot of data at Amazon, you need to fetch it from the store and push data for future use. You need to be comfortable with basic Database concepts and their applications in various scenarios.
- Algorithms: Having a thorough understanding of commonly used algorithms is essential to be a great software engineer, and that’s what Amazon looks for. We will go over the specific algorithms later. Still, you need to know the runtimes, limitations, and implementation strategies for each algorithm before you head into the interview.
- Object-Oriented Design: Object-oriented programming is one of the best system design practices to create bug-free code that can extend when needed － making it a highly efficient system. You must have a working knowledge of writing code in an object-oriented manner and some common design patterns.
- Internet-Related Topics: Being an e-commerce company, Amazon needs software engineers who understand how the world wide web works. Being familiar with the fundamentals of browser functions, DNS, and TCP/IP is yet another essential skill to have.
- Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence: Amazon is one of the front-runners in the technology space, and being familiar with basic AI-ML concepts and algorithms can set you apart. Understand how train/test protocols work in data-driven modeling and have an idea of how to deal with any ML problem given to you.
For a list of sample questions, read Amazon Interview Questions.
Preparing for Amazon Interviews
Getting hired at Amazon is not easy. Here are some tips to get you through the process:
1. Leverage Amazon's Published Resources
Before you start preparing for the coding problems and behavioral interviews, read through Amazon's published advice for in-person interviews. You'll also find good information on their Day One blog and hiring FAQs that will help you in your prep.
2. Don't Interview Before You're Ready
Good preparation acts like a "secret weapon," giving you a massive advantage over your competition during your interview. Always remember — hiring managers want enthusiastic and proactive people in their team who are genuinely interested in working for them.
If you're new to the role of engineering and have no real-world experience, you need to build some experience solving real-world problems first. During the interview, you would have to demonstrate that you not only know things but can apply them to solve problems you have never seen before.
Try doing some online challenges or contributing to open source projects to practice what you can do and demonstrate that you have the passion and initiative to seek opportunities.
3. Network to Get Referrals
Amazon gets so many resume submissions, and nobody has time to go through them all. So just submitting your resume online is probably going to get you ignored. Instead, look for local recruiting events where you can sign up for interviews. You can also search your social networks to see if you know anyone who works at Amazon already.
If you can submit your resume through an employee referral, it's almost guaranteed to get looked at by a hiring manager. Now, if you don't know anyone, do some research as to who a hiring manager might be. You can ask for an informational interview, where you want to learn about what their team does and what sorts of skills they are looking for. You never know where that might lead.
4. Use LinkedIn and GitHub
Make it easy for recruiters to find you. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and compelling. If you have done open source work, make sure they can find yours through GitHub or other means. Publications are also an excellent way to get discovered by recruiters at big tech companies.
Recommended Reading: Leverage LinkedIn to Unlock FAANG Interviews
5. Practice Thinking on Your Feet
Solving problems on the fly while someone is watching you can be nerve-racking. It's a good idea to practice mock interviews with someone you know first. Odds are, you won't get the same questions, but what's important is being able to tackle them on the fly quickly.
Your interviewer is often more interested in your thought process as you tackle a given problem than whether you got the correct answer. So be vocal and think your way through each problem.
6. Understand the Company's Values
As mentioned already, Amazon has a set of leadership principles that are very important to the organization. Part of your interview will be assessing whether you exemplify these principles. So be prepared to offer examples of how you have demonstrated these principles in your past work.
For example, customer obsession is one of their leadership principles. You can talk about times you solved a problem, thinking about the end user's experience first, and designing a solution with that experience as your primary concern. If you're given an open-ended question, always think about it first from the customer’s standpoint, and you'll be guaranteed to get some bonus points that way.
7. Use the STAR Format
Amazon may try to determine your expertise in any of their leadership principles. It would be best if you were ready for all of them. We suggest researching four questions per leadership principle. For each question, write down how you will answer them.
Draw an outline of the answers in the STAR format: situation, task, action, and result. What was the problem you faced? What did you need to do to resolve it? How did you go about doing so? What was the result? Be honest and keep in mind that recruiters don't mind hearing about your mistakes. In fact, they want to know more about them and understand what you learned from them.
What Exactly Is Amazon Looking for in Candidates?
Amazon is one of the top places to work for in 2021. Its mission is becoming “the earth’s most customer-centric company.” Let’s understand what amazon looks for in a candidate:
- Leadership recruiters at Amazon get to work with some of the best and brightest business leaders. They look for talent that uses data beyond what one would see in KPIs.
- The organization looks for people who follow Amazon’s values, including ownership and bias for action. The candidates must also think big and have a knack for inventing and simplifying.
- Amazon wants candidates who can identify problems and come up with innovative solutions.
- The company loves to see startup experience and diverse interests and backgrounds. They want candidates who have the curiosity and a self-driven desire to build something new.
- Amazon prefers candidates that show creativity and persistence, which are core leadership qualities.
- Amazon is known to hire people with a proven track record of delivering customer value.
- Amazon recruiters want candidates who can inspire a vision for their team.
- To succeed at Amazon, you should be motivated to learn new things and deliver results.
Are You Ready for Your Amazon Interview?
We hope you found this article helpful in getting your prep for Amazon started. The Amazon interview process for software engineers may be challenging, but it is definitely not impossible to crack.
If you need a guide on this journey, join our FREE technical interview preparation webinar with our co-founder, who will take you through how to nail complex Technical Interviews — the Interview Kickstart way.
Since its inception in 2014, Interview Kickstart has helped thousands of experienced engineers realize their true calling. We aim to help engineers get better acquainted with the intricacies of their chosen field and provide them with all the guidance they need to clear interviews with tech giants.