Job Interview at AWS
As I love AWS and their products, I just wanted to work for them, too. So I took the chances and applied for some positions at their global Amazon Jobs page. In this post, I’ll give you some insights on the application process, how I experienced it.
Note: Unfortunately, I did not receive a job offer and got turned down at the last stage of the interview process. So this is definitely not a guide on how to do the application the right way. It’s mainly my personal experience with it.
How all began
I applied for some positions at AWS. A few days later, I got married to the most wonderful woman ever. After the wedding, we went on a honeymoon-roadtrip back from my parent’s place in Germany to our home in Greece. On this trip, we went via Austria, Hungary, Serbia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece. When we arrived in Budapest, Hungary, I checked my emails and found a response from AWS, asking for dates for an interview via phone.
Honey, I got a response from Amazon. Can we please stop in Budapest for one more night? I really want to do that phone call tomorrow.
She knew how much I wanted to work for AWS, so we stayed at our hotel one more night. The next day, I did the phone call with my cell phone in the hotel room and afterwards we enjoyed beautiful Budapest.
The position I applied for is a Senior Solutions Architect, whose main goal is “helping partners solve tough technical problems”. In particular, this means e.g writing whitepapers, doing speeches at conferences, architecting applications together with customers or writing exemplary source code. During my second phone call, I was told about the possibility to choose between different locations for this position. Although this job offer had been for Luxembourg, you can also work in Madrid, Munich or Dubai if you want to. That sounded quite interesting, as I would have loved to move to a new country. All in all, the perfect job advertisement for me.
The following table shows the individual steps, which had been done during the whole application process. I’m going to explain them later on in this post. My main reason for posting the timeline had rather been to show how organized and quickly everything had been done.
|2015-08-11||pre phone call scheduling||Senior EMEA Recruiter|
|2015-08-12||pre phone call||Senior EMEA Recruiter|
|2015-08-12||note of successful pre phone call||Senior EMEA Recruiter|
|2015-08-12||2nd phone call scheduling||Recruitment Coordinator|
|2015-08-26||2nd phone call||Partner Solutions Architect|
|2015-09-04||note of successful 2nd phone call||Recruitment Coordinator|
|2015-09-04||3rd phone call scheduling||Recruitment Coordinator|
|2015-09-10||3rd phone call||Partner Development Manager|
|2015-09-11||note of successful 3rd phone call||Recruitment Coordinator|
|2015-09-11||inhouse day scheduling||Recruitment Coordinator|
|2015-09-25||inhouse day||5 different people|
|2015-09-25||expenses form handed in||Recruitment Coordinator|
|2015-09-29||note of unsuccessful interview day||Senior EMEA Recruiter|
|2015-10-12||recruiting survey link received||n/a|
|2015-10-14||expenses reimbursement received||n/a|
Amazon has an own portal for job advertisements, which can be found at www.amazon.jobs. Within the search criterias, just select Amazon Web Services and you’re good to go. When you apply for a position, a profile is getting created for you. You can either use an existing authentication provider like e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Google or create a new profile from scratch.
Keep in mind that in the background there are several job application portals, but they all share the base data of your profile. The different job application portals can be reached via the following links.
Note: This list might be incomplete.
After you applied for a job, a confirmation email is sent to you. In case they want to speak to you and go on with the application process, they will send you an email. If they chose to turn you down, you won’t get any notifications at this stage of the application process. However, you can see in the job application portal the status of your application, which indicates the last change. During my application process, I did experience the following states.
- Submitted - Under Review (initial state)
- Submitted (looks to me like some pre-screening started)
- Reviewed, Not Selected
- Under Review
- Candidate Withdrew
Amazon Leadership Principles
The Amazon Leadership Principles is a framework with tasks for Amazon’s company success. However, to me the tasks itself feel like a formulated list of action items from a PDCA-cycle based on lean manufacturing. Those principles include the following action items.
- Customer Obsession
- Invent and Simplify
- Are Right, A Lot
- Hire and Develop the Best
- Insist on the Highest Standards
- Think Big
- Bias for Action
- Learn and Be Curious
- Earn Trust
- Dive Deep
- Have Backbone, Disagree and Commit
- Deliver Results
Note: During the whole interview process, you highly get measured against those leadership principles.
Pre Phone Call
Scheduled Timebox: 30 minutes
Actually, this had been my first phone call with AWS. At a later stage of the process, I found out that this call is optional. This is mainly done in order to check, if the person might be a match for the position applied for. The questions during this call were ordinary interview questions like e.g. career progression, reasons for quitting current job and salary expectations.
Second Phone Call
Scheduled Timebox: 45 minutes
This phone call had been my first technical evaluation. There had been one big question, where I was supposed to find a proper solution. During my explanations, I was also asked questions, which aimed at a more detailed level. When comparing the questions from here to AWS certification topics, this had definitely been associate level questions.
Third Phone Call
Scheduled Timebox: 60 minutes
While this phone call, I mainly got questions concerning Amazon’s Leadership Principles, which I already mentioned in this post. As far as I remember, the interview partner did pick 2-3 different tasks from the leadership principles and I had to explain, how I did comply with those in the past.
Inhouse Interview Day
In order to get prepared properly, I did read books, prepared myself for leadership principles questions in more detail and got a certificate.
The books I read as a preparation had been around application architecture design. After I read the books, I realized that some do rather focus on an associate and not professional level. Nevertheless, they get you a good introduction and lead you on to some more advanced ones.
As the Leadership Principles can be found publicly available as described before, I knew from which area possible questions might come. Therefore, I did write down all of the Leadership Priciples and thought about my best personal example for every single principle.
The following picture shows, how my study room looked like the day before I took the flight to Luxembourg for the inhouse interview day.
