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Navigating the Amazon Interview Process

by Leonidas Oyaga, LBS Elevate Class of 2020

I participated in Amazon’s recruitment process for the company’s Pathways program. Although I was not given an offer to join them for the summer, I had a positive experience throughout the process. The timeline had well-defined and clear steps, Amazon’s recruiting team was quick in communicating their decisions to candidates, and the interviews had a standard format. Here’s a detailed overview of my interview experience in early 2020. Please be aware that companies like Amazon are always adapting ways of recruiting candidates, so my experience may not look like yours.

The first step of the application consisted in submitting my CV via Amazon’s application web- platform. A week after submitting my CV, I was invited to do an online quantitative assessment. If you are comfortable interpreting graphs and charts, for example, understanding growth trends, profitability, and optimisation, you should have no problem on the test. As a pointer for future interviewees, it is a good idea to spend some time understanding each new set of data before jumping into answering the first question in the set that you are given. Classes like “Data Analytics” or “Business Analytics” are a good way to prepare!

About 2 weeks days after completing the numerical assessment, I received an email inviting me to participate in the next stage of the recruitment process, to take place in another two weeks . The first interview rounds consisted of two 30-minute in-person interviews with Amazon employees from different business areas. If I was successful, I would then be invited to the second interview round that consisted of two 45-minute in-person interviews with two different Amazon employees. In preparing for the interviews I went through Amazon’s 14 leadership principles, and prepared stories from my past professional experiences to demonstrate the application of those principles. I did make sure that each principle was covered at least in one of the stories I prepared.

Before the first round of interviews I was asked to submit a Writing Exercise. I had to choose among two different prompts. More than knowledge of a specific topic, they were evaluating the candidates on clarity of thought and expression – can you explain your point well – and organisation and structure – does your writing follow a common thread, does it make sense. I spent about an hour completing this assignment, making sure I had a clear and well-structured answer, but I was more focused on preparing the stories for the in-person interviews. I felt that preparing effective interview examples in the “STAR” format was a more important part of my interview process.

Three days before the first round of interviews I was given the time and place of the interview, and the name and position of the interviewer. I appreciated that Amazon shared these details, since it allowed me to research about the interviewer’s background. I usually perform better in interviews in which I have a feeling that I know something about the interviewer, it makes it easier for me to build rapport with him/her.

On the day of my scheduled interviews, my first interviewer started by explaining the structure of the interview and the time allocated to each part. During the first 25 minutes I was asked three situational questions (tell me about a time when, etc). While I was answering the questions, whenever the interviewer felt I was not giving him enough detail or he wanted to understand better my involvement in the story, he would prompt me with follow up questions. I did not like the fact that most of the time, the interviewer was more focused on jotting down notes – more than I had experienced in other interviews – and less in listening to me (it is quite hard to listen attentively and write at the same time). The last five minutes I had the opportunity to ask two questions, and my interviewer was expecting me to do so. The second interview had a similar structure and dynamic, but of course with a different interviewer.

That same night I received an email confirming my invitation to the second round of interviews. Again, I was provided with the time, location and names of the interviewers. Both second- round interviews were very similar to the first-round interviews. Based on feedback from classmates, interviewers who interviewed me in the second-round had interviewed some of my classmates during the first-round. However, I felt that the second-round interviewers were more distant. I did not manage to build rapport with either of them, and for most part of the interviews I felt uncomfortable. I cannot tell if I was lucky to have more approachable interviewers in the first-round or if the process is structured such that second-round interviewers remain distant to evaluate how candidates behave under different circumstances. Just a few days after completing the second-round interviews I received an email notifying me of Amazon’s final decision.

Even though I was not extended an offer to join the Amazon Pathways program, I had a good experience during the recruitment process. The whole process was well structured, I had clear expectations of every step and so I could better prepare for them, and the questions asked during the interviews were all within the scope of what I expected. Finally, the feedback after each round was relatively quick.

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