What to Expect from the Amazon Interview and Hiring Process
A full summary of the entire Amazon interview and hiring process, from resume review to the questions, to offer completion. How to do the preparation necessary to be successful.
This article is meant to give a brief summary of the Amazon interview process. I will walk through every stage in the interview and hiring process, what to expect, and hints along the way.
As a quick note, I didn't participate in the hiring processes for the fulfillment centers, so I won't cover their processes.
In regards to my personal experience, I have hired hundreds of employees for my organizations over the years directly as a hiring manager, as well as indirectly through the hiring managers working for me. As a bar raiser, I facilitated many hundreds of interviews for a wide variety of corporate roles.
Before going through the process...
I wanted to give a few general suggestions and thoughts.
Plenty of people fail the first / second / third time interviewing. You can usually interview every 6 months. Don't view a rejection as the end of the world, it's a learning experience. Amazon interviews can be rewarding but stressful. Learn how to handle them. Getting good at the Amazon interview process can benefit you anywhere.
Prepare! I've had a surprising number of people bomb the interview, who clearly did zero research or preparation. Don't be lazy.
It is common for people to say that they want to change companies, as well as roles. This is why we'll often see a software engineer apply to a management role, because they hope to become a manager. Don't do this. You'll never get in. Apply for the positions you are most qualified for. Get into Amazon. Moving around to different teams or different roles while you're within Amazon is 1000 times easier than doing something strange in the interview process.
Those covered, I'll move on to the interview process.
1. A candidate applies for a role
Someone gets the idea in their head that working at Amazon sounds nice. They apply for a role.
Hint: If you know someone at Amazon, it's better to have them refer you. They might get a bonus. You might have a better chance of your resume being seen.
2. The recruiter and/or the hiring manager reviews the candidate's resume
They have a list of resumes to review every day. Many positions will have many applications every day. They sift through the applications to filter out the resumes which do not match what the position requires. For example, if the position is looking for a manager with at least 5 years of experience, and an engineer applies (with no clear management experience), the application is rejected. This is a silent rejection, and the candidate will hear nothing.
As a side note, occasionally rejected resumes are repurposed for another role which they look suited for (in the example above, perhaps the same team is also looking for software engineers). This is not reliable. You want to apply for the right positions.
Considering the volume of submitted resumes, they are sometimes lost in the shuffle (they get so old that they get bulk rejected), and some are only briefly glanced at before being rejected. This is not done out of malice, it's just that everyone is busy. It's a good reason to occasionally apply for new positions if you haven't heard anything.
Hint: As I'd mentioned in the step above, a referral helps here. If you're remotely suited for a role, and it's a referral, you're much less likely to be arbitrarily rejected. Your referral person can even message the recruiter and/or hiring manager and specifically ask them to look at your resume.
3. If they believe the candidate looks suitable for this or another role, the recruiter sets up a phone screen.
The recruiter will call you to schedule this first interview between you and someone responsible for evaluating candidates for this position. This call is usually the first time candidates will hear from Amazon. If you never heard from Amazon, you didn't make it to this point.
This interview is called a phone screen, but it might also be a video call. Keep your schedule handy to help the recruiter find some available times.
Hint: Candidates often don't reply to us reaching out. We email them once or twice. When we get no reply, we move on. If you apply, watch your inbox! Check your spam folders!
Hint 2: This recruiter is possibly the one who will also be telling you the results of your phone screen. Politely ask for time expectations of when you'll hear back. They'll likely tell you something like within 1-week of your phone screen.
4. If the phone screener believes the candidate is generally qualified, the recruiter sets up an interview loop.
I say generally for a reason. We train interviewers that a phone screen is not a 'hire' or 'no hire' decision, it's a screen to find if a candidate is close to being qualified. It's a lower bar on purpose, because it's a single interview, and it will be error prone. The purpose of the filter is to ensure that anyone who does the full interview loop doesn't waste everyone's time.
This isn't to say that the phone screen is easy. Depending on a variety of factors, you will often have 4 out of 5 interviewers fail at this phase.
This interview lightly touches on all areas of your experience. They want a brief summary of what you've done, briefly hit a few leadership principles, and briefly hit a few important technical / functional skills for the role.
The phone screener will not tell you if you've passed, that's the recruiter's job. So don't ask. That gets awkward.
Hint: As I mentioned in #3 above, you should have a general expectation of when the recruiter will get back to you. If you don't hear anything by that date, wait 1 more day, and then politely email the recruiter asking for an update. Send that email every 3 days. Recruiters go on vacation, interviewers lose track of time and forget to get their feedback in on schedule, or recruiters forget to reply to candidates. No-reply does not mean rejection, it means people make mistakes. I don't think anyone will view it as impolite to ping them occasionally.
And now a brief pause for a personal note
I'm going to take a brief moment to deeply thank everyone who has signed up for paid memberships. This support gives me the opportunity to spend my time writing and sharing with others what I've learned about working at Amazon, interviewing successfully, and being an empathic leader.
If you haven't signed up yet for a paid membership, please consider doing so! There are a number of articles available only to paid members, and I'm writing new ones weekly.
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5. The candidate interviews in a (usually) five-person interview loop
The standard list of interviewers consists of the following.
Hiring manager - The person hiring for the role will always be on the loop.
