Amazon is one of the biggest Multinational Corporations (MNC) in the world focusing on e-commerce, cloud computing, digital streaming, and artificial intelligence. In fact, LinkedIn rates Amazon at #1 in the Top Companies List for 2021.
It is also single-handedly responsible for more than 0.8 million jobs around the globe in various capacities. With its fresher and student career programs, the pool of talent at Amazon is growing every year.
Software Development Engineers (SDEs) working there are a major factor in delivering consistent results that Amazon and its associate services are known to deliver to their 310 million clients worldwide. Learn about the various roles played by SDEs, here.
Now, as you can imagine, landing these jobs can be quite tough and, I am not just talking about competition for the said roles :)
The interview process at Amazon is as unique as it is challenging just like at all BIG 5 (FAANG) companies. The questions are comprehensive, difficult, and can get pretty Amazon-specific at times. It has been a cause of worry for a lot of talented job candidates over the years.
It was about time the Preplaced Mentor Community stepped in to help its readers out.
So, we reached out to Nishit Patira, a Senior Software Development Engineer (SDE II) at Amazon Bengaluru. In our discussion, we got to know a lot about how the entire SDE recruitment process is managed as Nishit tried to demystify the interview process at Amazon to the best of his abilities.
Here are some of the highlights from our discussion:
The Prerequisites to applying for an SDE role at Amazon:
- Familiarity with the syntax of languages like C/C++, Java, or Python
- Knowledge of object-oriented design, algorithms, and data structures
- Good analytical and problem-solving skills
- Working knowledge of UNIX and Linux systems
- Bachelor or Master’s Degree in Computer science with at least 1 year of professional experience
- Experience in web and web services-based applications at a massive scale
- Practical experience in building full-stack, large scale distributed systems
The Amazon Interview Process for SDE:
Nishit explains that the Amazon interview process is divided into mainly 5 stages:
- Resume prospecting and HR notification
- OA- Online assessments HLD (in some cases)- The process is underway
- Two phone screening rounds
- Online Interviews- 4 to 6 interviews and LLD
- Debrief- decision is made by the interviewers
Let’s dive right in then, shall we?
1st Round-Candidate prospecting round- Resume and Referrals:
Your resume and cover letter usually land right in the hands of your interviewers i.e. the Senior SDEs at the company. They usually go through a resume and match them with the required skills in the job description and see if they satisfy the requirements for the job. Your educational qualification, projects, previous work experience are all looked at by the said interviewer.
Amazon interviewers don’t allow cover letters and only focus on your resume. So make sure it is up to date at all times!
Tips to make your resume stand out at Amazon?
Spend time on formatting and structuring your resume:
Nishit says that one of the primary things that recruiters look for in your resume is the amount of effort given in making it as concise, arranged, and informative as possible. It also must be submitted in the form of a pdf file. Any other format can get disarranged when viewed on different computers.
Look for mistakes:
Every candidate should proofread his resume before submitting it. Typing and formatting mistakes can be a big turn-off for the interviewers as these factors stand out in the little time they have in looking at resumes
Highlight your work experience, projects, and skills using bullet points to keep sentences short and to the point. This way, you avoid writing long paragraphs and there is a lesser chance of making a mistake.
Highlight your achievements:
For your experience to stand out, you must highlight exactly what you achieved working in a previous role. If you don’t have a lot to go on about your previous work, you need to make sure your projects speak for themselves. You need to describe the objectives, the process, and the results your projects achieved.
Something like this- “Increased productivity of the printers by 20% while reducing the raw material consumption by 20% by improving the process control.”
This ensures that you can drive business value to the company as well as make you stand out amongst a thousand other applications.
Use industry-specific keywords:
Using certain keywords not only helps you go through the ATS systems used in sorting resumes but also, gives the interviewers a better overview of technologies you have attained experience in. The easy way to do this is to rehash your resume and include some keywords from the job description itself (provided you actually have those skills).
Here is a comprehensive work on SDE resumes by the team at Kick Resume. You can also check these 8 powerful general tips for your resume. These two resources are guaranteed to give you an idea about what sort of resumes to prepare
If your resume fits the criteria, you will receive an email or a call from the Amazon HR team informing you about the dates of the first interview round.
2nd-Round, OA- Online Assessments and HLD:
This round is all about filtering out a few of the candidates coming through from the resume round. Nishit explains that this round saves Amazon a lot of time and resources. There are going to be multiple rounds where high-level aspects will be tested. If the interview is for an SDE II role, then there could be as many as 3 separate assessments in this round.
This round lasts about 20 minutes and comprises 7 questions. You will be presented with a problem and a snippet of code that is supposed to solve the problem. You need to fix each of the 7 codes inside the time limit (around 3 minutes each). The three languages required for this round are- Java, C, and C++
The key tip here is to focus on the optimization of the solutions rather than the solutions themselves. For SDE II roles, the questions in this round are quite harder as compared to SDE I roles.
You may also be asked to prepare and then explain a High-level Design (HLD) which needs to be at the least, workable. You will need to use cases, flow diagrams, etc., and then have a dry run of the program before submitting.
3.Work Simulation and Logical Reasoning:
The last online assessment is done in two parts:
Part (i) is an interactive exercise where you will be presented with various scenarios that SDEs face in their daily life at Amazon. You will need to select your response for each of them in a 2-hour long session.
In Part (ii), you will need to solve a set of 24 logical reasoning questions in about 35 minutes. This is done to assess your problem-solving skills and not necessarily your speed in solving each question.
