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Amazon.com Software Development Engineer Interview Questions & Reviews

Updated Apr 19, 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**

Interview Question – In person interviews :

Day before :

If you've made it this far, first off, congrats. Take a step back and realize you're already among the best. Relatively few people actually make it this far, but you're not off the bat yet. You'll very probably be doing a 3 day/2 night stay. I had to fly across country, (E to W coast.) and that trip alone is enough to stress anyone out. But once you FINALLY get there, just get to your hotel. Public transit is pretty easy from the airport to downtown, but take a cab if you prefer.

Honestly, the best thing you can do this first day, is just get your bearings. Drop your stuff off in the hotel, and find just some normal (for you) food. Don't get all exotic and try something you've never had. Don't get alcohol. I sound probably like your mother. Sorry. But just try to find where you'll be interviewing. Get a feeling for how long it'll take to get there in the worst case scenario.

Once you've done all that, I'd hang out in the room, review some of the above stuff a bit, and try to hit the hay by 10 at the latest.

Day of:

Breathe. I went for a nice little jog in the gym across the street. Helped to relax me a bit. Whatever helps you do that, find it and do it. Eat a light and again, KNOWN breakfast. If you've never eaten it before, DO NOT do it that day. I'd recommend something simple, toast, fruit etc. Dress well, not full out suit, but I wouldn't show up in a tank top and shorts. (Though, one of my interviewers was in shorts... so???) I just did khakis and tucked in button down with rolled up sleeves.

I walked there, it was about a 15 minute walk and showed up about 40 minutes early. I wouldn’t personally go any earlier than that, but there’s a starbucks downstairs, so that might be a good place to relax a bit before you go upstairs. The receptionist greeted me, and got me all checked in. Once you sit down, this is an **ideal** time to turn off your cell phone. And I mean off. Few things are more detrimental to an interview than having that random alarm you set go off in the interview. Just turn it off. All the way off. It’ll be OK, your texts will be there when you’re done I promise.

The first person I met with wasn’t an interviewer. She was just to talk to me a bit, walk me to the room I’d be in for the rest of the day, and chat with. Ask this person your questions. We got coffee, sat down for a bit and just chatted. She asked what I did, I asked what she did etc. She told me about who I’d be meeting with that day, and my general timeline after the interview. Super nice.

The next 5 hours were just random questions about CS in general. Be prepared to write a lot of code that day (on a whiteboard), and know your crap. You’ll be asked all kinds of fun questions, probably very specific to the domain of the team interviewing you. Know the same stuff from above.

In these interviews, it’s best to show your confidence, and show them your knowledge, but more importantly your potential. You’ll very probably know 75% to 80% of the content they ask right off the bat. The rest may require some thinking out loud and vocalizing your thought process. Don’t stare at the board blankly. Talk to them, ask questions, bounce ideas off them, and just be a normal person. Pretend you already have the job, and they’re just there as a code reviewer/fellow engineer. I promise, it’ll go quickly, and by the end, you won’t believe how much knowledge you were able to just spout out.

That being said, I’ll quote one of the engineers, “The best thing you can do is to just get something working.” And he’s right. Just get an implementation down. Don’t necessarily write the most naive approach or the brute force approach (as a general rule, anything with a O(n^2) or worse run time isn’t worth writing down), but the next best idea, just go with it. Don’t over engineer it at first, just start. And then yall can optimize together. They’re great people, and they just want to see how you think.

Finally, just be yourself. Show them you like coding, and it’s what you want to do with them. Don’t be afraid to interact with them like they’re just old coding buddies. Make them laugh, have fun, but not too much. Remember, they’re still ultimately responsible for your next job. Just be you, and be confident. You go this in the bag already.

Most importantly, go out and celebrate when you're done. :D
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Negotiation Details – As a recent grad, there wasn't much room for negotiation.

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Difficult Interview

Software Development Engineer Interview

Anonymous Interview Candidate

I applied online and the process took 2+ weeks - interviewed at Amazon.com in February 2014.

Interview Details – I was selected for a phone interview, scheduled time away from my current job to fulfill a one hour time slot away from the office I drove to work 45 minutes away instead of busing so that I could leave for the interview mid-day. After 15 minutes of waiting for the call at a Starbucks, I emailed the person who scheduled the interview about the delay. an additional 30 minutes later, I called her and was informed that there was a last minute reason they had to postpone the interview and I would hear from them later that week. Despite my attempts to follow up, I never heard from them again.
I can understand not being selected, but I can't understand that they wouldn't let me know early enough for me to avoid wasting so much time.

