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How to Prepare for Amazon Onsite Interview in 2 Months

Posted on 
February 20, 2021
|
by 
Abhishek Som

Overview:

Amazon’s onsite interview, also known as “The Loop”, is a series of interviews that test your core technical skills. 

Cracking the onsite isn’t anybody’s game. The acceptance rate is a mere 3%, and the problems asked require significant practice to solve. 

If you’re in for the grind, however, you can romp to victory without doubt. 

In this article, we’ll look at the recipe to brew up success in Amazon’s onsite coding interview.

Can I Crack the Amazon Onsite Interview in 2 Months?

Two months is sufficient time to prepare for the Amazon onsite, provided you lay the bricks correctly. Instances where experienced software engineers with excellent domain-specific knowledge fail to make the cut aren’t uncommon. Quite frankly, nothing short of the right prep strategy can take you through. 

If you’re going about understanding how to prepare for the Amazon onsite, you must know that Amazon, just like other top companies, tests the depth of your knowledge in core data structures, algorithms, and distributed systems design. The onsite also comprises a behavioral round that evaluates you against Amazon’s 14 Leadership Principles.

Quite naturally, your primary focus during the 2-months leading to your interview should be algorithms, data structures, and systems design. Solving numerous problems in these topics will give you more than just a fighting chance at cracking the onsite and landing a software developer role.

While going about solving problems, try and look at each problem uniquely to understand patterns inherent in them. This is the only way to boost your problem-solving skills and develop the ability to apply pre-existing patterns to solve new problems. Remember that all the biggest companies specifically look for problem solvers who can apply their intelligence to find solutions to a wide range of problems in the realms of business processes, technology, and everyday life.

Here's what this article will cover:

  1. Can I Crack the Amazon Onsite Interview in 2 Months?
  2. How is the Amazon Onsite Interview different from Interviews of other Companies?
  3. The Amazon Technical Interview Process
  4. Tips and Preparation Tactics to Prepare for the Amazon Interview
  5. List of topics to cover for the Amazon interview
  6. Amazon Onsite Interview Questions
  7. Pro Tips for the Amazon Coding Interview
  8. The 2-month Journey to Cracking the Amazon Onsite

How is the Amazon Onsite Interview different from Interviews of other Companies?

The Amazon onsite interview isn’t very different from onsites at other major tech firms. Just like in other companies, the Amazon onsite comprises three or four rounds, each aiming to test your coding skills. 

The first two rounds cover data structures and algorithms. You’ll most likely be asked to solve a couple of problems on a Whiteboard. 

The next two rounds cover questions around distributed systems design. The difficulty of questions asked in systems design interviews progressively increase for higher positions. 

The onsite also includes a round that tests your behavioral attributes. This round is popularly called the Bar Raiser round. The person conducting this round has the power to veto your application if you fail to meet the bar. In this round, you’ll essentially be assessed on Amazon’s 14 Leadership Principles and your performance in this round will have a telling impact on the outcome of the onsite interview. 

The Amazon Technical Interview Process

The Amazon interview typically comprises three main rounds. 

The Technical Phone Screen Round

The technical phone screen is the first step in the process that involves being contacted by a member of the human resources team. You will be asked basic questions around your profile and experience before which the recruiter will fix a date for the remote/online coding assignment. 

You can also expect a few technical questions on the programming language of your choice, and technical aspects pertaining to your experience, mostly dependent on the position you’re applying to. 

The technical phone screen typically lasts 15 to 30 minutes. 

The Amazon online Coding Assignment        

The next step in the process is the remote/online coding assignment. The remote coding round is essentially a pretest to the main interview. You’ll be called to the onsite only after satisfactorily clearing this round.

The remote coding round can last about 90 minutes where you’re required to solve two or three problems around data structures and algorithms. Questions get progressively difficult in this round, especially if you’re applying to senior positions. Developing your problem-solving skills is key to acing this round. You’ll also be asked to articulate your approach and solution path. The idea is to find the most optimal solution to the problem at hand.  

Choosing the right programming language is key to nailing the remote assignment. Make sure to settle with a language you’re proficient with, and expect conceptual questions around the language. 

Amazon usually conducts the online coding assignment through a coding-interview platform like Hackerrank, or through a shared document. So if you lack experience with coding interview platforms, make yourself aware. 

