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Amazon.com Software Development Engineer Interview Questions & Reviews

Updated Jul 7, 2014
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Software Development Engineer Interview

Software Development Engineer
Seattle, WA

I applied through other source and the process took 4 months - interviewed at Amazon.com in May 2013.

Interview Details – Called out of the blue, asked if I'd be interested in interviewing. Still not entirely sure how they got my name. Had first phone interview the next week, asked no personal questions, all technical in nature. Total of 3 phone interviews and an in-person trip out to Seattle.

Took about 4 months start to finish. The people in the in person interview were wonderful. Very smart, laid back, and understanding. Got lunch, small tour of campus, and learned what I'd be doing. Got the offer 2 business days after the in person interview.

Sadly, I signed a NDA and I respect the terms of that. As such, I can't give you any specific questions, but I'll gladly give you the best advice I have.

Phone Interviews :

Phone interviews are sucky by nature. Coordinating a call from west to east coast alone is painful, add the fact that phones just take away the benefits of body language, and just make it harder to hear, and you've got a recipe for disaster. But fear not! Here are some helpful hints, some of which are obvious, some of which are not.

1. Get ready ahead of time. I just mean, get to the area you'll be doing the interview beforehand. I'd recommend an hour or more, just to get your nerves ready. Breathe, get used to the surroundings, and get everything laid out ahead of time. Which brings me to...

2. I know it's a "programming" interview, but for the love of all things good, have a pen and paper ready and at your disposal. Bring a backup pen. Much like a printer, the pen will fail at the worst possible time. You may also need a laptop, as I was asked to do "on the fly" programming. But close anything and everything distracting. Speaking of...

3. Pick a spot where there are no distractions. You'll want your undivided attention on this interview. Don't have BookTweet or FaceSpace or MyGram or that crap open if you have a laptop. And I personally wouldn't pick a public space, you never know when an annoying parent will put their screaming child right beside you.

4. Breathe. Just breathe. Take a moment, stretch, and remember you got this. If you have trouble hearing, don't be afraid to ask again. Don't be afraid to say you don't know. Do as for clarifications, and state assumptions up front. Always re-state the problem as you understand it.

As for the content : For the love of God, know what a time complexity is, and how to determine it for any and all code you write. Know the time complexities of all sorts. Know all data structures, how to use them, and properties of each. (Insertion time, deletion, etc) Generally know what heck you're talking about. But don't talk too much. You don't want silence at any point really, but you certainly don't want to let the interviewer not get a word in. Know graph theory, tree theory, and all the fun stuff associated with more "complex" structures. Understand what your language does behind the scenes, as far as GC and compiling go. Know how your language use internal structures to manage the code/objects you write.

**Continued below**

Negotiation Details – As a recent grad, there wasn't much room for negotiation.

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Software Development Engineer Interview

Software Development Engineer
Seattle, WA

I applied online and the process took 4 months - interviewed at Amazon.com in May 2014.

Interview Details – I submitted an application online and forgot about it, and was contacted by a recruiter a few weeks later. I had two phone interviews about three weeks part. Each one was about an hour and involved technical questions. I did pretty terrible on both of them due to nervousness.

Shortly after (< 1 week) I was invited for onsite interviews. I had 5 interviews + lunch, with a mix of technical and behavioral questions. The questions were typical algorithm/data structures questions, so definitely prepare on those beforehand. The next day I got an email letting me know that they would be extending an offer. I had interviewed at a couple of other places previously which really helped my confidence. Definitely do that if possible.

Interview Question – A lot of behavioral questions, have some experiences memorized so you're not making it up as you go along.   Answer Question

Negotiation Details – I was able to negotiate the base salary a little, but they wouldn't budge very much.

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Declined Offer

Positive Experience

Average Interview

Software Development Engineer Interview

Software Development Engineer
Seattle, WA

I applied through college or university and the process took 2 weeks - interviewed at Amazon.com in November 2012.

Interview Details – I applied through the career fair of our university. They contacted me afterwards and invited for a hiring event at Seattle. There were several candidates who were interviewed on the same day. I had 4 rounds of interviews and the difficulty of questions varied for moderate to hard. With good preparation of computer science basics and some interview practice, it is relatively easy to crack this interview.

