If you’re a software engineer whose dream is to land offers from the biggest companies, it is important to understand how interview processes at these companies are structured.
Amazon has a highly challenging interview process that evaluates your coding, problem-solving, and design capabilities. If you wish to uplevel your career by cracking Amazon’s technical interview and landing a high-paying offer, this article will tell you exactly what you need to know.
We’re bringing you these exclusive insights from Bareeha Dehradunwala, Program Manager at Amazon. So you can be sure these will help you uplevel your prep several notches!
We’ll cover the Amazon interview process in detail, along with tips to succeed in each round.
Amazon’s Interview Process
Amazon’s interview process consists of multiple interview rounds. The stages may vary depending on the role, but the preparation tips listed for each round can be helpful regardless of the job role or job family.
All the interview stages begin only after you fill out your job application and successfully pass the resume review.
Stage 1: The Online Assessment
The Online Assessment (OA) is the first step in the Amazon interview process. The OA is a technical assessment used mainly for:
- Software development engineers (SDEs)
- Software development managers (SDMs)
- Technical program managers (TPMs)
- Based on: Purely coding — typically problem-solving, data structures and algorithms questions
- Duration: 1.5 hours
SDEs are tested on their ability to write error-free code and solve all test and edge cases. Once complete, an SDE at the company will review the code and decide whether to push the candidate to the recruiter phone screen phase.
For SDMs and TPMs:
- Based on: Hypothetical questions on handling interpersonal conflict, building sustainable technical solutions or scalable backend systems
- Duration: 5-7+ days
The SDM and TPM OAs are writing assessments that are requested only before the SDM/TPM is approved and scheduled for an on-site interview, which gives them anywhere between 5-7+ days for completion. The writing assessment is reviewed by each interviewer prior to the onsite interview.
Tips to Succeed at Amazon’s Online Assessment
The best way to succeed for an SDE OA is through practice. Amazon recruiters recommend:
- Solving medium- to advanced-level problems on HackerRank and Leetcode
- Brushing up on common data structures in advance
The brute force solution is a good place to start, but it should never be the end of your solution. Instead, try to work your way through all edge cases to reach the most optimal solution and focus on clean, readable code.
Crucial tip: DO NOT write your code on a different platform and paste it into the code box on the OA, as the system will flag this as cheating. Make sure you type your code directly into the space provided on the OA.
The best way to succeed in the OA is to ensure your writing is:
- Concise and to the point
Since SDM/TPM roles are writing-heavy, the purpose of the OA is to ensure that your writing style matches Amazon’s standards and clearly represents your ideas for hypothetical situations. Walk through these ideas in an organized fashion, and spend time reading over your answers before submission.
Stage 2: The Recruiter Phone Screen
The recruiter phone screen (RPS) is a phone interview where recruiters dive into your job history to ensure you are a good fit for the role. The focus of the RPS is mostly behavioral, which sometimes includes a high-level system design component, depending on the role you’re applying to.
Recruiters can ask a series of questions about:
- Your resume
- Behavioral questions targeting one or two leadership principles
- Designing a hypothetical scalable system (articulate over the phone)
Tips to Succeed at Amazon’s Phone Screen
Here’s what you should do to prepare for the phone screen:
- Be prepared to speak in detail about all experiences listed on your resume, especially experiences within the last 5-7 years
- Read Amazon’s leadership principles (LPs) in advance and practice responses to behavioral questions around these LPs
- Practice some system design exercises by thinking about how you would design the backend of scalable systems (e.g., the backend of Facebook or Instagram) and make sure you are familiar with the technologies used to build and scale these systems.
- For management roles, be prepared to answer questions about your management style, employee development plans, and questions around hiring and firing.
Stage 3: Technical Phone Screen
The technical phone screen (TPS) is a phone interview between the candidate and a technical employee within the job family the candidate is applying to. The TPS can also be conducted by the position’s hiring manager.
Since the TPS is technical, SDEs and other hands-on engineers are asked a coding question on the call and are required to code via a website so that the interviewer can watch the code live during the assessment.