3rd- Round- “Phone Screens”
If you have passed the online assessments, you will be invited to the “phone screening” round. It gets its name from the video conferencing tool used during the interview- Amazon Chime. Here you will be asked a bunch of technical and behavioral questions. Each interview goes for around an hour and you will probably be interviewed by a potential peer or manager.
In the technical part, expect typical data structure and algorithm questions that you have to solve on Collabedit. This editor would not have syntax highlighting or autocomplete features so make sure you adapt to it quickly. Having some practice during your interview preparation is a must.
In the behavioral part, you can find the routine questions of “Tell me about yourself” or “Explain a software you developed or were a part of developing”. However, do not mistake this age-old line of questioning to be easy to answer. At Amazon, your answers must be consistent with Amazon Leadership Principles, to show you are in fact, a good fit for the role.
4th- Round- Online Interview and LLD:
In the old system, after the phone screening round, a candidate was required to spend a full day at one of Amazon’s offices and take part in 4-6 interviews of around 60 minutes each. In the new normal, not much has changed [apart from you being physically present at the office of course :) ]
In the said interviews you will be required to go one-on-one with hiring managers, Senior Executives, Senior SDEs, peers in different parts under this round. Three or four of these interviews will be strictly testing your technical attributes and aptitudes. Coding questions (data structures and algorithm questions)
In some instances, you may still be asked to prepare Low-Level Designs (LLDs) and your grasp over this space will be tested with questions on load balancing, CAP theorem, multithreading, ACID property, SOLID principles, etc.
One thing common in all these interviews is the behavioral questions. Each interviewer is usually assigned to test two or three leadership principles to focus on during your interviews. These questions are asked to test your attitude towards work and the company, which is quite important to Amazon.
Also, don’t worry about “the bar raiser”. Give your best in the interviews and try to be honest about what you can do and what you are yet to learn. His decision carries weight but it won’t matter if you cannot ace the other rounds.
#The Bar Raiser is an interview panelist whose job is to analyze if a certain candidate is better than at least 50% of the current job family he/she has applied to. This is Amazon’s unique way of ensuring that quality talent is added to their growing workforce.
5th Round- The debrief:
In 90% of scenarios, the debrief is held by the Bar Raiser (BR) who is joined by all interviewers in the panel to discuss your performance in all interviews, compare and analyze notes. The BR ensures objectivity is maintained by identifying and asking about the points of contention of the candidate to the panelists.
These debrief last for about 15 minutes and you are selected only when both the BR and the Hiring Manager agree to the motion. However, the BR’s veto is enough to keep your application on hold or rejected. The results are declared around 5 days after the interviews.
Note- The series of rounds or some of the lines of questioning will differ from office to office. However, the process will follow the same pattern and will be equally tricky for candidates to go through.
How to prepare for Amazon SDE Interviews?
Nishit explains that most candidates struggle either with their confidence or with their interview preparation routine. He says that the best way to prepare for an interview is to go back to getting your fundamentals right.
You should constantly be trying to apply your skills through various assessments and projects on your own. In HLD, the key concepts like sharding, applications, hashing, etc. become quite important for clearing your interviews. Therefore, having your fundamentals clear can help you not only land the job but also on the job where you constantly need to learn new skills and come up with new ideas.
Nishit recommends GeekforGeeks as an excellent resource to get your concepts sorted. He also mentions that consistently working on problem-solving questions along with a few other role-specific questions can help. Try to satisfy each prerequisite for the SDE role by taking ample time to develop the said skills.
Is there any benefit to giving mock interviews?
Nishit explains that giving mock interviews regularly can help you understand your frailties and will give you an idea about the aspects you lack in. Mock interviews help by simulating the real interview pressure with skill assessments, tough technical and behavioral questions and at the end, you get feedback on your performance.
Unlike real interviews where you can attempt every 6 months (due to the “cool-off period”) but, mock interviews can be given again and again till you get it right- may it be with your peers or with your mentor.
The key tips for Virtual Interviews:
In SDE interviews, a lot depends on the coding rounds. Nishit explains that many candidates who seem to be struggling with a problem suddenly come up with a well-written code. Then it becomes apparent that the said candidate has taken help from somewhere else. The interviewers will always know if you cheated, even when your camera is off during the interview.
So, do not try to use unfair means, such as taking help from other sources. It could get you blacklisted and that will be that for your dream job.
The final tip for all candidates aspiring to work at Amazon:
“As recruiters and fellow SDEs, we want you to succeed and join the company. So, if you feel like you are underprepared for the interviews and need more time, you can always reach out to HR to reschedule your interview to some other date. It is much preferred if you give your interviews being fully prepared than just going through the process and losing your shot at working here”- Nishit Patira
Hope this helps, good luck!
Get to know Nishit Patira:
Nishit Patira is a BITS Pilani (Goa Campus) graduate and has been working as a Senior Software Development Engineer at Amazon Bengaluru for the last 2 and a half years.
He previously worked as an SDE III at Walmart Labs Bengaluru where he was engaged in making Walmart applications GDPR compliant. He worked there for around 11 months. However, before his stint as an SDE at these companies, he worked at Morgan Stanley for almost 4 years joining as an analyst the moving all the way up to land a Managerial role in 2018. As an undergrad, he interned with Intel and Servomax India.
With a total work experience of more than 7 years with 5 years in Software Development, Nishit has made it a habit to help out students, fresh graduates, and job seekers to land their dream jobs.
Here are a few highlights from our discussion: