Amazon Interview Loop – 12 Truths for Perfect Preparation

Amazon Interview Loop: 12 truths you should know

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The Amazon interview loop is the last round of job interviews before Amazon decides if they want to hire you or not. If you want to get hired by Amazon, you need to know about the loop. This is the goal of this post: I will demystify what the Amazon interview loop looks like. Here, you can find answer to many questions:

Note: I normally prepare posts some weeks in advance. At the time of writing this (August 2022) I just went through an Amazon Interview Loop as a candidate. Yet, at the time of writing this post, a few days after the loop, I still need hear back from Amazon.

September 2022 edit (disclaimer): I was offered an L6 position in Amazon, which I accepted. This means I know a thing or two about the interview process, and how to get through it succesfully. This article was written before I started any contractual obligation with Amazon, but may read it while I am working there. Everything you see here is my own personal opinion and not Amazon’s.

I am dividing this post in three sections:

Before the Amazon Interview Loop

In this section, we address everything prior that leads to the loop itself.

What are the other steps needed in Amazon’s hiring process?

As we will see later, the “loop” is the last step of a longer interview process. Specifically, it is the last step that Amazon will use to gather data about you. After the loop, Amazon will use that data to decide. Yet, there are other steps in the interview process.

Like for any company, everything starts with an application by a candidate. This can be done only via the amazon.jobs portal. There, you will find a list of open positions, select the one you like and apply. You will have to manually input some data about you and upload a resume.

If you know someone who is already working for Amazon, you can ask for a referral instead. In this case, your contact inside of Amazon will apply on your behalf on an internal tool. You will have to provide him with your resume and your contact information anyway. Once they do, you will receive an automatic email to finalize your application, and you will have to upload your resume here as well.

Now your application is in the hands of a recruiter. The recruiter will call you for a first screening. The goal of the recruiter screen is to identify if you understand the position, if you effectively have the qualifications that Amazon is looking for, and in general if you are a human people can talk with. Since Amazon receives tons of applications, there is a chance that your resume may not be reviewed, or may not be reviewed timely. Unfortunately, this is pure random.

If you apply through a referral, you skip the recruiter screen. After the recruiter screen, either because you passed it or because you came through a referral, you will be set up for a phone screen. This is actually an Amazon Chime video call of 1h with a person in the part of Amazon you applied to work for. This is like a “mini” version of the loop: like in the loop, here you will be asked questions about leadership principles and how your experience relates to those. The goal of this phase is to see if you can “survive” the loop, by making you taste a smaller version of it.

When the phone screen is scheduled, you get to see who your interviewer will be. A LinkedIn search prior to the day may be useful.

After this, the interviewer will provide feedback to the recruiter, telling her if you are to be moved forward or not. If so, the interviewer will take care of scheduling the loop for you.

In general, the recruiter is your agent inside Amazon. It takes care of arranging the interviews for you and directs any questions you may have about the company/team/whatever to the proper internal teams. Recruiters are generally measured by the number of candidates they are able to hire, so the recruiter wants you to be hired. Also, she have no say in if the team wants to hire you or not.

How long does it take to schedule the Amazon Interview Loop?

So, you passed the phone screen and now you need to schedule the Amazon Interview Loop. How long does it take? This is a question I didn’t find answered online, and I wish I had because at the time of applying I was travelling internationally quite a while and so it was hard for me to even start the interview process, not knowing what to expect in terms of timeline.

Amazon Interview Loop is typically not used for low-ranking jobs such as delivery
Amazon is a giant of e-commerce. They only want to hire the best candiadates, and the use the loop for that.

The interviewer will ask you to provide 5 slots within the next 6 weeks. Those are 5 full-day dates where you make potentially available for the loop. You will provide those slots in order of preference, from the one you prefer the most to the one you prefer the least. Then, she will take care of arranging the Amazon Interview Loop in the best possible date, based also on the availability of the various interviewers inside of Amazon.

This normally take a couple of days to a week. If you don’t hear anything from the recruiter, you should try to ping her via email or Amazon Chime after a week.

She will send a tentative date. That is the date of your loop. Then, in the coming days or weeks, she will actually set up the online meeting that you can join, and you will see the list of your interviewers.

How can I prepare the best?

Preparing for the Amazon Interview Loop is simple, but not easy. You need to start by looking at the Amazon Leadership Principles and know them quite well. This is something that you should do before even applying to Amazon.

If you feel these leadership principles are not a good thing to have in a company, they are hard to abide by, or you feel “conflicted” about them in any way, then probably Amazon is not the company for you.

Instead, if you would really enjoy working for a company that lives by those principles, you are a good candidate and should move forward. You need to think about experiences where you showed such leadership principles.

Amazon will ask you behavioral questions, those are things like “Tell me about a time when…”. The idea is that everyone can say in theory what they would do in a given condition. Since anyone can answer to such a hypothetical question, hypothetical questions are not good proxies to tell how good you will be at a job.

Instead, by looking at previous experience, it is immediately evident if you live by those principles in your job. If you don’t, you won’t have experiences to tell from your past. In fact, Amazon is looking for people who already live by the leadership principles, not people that needs to be trained about them.

A good starting point is to know what questions Amazon is likely going to ask. Fortunately, there are many online resources to that. Most group questions by Leadership Principle. I personally prepared with this set of questions from I Got an Offer. I wrote them down all in Excel, and thought about what experience I could use to answer.

You want to prepare 3 experiences per leadership principle. Not all leadership principles are assessed, however. In general, an interviewer will ask you three main questions, so if you are going to have 5 interviews you will want 15 experiences ready. What leadership principles will be asked to you depends on the role you are applying for (more on this later). However, since an experience typically showcases 2 or even 3 leadership principles, you can prepare 15 experiences or even a little more than that and then show what to highlight and what not when you know the leadership principles that are important for this role.

It is also good to get a sense of what interviews will look like. For that, I found a hidden gem on YouTube. In this channel, InterviewAt. Brandon, who runs this channel, is an ex-Amazon executive that now offers mocks interview service. Basically, you pay him to have a mock interview and simulate what the loop looks like. If you are in the mood of spending money, it is surely worth it. However, in your channel you will find tons of mock interviews with his commentary. Even by looking at that, you can get a real sense of what type of questions the loop will hold for you.

Watching videos in this channel is the thing that helped me prepare the most. However, note that, in a real interview, things are much more fast paced than in the videos.

How do I prepare an experience or story?

Start with a leadership principle in mind, find questions that relate to that leadership principle, and find a “north star” question. In other words, think about answering a question, but even if during the Amazon interview loop you don’t get asked that same exact questions, your experience is likely to be fine for similar questions as well.

Then, structure an answer with the STAR Format. STAR is an acronym:

  • Situation and Task (ST) – Provide context. What was the situation, what were you trying to accomplish?
  • Action – What did you do. This should be the main bulk of the answer.
  • Result – What happened? What was the outcome?

As suggested by Brandon Watson, try to use the FAQ format. For each of these three sections, think about what are the most frequently asked questions you should try to answer. Not all questions apply to all experiences, but most do.

  • Situation and Task
    • What is the problem you were trying to solve?
    • For what customer?
    • Why this problem hasn’t been solved before?
    • How was this problem impacting customer(s)?
    • How did we know it was a problem?
    • How did it surface to the team?
  • Action
    • What did you do?
    • Why this was the path that you chose?
    • What alternatives have you considered and rejected?
    • How did you know you were going to be successful? (This one is super-important)
    • What telemetry or data did you put in place to measure your results?
    • Who did you consult outside of your team?
    • What resources did you need to bring in?
    • How could you have done this with less resources given (in hindsight)?
  • Result
    • What happened?
    • Why was it good?
    • How did you know it was still good? What were the long term results?
    • What did you learn?
    • What are the company takeaways from this?

Then, write down answers to those questions (the ones relevant for each experience). Each answer should be quick, like a reminder, a few words with no grammar. Just to have your key points at hand. Then, try to rehearse answering to the question and ensuring you touch all the points. You can tick each point as you cover it. Remember, you don’t want to talk long. I would say 4 minutes per answer can be a good starting point.

Look at this video. It applies to the written assignment, but can apply to questions asked during the loop as well.

Since you have multiple stories for the same leadership principle, be sure to touch all its parts. For example, take disagree and commit, which indicates the ability to show disagreement when deciding, but then stopping once a course of action is taken:

Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.

To properly touch this principle, you should have experiences that showcase:

  • A time when you voiced a different point of view against the consensus or against people higher up in your organizational structure
  • A time you executed an action even if it was not the one that you wanted
  • A time when you disagreed with your team, but decided to follow their proposed course of actions even if you disagreed

The Amazon Interview Loop

In this section, we focus on the day of the interview and the Amazon Interview Loop itself.

What is the Amazon Interview Loop?

If you are here, you already have at least a general idea about what the Amazon Interview Loop may look like.

The Amazon Interview Loop is a set of up to 5 interviews to assess if you are a good fit for Amazon and for the specific role you are applying for. Now (2022), it is a virtual meeting, but in the past it was on-site. Amazon used to fly candidate to their office, host them for a night in a hotel (all paid for) and have them meet with the team and interview at the office. With the COVID-19 pandemic, they shift to virtual meetings, and at the moment it is unsure if they will be back to classic on-sites.

Amazon Interview Loop in the kindle team
If you apply to the Kindle team, you are likely to go through an interivew Loop.

In any case, even when it used to be on-site, you wouldn’t meet with all your interviewers in person simply because they are not at the same office. Amazon works with cross-country teams, and so it is likely that some colleagues will be to the other side of the ocean. For those, you would have had a call from a conferencing room inside the Amazon office you were visiting.

Again, the loop has the following goals:

  • Assess if you are a good fit for Amazon
  • Answer the question: can you do this job?
  • Meet the team and see if you are a person people can work with
  • Amazon will answer any questions you might have

Even if the meeting is virtual, they still like to call it “on-site interviews”. When someone talks about on-sites, they are really referring to the Amazon Interview Loop.

How does it work during the day of the interview?

A few days before the interview, you should get by the recruiter a link to join a Chime meeting. If you don’t, it is a good idea to ping the recruiter. Besides the link to the meeting, you will know at what time of day you will have your interviews, who will be interviewing, and what leadership principles they will be assessing.

Based on the role, you might be assessed also on technical questions. For example, software engineers may be asked coding questions, while program managers may be asked about stakeholder management.

Each interview lasts an hour. It goes like this. First, your interviewer will present what she does in Amazon, and will generally ask a “tell me about yourself”, just to break ice. They will then move on to ask you the various questions they had in mind. Each interviewer is there to assess two leadership principles, and they will heavily take note while interviewing you.

Depending on their level of commitment to the interview, they will keep asking probing questions to get a better understanding of the situation. In other words, if you are not following the STAR + FAQ Format, they will ask those FAQs themselves.

The last part of the interviews, 5 to 10 minutes, is usually left for questions you might have for them. Considering you have 5 interviewers, be prepared to have questions to let them talk for 25 to 50 minutes. In this, you need also to consider that you will speak with people in the team you applied for, as well as people outside that team. Be sure to have questions for everyone: about company culture, team culture, management style (for the hiring manager), how you will be measured, and so on.

The Amazon Interview Loop may be set with 5 interviews on a single day or split in 2 days. You don’t get to choose. Mine was split, and in hindsight it was great because it allowed for some time to recharge, as going through the loop can be quite draining.

There is one single Chime meeting. Each interviewer will join at its allotted time. You may be allowed for a quick break to drink or hit the restroom between interviews, even if they are one after another. It is also quite likely that you will have 1 hour gap (or even more) between one interview and the next. Leverage that for a break.

What questions will I be asked?

We briefly touched this during the preparation part and also when talking about the Amazon Interview Loop itself. In short, there are mainly two types of questions:

  • Behavioral (Tell me about a time when…) – Those are the questions they will use to assess how much you live by the leadership principles. Depending on the role, they range from 60% to 80% of your interview “air” time.
  • Technical and specific to the job – those vary on each role, and probe your skills in the domain specific to the job. As I applied for a Program Manager role, I was asked question about how to manage a program, what is the critical path (a key concept in project management)

You will be asked tons of probing questions. If you follow the FAQ format, you will be already providing much of the details. Probing questions are great because they allow the interviewer to get to what he wants to know, even if you didn’t tell him that on your own. In other words, they are a way for the interviewer to help you. But you can feel challenged by them as the experience can be quite draining. So, practice with the FAQ format to have a less taxing experience.

What are the differences in loops for positions at different levels?

Amazon positions are classified in levels from L1 to L12 (the CEO). For office jobs, the lowest level is typically L4. It doesn’t matter what is the actual role and job responsibility, all jobs are ranked with a level so that even unrelated job can be compared in seniority.

The higher the level, the more senior the position, and the harder the loop. Well, the loop is not actually harder by itself, but you will have to come up with experiences with a higher magnitude. In general, better experiences.

Amazon is the kind of logistics
If you manage logistics and capacity planning, you are likely to go through the loop.

Imagine the question “Tell me about a time a customer asked for something, but you know they needed something else”. Now, imagine this answer:

I was working as a barista at Starbucks and this regular customer always asked for a specific coffee blend because he wanted something dark and high in caffeine. The company changed the blend to reduce caffeine amount, so when he asked about this, I told him that the blend has changed and had less caffeine and offered him to try another blend that was also high in caffeine. He tried the new blend and liked it, now he is a regular of the new blend.

This answer properly addresses the question. It shows that you know how to listen to customers and know what they really want. It can be a great answer for someone who is fresh out of college. But for a senior director or executive? Is this really the best example of knowing your customers that you have to show case? Such experience wouldn’t match with L5+ roles probably. It has a limited impact (1 customer, 1 small transaction) and its fairly simple to execute, low risk and low stake.

Some online blogs tell that the number of interviews is proportional to the level: L4 will get 4 interviews, L5 will get 5 interviews, L6 gets 6 interviews, and so on. Maybe this was true in the past, but it has now changed. I applied for an L6 role and got by with 5 interviews only. This is because, as also mentioned by Harvard Business Review, the marginal improvement of additional interviews is negligible after the 5th interview. To put it differently, having 5 interviews is more precise at identifying good candidates than 4 interviews. However, 6 interviews don’t add much, and it’s not worth the extra hassle.