For SDMs and TPMs:
SDMs, TPMs, and other jobs in the management family will be asked to pick a project they’ve built or worked on, and the interviewer will ask specific and detailed questions about the technical components of the project, such as:
- What was done
- What went right
- What could have been changed
- How to scale
Tips to Succeed at Amazon’s Technical Phone Screen
For SDEs and other coding-heavy roles:
1) Think out loud: Make sure you walk your interviewer through your thought process as you code so that they understand how you rationalize. Based on this, they may throw out hints or ask more specific questions to guide you in the right direction if you are veering off course.
2) Ask questions: Often, interviewers keep their technical questions intentionally ambiguous to see how you gather requirements and clarify the problem. Because of this, make sure you ask as many questions as you need before diving into the problem. That way, you’ll be able to better understand what is being asked of you.
For SDM/TPMs and other management roles:
1) Make a list of projects: Go through your resume in advance and select:
- The most scalable projects you’ve worked on
- Projects that you are most proud of
- Projects that had the largest impact on your company
2) Note down key metrics: Ensure that you write down detailed reasoning for the technical decisions you made and all metrics associated with these projects, including:
- Number of users
- The dollar value of the project
3) Prepare for questions about scalability: Like what considerations you took to ensure your project could scale or what you would have changed if you had to scale your project to 10x or 100x of what it currently is.
Stage 4: The Onsite Interview
Amazon’s onsite interview has anywhere between 4 to 5 back-to-back interviews with engineers and managers at the company, currently conducted virtually via Amazon Chime. You will receive instructions on how to set up Amazon Chime before the interview.
For SDEs and other coding-heavy roles:
Each interview will have a technical component and a behavioral component.
- On the technical side, SDEs will have interviews dedicated to problem-solving, data structures and algorithms, coding, and system design.
- On the behavioral side, SDEs, like all other job families, will have to answer behavioral questions that are typically around Amazon’s Leadership Principles.
For SDM/TPMs and other management roles:
Interviews will focus heavily on behavioral questions, with one interview round focusing on system design. Behavioral questions will similarly cover all relevant Amazon LPs.
Tips to Succeed at Amazon’s Onsite Interview
There are a few things to keep in mind as far as the technical component of Amazon’s interviews is concerned:
- Gather requirements: For all coding and system design problems, the first step should always be to gather all necessary requirements about the problem before you move towards a solution. Again, interviewers often keep questions intentionally ambiguous to see what kind of questions you’ll ask to clarify the problem. So make sure you ask any and all questions you deem relevant.
- Walk them through your solution: Walk your interviewer through your logic as you begin coding or designing your system. Explain why you’re taking a certain direction or making the decisions you’re currently making so that your interviewer can either understand your decision-making process or give you hints to steer you in the right direction.
- Listen for hints and feedback: Interviewers will often drop hints if they think you’re not moving in the optimal direction. Listen closely for feedback that might help you answer the question in the best way possible. Not being attentive to feedback may work against you in the interview process.
- Write a clean solution: Ensure that your code and design are clean, clear, and understandable. This could mean organizing your whiteboard, writing down variable names, etc.
- Practice common DSAs: Focus your preparation on data structures and algorithms that are most commonly used, as these are more likely to come up in your interview
- For system design, think about scale: Amazon is one of the largest companies in the world. Amazon recruiters often look for candidates who can think along the same scale or who have some knowledge about how to scale systems using the most relevant technologies.
For the behavioral component of Amazon’s interviews, the best way to prepare is to:
- Amazon Leadership Principals: Make sure you’ve read through and understood all of Amazon’s LPs. Split up your experiences to best represent or exemplify one or more of these LPs, including any details that you have like data/metrics, roadblocks, strengths, weaknesses, etc.
- Use “I” statements to best represent your role in your projects. Shy away from using “we” statements.
- Be ready for follow-up questions on the technical breadth of your experience – why you made the decisions that you made, what you would do differently, etc.
- Do not repeat the same experience more than twice, even with different interviewers. All interviewers are gathering data on you as a candidate based on the experiences you provide. Repeating experiences too many times will give the impression that your experience is too limited for the role.
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