Recruitment at Amazon: How does amazon hire?

Introduction

A job at one of the top ten technology businesses is the dream of millions around the world. However, getting selected by one of them is a difficult task because of the heavy competition.  Amazon is the biggest e-commerce business in the world and one of the top five technology players in the United States. The company has seen very fast and profitable growth in the last five years. Not just its e-commerce platform, but Amazon cloud platform AWS (Amazon Web Services) has also experienced rapid growth in the past three years. The size of its human capital has kept growing due to its international expansion and also the number of jobs at Amazon. From hardware and software development to marketing & PR, advertising, customer service, supply chain management as well as fulfilment, there are several types of jobs that Amazon has created.  Amazon is a large tech platform. It hires engineers and managers in large numbers each year. Every year there are also a large number of entry level openings at Amazon. However, as an internet retail company, Amazon’s central focus is the customer. Therefore, the brand’s focus stays on hiring people who can fit in its work culture, business and HR policies.

Hiring and recruitment at Amazon. How does Amazon hire?
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos

Most of the freshers dream of starting their careers from big technology platforms like Amazon. In the long run, it is good for your career since you gain a lot of valuable experience while working in a challenging position at one of the leading technology brands.  This industry has grown highly competitive in the recent years. Technology jobs have grown more complex and demanding. What keeps attracting freshers in larger numbers is the promise of a large salary, other various incentives and on top of them all, the attraction of working for a big brand. Technology companies are focusing on hiring only the best candidates. There is a lot of competition and each technology brand wants to hire candidates having best skills, technical expertise and personality traits. Each brand looks for certain qualities and traits in the candidate and the right technical skills. This is why most tech players including Apple, Google, Amazon and Microsoft have got elaborate hiring procedures consisting of several rounds of interviewing that judge the candidates critically at each stage. So, bagging a dream job at one of these major tech brands is not easy and apart from having the technical expertise, it is equally essential to have the right personal traits and a basic understanding of what the company expects of you. The number of technology jobs has grown fast in recent years due to the expansion and growth of tech industry. There are new start-ups as well as old and large players hiring candidates with a background in technology in larger numbers. These companies have got unconventional business models and want the candidates to think and act unconventionally. Amazon has an elaborate recruitment process that involves several rounds of interviewing before selection.

Read about what are the most outstanding things about Amazon’s hiring process and what the company looks for in prospective candidates. 

What the company looks for in new hires? 

Amazon is a customer centric company. It would not be wrong to say that the company is obsessed with customer service. This is a central focus right since the foundation of Amazon. However, there are many other traits too that Amazon looks for in new hires. They want people who are intuitive and innovative. External leadership recruiters work with some of the brightest business leaders inside the company for hiring new candidates. They are looking for talented people who use data beyond its common usage. Some important things they want to learn are how someone knows what a customer needs or wants and how he determines the right path. Apart from that, Amazon recruiters are looking for product talent having machine learning experience. If someone is a product development candidate, he will face a question like – How do you solve business challenges through machine learning?  As a candidate you must demonstrate unconventional thinking when asked a question by an Amazon recruiter.

Amazon recruitment.
Amazon Campus.

Some of the Alexa shopping leaders at Amazon mention that the environment is highly ambiguous and mostly, there is no clear set direction. So, they want technologists who can work amid ambiguity, identify problems and generate innovative solutions. According to Jenny Blackburn (Biotech leader Alexa shopping), a candidate must have insatiable curiosity and the desire to build new things. Vicky Gkiza, Director of Product management, Alexa shopping, likes candidates having a wider range of experiences or simply put the ones who have followed a non-linear path. Such people demonstrate creativity and persistence, both of which are critical leadership qualities. Abhay Saxena, Principal product manager, looks for product manager candidates that have a proven record in delivering customer value. He is looking for team leaders and people who have solved problems and built and launched solutions in challenging situations. He is looking for leaders who can inspire their teams, build trust with their teams and can go to any extent to make their team successful.