The Amazon Onsite Interview - The Loop

The onsite interview consists of 4 rounds (sometimes five, depending on the position/role) that seek to rigorously test your problem-solving skills. 

The first two rounds usually cover questions on core data structures and algorithms, while the next two rounds are focused on questions around distributed systems design. 

Then comes the Bar Raiser round where you’re evaluated against 14 leadership principles that Amazon considers to be super-important. Your performance in this round will determine if you’re the right fit or not. 

Additional Phone Interview with a Hiring Manager/Technical Lead

For certain developer positions, candidates go through an additional phone interview round before the actual onsite. This round is usually conducted to get detailed information on your line of experience, skills, and other areas that help the recruiter understand if your profile qualifies adequately for the role. This round can typically last about 15-20 minutes. You can clarify information regarding your prospective job role and other related queries regarding the interview process in this round. 

Tips and Preparation Tactics to Prepare for the Amazon Interview

Here are some tips to help you prepare for the Amazon onsite interview:

Focus on the important stuff

While starting off, limit your focus to the important stuff only. Coding interviews involve solving problems around a set bunch of topics.

For interviews at most tier-1 and FAANG companies, questions revolve around data structures, systems design, and algorithms. This means that you’ll not be asked questions around your domain-role. So, if you’ve been a back-end developer for 10 years,  too bad your domain knowledge won’t be tested.    

So as a thumb rule, quit focusing on the unimportant stuff and stick to what’s important. 

Below is the list of topics to cover for the Amazon interview:

Data Structures and Algorithms

  • Sorting Algorithms
  • Recursion & Backtracking
  • Strings
  • Trees & its Variants
  • Linked Lists, Stacks and Queues
  • Graphs and its Variants (including Greedy Algorithms)
  • Dynamic Programming

Systems Design

  • Object Modeling/API Design
  • Concurrency
  • Scalable Systems

Build your problem-solving skills

The next thing to keep in mind is to start practicing problems with the objective of improving your problem solving skills. Avoid mugging up pattern solutions to commonly asked problems - it doesn’t help. Instead, classify problems based on solution patterns and apply these patterns to solve new problems. The idea in coding interviews is to find the most optimal solution to problems. 

Practice at least two problems a day

The boring part is that problem solving comes only with practice. Before the onsite, make sure to solve at least 250 problems to give yourself a good chance. Remember, you’ll have to beat stiff competition to come out on top. By the law of numbers, the more problems you practice, the better your chances of excelling.  

You can use popular coding platforms to give yourself a wider exposure to problems and solution patterns. 

Breadth First instead of Depth First

Always adopt a breadth first approach instead of a depth first one. This is primarily because a breadth first approach will enable you to think in different directions to solve a problem, helping you come up with the most optimal solution more efficiently. 

Don’t neglect behavioral interviews

Do not under stress the importance of behavioral interviews, not if you want to get through the Amazon onsite. Amazon is particularly known for laying considerable emphasis on behavioral interviews, especially for senior-management positions. 

Even for software engineering roles, Amazon has a mandatory Bar Raiser round that objectively determines if you satisfy Amazon’s behavioral requirements. Answering questions through the lens of Amazon’s 14 Leadership principles, and using the STAR method to answer behavioral questions will stand you in good stead to bag an offer. 

Practice Mock Interviews

If you want to experience the sweet taste of success in onsite interviews, don’t leave mock interviews out of your prep. 

A lot of candidates don’t give enough importance to this crucial component and end up striking out.

While going about practicing mock interviews, remember these two very critical points:

  • Practice mocks with people who can give you the right feedback. Practicing with hiring managers and technical leads from FAANG and tier-1 companies is the best thing to do. There are resources that offer mock interviews but only give you handwavy feedback which definitely doesn’t help. So go with the right resource and practice the right way.
  • Consciously incorporate feedback and practice multiple mock interviews, tracking your improvement with each interview.   

Enroll for the right course/bootcamp

Well, this point is widely understated, but extremely important nonetheless. Get help if you need it! A self-paced prep approach doesn’t work for everybody, and it’s hard to benefit from a strategy that doesn’t have measured goals and objectives. 

Signing up for the right bootcamp will not only help you crack the Amazon code, but help you land offers from other tier-1 companies as well. That’s because the right program will help you amp-up your problem solving skills and make you a far more confident engineer. 