You don’t get to know the level of the position you are applying for, but you can ask the recruiter. They will likely tell you. Ask them, this is also important for your salary negotiation, it will help you to gather better data. If you apply through a referral, they can tell you the level of the position.

For L6 roles or higher, you will also have to complete a written assignment. This is important because Amazon relies heavily in written communication, and they want to test you on that. You will have to provide it 48 hours prior to the loop, and it will be reviewed during the debrief (during the loop, nobody had even seen the assignment yet). It is a two-page document max.

Who is the “bar raiser”?

Among your interviewers in your Amazon Interview Loop, you will find a “bar raiser”. Ideally, Amazon wants to always raise the bar, so with every hire they ask “is this person better than 50% of people already working in AWS?”. If they are only people who are better that 50% of the people already working there, then the company gets better over time, and also getting hired becomes more and more challenging (because that 50% threshold moves upward with every new hire that raises it).

Considering this, people may think that the bar raiser is the one that has to challenge you the most. In reality, the bar raiser is your advocate. In the debrief, the meeting all your interviewers will have after the Amazon Interview Loop, the bar raiser is the one that has to ensure you are put in the best possible light.

For example, you might not have answered to the fullest to the interviewer asking about Customer Obsession. Yet, when answering about Disagree and Commit, you showcased great Customer Obsession Here. Since all interviewers take note, the bar raiser needs to ensure all information between interviewer is passed properly.

Generally, the bar raiser can also veto your hire, if they spot some red flags that make them think you are not a great fit for Amazon.

After the Amazon Interview Loop

What happens afterwards? Will they let you know? You find answers to those questions in this section.

What happens after the loop?

After the Amazon Interview Loop, all your interviewers will have a debrief meeting. In this meeting, they decide the fate of your application. Will you be hired or not? The debrief is typically a 1-hour meeting with a simple format.

First, everyone votes hire or no-hire. The bar raiser takes note. This is to gather the individual feedback of all interviewers. Then, all interviewers share notes with each other. After reading the notes, they re-vote. Note that this process is the same, even if you have all no-hire or hire votes, notes are always shared another vote is done at the end. You want to have all no-hires, but it may be possible to get hired even if there are some conflicts during the debrief. In general, you want the bar raiser and hiring manager to vote for hire, plus one more at least.

There are three possible outcomes for the debrief:

  • Hire – You get the job, you will have now to negotiate specifics and salary with the recruiter
  • No Hire, Recycle – You don’t get the job but are a good fit for Amazon, you will be sent to another loop (maybe at higher or lower level)
  • No Hire, No Recycle – You don’t get the job and are not recycled for other roles. Your experience ends here.

The debriefing meeting is typically held a few days after the loop, and already scheduled by the time the loop takes place. Typically, the hiring manager or your last interviewer will tell you when the debriefing is, and if not you can always ask them. In my case, I finished my 2- days loop on Friday, and the debrief was on next Tuesday.

After how long will I know the results of the Amazon Interview Loop?

After the Amazon Interview Loop, the recruiter will let you know the results typically within a week. Give them time to have the debrief meeting, knowing that no decision is taken before that. Sometimes, especially for senior roles where you are interviewed by directors and other high-ranking officials, it’s hard to get everyone in a room so scheduling the debrief may take some time.

Amazon Prime and Amazon Interview Loop
Prime is an important service for Amazon and encompasses many areas. If you want to work there, you are likely to go through an interview loop.

After the debrief, the recruiter is likely to let you know as soon as possible, especially if you got the job. If not, you can always ping the recruiter a few days after the debriefing meeting took place. If you don’t know when it is, you can ping them to ask if they know if the debriefing already took place.

What are the possible outcomes of a loop?

The outcome of a loop are the ones decided in the debrief: hire, no-hire recycle, no-hire no-recycle. It is hard to get statistics, but you look over the web people claim that about 40% of people reaching the loop get offered the position. This however is just online chatter and has no underlying data.

Closing Thoughts

The Amazon Interview Loop can be quite a stressful experience. Amazon wants top-notch candidates and they will go the extra mile to ensure they are getting them. If you want to work for a high-performing organization, you need to learn how to be high-performing in job interviews, and this post hopefully helps you with that.

A bonus tip: if you know you will want to work for Amazon, start by studying leadership principles way before you apply, like one or two years prior. Start to adopt them in your day-to-day work. Over time, you will produce tons of great experiences that you can tell during the interview. For example, you may start to become a referent leader (ownership).

Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded ICTShore.com with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.
Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded ICTShore.com with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.

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Alessandro Maggio

2022-10-20T16:30:00+00:00

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