Getting Interviewed at Amazon: 

Amazon aspires to make interviewing as frustration free as shopping and so it has offered several resources to help candidates. From FAQs related to searching for jobs, submitting resume, working with your recruiter and other topics, it has offered several more resources that the candidates can use to gain an understanding of what it is like being interviewed at Amazon and what most likely will the interviewers be looking for. Amazon’s culture is based on its leadership principles and candidates must go through these principles to know how they have applied them in their previous careers.

Phone Interviews: 

Prior to inviting them for an interview, Amazon encourages candidates to connect with a recruiter or a member of the hiring team. The recruiter conducts a phone interview in which questions are related to the leadership principles and their application in the previous career span of the candidate. Often the questions in these phone interviews consist of behavioral based questions and how the candidate has faced and handled challenging situations in the past in the context of the leadership principles. Such interviews often avoid brain teasers because research has showed that they do not measure a candidate’s real performance and success at Amazon.

A first step to being hired at Amazon is to get in touch with a recruiter. A recruiter is not just any person that you have to speak with before you meet the hiring manager. It is the recruiter who makes the first judgment call on the candidate. His assessment is just as important as skills evaluation. When preparing to have a conversation with your recruiter, you must first look at his Linked In profile. These recruiters are hired for their ability of understanding human dynamics, detecting critical business skills and personality traits which fit with Amazon’s culture.  You should offer him concrete examples from your past work experience and demonstrate to him your customer obsession. You should also show how data driven and entrepreneurial you are. Respond to him like you are talking to the hiring manager.

In person Interviews: 

Amazon suggests that interview candidates use ‘STAR’ answer format for answering questions asked during In-person interview for behavioural based interview questions and cite examples from leadership principles.

‘STAR’ format means – Situation, Task, Action and Result. The candidate should use this format to describe specific challenging situations and how they handled them and what was the result.

First the situation – Candidate must provide enough details to help the interviewer understand the complexity of the situation and describe the task he had to accomplish.

Next the Task: Candidate must explain the goal he was working towards.

Third comes the Action part. Here the candidate must describe the actions he took to address the situation with specific details related to the steps he took and his particular contribution. It is not about the entire team but what the candidate personally did and answers must focus specifically upon the candidate.

At last, the time for results. At the end, the candidate must describe the result and take credit of his contribution with no hesitation. If applicable, the candidate must use data or metrics to describe what was the end result and what he accomplished and learned.

Candidates should consider their successes or failures in the context of the leadership principles. They must bring specific examples that showcase their expertise and how they have born risk and failed or succeeded over the course of their career. Amazon considers failure an essential part of innovation and that’s why pays them special importance in relation to hiring. Several of Amazon’s own programmes failed and then rose again from their ashes before being successful. Amazon believes that those who have taken risks and failed and then risen again can become successful in their careers.

At Amazon, you should offer examples from your work history centred upon scope, complexity, recency, and relevancy. In terms of scope, you must bring examples that show you built or enhanced something meaningful or valuable. Moreover, in terms of complexity you must be able to show that you simplified something complex or built something simple and meaningless into meaningful and impactful. Your examples should also be recent and relevant to today’s environment and not from 20 years ago.

Technical Interviews: 

Technological innovation is in Amazon’s DNA and it uses technology to improve every aspect of customer experience that it offers. The candidates are asked questions from a wide range of technical topics that Amazon has offered guidance about on its websites. Programming language is one of the most common technical topics that candidates are asked about. While Amazon does not require candidates to have a very deep knowledge of any of the programming languages, familiarity with any of the common programming languages is necessary for being successful. One should be familiar with syntax of one of the programming languages among Java, Python, C#, C/C++, or Ruby. Knowing memory management or common collections and libraries is even better and can ensure higher chances of being successful.

A lot of work at Amazon involves working with various forms of data and having a strong background in data structures can help you ensure your chances of success. Apart from understanding the inner workings of data structures, knowing run times of common operations and their memory usage also helps. Having a knowledge of algorithms can also grow your chances of success in a technical interview. Knowing some common algorithms such as traversals, divide and conquer, breadth-first search vs. depth-first search and their trade offs can be great. At the technical interviews you can also get a chance to demonstrate your coding skills. Some of the other topics you can be asked about during a technical interview include but are not limited to operating systems, internet topics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, data bases and distributed computing. 

