Looking inside Amazon (including interview and application advice)

Amazon Prime changed the way people across the world live and shop, but we all know that the company has expanded to be more than just the best way to get whatever you want without leaving your bed. For example, Amazon Studios now creates film and television shows, including Emmy-award winning ones like The Marvelous Mr. Maisel. There’s a lot more to Amazon than meets the eye. Read on to learn the company’s driving mission, tips on how to ace your Amazon interview, and more.

Amazon rundown

Size: 647,000 employees as of April 2019, according to Fast Company

Founded: 1994

Industry: Internet & Catalog Retail

Value: $916.1 billion as of May 2019, according to Forbes

Locations: Amazon’s headquarters are in downtown Seattle, Washington. In September 2017, the company announced plans for Amazon HQ2. Read more about this plan below.

Amazon also has offices in 52 other cities around the country and 147 other cities around the world. View the full list of offices here.

Founder and CEO: Jeff Bezos

jeff bezos
Amazon

Salary of the CEO: According to the Amazon.com Inc. 2018 SEC Def 14a filing, Bezos has an annual salary of  $81,840 and received $1,600,000 in compensation for security-related costs and business travel.

Net worth of the CEO: $156 billion as of July 2019, according to Business Insider. A net worth of this size makes Jeff Bezos the richest man in the world. Bezos is CEO, founder, and largest stockholder of Amazon, with a 16% stake in the company.

How much do Amazon employees make?

The average salary for an Amazon employee is $119,110. Ladders estimates are based on our calculations.

The average salary for a Business Intelligence Engineer at Amazon is $104,090, while the average for a Systems Engineer is $108,437. Solution Architects make an average of $135,921.

Amazon Jobs

Amazon is currently hiring for a whopping 32,595 open jobs across its 33 categories. The company is currently searching for a Director of Marketing Technology to work from its San Francisco office and a Senior Product Manager for its Santa Barbara office.

How to get hired at Amazon

Amazon uses three different ways to get to know you: the online application, the phone interview, and the in-person interview. Here’s what the company has to say about each process.

Online application

To apply online to an open position, you’ll need to create an Amazon jobs account. (No, you can’t use the account that you use to shop on Amazon.com. We checked.) After your account is set up, you’ll have to answer some questions and create a profile. During the process, you can upload a resume, cover letter, or work experience and education documentation.

You don’t have to worry about submitting any samples of work during the online application process. If you’re selected for an interview, the interviewer may ask to see them.

Phone interview

Before an interview, the company recommends that you learn more about the culture and get to know a few Amazonians, which is what they call their employees.) Interviewers are instructed to use behavioral questions instead of brain teasers in order to hear stories about your work history. Read our advice on how to practice and answer behavioral questions in preparation for an interview. 

Additionally, interviewers like to see that you’ve familiarized yourself with the strict list of leadership principles.

The company site states that interviewers will get back to you within two business days, and encourages you to give them a “nudge” if it takes longer than that.

Advice from Amazon for your phone interview:

  • Some teams at Amazon incorporate role-specific exercises or online assessments into the interview process. You will be notified if you are required to take a test
  • For your phone interview, find a quiet and comfortable place with no distractions
  • Use a computer with a reliable connection and access to email
  • If you’re using a mobile phone, make sure you’re in a place with a good signal
  • Have a copy of your CV on hand
  • Have paper and a pen readily available
  • Come prepared with questions that you would like to explore in more detail (e.g. on initiatives/projects, the team culture, the scope of the role)
  • If you need clarification on anything or have any additional follow-up questions, reach out to your recruiting point of contact
    If you have any special requirements, questions or concerns, please reach out to us as we are committed to making reasonable provisions for all individuals
  • Virtual interviews: If you’ve been asked to do a virtual interview, you will probably need to download Amazon Chime, our video-conferencing tool (the step-by-step guide can be found here). If you’re presenting, you will need to download Chime onto your desktop.
  • The meeting ID# will be emailed to you by your recruitment point of contact. For optimal sound quality, use a headset with a microphone
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Amazon’s Seattle campus Photo: Amazon

In-person interview

While you might think that “Why Amazon?” is a throw-away question, don’t take this portion of the interview lightly. Interviewers really want to hear why you want to join the team. If you’re struggling with an answer, you could always mention how your “customer-obsessed” attitude matches well with the rest of the company.