Interview Question – I was asked to implement a hash map from scratch. It was challenging because we don't really think in detail about how to do it. There were problems about resolving hash collisions, how to maintain the hash map, how to update/ delete elements, complexity analysis etc. Overall I think this was a very good question to test both CS fundamentals and coding skills.   Answer Question

Reason for Declining – Had better offers.

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Software Development Engineer Interview

Software Development Engineer
Seattle, WA

I applied online and the process took 5 weeks - interviewed at Amazon.com in June 2014.

Interview Details – Had a few phone conversations with HR about specific positions and interests. One technical phone interview with coding on a shared google-doc-like website. Flew me to Seattle and put me up in a nice hotel.

Interviewed with six people back-to-back without pause for four or five hours. Each interview was roughly the same: do some whiteboard coding, answer questions about your history. None of the whiteboard questions were riddles or tricks or things with one weird solution that you probably won't come to on your own. They were just mildly thorny problems where a decent solution involves a map or two and updating data in the proper order: decent and realistic stuff.

Read up on Amazon's Leadership Principles. There is a lot of "behavioral interviewing" where you're asked about challenges you've experienced and how you've responded to them. I went in expecting general questions where they'd analyze my answer to see if it exemplified specific Leadership Principles. In reality, the interviewers just straight-up asked, "tell me about a time where you <INSERT AMAZON LEADERSHIP PRINCIPAL>".

Where Amazon differed from other companies is that I was not given much opportunity to ask questions of the interviewers. They told me the project is secret and that most projects at Amazon are treated as secrets, even to other employees within the company. It's a little weird not knowing 100% what you're signing up for. Also, I didn't get a good feel for the culture of the team I'd be joining.

The whole process took just over a month, which is apparently faster than usual. I was fielding interviews and offers from other companies so continually pushed Amazon to keep the process moving along.

Negotiation Details – Offer was very good, negotiated for a bit more. Probably helped to have competitive offers from other companies on the table.

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1 person found this helpful

No Offer

Negative Experience

Difficult Interview

Software Development Engineer Interview

Software Development Engineer
Seattle, WA

I applied online and the process took 3 months - interviewed at Amazon.com in April 2014.

Interview Details – I didn't hear back from them for over month after I applied. So I contacted them by email to ask about the status of my application, and they replied by inviting me for an on-site interview at their Seattle campus. They didn't ask for a phone interview or talk to me before that. I thought that was weird, but cool nonetheless.

As it turned out, there was a catch. The reason they don't do phone interviews is because the on-site interviews are group interviews with about 50 other candidates. And damn they are difficult. They don't have time to do phone interviews, because they are doing it mass production style. Amazon is growing at a very fast pace, and adding a lot of employees constantly, as well as replacing those who leave because of their high turn-over rate. I guess they figured this is the only way that they can hire a lot of people, yet still ensure they are only getting top quality. I would have preferred if it was one-on-one interviews. Even if I hadn't gotten an offer that way, I would have felt more respected.

The interview day is comprised of one big programming project. We were given old low-end bulky laptops with small screens (14 inch?) to work on. We worked in groups of three. They constantly stressed that we were not competing with either our teammates or other groups, and that if we were all good, they would hire us all. Given the fast rate at which Amazon is growing, I believe that.

I believe the programming project was too big and too time consuming for only about 5-6 hours. I think it favors people with a lot of programming experience rather than problem solving ability. Someone who can crank out a lot of simple code quickly will outperform someone who can write a small amount of really difficult code. I don't think they are necessarily getting the best quality of candidates this way. This is an entry level position, and they shouldn't have interviews more suitable for seasoned software engineers.

Amazon admitted that they have a very frugal cost-conscious company culture and this is a good thing. However, I don't like that they downplayed the frequency with which employees are on-call: where they could be called in the middle of the night and have to wake up and fix a site reliability problem, albeit from their home. According to them, it was a few days every six months, but according to someone I know who worked at Amazon, it is a few days every couple of weeks.

Interview Question – The programming project was too big and time-consuming for completing in under 6 hours. It takes a lot of time to read and fully comprehend the long project writeup and the framework code we are supposed to build on, let alone code it, test it, and comment it.   Answer Question

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Neutral Experience

Difficult Interview

Software Development Engineer Interview

Software Development Engineer
Seattle, WA

I applied online and the process took 3 weeks - interviewed at Amazon.com in March 2014.