3 qualified people - They find 3 qualified people who can evaluate people in your role. This might be people on the team (this is preferred), or they might be people in neighboring teams. It depends on who is available of the right level to interview you.
Bar raiser - There is always a bar raiser on an interview loop.
For example, on a software engineering loop, someone might have "Insists on the Highest Standards and Coding". In that case, they'd likely ask a question or two about the candidate's experience regarding insisting on quality in some way, and then ask some type of coding problem.
Hint: Take a deep breath and stay calm, regardless of how you do on individual interviews. Every interviewer reads each other's notes, and people have received multiple 'not inclined' votes from interviewers and still received an offer from Amazon. Just do your best in every interview.
6. Each interviewer writes up their notes after their interview with the candidate
They decide whether they are inclined or not inclined to hire the candidate. They make their own personal vote.
These notes consist of the questions they ask, the answers you gave, and their impression on those answers. In reality, the quality of their notes depends on their typing speed and how well trained they are. Bar raiser notes tend to be awesome.
Hint: This is the reason to stay calm and do your best. Even if you're not clicking with an interviewer or two, or bomb a specific question, everyone has taken notes. They read all the questions and answers. You have many chances to convince people to hire you.
7. The interviewers debrief together after all interviews are conducted
The debrief begins with every interviewer quietly sitting and reading each other's notes. Amazon meetings often have quiet time at the beginning to read, so this is such an Amazon way to start a debrief.
After reading, the bar raiser facilitates a discussion regarding the highlights and concerns mentioned in everyone's notes. Their job is to ensure that there is a balanced review of a candidate. A single interviewer's impression for or against a candidate is balanced by the bar raiser to ensure that the impressions from all interviewers are considered.
The bar raiser ensures that the specific questions and answers are reviewed, not just the impressions of the interviewers. This ensures a fair evaluation of the candidate's performance on a question, not just a single person's interpretation of the right answer.
Like many interviewers, I wrote the coding assignments word for word, drew the graphics the interviewer drew, and tried to quote verbatim interesting answers to my questions. These notes are often multiple pages long.
The hiring manager and the bar raiser together make the hiring decision. In the end, those two are the only voices which decide if someone should be hired or not. They preferably both agree on the answer, as everyone works towards consensus. They both need to agree to hire the candidate to have Amazon make an offer. If either of them do not want to hire, no hire will be made.
This is a pretty strong filter. For every person receiving an offer, there are often five or six people rejected in this interview phase.
Hint: Often a candidate has one or two things which didn't go well, and many things which went ok. The key to deciding to hire someone is if they did something fantastic to compensate for the less great answers. If a candidate really impressed one interviewer, that can be the key to getting hired. The bar raiser often says something like "Is there one area where they really raised the bar?". You want to impress at least one interviewer so that they'll speak up.
8. If a hire decision is made, the recruiter notifies the candidate
This is when the negotiation begins on salary and equity. Location is possibly a part of the negotiation, depending on what is available in the hiring manager's organization, where they have offices, etc.
For negotiation, I've always suggested people refuse to give their own current salary if asked. Let Amazon make the first offer.
Things like HR benefits, holidays, and vacation days are all standardized across roles, and not something you can negotiate on your way in.
Salary and equity added together become something called "Total Compensation". There is an invisible line the recruiter can't cross which is a combination of your role, level, and where you're going to work.
Don't trust places like Glassdoor which list compensation ranges. They're amazingly inaccurate. I knew the exact compensation ranges for dozens of positions, and these online sites were off by 50% or more.
The compensation offered is an agreement between the hiring manager and the recruiter, within the corporate bounds allowed. Make sure you ask for something more than what they offer, they'll counter, you can counter again,
You want to always negotiate. The hiring manager wants to hire you. Between phone screens and full interview loops, they might have talked to dozens of people before they picked you. The hiring manager also doesn't care how much you're paid. They don't have a personal budget. Their interest in the frugality leadership principle is heavily countered by their interest in hiring you.
Generally the recruiter will give you an offer. You ask for a good amount more. They offer some higher amount, you ask for a smaller amount more. They give you a higher number, and you accept.
In my opinion it's a stupid game, and companies should get rid of salary negotiations completely (that's an opinion piece for another day), but it's just how things are done.
Hint: Sometimes the recruiter and manager are convinced that you'll need a lot of money. They might start you near the top of the available range. You should still try negotiation.
Hint 2: Sometimes you're coming from a location or company which pays much less in comparison to Amazon. Amazon's offer will seem insanely high. You should still try negotiation.
Hint 3: Don't stress about this process. In the long run, your total compensation is just a starting point. If you do well at Amazon, you'll have plenty of time to get new stock grants, new raises, promotions, and your compensation will grow quickly. Within a few years I was making multiples of what I made when I was first hired. Think about the long view, and the big picture.
Personal note: I didn't negotiate going into Amazon, because I was coming from a non-tech company from the USA Midwest. Amazon's offer felt so high, I excitedly accepted. Amazon rewards people for performance and I was paid plenty in the long run.
I think working at Amazon was a fantastic career choice, and I may end up doing it again someday in the future.
If you practice the interview process, walk carefully through my links above outlining how to pass the leadership principles questions and technical / functional skills, you should have a leg up on other candidates.
Once you do receive your offer, come back to read about how to ramp up at your new position.
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