A virtual world: Interviewing for Amazon

interview Apr 29, 2020

Back in January I attended Crack the Code with AWS, an event focused on learning how to crack the coding interview and what, specifically, Amazon looks for in the interview process. In December I had interviewed for Google, and that unfortunately did not pan out. What did help though was all of the preparation that I had done for that interview.

During the event, they had some open time to talk to recruiters, as well as the team that was hosting the event. The team also had some open positions for people to apply to. I decided to talk to the recruiter and see where it went. The team was nice, and seemed like a good fit. I followed up with the recruiter the next day and inquired about interviewing for the open position. The following week I had the initial phone screen to make sure I don't have three heads, and just a general approach to my resume. This went well, and we discussed moving on to the technical phone interview. The phone interview was scheduled for February 25th.

Leading up to the phone interview I was hesitant about interviewing for Amazon. You hear a lot of stories, and it deterred me from having full interest. I of course prepared what I needed to, and still went into it with the hopes of moving on. Turns out, I felt like I did terrible on it. The technical questions I answered correctly, except for one, but the coding portion of the interview I felt did not go well. However, a few days later I received good news that I would move on to the on-site portion of the interview. This was scheduled for a few weeks later, on March 20th.

After hearing that I would be moving to the on-site interview, I also heard that the interview would now take place as a virtual interview, due to the up and coming COVID-19 pandemic. At this point the pandemic was still new, but we all know how it has turned out thus far. Leading up to the interview I reviewed some problems I had done on LeetCode, and went over anything I felt I needed a refresher on. There were 2 major items that helped me immensely in my preparation for this interview.

Prep Materials

  1. Taken from Cracking the Coding Interview, the behavioral chart helped me prepare for the Leadership Principles (LPs). The idea is to take at least 5 projects, and answer the following for each: Most challenging? What you learned? Most interesting? Hardest bug? Enjoyed most? Conflicts with teammates? By answering these questions, it helps you prepare with situations that can help you answer the dreaded "Tell me a time when..." questions.
  2. The second one, and honestly what made me go from hesitant to full steam ahead to get this job, was the following article I stumbled across on a LeetCode forum: Interviewing at Amazon — Leadership Principles. This article explained to me the purpose of the LPs, and made me see Amazon in a whole new light.

After reading that article on the LPs, I wanted this job. It may not be the same for you, but I have a love for the LPs and what they stand for. Make sure when you make your chart, to gear your stories towards the LPs, regardless of what company you are interviewing for because I believe they should be core values that we all follow.

Friday came and went, and I felt very confident about how it went. But that didn't mean I wasn't quietly freaking out the whole weekend. It was definitely a different experience having to do the interview on video instead of in person, but it wasn't much different. The only strange thing was not having a whiteboard. The important thing is to prep for LPs. Prep for LPs. Prep for LPs. Don't forget that. Each interview will include LPs, along with a full interview solely for LPs. There are of course the technical questions, and a coding question as well in each, besides the behavioral interview. I felt at the end more time was spent on LPs then the technical aspect, although don't let the technical stuff slip from your prep because the questions were still challenging! I also accidentally repeated myself a couple times because the interviewers asked similar questions, and by the end I was fried. This is why I recommend prepping, if possible, more than 5 projects on your chart because you never know if stories overlap or don't fit. Of course, as I said before gear your chart towards LPs, because questions are asked to hit specific LPs.

The waiting period after on-sites is always the worst, it was for my Google on-sites, and Amazon was no different. But surprisingly, by Monday night I had received an update from my recruiter, with scheduled time for that same Wednesday. And...drum roll please...I got the job! I couldn't believe it, and was excited that all of my hard work in prepping had paid off, even if it hadn't for Google. I have now been at Amazon for about a week, and so far, I love it. The pure technical prowess of Amazon, and more specifically AWS, as that's where I work, is amazing. I can't wait to see where this leads me, and how much I will learn.

Chris Santos

Full-stack javascript engineer. Blogger, Nomad, Do-It-Yourself-er — author of express project generator Xpresso