Interview Question – The most difficult question was mine:
I can understand not being selected, but I can't understand that they wouldn't let me know early enough for me to avoid wasting so much time. Why would you schedule me for an interview, then lose interest in me and not even let me know but rather just not show up? If I did the same, I would probably be blacklisted by your company!
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Average Interview

Software Development Engineer Interview

Anonymous Interview Candidate
New York, NY

I applied through a recruiter and the process took a day - interviewed at Amazon.com in February 2014.

Interview Details – Got contacted by an Amazon recruiter via LinkedIn for a position in Seattle - they were doing superdays in NYC. During the interview - met with 4 people. The interview process is casual, but they type everything in as they talk to you. They present you with real issues from their experience and ask how you would solve them.

Interview Question – How do you design the system to allow users to rent movies on-demand, provided that all movies are already stored on a company ftp server.   View Answer

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Average Interview

Software Development Engineer Interview

Anonymous Interview Candidate

Interviewed at Amazon.com

Interview Details – online problems including two programming questions and twenty reasoning questions and some other Psychological Testing questions. The two programming problems are not very difficult, I think the point is the
time and space used. you should be careful of time to finish the 20 reasoning questions, there are verbal reasoning questions and table data reasoning questions.

Interview Question – the programming questions are not very difficult. one is compute the maximum amplitude of a binary tree, the other is to choose the values of parameters to get the maximum value.   Answer Question

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Difficult Interview

Software Development Engineer Interview

Anonymous Interview Candidate
Seattle, WA

I applied through a recruiter and the process took 4 weeks - interviewed at Amazon.com in October 2013.

Interview Details – I had 2 phone interviews, then a web-cam interview and programming session, then a 6 hour long web-cam interview with 6 different people. The last step was intense and exhaustive. I talked to developers, managers and the director of the department. All of them was about my background experiences, some programming questions and problem solving sessions. Questions were not as difficult as the ones that exists on internet, but related to work group is developing. They do not require any particular language for solving problems, language is irrelevant for them, what they want to see is how you think and work. No brain teasers asked :)

Interview Question – They asked about the most difficult problem I had to solve in my past jobs, this was a difficult questions because I did not work on projects that are as complex as Amazon's systems and finding an impressive problem was very hard for me. Must be prepared about these questions beforehand.   Answer Question

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Neutral Experience

Software Development Engineer Interview

Anonymous Interview Candidate

Interviewed at Amazon.com

Interview Details – I am doing the first round interview. It has 3 parts, coding , reasoning assessment and working style assessment.
After the first round applicants will be asked to fly to Seattle for the next found.
I got the chance through campus career fairs.
Amazon's questions can be prepared by looking the cracking coding interviews.

Interview Question – Didn't expect there will be reasoning and working style assessment.   View Answer

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Neutral Experience

Software Development Engineer Interview

Anonymous Interview Candidate

Interviewed at Amazon.com

Interview Details – online assessment and onsite

Interview Question – system design and some detailed concepts   Answer Question

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Declined Offer

Positive Experience

Difficult Interview

Software Development Engineer Interview

Anonymous Interview Candidate
Seattle, WA

I interviewed at Amazon.com in September 2012.

Interview Details – 1 phone screen + 5 trechnical interviews, Techinical interview was fully algorithm and data structure questions, and questions on past projects and. Drilling deep on past projects. Design questions to test OOP principles. A lunch interview with the senior manager to discuss scope and problem statement for the current team.

Interview Question – Usual Algo and data structure questions followed by Design an ATV [Tested OOPS principles]   Answer Question

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2 people found this helpful

No Offer

Neutral Experience

Difficult Interview

Software Development Engineer Interview

Anonymous Interview Candidate

I applied through a recruiter and interviewed at Amazon.com.

Interview Details – Got contacted by a recruiter. They flew me out the next week to do a group interview where I coded on a three piece project. Each individual in the team works on a portion of the project, but you work as a team to develop the entire concept of the program. Total of 7 hours with about 5 hours of interviewing. Meanwhile a group of 4 amazon employees are watching you and eventually you get a one-on-one interview to discuss the current implementation of your code.

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Positive Experience

Difficult Interview

Software Development Engineer Interview

Anonymous Interview Candidate
Seattle, WA

I applied through college or university and the process took 3 weeks - interviewed at Amazon.com in March 2014.

Interview Details – Contacted after Career fair for the On-site interview and at their headquarter in seattle, they divided the applicants into groups of three. We had to spend few hour to do code. After the interview they followed me up pretty quickly. I didn't make it. Yet they asked me to apply after 6 months once again.

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