Not to forget, the right bootcamp will also help you optimize your personal brand online, enabling your profile to stand out amid the fierce competition.   

Highlight important past projects

Make note of the most important projects you’ve worked on over the course of your professional career and prepare yourself to answer questions around them. Recruiters are always keen to learn of interesting projects you were part of, how you went about planning the project, and how you dissipated hiccups that came along the way.  

Online Profile 

Last but not the least, focus on boosting your personal brand by optimizing your LinkedIn profile and your resume. LinkedIn’s bullion search algorithms are sensitive to the right keywords in profiles, and help recruiters zero-in on candidate profiles for positions across the board. By including the right keywords, you can land interviews at FAANG and tier-1 companies without hassle. 

As for your resume, make sure it isn’t overly dense. Recruiters like a succinct resume that neatly describe your professional experience and achievements. 

Stay motivated and refreshed throughout your journey

Preparing for the Amazon coding interview can be boring and exhausting. To avoid burnout, resort to doing things that will keep you motivated. Physical exercise, sport, yoga and meditation are superb ways to stay on course. 

Amazon Onsite Interview Questions

Here are some practice questions for the Amazon onsite interview:

  1. Write a code to find if the sum of two whole integers is equal to a given value. 
  2. Given an array “k”, write a code to find the missing elements in the array.
  3. You’re given two Linked Lists. Write a code to sort and merge the Linked Lists so that the resulting Linked List is also sorted. 
  4. For a particular root “r” of a binary tree, write a code to display node values at each level of the binary tree. 
  5. For a given binary tree “B”, write a code to determine if the tree is a binary Search Tree.  
  6. Write a code to find the shortest sequence of strings in a given dictionary of words (World Ladder Problem).
  7. For a given two-dimensional array which is partially filled, write a code to fill the empty cells such that each 3x3 grid has all digits from 1 to 9, exactly one time (Sudoku Problem).
  8. For a given set of elements “l”, write a code to find their kth permutation.
  9. For a given set of integers “n”, write a program to find all the subsets for the given set. 
  10. For a given directed graph “n” with its root node specified, write a program to clone the graph so that it displays the same edges and vertices.

For more problems asked in the Amazon Interview, click here.

Pro Tips for the Amazon Coding Interview

Aside from the already mentioned tips, here are some pro-tips to keep in mind.

i) Have commendable working knowledge in your programming language. Amazon prefers to conduct interviews in Object oriented Programming Languages - Python/ C++/ Java/ Ruby. So make sure you’re good at at least one of them. 

ii) It is common to encounter questions around Graphs, Trees, Bridges, Graph Algorithms and Dynamic Programming.

Get good with traversal algorithms, the popular ones including Depth First Search and Breadth First Search. You must also understand how certain Graph algorithms function, and how to apply them to find solutions to complex and tricky problems. Some algorithms to study include Prim, Kruskal, Dijkstra and Floyd Warshall. 

Note that you’re also required to know how to calculate space and time complexities for your code. 

iii) Amazon lays heightened emphasis on Systems Design questions - more than other tier-1 companies. You’re usually given an abstract system that you’ll have to design. 

iv) Amazon prefers that candidates use the STAR interview technique to answer behavioral questions.

 v) There is increased focus on behavioral interviews for mid and senior management (engineering) positions. As such, candidates appearing for any engineering position will have to go through the Bar Raiser round where they’re tested against Amazon’s 14 Leadership Principles. 

The 2-month Journey to Cracking the Amazon Onsite

Day 1-15

  • Get good with your programming language and start solving basic problems on data structures topics. 
  • Attend tech interview webinars and focus on finding good resources to help you with your prep. 

Day 16 -40

  • Start solving at least two problems a day, touching upon important topics such as Graphs, Trees, Bridges, Hash tables, Sorting Algorithms, Graph Algorithms, and Dynamic Programming. 
  • Prepare for the system design rounds by dedicating enough time to solving design-related questions.
  • Get active on competitive programming sites to know where you stand. 

Day 41 - 60

  • Practice Mock interviews with the right professionals. 
  • Revise solution patterns to tricky problems. 
  • Work on your resume and LinkedIn profile.
Abhishek Som
Senior Content Specialist at Interview Kickstart
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