Former Amazon and Apple hiring manager, interviewer, senior Marketing and Sales leader. Co-founder of Day One Careers, mentor, interview and leadership coach.
The Internet is full of information detailing Amazon’s rigorous interview process. We see no need to repeat what is already there. Instead, we will add value by sharing a Hiring Manager’s perspective with this article. Once you hit that “Apply” button, it will give you an inside view of what starts happening during the Amazon interview process once you hit that “Apply” button. Two caveats are due. First, we will describe a scenario that will play out in 9 cases out of 10. There is that odd case when the process will look differently; hence don’t be alarmed if your process does not look like what’s in this article. Second, this article describes the non-technical Amazon interview and hiring process scenario. While the technical hiring scenario has a non-tech interview, the process may run differently from the pure non-tech path.
From Application to Phone Screen
Technically, the Amazon interview process does not start until the candidate is invited to interview for the position they applied for. Yet, the hiring machinery sets in motion the minute you hit the “Apply” button. First, your profile goes into the internal applicant tracking system and is added to the review queue. From then on, various participants in the hiring process filter out profiles to create a shortlist. This shortlist will then move to the Hiring Manager’s queue. In 90% of cases, the recruiter will build an initial shortlist and pass it on to the Hiring Manager. In 10% of cases when, for example, the recruiter is on holiday or filling the role is time-critical, the Hiring Manager can help the recruiter build the shortlist. As Hiring Managers, we will pick the candidates invited to the first stage – the Phone Screen.
How would we decide on who to progress with? The profile that is the most relevant to the job position usually wins. Here, everything is important – the quality of the education, grades (if volunteered in the resume), the profile of employers, and the content of the roles and achievements. Years of experience are tricky: in theory, recruiters should not consider candidates’ tenure when deciding whether to progress them to the next stage. In reality, they often use YOE as a proxy for the accumulated expertise and seniority that the Hiring Manager requires. Amazon interview and hiring process does not mandate a formula for a profile that gets to move forward. This is because every role is unique, and every hiring context is peculiar. There are situations when, as Hiring Managers, we’d be willing to take more risk on candidates and cast the net wide. One such case is if we are thin on the ground and under pressure to hire. This does not mean that a hiring urgency on our side will increase your probability of getting in with an otherwise uncompetitive profile. It will, however, nudge your chances of being invited to the Phone Screen. If there is an over-supply of applications, our risk profile becomes more conservative, and the phone screen to applications percentage will have to go down. You won’t influence or control 99% of the Amazon interview process as a candidate at this stage.
Moreover, what makes your profile competitive – your education, employers, roles and achievements – won’t change instantly. However, there are a few things that you can do to reduce the odds of not being progressed despite having a winning profile. First, make sure that your resume is straightforward and easy to read. Fancy designs bring no added value to the Amazon interview and hiring process – unless they help us scan your resume faster. Second, your responsibilities and accomplishments are an essential part. If pressed for space, prioritise them over skill charts and hobbies (as Hiring Managers, we can attest that we’ve never looked at the Hobbies part of a candidate’s resume). Third, make sure that the achievements in the resume detail your contributions. You should adorn accomplishments with results, and these have to be measurable. There is no need to divulge confidential information, and all data can be benchmarked and indexed. Recent grads should focus on project work, part-time jobs, side gigs and other extra-curricular activities (avoid over-indulging in classwork). Lastly, get a referral. Tech companies have mechanisms to give extra consideration to profiles that landed through referral programs. If getting a recommendation, ask your referrer to drop a note to the Hiring Manager and the recruiter to follow up.
Phone Screen to Loop
Amazon hiring process begins with a Phone Screen, which today means an Amazon Chime call with video off. For some candidates, it is their first-ever interview with Amazon. For others, it is their second encounter with an Amazonian after a screening call with a recruiter. The content of the Phone Screen call can include an assessment of your functional skills, motivation and leadership skills (via behavioural interview questions). Behavioural questions are similar to those mentioned in this article. The outcome of the Phone Screen is either a rejection or progress to the next stage. You should get your decision within two days. If it takes longer, it’s usually due to low bandwidth (it’s Q4, and all hands are on deck to monitor sales). A lot of Phone Screens result in rejections. If this ends up being your case, do not fear. Hiring managers are used to seeing Phone Screen rejections on candidates’ profiles, and this will not prevent you from applying again and getting invited to on-site interviews.
