Tips on getting hired at AWS

A non-exhaustive list of helpful things to prepare for an interview loop at Amazon.

The process

You'll have several interviews with different goals to see if you're a good fit for the position. The interviewers will all take a lot of notes throughout the interview. Amazon is very data-driven and sharing notes with others is a critical part of the hiring process.

Your recruiter will walk you through each step, and they will differ slightly for each position. For this reason I'll stick to general tips that will apply to any software position at Amazon.

Leadership principles

The most important thing is that you do well is demonstrate how you follow the leadership principles with real world examples. You may still qualify for a different position, even if you don't have the technical skills. So prioritize LPs above everything else.

Star format

STAR format stands for situation, task, action and result. When you tell stories, make sure you follow this flow. It's really easy and makes it much easier for the interviewer to understand the context and result quickly. An example might be:

Tell me about a time where you had committed to something that you later realized that you couldn't complete...

On a recent project, I was owning the frontend for an e-commerce application and was tasked with shipping an important feature within two weeks that several stakeholders were really excited for. This feature allowed users to add custom shipping providers and the backend was already complete. I implemented an MVP of the frontend within a week, but I realized that it would take me longer than another week and wouldn't be able to make the deadline I had committed to.

I immediately told my leadership that I couldn't ship the feature on time, and proposed a more minimal solution that I could complete in a week that only allowed the most important custom shipping provider. And then I could follow up with the remaining providers within the next week. They agreed to this change and I communicated it to the stakeholders. I ended up shipping the minimal version and then the full version on time.

Good stories

Read through the leadership principles before your interviews and make sure you have at least one story for each leadership principle (LP) ready to go. You never know which LP your interviewer will be looking for when they ask you a question, so it's best to be prepared with all of them and have a quick prompt handy on a notepad that you can refer to.

Code challenges

You may or may not have code challenges as part of your interviewing process. It's best to be prepared with a few quick tips:

Talk through your problems

The most important part of these challenges is not finishing the problem in the small amount of time that you have. The real goal is to see how well you can communicate your ideas, ask good questions, think through the edge cases and tradeoffs of your decisions, and how you would improve the solution if you have more time.

You also want to start off with questions, and understand the problem well before jumping straight into the code. Talk through things like Big O, ask about the max data size expected, how you'd approach handling errors and if you can assume certain things, like the data is coming in as expected, etc.

Then start coding, from the highest level first and drill down into the details after having an idea of what you're going to do already.

Discuss tradeoffs

As you start coding, mention things like how it could be improved with more time, such as how to reduce Big O, add more robust error handling, add tests, etc. You won't have time to implement most of this, but it's a great sign if you can demonstrate how you'd finish this in a real-world situation.

Comment your code

Your interviewer will likely copy this and paste in the interview notes, so make it easy for them to remember your approach by adding comments. This is also a good practice in general to test your logic while talking through it so it's a win-win.


Practice interviewing first

Try to do a few mock or real interviews before interviewing at Amazon just to really hone in on your stories and improve your confidence.

Avoid umms and ahhs

This is good advice in general. It won't hurt you to say these things in your interview and no one is tracking them, but I feel more confident when I pause instead of filling in the silence and then answer.

Open source and side projects

These are not only fun, but really help you grow your experience by building things outside of your day-to-day job. This is especially valuable when you don't have years of professional development experience and want to ensure you have good stories for your LPs.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it'll provide a little more context to anyone outside of the Amazon hiring ecosystem. I can say as an interviewer and an interviewee, Amazon cares a lot about making the hiring experience really smooth and transparent. I encourage you to apply and wish you the best of luck! SL

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