Depending on the nature of your work, you might be confident that you won’t have to provide a writing sample during the application process, but regardless of your specialty, you should be prepared to complete one on-site. The company is looking to evaluate your writing skills because, instead of PowerPoint presentations, the company uses structured memos that are read at the beginning of each meeting. The one to six-page reports outline the project goals, approach to addressing it, outcome and next steps.

Here’s what to expect on interview day …

  1. Check-in: Amazon asks that you arrive 15 minutes early and have your government-issued identification ready.
  2. Location: You will receive detailed instruction about how to get to the office via email. Some of their offices are dog-friendly, so let the recruiter know about any allergies or requirements ahead of time.
  3. Dress code: They are completely cool with you dressing comfortably and casually. They’re “interested in what you have to say, not what you’re wearing,” according to their website.
  4. What to expect: You can expect questions about your past experiences. Interviewers are looking for specific examples and stories about challenges and successes in your career history.
  5. Interviewers: On the day of your interview you will meet with two to seven Amazon employees. Likely you will meet with a mix of managers, team members, members from related teams, and a “bar raiser”, who is an objective interviewer from another team. The company suggests that you approach each interview with the mindset, rather than adjusting answers according to each person’s position on the team. Be prepared for each interviewer to be taking notes during your time with them.
  6. CV: Your interviewer will already have a copy of your resume/CV, but you can also bring one just in case.
  7. Duration: Your interview will last from 45 minutes to an hour.
  8. Lunch: If your interview is scheduled during the lunch hour, they will provide lunch for you.
  9. Amazon Non-Disclosure Agreement: All candidates must sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement. You’re asked to sign the copy prior to your arrival, but they will also have a copy there for you as well.
  10. Technical roles: If you are interviewing for a technical role, there’s a chance you’ll be using a whiteboard at some point during your interview.
amazon homepage
Amazon’s first gateway homepage

How to prepare for a software development interview

Technical topics include programming language, data structures, algorithms, coding, object-oriented design, databases, distributed computing, operating systems, internet topics, and general machine learning and artificial intelligence. Read the complete guide to learn the expectations and requirements for each topic.

While interviewers won’t be evaluating your ability to memorize each and every detail of each topic, they will be analyzing your ability to apply your knowledge of each and solve problems effectively. The company site recommends reviewing computer science fundamentals and practicing coding because candidates sometimes have limited time to prepare for a technical interview.

Amazon customer-centricity

An important idea to keep in mind while answering questions during an interview is how much Amazon focuses on the customer. The company declares that it was “built on the concept of a virtuous cycle focused on the customer.” The idea, according to Amazon, was created on a napkin by CEO Jeff Bezos and still remains a very important part of amazon.

Amazon HQ2

In September 2017, the corporation announced that is will build a new headquarters, saying it would employ 50,000 workers and spend $5 billion on new construction. The corporation invited local governments to give it tax breaks and other incentives as a way to entice it to certain locations. By October 23, 2017, the corporation had received 238 proposals.

On November 13, 2018, the company announced that it would split the HQ2 into two, with 25,000 workers in Long Island City in Queens, New York and the other 25,000 in National Landing, a future city including Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia.

In January 2019, the Virginia Senate approved state tax incentives of up to $750 million over the next 15 years. After opposition from residents and local politicians, Amazon pulled out of the New York location in February 2019.

Last 10 years by the numbers

Products

Alexa, Echo, Kindle, Fire tablets, Fire TV, Amazon Go

amazon kindle
Amazon

Services

Prime, Prime Pantry, Fresh, Web Services, Drive, Video, Appstore, Kindle Store, Music Unlimited, Digital Game Store, Wireless, Smile, Art, Business, Dash, Supply, Video Direct, Tickets, STEM Club, Home Services, Handmade by Amazon, Inspire, Cash/Top Up

amazon prime
Amazon

Subsidiaries

Amazon Studios, A9.com, Amazon Maritime, Audible.com, Bejing Century Joyo Courier Services, Brilliance Audio, ComiXology, CreateSpace, Eero, Goodreads, Lab126, Kuiper Systems, Ring, Shelfari, Souq, Twitch, Whole Foods Market, Junglee

amazon studios
Amazon