Getting Hired at Amazon

Okay, for the next installment in my “getting hired at…” series let’s turn our sights to another local giant, Amazon.com, and discuss some of the factors involved in landing employment at that company and what the realities might be in terms of working there.

From what I’ve witnessed, Amazon wrested away the “smart, innovative company people like to work for” title from Microsoft a number of years back — fairly or unfairly — and as a result, Amazon is now taking a lot more flack around their working conditions and has attracted a fair amount of negative press from the media.  Simply given their size and astronomical growth, they are now the “big kid on the block” that people like to pick on, just as Boeing and Microsoft were for decades prior.  And yet, they continue to be one of the top three employers, by far, that people tell me they’re targeting.

And yet, interestingly, I don’t get many clients coming to me from Amazon looking to make a job or career change.  So whether this suggests the company actually is a pretty good place to work, or Amazon employees simply have far less difficulty making a job switch given their pedigree, I’m not sure.  It’s telling, though, that I rarely hear people who work at Amazon complaining about the company.  Most of the criticism seems to come from outside sources and circles.

At any rate, here’s a handy collection of curated links regarding the realities of pursuing/building a career at Amazon, followed by a series of comments I’ve heard directly from people who have interviewed there.  As with my Microsoft article, previously, I ask everybody to take all of this information with a grain of salt, since it’s primarily anecdotal in nature.  But still, when these data points are considered as a whole, they should paint a pretty useful picture of some of the key themes and memes taking place within this e-commerce industry giant.

GETTING HIRED AT AMAZON: USEFUL LINKS & ARTICLES

•  Amazon.com Jobs Portal
•  Glassdoor.com Amazon Reviews Page
•  Glassdoor.com Amazon Interviews Page
•  Indeed.com Reviews on Amazon
•  Indeed.com Forum Articles Related to Amazon
•  Amazon’s Current Employees Raise the Bar for New Hires
•  What is Life Like for an Amazon Worker?
•  Interview Insider: How to Get Hired by Amazon
•  How Amazon Hires: No Mistakes Allowed
•  Working at Amazon is a Soul-Crushing Experience
•  What Are the Pros & Cons of Working at Amazon?
•  3 Questions Amazon’s CEO Asks Before Hiring Anyone
•  A Contract Worker’s Take on Amazon
•  Amazon & Microsoft Employees Party Differently
•  Why Amazon Pays Employees $5,000 to Quit

GETTING HIRED (& WORKING) AT AMAZON: INTERESTING THINGS I’VE HEARD

•  Amazon has 14 key leadership principles (listed here) that they follow closely; interview candidates at all levels should have examples ready that demonstrate these attributes
•  The company historically has placed a great value on formal educational credentials; in the early days, even their warehouse workers were expected to have a college degree
•  Amazon was one of the first companies — or possibly the pioneer — of asking a veteran employee (called the bar-raiser) to evaluate candidates solely on cultural fit, not just skills
•  The company is so obsessed with serving customers that almost all of their resources are channeled into customer-facing departments; other support functions lag way behind
•  There is rumored to be little work/life balance at Amazon; the company expects people to be extremely devoted to their jobs and willing to work more hours than at other firms
•  Amazon tracks the interview process very carefully; phone screeners take detailed notes on a person’s initial responses and pass this information forward to hiring managers
•  Amazon interviewers are trained not to give any direct feedback or clues as to how a candidate is faring; you’ll rarely know how you’re doing during the interview process
•  Given that the Amazon culture is (theoretically) very focused on getting the right person in the right role, recruiters will often suggest other positions that might be a better fit than the one to which a person initially applied
•  Amazon values critical thinking and will ask several questions, minimum, designed to see how you approach problems; these usually aren’t “stumper” questions, however
•  Apparently, Amazon doesn’t encourage candidates to follow up aggressively after interviews and will be hesitate to give out e-mail addresses or contact info; don’t ask for it
•  You will be asked up front, in the phone screen, how much salary you’re looking for and they will insist on a specific answer, so don’t dance around this issue

So there you have it — that’s the skinny on what I’ve heard about Amazon.  Anybody out there have any additional perspectives or insights to contribute?  Any tips on how to succeed in the interview process?  Any information that contradicts some of the information that I’ve passed along above?  If so, please feel free to contribute a comment after this article, even anonymously if that’s your preference!

