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Amazon System Design Interview Questions

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Amazon System Design Interview Questions
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System design interview questions are a crucial part of any tech 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 builds scalable, reliable, and cost-optimal performance systems, and system design is a key aspect. It focuses on hiring employees who make fast decisions, stay smart, innovate for customers, and remain nimble. Hence, you must prepare for Amazon system design interview questions to land a job at this company.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the most popular Amazon system design interview questions and some noteworthy tips to solve them. We’ll also try to understand the system design interview process at Amazon.

Here’s what we will cover:

  • Amazon System Design Interview Process
  • Concepts to Prepare for Amazon System Design Interview
  • Amazon System Design Interview Questions and Answers
  • Amazon System Design Interview Questions for Practice
  • Tips to Crack Amazon System Design Interview Questions

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. 

Let’s look at the main stages of the Amazon technical interview -

The Recruiter Screen - In this round, you’re asked some basic questions about your profile and experience. If your qualifications and skills meet the demands of the role, you’re invited to the technical phone screen interview.

The Technical Screen - In this round, you’re asked 1-2 Amazon coding interview questions. This is a remote round that lasts about 30-45 minutes. You’re asked to write code on a shared doc or a remote interviewing tool.

The Loop Interview - Amazon’s on-site interview is known as the Loop. The Loop has 3-5 rounds of interviews - 1-2 coding rounds, 1-2 design rounds, a leadership round (based on Amazon’s leadership principles), and a Bar-raiser round. It is in the on-site design round that you’re asked Amazon systems design interview questions.  

To learn more about the Amazon interview process, read the Amazon Interview Process Prep Guide.

Concepts to Prepare for Amazon System Design Interview

The Amazon systems design interview tests your knowledge of scalable, distributed systems. You’re expected to be adept with the following concepts for the Amazon systems design interview -

  • Network Protocols
  • Databases
  • Concurrency
  • API Modeling
  • File Systems
  • Online Processing Systems
  • Systems Design Case Studies
  • Loading, Caching, and Balancing
  • Sharding Techniques
  • Distributed Systems

Amazon System Design Interview Questions and Answers

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:

Q1. Design a URL shortening service. 

This is one of the most common Amazon system design interview questions 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

Q2. How do you design a traffic control system?

This system 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.

How would you design a search typeahead?

This is another Amazon systems design interview question that frequently features in Amazon systems design interviews. In order to answer this question, you should consider the following aspects -

  • Store previous search queries in the database
  • Keep the data fresh
  • Find the appropriate matches to the entered string
  • Handle the queries per second - to be automatically handled by the system
  • DIsplay the best matches from strings contained in the database

What aspects would you consider while designing a Web Crawler?

This is one of the most common systems design interview questions asked at the Amazon interview. While designing a web crawler, the following aspects need to be considered -

  • Prioritize web pages that are dynamic as these pages appear more frequently in search engine rankings
  • The crawler should not be unbounded on the same domain
  • Build a system that constantly tracks new web pages

Amazon System Design Interview Questions for Practice

Once you've figured out how to answer Amazon system design interview questions, you can use these sample questions to better prepare.

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

Tips to Crack Amazon System Design Interview Questions

As you may have noticed, the Amazon system design interview questions 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.

Things to Do 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. So, 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.

Recommended Reading: How to Crack a System Design Interview

Things to Do 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 Amazon system design interview questions 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 Amazon system design interview questions as you would do with a team.
  2. 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. 
  3. Focus on your strengths. If you’re a front-end developer, start by identifying the use case of the Amazon system design interview question. 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 front-end from there.

Take a look at some more System Design Interview Preparation Tips to nail your Amazon interview.

FAQs on Amazon System Design Interview Questions

Q1. How to solve Amazon system design interview questions?

To solve Amazon systems design interview questions, you need to be thorough with the important systems design concepts. Spending at least two weeks preparing the important systems design concepts is highly recommended. 

Q2. How many systems design interview questions are asked at the Amazon interview?

At the Amazon systems design interview, you’re generally asked 1-2 practical questions and a few theoretical questions.

Q3. Are system design interviews tough to crack?

Systems design interviews at top tech companies, including Amazon, are challenging, mostly because of the stiff competition and general difficulty associated with these interviews. The acceptance rate at FAANG+ companies is under 2%, making it even more difficult to crack these interviews. 

Q4. What is the Amazon system design interview process like?

The Amazon systems design interview happens during the on-site interview, also known as the Loop. At the design interview, you’re typically asked to build an arbitrary system with a given set of parameters. Note that there’s more emphasis on systems design interviews for senior software and managerial positions. 

Q5. Which concepts are to be learned for the system design interviews?

The important concepts to prepare for the Amazon systems design interview include - Scalable systems architecture, concurrency, API Modeling, online processing systems, file systems, network protocols, databases, sharding techniques, loading, and caching. 

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.”

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 for Software Engineers. With over 100 instructors, coaches, and interviewers from FAANG and top tech companies, we’ve helped more than 10,000 software engineers land their dream job.

Join our free webinar to learn more.

WEBINAR +LIVE Q&A

How To Nail Your Next Tech Interview

Hosted By
Ryan Valles
Founder, Interview Kickstart
Our tried & tested strategy for cracking interviews
How FAANG hiring process works
The 4 areas you must prepare for
How you can accelerate your learnings

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