Interview Details – I applied to Amazon.com online and received an invitation to interview at their HQ in Seattle ~1 week later. Amazon buys your flight and hotel, but they also reimburse for any expenses aside from alcohol, etc. (it's worth going at least to have fun in Seattle!)

The interview process was grueling. They have you code from ~10AM - 4:30 PM on a project. The project is divided into smaller subsections (usually 3) where you work with 2 other people to understand the project's concept, then go off and work on your own part. You meet with two interviewers -- one for 30 minutes, another for 15. These interviews are broken up throughout the day, but you mostly just code on your section of the project. The interview questions are relevant to CS, software design, your code, and how well you understand the project and other people's sections of the project.

By the end of the day I was ready to run out of their office and head to the corner bar.

Interview Question – None of the questions were difficult. The only 'difficult' question I had was "How would you approach this problem with a better solution?"   View Answer

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No Offer

Neutral Experience

Average Interview

Software Development Engineer Interview

Software Development Engineer

I applied online and interviewed at Amazon.com.

Interview Details – Applied on the website and got call from a recruiting coordinator. She setup the interview a week later. It was a phone interview and I was asked a question on linked list. We came up with two different solution and then, I was asked to code the one with best time complexity.
Heard response in 2 days and moved on to 2nd round. I was asked a design question on which I did not do well.

Interview Question – Design a class for furniture.   Answer Question

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No Offer

Neutral Experience

Software Development Engineer Interview

Software Development Engineer

Interviewed at Amazon.com

Interview Details – I applied on the website. And it take 4 weeks for the interview. It included a phone screen interview, website test, and a onsite interview.
The phone screen interview just included some basic question and a tech question.
The website test included some intelligence tests and 3 coding questions.
The onsite interview took 4 hours and a lunch. The problems included whiteboard problems and some software architecture questions, and other questions I don't remember.

Interview Question – Make true that ur algorithm is not just correct, but also be efficient in time complexity and space complexity.   Answer Question

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1 person found this helpful

Accepted Offer

Positive Experience

Average Interview

Software Development Engineer Interview

Software Development Engineer
Seattle, WA

I applied through an employee referral and the process took 2+ weeks - interviewed at Amazon.com in March 2014.

Interview Details – My resume was submitted through an employee referral and I was invited for an on-site interview at the Amazon Campus in Seattle for a group interview. There was no previous phone screening in my case. We were randomly distributed into 3-person teams and everyone was presented with 3 different problems. The Amazon interviewers and current developers present there mentioned that the problems were simplified versions of real issues that Amazon was dealing with. In our team we had to come to an agreement as to which interviewee would take on which problem. After that, you were pretty much on your own to solve the problem. Each interviewee was given a laptop and there were a variety of programming languages and IDEs available and even an Ubuntu VM. I chose Java, NetBeans, and Windows. You should really choose what you are most comfortable with; don't try to improvise there. Unlike white boards interviews, here you had to get an actual program working, pseudo code would not cut it. On the other hand, you had plenty of time to think about your solution, which is not really the case in other 1 on 1 interviews. Common online resources were available (Google, StackOverflow), you just were not allowed to access personal repositories (Dropbox, etc). Every two hours you would stop coding and would explain your thought process to an interviewer for about 30 minutes, analyzing your approach, your reasoning and what you could do to improve your solution. Even if you have no time for a more carefully optimized solution, you should be able to explain in a detailed manner how you would proceed if you had more time and resources (like a database) and why. Your data structure choices and how to use them was very important in order to provide a working source code solution. Be ready to go through the cons of each decision and think about scalability. Overall, this wasn't a hard interview at all.

Interview Question – There was nothing really unexpected or any unfair questions. I believe the interview was designed to emulate a normal day at Amazon, with all the resources you would have available, being able to discuss your approach with a small team, distributing work and at the end taking on your own responsibility.   Answer Question

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No Offer

Neutral Experience

Average Interview

Software Development Engineer Interview

Software Development Engineer

I applied through college or university - interviewed at Amazon.com in February 2014.

Interview Details – I was applying for this position through the campus job hunting website. There were four rounds of interviews, all about programming and it is the only facet that the recruiters are caring about. Since it was a on-campus interview, the whole process was only two days.

Interview Question – Huffman Coding   Answer Question

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