Sometimes you may also be asked to demonstrate your writing skills. At Amazon, the meetings do not have power-point presentations. This is a unique aspect of Amazon culture where they write one to six pages long memos. These memos are read out in the meeting halls. Such memos generally articulate the goals of a project, approach to addressing it as well as expected outcomes and the next steps. So, to fit in the writing culture of Amazon, you must have at least some command on writing. It is a necessary skill at Amazon to be able to articulate your ideas in a written format. 

Role of Bar Raisers: 

Every candidate goes through a series of interviews before being selected. A candidate gets to see two to seven Amazonians based upon the role he is being interviewed for. They include managers, team members, key stakeholders from related teams and a “Bar Raiser”.

The Bar Raiser is an objective third party, usually from another team. He is brought into the hiring loop for being an objective third party and to help make the best long-term hiring decisions. He is a steward of Amazon’s leadership principles. After being nominated for and accepted into the Bar raiser program these people undergo lengthy training. They act as objective advisors during the interview process. Moreover, they can see those aspects of a candidate’s talent which others might miss. They can expertly evaluate talent against the leadership principles and find talent with real potential. There are mainly three responsibilities of bar raisers. Their first responsibility is assessing candidates for specific roles and for long term success at Amazon. The second is to ensure that every candidate is accurately, freely and fairly assessed. The last responsibility is to help the hiring managers prepare for the interview, ask questions and asses the candidate as well as provide written feedback.

Leadership Principles:  

At Amazon, candidates are evaluated on the basis of the leadership principles. These leadership principles also play an important role in the day to day work and management of the company. Candidates should have a nice understanding of these 14 leadership principles to grow their chances of success during the interview. These principles are as follows:

  • Customer obsession : leaders work to earn and retain the trust of customers. They keep an eye on competitors but they love customers first.
  • Ownership: Leaders take ownership and value long term results over short term. They act on behalf of the entire company instead of themselves or their teams.
  • Invent and simplify: Leaders believe in inventing and simplifying and want the same of their teams. They also keep looking for new ideas from everywhere.
  • Are right a lot: Leaders have strong intuition and judgment. They do not remain bound by their beliefs but work to disconfirm them.
  • Learn and be curious: Leaders are always curious about new possibilities and never tired of learning.
  • Hire and develop the best: Leaders have an exceptional eye for the right talent. They are always interested in raising the bar higher with every hiring. They are serious coaches and groom others to become leaders.
  • Insist on the highest standards: Leaders insist on keeping standards high even if others find it unreasonable. They continuously raise the bar to deliver high quality products, services and processes.
  • Think big :- Leaders think out of the box and creating newer and better things for their customers.
  • Bias for action: Leaders are good at calculating risks and moving ahead. After all speed matters in business.
  • Frugality:- Good leaders try to accomplish more with less.
  • Earn trust: Good leaders work to earn people’s trust.  They listen with attention, treat others with respect and always speak candidly.
  • Dive deep: Good leaders dive deep, focus on details and are never hesitant of checking and doing things that may seem beneath them.
  • Have backbone, disagree and commit:- Good business leaders would rather disagree respectfully than commit to decisions they think are not right.
  • Deliver results:- Good leaders bring great results. They always rise to the occasion and never settle.

 
Conclusion: 

Apart from being a major tech player and the leading e-retail company, Amazon is also a leading employer. However, a large number of jobs at Amazon are related to technology and getting hired there might be a long and a bit torturous where you may have to go through several rounds of interviews. One critical trait required for selection is to be customer obsessed. Apart from that, you will also be judged for several critical technical skills in technological areas like data structures and coding. The 14 leadership principles are also critical and you must be able to demonstrate how your previous professional career measures against them. Amazon keeps looking for people who are passionate leaders and unconventional thinkers. Despite the complex nature of these jobs, millions dream of working for Amazon. You can find a large number of resources on the Amazon jobs website, if you are interested in applying for a vacant position there.

Abhijeet Pratap

I have studied Marketing and English Literature and like to write on topics in Business management, Marketing, literature, latest technologies and other areas. I also like to spend my time learning coding.