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6 Responses to “Getting Hired at Amazon”

  1. You can also check this article on how to prepare for Amazon behavioral interviews: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/3-tips-get-job-amazon-francois-leborgne

  2. I worked at Amazon over three years, across two teams. While there are positive aspects, overall, I found the experience draining and stressful. Here are some thoughts:
    – Work/life balance is tough, and demands often include work in evenings and on weekends. That’s fine if you’re young with few outside obligations.
    – There’s a great deal of ambiguity. My most recent role covered marketplaces worldwide, but there was little structure or guidance on what should be prioritized. No goals were included.
    – Communication can be a challenge. E-mails can be terse, confrontational.
    – Metrics rule, so one should be comfortable with analysis, including data pulls from a SQL warehouse.
    – Meetings can be adversarial, more than at other companies.
    – Though compensation includes vesting in Restricted Stock Units (RSUs) over a four year period, with 80% vesting in years three and four, many choose to leave before they’re fully vested.
    – The company lives and breathes its Leadership Principles (http://www.amazon.com/Values-Careers-Homepage/b?node=239365011 – e.g. customer obsession, invent and simplify, disagree and commit, . . . ), so in interview process, quantify how your past experience ties in to those principles.
    – There are more bright, dedicated people there than any other place I’ve worked.

  3. Amazon is one of the nastiest at enforcing their employee non-compete agreements, creating a “tech slavery” fear with their employees. This might account for what you do/don’t hear and how much movement there is out of the company.

  4. I can verify a lot of what you have said. I made it all the way through the interview process, but didn’t get an offer. The onsite interviews were me in a room, all day long, as a series of people came in and grilled me. There was no feedback or any indication that I was doing well or not. At the end of the day, my boss-to-be (who had a wife and kid at home) took me to dinner, and then headed back to the office to keep working at like 8 or 9pm.
    The salary question did come up on both phone screens I’ve done, and the pay was a bit lower than I would expect for the role and the cost of living in Seattle (I’m coming from out of state).
    They are for real about the values. Disagree and commit is a big deal there and I think my “open to other ideas” mentality didn’t help me any there.
    They will not give you ANY feedback, even after the fact, as to how you did and why you did or did not get an offer.

  5. I’m not sure whether you can track this on LinkedIn, but “Previous: Amazon” and Current: “Other” may reveal a pattern of Ex-Amazon movement. The time period of next hire is especially relevant to your question about why you don’t get ex-Amazon employees as clients.

    I have know several Amazon employees (and ex-) personally and they all have said the pressure to work more is real. They frequently could/cannot keep personal commitments because of work. Whether it comes from the company, or from fellow employees, I haven’t found that out.

    To me, it just sounds like start-up behavior. Run lean, hire employees that are resourceful and flexible and count on running on adrenaline. But Amazon isn’t a start-up any more, so people expect them to be kinder as an employer. That’s where the venting comes from.

  6. Had a person e-mail me this comment, asking for anonymity: “An acquaintance of mine left Microsoft to go to Amazon. He is a developer. He told me he worked 7 days/wk and got about 5 hours of sleep every night. He also said his co-workers would keep up that pace until they ended up in the hospital. Then, they would quit. He said at least half the people don’t make it to a year. Things moved so fast that they would write software code with the expectation it would be thrown out in 6 months. He lasted maybe not quite two years and took a job at a company in Silicon Valley. He also said Amazon tends to keep costs very low and mentioned something about using card tables for desks and that he bought his own computers to use in his job.”

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