This stage of the Amazon interview process is called Loop. The origins of this term are puzzling, primarily since it refers to five back-to-back interviews. The Loop can be 1-2 weeks away from your Phone Screen, which is expected given the state of everyone’s diaries. For non-technical roles, Loop interview content is 99% behavioural and is based on Amazon’s Leadership Principles. The best way to learn how to answer Amazon interview questions based on the Leadership Principles is to take Amazon Interview Whizz training. This course will give you everything you need to pick the right situations in your interview responses.
As Hiring Managers, we would join this part of the Amazon hiring process on par with the rest of the interviewers and do our rounds. Before the Loop begins, we may run a briefing call with the rest of the interview panellists to remind them of the role and the candidate’s profile. We’d also assign Leadership Principles that each panellist will test. This is a typical part of the Amazon interview and hiring process. During the interview, we’ll be taking lots of notes. This is why our eye contact may be patchy. Apologies for this – our note-taking is for your benefit. We are very keen to make an objective decision, and so is every person who will interview you—discussing candidate performance before the Loop Debrief is taboo. Yet, it’s hard to vouch for hundreds of loops and guarantee that nobody will break their silence. Before we submit my interview notes with the candidate’s responses to Amazon behavioral interview questions into the system, we have to decide whether to hire the candidate. At this stage in the Amazon hiring process, our vote is indicative. We might change it later if the candidate did exceptionally well with other interviewers.
The Bar Raiser
All candidates we have ever coached wanted to figure out who the Bar Raiser was. That’s because a Bar Raiser is an interview panellist who attests that the candidate is better than 50% of Amazonians currently employed in the same job family and level. While diving deep into the institute of Bar Raisers at Amazon is out of the scope of this article, we will offer you the same guidance that we provide all of our students and coaching clients.
Forget about the Bar Raiser and don’t spend much time pondering their role in the Amazon hiring process.
Instead, do your personal best in all interviews. There is nothing about the Bar Raiser being one of the interview panellists that you can influence and control in a way that’s different to how you handle the rest of the interviews.
The next stage in the Amazon hiring process is a debrief. It’s a meeting led by the Bar Raiser that all interview (Loop) panellists attend. This is where we would discuss the candidate’s performance in all interviews and read and compare notes. In 90% of cases, the Bar Raiser would run the meeting and press interview panellists on any points of contention. The BR’s job is to make decisions objectively and arrest any bias during the discussion. Some debriefs last for 15 minutes. It happens when everyone is unanimous or near-unanimous in their voting. Longer meetings emerge when the Loop is “split”. An even hotter debate occurs if the Bar Raiser and the Hiring Manager disagree on their vote. The Bar Raiser will try to unearth as much extra evidence as possible from all interviewers to evaluate opposing voices during the debate. The outcome of the Debrief is an overall vote and an offer. For the overall vote to be “inclined”, both the Hiring Manager and Bar Raiser agree. For the final vote to be “not inclined”, just the Bar Raiser’s veto vote is enough. You should get your decision within five days from the Loop. In 9 cases of our 10, these timings will be actual. Clogged-up diaries usually cause delays (read our guide in case you’re being ghosted by a recruiter after an interview)
A successful outcome from the Debrief part of the Amazon interview process leads to an offer in 9 out of 10 cases (in this case, we recommend preparing to negotiate your Amazon offer). However, as you can anticipate, sometimes things don’t follow this script. For example, there can be an “inclined” Loop but no offer when a candidate did exceptionally well on LPs. Still, the functional fit was poor (even though the candidate’s functional fit was meant to be established before the Loop). Another situation is when another candidate received an offer after your Loop had been scheduled.
Amazon interview and hiring process can seem unorthodox, but there’s a method to the madness. All participants do their best to ensure a great candidate experience and objective decision-making. The only thing that you can do as a candidate is your personal best during Amazon interviews. We recommend that you don’t leave your interview preparation to chance and check out Amazon Interview Whizz and our Amazon Interview coaching service.
GG and Evgeny