Amazon System Design Interview Questions

With its mission of being “Earth’s most customer-centric company,” Amazon is one of the top places to work for in 2021 for software engineers. They say it is always Day 1 at Amazon, and the focus is on hiring employees that make fast decisions, stay smart, innovate for customers, and remain nimble. 

Amazon builds scalable, reliable, and cost-optimal performance systems, and system design is a key aspect. Hence, you must prepare for Amazon system design interview questions to land a job at this company.

In this article, we’ve covered key details about the system design interviews at Amazon and included tips that will help you prepare for and conquer Amazon system design interview questions.

Here’s what we will cover in this article: 

  • Here’s what we will cover in this article: 
  • What is a system design interview?
  • Amazon system design interview process 
  • Amazon System Design Interview Questions and How to Solve Them
  • Tips to Prepare for and Crack Amazon System Design Interview Questions

What Is a System Design Interview? 

A system design interview analyzes your ability to solve problems and create systems that can solve the company’s or clients' problems. You may think of it as a brainstorming session where you’ll be expected to discuss a complex system efficiently. 

System design interviews are always driven by open-ended questions. Consider these interviews as an opportunity to work with your interviewer, just as a team would, to solve challenges related to the company’s goals.

Amazon System Design Interview Process 

The Amazon system design interview is typically conducted later in the interview process. 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. 

This round is where you should be prepared to answer coding and system design questions.

To know more about the Amazon interview process.

Amazon System Design Interview Questions and How to Solve Them

Amazon System Design Interview Questions and How to Solve Them

If you have attempted a coding interview in the past, you must be aware that system design or software design problems are an important part of technical interviews. Practicing these questions is key to cracking tech interviews, especially if you're gunning for senior positions.

Here are a couple of sample interview questions and the approach you should take to solve them:

Question: Design a URL shortening service. 

This is a common design interview question involving shortening URLs for ease of sharing and use. While designing the URL shortening service, your ideal solution should:

  • Create a unique URL ID while shortening a URL
  • Handle redirects
  • Delete expired URLs
  • Have an upper limit of the number of characters for the shortened URL

Question: How do you design a traffic control system?

This design interview question has been popular for a while now. While answering this question, your ideal solution should:

  • Consider all phase transitions (From red to green, red to orange to green, and so on.)
  • Be clear on the conditions in which a certain transition will take place
  • Consider pedestrian crossing requirements
  • Determine cycle length
  • Determine clearance time
  • Apportion green light time appropriately

The traffic control system’s behavior will depend on the state of the traffic control system. Explain all your considerations when stating your solution and reasons for trade-offs made, if any.

Here are a few more Amazon system design interview questions to help you practice:

  • How would you design a warehouse system for Amazon.com?
  • How would you design Amazon.com so it can handle 10x more traffic than today?
  • How would you design Amazon.com's database (customers, orders, products, etc.)?
  • Design a counters system for online services.
  • Design a game of chess.
  • Design a parking garage. 
  • Design an email sender that can send 100,000,000 emails. You have five machines. How could you do it efficiently?
  • Design a video streaming service. 
  • Design an online bookstore. 
  • Design a global file storage service or sharing service. 
  • Design an API rate limiter. 
  • Design a proximity server. 
  • Design a type-ahead service.
  • How do you design a vending machine in Java?
  • How to design a limit order book for trading systems?
  • How do you design an elevator system?
  • How would you go about designing an e-commerce website?
  • How would you go about designing the e-commerce website using microservices? How will you handle transactions?
  • Create an autocomplete feature like word suggestions on search engines. How will you scale it to millions of users?

Tips to Prepare for and Crack Amazon System Design Interview Questions

As you may have noticed, the Amazon system design interview can be tricky. The questions are ambiguous, and you will have to deal with the unstructured nature of the discussion. However, with extra practice, you’ll be prepared to handle anything the interviewers throw at you. Here’s what you should do before and during the interview to make the best impression.

Before the Interview

  1. Practice: In the weeks leading up to your Amazon system design interview, practice as much as possible. Being consistent with your interview preparation and scheduling it into your weekly routine will be the biggest help with making sure you’re ready. Also, quality practice is more important than quantity. If you only practice a lot of the easy stuff, you’ll be in for unpleasant surprises and stress during the actual interview.
  2. Leverage your experience: The more practical experiences you have, the better you will be at a system design interview. This is because almost all system design interview questions are based on real-life products. For example, when asked to design a recommendation system for Amazon, it is similar to many other recommendation systems, such as YouTube. If you have some experience with recommendations or read some articles/books, or have thought about it, you can easily come up with some ideas.
  3. Read books: We highly recommend reading “Designing Data-Intensive Applications” by Martin Kleppmann and “Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture” by Martin Fowler. 
  4. Brush up on core concepts: Review the core concepts, such as abstraction, caching, load balancing, proxies, concurrency, database, network, and more. Learn how to apply them and acquire skills that will make you a better software engineer, leader, and ultimately a designer. Hands-on exercises, real-world scenarios, and practical team-based decision-making tools will get everyone on board and give you the experience you need to become a confident software architect.
  5. Practice mock interviews: An excellent way to improve your skills for an Amazon system design interview is with mock interview sessions. The experience gets you used to how it will feel when you meet with the hiring manager.

During the Interview

To ace the Amazon system design interview, you must keep four key things in mind: 

  1. Don’t jump into solving the problem. The aim of a system design interview is to give you an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge. For instance, imagine that you’re being asked to design an online bookstore. The first step is to ask clarification questions, such as:
  • What kind of books? Is it going to be e-books or just regular books?
  • How many users are we looking at? 
  • What will be the transactions per second?

You must ask questions related to scaling, performance, API, etc. 

  1. Step away from the fact that it’s just an interview. Imagine that you’re actually designing a system that’s going to be implemented by someone. Try to make it a conversation between you and your interviewer. You want to go ahead and solve it as you would do with a team.
  1. If you’re making assumptions, validate them. For example, in the online bookstore question, you may assume that there is a payment service or there is an order service that actually exists. 
    Focus on your strengths. If you’re a frontend developer, start by identifying the use case. If you’re a backend or a database person, go ahead and start talking about the database, start creating those entities, and work up to the frontend from there.

Are You Ready to Nail Amazon System Design Interview Questions?

“As long as you’ve got passion, faith, and are willing to work hard, you can do anything and have anything you want in this world.” — Unknown. 

Your technical interview preparation plays a pivotal role in your professional prospects. After all, to be prepared is half the victory. 

Whether you’re a Coding Engineer gunning for Software Developer or Software Engineer roles, a Tech Lead, or you’re targeting management positions at top companies, IK offers courses specifically designed for your needs to help you with your technical interview preparation!

If you want to take your prep to the next level, consider us! Interview Kickstart offers a comprehensive tech interview preparation course to Software Engineers. With over 100 instructors, coaches, and interviewers from FAANG and top tech companies, we’ve helped more than 6,000 engineers land their dream job. Join our free webinar to learn more. 

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