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Amazon.com Software Design Engineer Interview Questions & Reviews

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Declined Offer

Negative Experience

Average Interview

Software Design Engineer Interview

Software Design Engineer
Seattle, WA

The process took 3 months - interviewed at Amazon.com in October 2011.

Interview Details – Typical Amazon - in my experience. Got contacted by recruiter. I replied, no response. Someone else contacted again after a few days for the same position. Setup phone screen. Aced it. Setup second phone screen. NO ONE CALLS. It happened to me second time. I was interviewing with Amazon in 2010, and the same thing happened. At the time, no one even bothered to follow up. I emailed the recruiter, she did not even reply!!!

This time, the recruiting coordinator was much better and apologized for the bad experience. So I agreed for a second phone screen. Again aced it. They wanted me to come onsite. I was not sure I wanted to work for Amazon. I accepted interview offer anyway and went onsite hesitantly.

Onsite, the recruiter is a no show. I was asked to come for interview starting at 10:30. So I arrive at 10:10 and let the receptionist know. I waited, and waited until 10:45 and receptionist says she is not able to reach the person. Finally, at 10:50, the same recruiting coordinator shows up and apologizes for the recruiter's behalf and says she is stuck in traffic (poor fellow, he has to lie).

Next is a Software Engineer, he struggled to describe the problem and eventually got it right after searching for it on the internet. I partially solved the problem and time was up.

Hiring manager was the biggest joker I have seen so far. He says why am I interested in a position that requires front-end work when all my experience is in backend. Well, first of all HE contacted me for this role. Second of all, it is not a front-end only role (and backed heavy). Third, there are other people who do front-end work already on his team. During the 45 minute "lunch + interview" we spend 25 minutes to pickup lunch, and he wants me to now solve some vague problem (in remaining 5 minutes) that he could not even describe in 15 minutes. He allows me no time to ask him question. Was he afraid of me asking questions?!?!

Now, it gets better though. The product manager and two other SE ask good questions and allows me time to ask questions. The second last interviewer is a no-show. Yes, onsite interview, and no one shows up at the scheduled time. So the previous interviewer looks him up in company directory and calls his office number. And the no-show guy gives a poor excuse that he has to come from another building and he is running late. ?!?!?! What sort of an impression you are putting in front of the candidate? He finally arrives 25 minutes late on a 45 minute interview. Takes one full hour (instead of scheduled 45 minutes), and makes the last interviewer wait for a cool 40 minute. A complete lack of courtesy and professionalism. He did not even apologize for being late. He himself did not understand the question he was asking, and I had to correct his question by asking several counter-questions. The last interviewer takes his regularly scheduled 45 minutes (apologizes on behalf of the late interviewer).

Interview Questions

Reason for Declining – The hiring manager was a joke. Amazon seem to be consistent in no-show on interviews. From what I read, it has happened to other people also. IF this happens on interview, I am sure there is a rampant "drop the ball" culture at Amazon. I am too punctual and sincere for my career to risk it at Amazon. With its razor thin margins, and over-inflated stock (may I call it a bubble), I think it waiting to bust sooner rather than later.

Also when I asked multiple employees on what they are most happy about working at Amazon, the canned and learned answer came as "People". It seems this is one of the Amazon's weekness and they are hiding it by training interviewers to give this canned answer.


Declined Offer

Positive Experience

Difficult Interview

Software Design Engineer Interview

Software Design Engineer
Seattle, WA

I applied through college or university and the process took 3 days - interviewed at Amazon.com in October 2010.

Interview Details – I was contacted by email after visiting the Amazon booth at my university's Career Fair, and a recruiter set up an on-campus interview.

My first interviewer was very chill, but was almost plodding in his need for detail. Another peculiar technique was to ask for a solution, and when I gave him one, ask for another and another and another and another, until I was giving less and less efficient solutions. He wanted me to admit that some of the naive solutions would be faster to implement than my initial optimal solutions, and therefore valuable when you want to get a feature out there immediately and scale it up later. Then, he had me code on a piece of paper, and was very picky about syntax. I received a phone call from him about an hour later, congratulating me and setting up three more on-campus interviews for two days later.

