It’s one of the biggest, most influential, and innovative companies on the planet–and soon Amazon may be the first company (beating Apple!) to reach a $1 trillion market cap. Is it any wonder people are dying to work there? But Amazon, like any other tech giant, has a rigorous recruitment process. To get an insider look, I spoke to an Amazon recruiter and a recently hired Amazon employee to find out what the hiring process is like.
From LinkedIn To Phone Interviews To Traveling to Seattle
While it never hurts to directly submit your resume for a position on Amazon’s job site, Jessica Cronin, a senior recruiter for supply chain technology at the company, says that plenty of hires aren’t identified through the jobs site. “I find LinkedIn to be a great resource for finding talent, and I’ll sometimes use LinkedIn as a first point of connection,” says Cronin. If she does identify someone she thinks could be a good fit for a role, she’ll reach out to set up a phone call between the prospective employee and a suitable Amazon recruiter to make sure the role aligns with the candidate’s experience and career interests. “We can often consider a candidate for more than one role, so I always recommend that the candidate stays open-minded and curious about opportunities at Amazon,” she says.
After that initial phone call, if it’s decided that the prospective hire could be a match for one or more positions, the individual will move to the next phase of the interview process where their skills are directly tested. In Cronin’s case, since she hires for a lot of technical roles, this will involve another phone or video call where the candidate will be asked to write or review code or demonstrate a host of other skills the role requires. It’s only if the applicant succeeds here that they are invited to the final step of the process.
“The final step is an invitation to Seattle to meet the hiring team for a day of in-person interviews,” says Cronin. “I hire for a lot of Seattle-based roles, and this trip provides the candidate with the opportunity to see how they mesh with their potential teammates in person, as well as the chance to get to know Seattle.”
If all this sounds intense, well, it is. But as much as is involved in the hiring process, the process itself from beginning to end doesn’t last that long, says Reuben Smith-Vaughan, a recent Amazon hire who is now a manager of public policy for the company. “The hiring process for me was incredibly efficient. In all, it took less than two weeks,” he says. “The human resources team was engaged from the outset and communicated directly with me at all times. They were transparent about the process, role, and potential salary/benefits.” By the end of the process, Smith-Vaughan says he couldn’t have been more impressed with Amazon’s hiring approach.
The Hardest Part
Still, just because Amazon’s hiring process is efficient doesn’t mean it’s not nerve-wracking. I asked both Smith-Vaughan and Cronin what they felt the hardest part of the process was, and both recruiter and candidate said the same thing.
“For candidates applying to technical roles, interviews designed to deep dive into technical knowledge can seem daunting,” says Cronin. “Technical candidates who are invited to campus for interviews will have a few of these onsite. The challenge is to work through technical questions on a white board with an interviewer.”
Smith-Vaughan agreed. “The full day of on-site interviews [was the hardest],” he says. “While my recruiter walked me through what to expect during my visit (we call this a Loop at Amazon), the experience of meeting one on one with various members of your future team is unlike the hiring process anywhere else.”
But Smith-Vaughan says he didn’t go into to these interviews unprepared, as Amazon recruiters often prep candidates on what to expect. “I was given great advice from my recruiter in advance, including the guidance to really dive deep into the position, Amazon’s Leadership principles, and the background of the individuals I met with,” he says. “Perhaps most importantly, the recruiter encouraged me to be honest, straightforward, and curious.”
That’s not to say these technical interviews aren’t designed to challenge candidates. “Beyond showing the opportunity to showcase their skills, these interviews are an important line of sight into how someone thinks,” says Cronin. “Amazonians face problems they don’t know how to solve on a daily basis. We’re looking to get a line of sight into a candidate’s thought process, what questions they ask along the way, and what other approaches they could consider. How a candidate thinks about a problem is as important as the answer itself.”
What Will Separate You From The Rest
It’s that almost unquantifiable “it” factor that these rigorous interviews reveal in candidates that separate them from the rest and land them the job. I asked both Cronin and Smith-Vaughan what makes one candidate stand out from another candidate at Amazon if both have almost identical skills and professional histories.
For Smith-Vaughan, he says candidates that can truly identify with Amazon’s motto will have the edge. “One of my favorite things I’ve heard since becoming an Amazonian is the company’s motto: ‘Work hard. Have fun. Make history.’ If you connect with that saying and approach your job in that capacity, if you enjoy diving deep on problems, and working in an exciting, fast-paced environment, then Amazon is the perfect place to work.”
As for Cronin, she says that in the roles she hires for, candidates who are “scrappy in how they solve problems” will stand out from the others. “We are a company that needs to be creative and frugal. How has the candidate faced ambiguity in the past? If a candidate enjoys an environment where they solve problems and own projects, they will thrive in roles I hire for at Amazon.”