Famous for its customer obsession, Amazon’s Software Development Manager Interviews are a tough nut to crack. With the two newly added leadership principles: “Strive to be the world’s best employer” and “Success and scale bring broad responsibility,” more and more skilled candidates would want a shot at a Software Development Manager role at Amazon. In this article, we go through how you can prepare for this challenge.
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In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the Amazon Engineering Manager interview process, along with sample interview questions:
At Amazon, a Software Development Manager or SDM (also known as Engineering Manager or Software Engineering Manager in other companies) has to balance several responsibilities like retaining the top talent, managing technical debt, and having forward-looking features in their products. They have to ensure that the best engineers work on the roadmap items, are motivated, and believe they’re working towards something that’ll have a positive impact. In order to crack the Engineering Manager interview at Amazon, you should be good at coding, design, and well as demonstrate astute leadership capabilities.
Engineering Managers are expected to have a wide array of skills, both technical and interpersonal. Cracking the Engineering Manager interview at Amazon will require you to display those skills during the interview.
At Amazon, the manager would get the resources of a tech giant while running their team their way. It’s no surprise they make sure to vet the EM candidates’ skills well before hiring. For the SDM role, Amazon will check your technical skills as well as people management skills. Your leadership skills will be tested on the basis of how well they align with Amazon’s 16 leadership principles. These 16 leadership principles are:
Needless to say, an SDM candidate who shows through their experience how they employ these 16 leadership principles will be preferred over the candidates who fail to adequately align themselves with these principles. For more on this, you can check out our page on Amazon Leadership Questions and understand the type of questions asked at the Engineering Manager interview.
Amazon looks for tech leaders with a passion for team development. The e-commerce arm of Amazon is open to candidates of more diverse backgrounds, but the Amazon Web Services (AWS) arm strongly prefers people with a strong technical background.
Any employee at Amazon must strive to follow their 16 leadership principles. Cracking the Engineering Manager interview at Amazon will require you to know each of these leadership skills and what they stand for. Amazon believes that leadership is done daily, that you don’t have to have a certain post to be a leader. Anyone who strives to follow their 16 principles is a leader. It’s no surprise, then, that SDM candidates are tested for it.
At Amazon, the levels for Engineering Managers look like the following:
While the base salary may not increase by much across these levels, there’s an exponential increase in stocks as you move up the ladder.
The first step to cracking the Engineering Manager interview at Amazon is understanding the interview process. The whole process for an SDM interview usually takes 2-4 weeks. You’ll have to go through several interviews but will likely receive the final results quickly within a few days of the onsite interview.
This 30-minute phone interview is to talk to you about you and your resume. Expect behavioral questions like “Tell me about yourself” and “Why Amazon?” They may ask about past experiences relevant to the role to check if your leadership style may be a good fit for Amazon. Basically, the aim is to assess your background and fit to see if you have a shot at the job.
Expect behavioral questions and questions about your work experience. You can ask questions about the hiring process as well here; they’ll be happy to answer any appropriate questions you may have.
There will be one or two calls with a hiring manager along with an engineer for 45-60 minutes. Expect questions that assess you based on leadership principles, questions about your work experience, and questions related to people management. Expect multiple follow-up questions, be ready with detailed answers for anything in your resume relevant to the role.
Their goal is to check how you think, what tradeoffs you choose to make. You may also be asked a system design question in this interview, although it will not be focused on that. So prepare for system design early for a more robust preparation.
Before the onsite interview, you may (or may not) get a written assignment that tests your communication skills and will help direct some of your onsite interview. For example, you could be asked to write about a past achievement, and behavioral questions could be asked based on what you write.
If you’re given choices, choose the question that helps you align yourself authentically with the leadership principles. Also, since you’re expected to be a leader, don’t overstate your contributions at the expense of your team.
The on-site is the final stage you’ll go through in your journey towards cracking the Engineering Manager interview at Amazon. Amazon’s onsite will include 5-6 rounds that overall will take one whole day. Each interview will be for about an hour. They’ll be conducted by several different people. They’ll usually be other SDMs, but can sometimes also include a hiring manager/HR representative or even a Software Engineer.
Amazon also has a concept of bar raisers, who are assigned to interviews to make sure each new hire is better than at least 50% of their workforce. You will not know who is the bar raiser for your interview, but your job is to also show in what ways you are better than 50% of their workforce. Expect structured interviews. They may not initiate a lot of back and forth.
2. System design:
Cracking the Engineering Manager interview at Amazon starts with knowing the type of questions to expect at the interview. In this section, we’ve covered some common Amazon interview Software Development Manager questions. We’ve divided them into leadership questions and system design questions.
Amazon Leadership Software Development Manager (SDM) Interview Questions:
Amazon System Design Software Development Manager (SDM) Interview Questions
Recommended reading: System Design Interview Preparation Tips
You can expect the question “do you have any questions for us” during the Amazon interview. Take this opportunity to ask smart questions about the company and the role. Following are some examples:
1. How to Prepare for an Amazon Software Development Manager (SDM) Interview?
You can start by going through Amazon’s Leadership Principles and Amazon’s Youtube playlist on Amazon’s Culture to understand their values and culture. Aligning yourself and your stories authentically with their 16 leadership principles and preparing for System Design interviews well will make sure you can put your best foot forward.
At Interview Kickstart, we provide mock interviews and courses that can significantly boost your prep. You can check them out and see if they are a good fit for you.
2. What are some technical skills required for cracking Software Development Manager Interviews?
You have to be really good at System Design. You need to be able to design highly scalable systems. You also need to know how to code, but they won’t test them as much for the SDM role. When it comes to technical skills for Amazon’s SDM role, the focus is on System Design.
3. What are some important tips to note in order to crack the Engineering Manager interview at Amazon?
Prepare dedicatedly for the behavioral and leadership interviews. Get good with distributed systems design — spend at least 2 weeks brushing up design concepts. Start your prep at least 8 weeks before your interview. Create a good portfolio of the projects you’ve worked on in the past. Use the STAR method to answer leadership and behavioral questions.
Ready to Crack the Engineering Manager Interview?
If you are preparing for a tech interview, check out our interview questions page and salary negotiation ebook to get interview-ready! Also, read Amazon System Design Interview Questions and Amazon Phone Interview Questions for specific insights and guidance on Amazon tech interviews.
To take your interview prep to the next level, join Interview Kickstart. At IK, you get the unique opportunity to learn from expert instructors who are hiring managers and tech leads at Google, Facebook, Apple, and other top Silicon Valley tech companies.
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