My second interviewer was also pretty chill. He started out by enthusiastically describing the challenges of optimal shipping. He had me code up a couple problems on the white board, and seemed surprised by my use of bitwise operators.

My third interviewer was the most senior. He had me design a chess game, and implement several of the key classes and methods. He also asked me some behavior questions relating to my past experiences with group coding projects.

My final interviewer had to have been the bar-raiser. He was a short dude with a very intense stare. As soon as I walked over to his cubicle, he informed me that he "had been listening to [my] last interview through the wall". I was kind of weirded out, but relieved that I hadn't screwed up the last one. The final interviewer asked me some more behavioral questions, and had me code up a LRU cache. I hadn't done that problem before, so it was fun working up to the optimal solution.

A week later, I got an email congratulating me and asking to set up a phone call to discuss the offer. They also invited me to Amazon headquarters to stay for three nights, meet all the teams, and hang out in Seattle for the weekend. I haven't decided whether to accept the offer, but I am looking forward to the visit!

Interview Questions

Reason for Declining – I have several appealing offers and I've never been to Seattle or Amazon headquarters, so I don't want to make a decision until Amazon flies me out to headquarters.


2 people found this helpful

Accepted Offer

Positive Experience

Average Interview

Software Design Engineer Interview

Software Design Engineer
Seattle, WA

I applied through an employee referral and the process took 3 days - interviewed at Amazon.com in April 2007.

Interview Details – Note, this interview process was for a summer internship. The process began with a phone conversation with an HR person. The conversation consisted of gauging my interest in various groups that I could work with at amazon.

Later, I went through the first technical phone interview. This lasted about 45 minutes. I was first asked to list which programming languages I had used and how strong I was in each. I was then asked some java specific questions: What is the purpose of the static keyword? What is the difference between a String and a StringBuffer? Then, some object oriented design questions. Then some simple algorithmic questions: Find a common ancestor in a binary tree, find first non-repeated character in a string. All of these questions were answered verbally and the interviewer was satisfied with a general solution.

The second technical phone interview lasted about an hour. It began with some discussion of my resume. I was asked questions related to:

General operating system details:
- Difference between process and thread
- What does it mean for a method to be threadsafe
- Know what a stack crash is? -> what happens during a function call, how can this be exploited

Programming:
- Find unique words in text files
- Cell phone, phone book, data structure for storing numbers, so that you could type first letter and see what names it matched -> essentially looking for a prefix tree
- Have you used makefiles before -> was going to go into a tree description of that
- How would you output a tree by level

Bit-twiddling
- How could you tell if a byte only contained a 1 in the leftmost bit
- How could you count the number of ones in a byte

Design
- Email sender, need to send 100,000000 emails and you have 5 machines how could you do it efficiently

These first two interviews felt pretty relaxed. When describing the solution to a problem I would give a quick sketch, saying something like "I would hash a count of each letter" and at this point the interviewer would acknowledge that I was on the right track and just move onto another question without digging for details.

In the third technical phone interview consisted of a single programming task. I was asked to code up the solution to a simple problem and email it to the interviewer. This took about 30 minutes, I then described what the code was doing to the interviewer. I did not find the programming question hard, and this last interview felt like more of a formality. At no point did I feel like I had the burden of convincing the interviewer that I was the right candidate.

Worth noting, is that I had previously done an internship with Amazon, and this may have influenced how the interviewers were behaving toward me.

Interview Questions

  • Began by asking if I knew what a stack crash is. Then asked what happens during a function call, and how can this be exploited.   View Answer
  • Design an email sender that can send 100,000,000 emails. You have 5 machines how could you do it efficiently.   View Answers (3)
  • Given a string find the first non-repeated character.   View Answers (8)
  • Binary tree with parent pointers, given two nodes find common ancestor.   View Answers (3)
  • Given two linked lists A and B, return a new linked list C, where C consists of all elements in A or B that are contained in only A or only B.   View Answers (2)

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