As part of my preparation, I did take the AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate Level test. As I was already working quite a lot with some AWS-services, I did skip the whole practical part for the preparation. My main focus had been around AWS Whitepapers. After around two weeks of getting myself trained on the exam’s topics, I did take the test at a certified testing center. As far as I understand it, all tests are designed by AWS, but hold by Kryterion. My upfront knowledge and whitepaper reading were definitely enough and I did pass the exam on my first attempt.
Getting there & Accommodation
The flight and accommodation had all been organized and paid by AWS upfront. I was given several flight options, from which I could choose from. All had been with Lufthansa for Economy Class tickets. As far as I understood, all AWS flights are always Economy Class, which is in my opinion a quite decent way.
My hotel had been a king-size room at Novotel, which had just been superb with a separate bathroom and toilet, as well as some working space and a couch. The staff there had also been amazingly friendly. As I wanted to iron my clothes for the interview day, I late at night asked for an iron and an ironing board, which just got brought to my room right away.
In the table below, you can see my timetable for the inhouse interview day, how it had been planned upfront. There are three question-marks for the entry of the second interview partner. I’ll describe that situation later on, as this interview had been different to the other ones.
|10:15 - 11:00||Partner Solutions Architect||Face-2-Face|
|11:00 - 11:45||???||Phone|
|11:45 - 13:15||Break||n/a|
|13:15 - 14:00||Manager Solutions Architecture||Face-2-Face|
|14:00 - 15:00||Manager Marketing||Face-2-Face|
|15:00 - 16:00||Break||n/a|
|16:00 - 17:00||Manager Solutions Architecture||Face-2-Face|
Arriving at the office
Amazon has a quite strict security policy when it comes to their premises. Therefore, I had to identify myself at the entrance. Only after that, I got a security pass to enter the ground floor together with an employee of Amazon. As far as I understood it correctly, the office has three different floors, whereas the main internal and private business is done on the first floor.
As this had been my first interview, my interview partner came to the entrance to go together with me through the security gate. After that we went to a small meeting room, which would stay my interview room for the rest of the day. The interviewer had been a highly educated and amazingly nice person. Same as with the phone interviews, I got one big questions and had to explain how I would solve it. This started by drawing architecture designs to a whiteboard and explaining it. The in detail questions at this stage however had not been on an associate level anymore (like in the technical phone interview). Those questions aimed at a senior level. All in all, this had been an quite good start for me.
This interview should have taken place in a conference room via video chat. However, the interview partner didn’t show up. For around 30 minutes, my recruitment coordinator tried to get ahold of the interview partner, but had not luck in doing so. In the end, the recruitment coordinator organized a replacement for that certain interview. It then had been via phone. Unfortunately, the VoIP-conference phone disconnected twice during the call. After re-organizing, not much time had been left and so the phone-call itself only lasted for around 20 minutes. To be honest, at this point I was a bit disappointed about how the interview process was organized.
After the second interview, I had my lunch break. As I was already a few minutes behind my timetable, my lunch break got reduced a little bit. For me this was pretty much OK, as I normally don’t have any lunch break at all. As the lunch break started, my recruitment coordinator came to me and told me about the options I have for lunch. At this point, I actually thought that at least one person is going to join me, but that wasn’t the case. I understand that some people might think that they’re getting interviewed also at lunch if an Amazonian is joining them. For me that would be perfectly fine. When I did organize and interview possible new colleagues for my former company, we always went for some lunch together, as it otherwise feels quite impersonal to me.
From a technical point of view, this definitely had been my most difficult interview. Same as for the other interviews before, I got asked about one certain scenario and how I would scale that scenario. The detail-questions of this interview had been for me highly senior-level ones.
This interview had been on a non-technical background in order to check my social skills. As far as I understand it, this interview is always done by someone, who is not within my future team. This is done to ensure proper and objective evaluation of a candidate, because otherwise a team might accept someone due to e.g. too much workload.
Unfortunately, this also had been the time, where I could feel the lunch break. I normally don’t eat for lunch as it sometimes makes me massively tired. On this day however, I just wanted to kill some time and went for lunch.
Looking back at the whole inhouse interview day, I definitely got a NO from that one. Sadly, the interviewer was perfectly right to do so, as I did perform very bad during this after-lunch interview.
The last interview of the day had been done by the manager of the whole team. As the interviewers before did already check on my technical background, this interview was not connected to any AWS-service or architecture. It rather felt like talking to someone at a user group about e.g. what software you’re developing at the moment. In my opinion, this had been a very nice interview with again a highly educated, interested and interesting person.
- phone calls perfectly timed
- fast responses during whole interview process
- trip being organized by AWS
- superb accommodation
- nice and highly educated people
- fancy new office
Not so nice things
- missing interview partner
- VoIP phone call disconnects
- impersonal lunch break
To be honest, I never prepared that much for a job interview and put that many hours of work into it before. However, in the end it didn’t work out. This still makes me quite disappointed, as I really would have loved to work for AWS. Even now, it sometimes makes me question myself, what I could have done differently or how I could have prepared better.
The good thing is that AWS is giving you another chance after 12 month. After that period, you may apply for another position, which I’m definitely going to do. So for me, the ‘job application at AWS’-route hasn’t ended here. I just hit a bump, but it’s not the end of the road. In the meantime, I will keep on preparing myself by means of blogging, coding, AWS architecting, taking exams, participate in user groups and visiting other AWS Summits.
When I had my interview day, I needed to sign a NDA concerning all matters of what I might see or experience at the AWS office during that day. As they’re always developing a lot of new services and products, they of course need to get themselves some insurance for the privacy of their inventions. Therefore, I did check the legality of this post with AWS upfront. In case you’re reading this, every information provided here isn’t bound to any legal restriction.