Interviewing at this self-proclaimed "peculiar company" is a little different from the usual — here's what to expect
As you'd expect from a trillion-dollar company, Amazon has a rigorous and unique recruiting process. Like many large tech companies, they don't put much stock in cover letters — which means your resume must stand on its own.
Like Zappos and Airbnb, Amazon bases its hiring decisions on culture fit as much as a candidate’s qualifications. The term ‘culture fit’ has courted bad press for eroding workplace diversity, but at Amazon it simply refers to a set of leadership principles that guide the company’s mission. "Customer obsession" is at the heart of it.
The hiring process can be broken down into 5 steps, and reportedly ranges from one week to four months, depending on the role and team. Depending on the role you’re interviewing for, you may be required to take a technical or non-technical assessment, answer behavioral questions or even complete a writing sample.
1. A recruiter will reach out via email or LinkedIn
Many Amazon hires are headhunted, meaning a recruiter sources candidates via LinkedIn and invites them to apply — usually to one specific role. Whether you applied online or were “discovered” a recruiter will contact you to set up a 15-30 minute phone screen. At this point they'll ask for your resume, so have one prepared.
2. Phone screen
Like any standard phone screen, the recruiter will ask basic questions about your background (“What experience do you have managing teams?”) and assess your interest level and fit for the role. They may also ask about salary expectations. Our advice is to defer this conversation to the end — read our guide on salary negotiation for the right language to use.
3. More phone interviews
If you pass the phone screen, you’ll be invited to do subsequent video screens. These may involve a hiring manager or a peer of the same level as your role, who will ask more in-depth questions about your resume as well as behavior-based questions (“Tell me about a time you failed and how you handled it”).
For a software engineering role, be prepared to answer technical questions about algorithms, data structures and coding. Have a notebook, pen and laptop ready as you may be required to code on the fly.
If you're interviewing as a product manager, expect to work on a case and answer strategy questions. Operations roles usually involve a deeper discussion of your resume. Designers should expect to go through your portfolio.
Depending on the role, you may be asked to provide or discuss examples of past work. If possible, hyperlink these samples in your resume (if you code, make sure your GitHub portfolio is ready for prime time).
4. Onsite interviews
Amazon’s onsite interviews are known as a “Loop” where you spend an entire day with 4-6 current staffers at its Seattle headquarters. Due to current COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, all interviews are being conducted virtually. Your interviewers may comprise senior members on your team, a prospective teammate, someone from the hiring team, and what’s called a “bar raiser.”
A bar raiser is an Amazon employee trained to be an interview expert. They serve as an objective mediator for hiring decisions outside their department to ensure a fair decision-making process. Their job is to determine whether or not you would “raise the bar” on performance or simply perpetuate the status quo -- a concept borrowed from Microsoft’s hiring methods.
You may not know who the bar raiser is; however, one important clue is they will emphasize questions regarding Amazon’s leadership principles. They are also typically the last person you interview with onsite.
The bar raiser will pay special attention to the following:
5. Offer or no offer
Behind the scenes, a hiring committee decides on offer or no offer, and also collectively set your level (which dictates your salary range). A hiring manager will then usually follow up by phone within two days to one week to let you know the outcome.
If Amazon does make you an offer, the recruiter will discuss the terms with you (salary, work location, hours, etc.). If you choose to negotiate (and you should!) any adjustments would be approved by a seperate compensation committee. If everything is kosher, the recruiter will send over the necessary paperwork.
Amazon advises candidates to research typical behavioral interview questions and come prepared with five stories to share. For best results, frame your responses using the STAR method.
Situation: Describe the situation you were in or the task you had to accomplish.
Task: What goal were you working toward?
Action: Describe the actions you took to address the situation.
Result: Explain the outcome of your actions.
In addition to sizing up your technical skills, recruiters will gauge the extent to which you identify with Amazon’s leadership principles. The top two are customer obsession (putting the user first) and ownership (being invested in the mission and bigger picture). Regardless of your position in the hierarchy, you’ll be expected to demonstrate these leadership traits.
The bar raiser has veto power over your hiring; even a hiring manager can’t override their final verdict. Before your onsite interview, get familiar with a bar raiser’s role and what they’re looking for.
1. Sample behavioral questions
2. Sample technical questions for software engineering and product management roles
3. Sample questions for area manager/project manager roles
Find out how much you’re worth and how to ask for more — the right way.