The Amazon SDE Interview


Amazon recruited on campus at UMass over last fall and I was lucky enough to snag a spot after running into them at the career fair. The rep at the table quizzed me on some generic stuff, recording my answers (what is the algorithmic complexity of the best comparison sort?) on the back of my resume.

The interviews are done over several days by 4 interviewers on campus. Each one lasts about 45 minutes. In the first interview, I am randomly assigned to one of the interviewers. I was not asked very challenging questions, but we briefly went over my resume and he described his engineering department and product.


I got a call later that evening inviting me back to the second round of interviews (all 3 of them). At this point it is obvious the first acts essentially as a screener. The next day, another interviewer repeated the process, talking about his product and gently bashing Microsoft (a former employer). I had to talk about the difference between a linked list and an array, and when I might use one over the other. For some reason the topic wandered over to the trie data structure, and the interviewer asked if this was something regularly taught at UMass, because it was a generally exotic structure. I answered no, since in fact I simply stumbled on it the day before while comparing notes with other interviewees!

My third interview was with the bar raiser. For the uninitiated, Amazon's bar raiser is the designated interviewer who rakes you over the coals. He is tasked with ensuring that the average talent at Amazon trends up instead of down.

My fourth interviewer dealt almost entirely with design questions.

I got a call literally the same night, inviting me to a dinner sponsored by Amazon in the next few days. He gave me some BS line about how he couldn't say whether I had an offer or not, and in fact our dinner (7 candidates and 4 interviewers) was completely filled with smalltalk and stories of Seattle weather without so much as a single mention of the interview!

I got an email a few days later with my offer, and I was suddenly overcome by a realization: if I hadn't made the cut, why would they have bothered buying me dinner?



Just in case anyone is freaking out over not being invited to the dinner, I got an offer from them in Fall 2012 and I wasn't invited to dinner. I didn't even know there was one!

Peter Cai

Ah, right - I didn't mean to imply that this is some universal practice at Amazon. But in general one can assume that a followup phone call after going through a loop (as opposed to an email) is a very good sign.