I’m not a person that gives up easily. Soon after my interview experience with Microsoft I applied for a position in software development at Amazon and my resume was able to catch the attention of the people from HR.
My first phone interview happened sometimes in December 2011. The usual technical questions that you would expect from big technology companies, given a problem go through the solution, do complexity analysis, write the code. I don’t actually remember how I did in that first interview, but apparently I failed it and I did not get the chance for a second round.
A month later I received another e-mail from an amazon recruiter, asking me if I was still interested in the position. I sure was. I was a little confused on why they would reject me at first to reconsider me just a month later, but that didn’t bother too much, I was just grateful for the extra chance. So I went ahead and took that second phone interview. I did very well on that one, so they scheduled me for a third one, then a fourth one and a fifth one! The difficulty of the questions was the same, 45 minutes phone calls with coding problems to solve. Once you know your hash tables and linked lists you are good to solve most phone interview problems. What bothered me is that my interviewers kept not calling on the time and day they were supposed to. I would get scheduled to receive a phone call on a certain day and time and promptly, for three times (three!) I wouldn’t receive any call. One time the justification was that they had a power outage. The second time no justification at all, only apologies. The third time something about the interviewer having to be on call (ok, fine, there’s an emergency, but at least notify me by e-mail).
I finally received confirmation that they were going to schedule me for a in-person interview in one of their offices in Seattle. They booked my flight and provided me with the itinerary. All expenses for transportation and meals were reimbursed and the hotel downtown Seattle where I slept for the two days of the trip was nice (the Westlin). I liked the on-site interview much better than I did with Microsoft. The atmosphere was much more professional and work oriented (let’s get to business kind of mentality) and it allowed me to get out of the office by 2pm so that I could explore Seattle.
The interview day started around 10am, I showed up 15 minutes early and registered with the receptionist. Just 5 minutes past 10am a recruiter directed me to the room where my interview would take process and chatted with me a little bit. I finally met with 4 people from the CloudWatch team and 1 from the Silk team, and I spent 45 minutes of time with each of them. Same story, given a problem, find a solution, do analysis, implement the code. I found a good solution (or at least I thought so) to all of the problems they presented me, but when one interviewer asked me to describe what the keyword final does in Java I couldn’t remember, but I tried to say something anyway. Later I found that I was wrong and I felt a little silly for not remembering, but overall I thought the interview went great. I spent the rest of the day walking around Seattle and visiting the EMP Museum. A great city to live in overall, if you don’t mind the rain.
A week later I received an e-mail from a recruiter thanking me for applying but that the team had decided to move on with other candidates. Of course they will not provide a reason for such decision or give feedback for improvement, which is always a bummer after you go through such a lengthy process to get a job. Why didn’t I get an offer?
- Probably because I’m not graduating until December 2012. Three out of five interviewers asked me about my graduation date. I thought they knew it from my application when I applied online, but apparently they didn’t know. And they made it clear that they are planning to expand quickly their operations.
- Since I was considered for a position with the CloudWatch team and I do not have sufficient relevant experience with massive distributed systems (yeah, every college student can build one in their garage… not).
Who knows. I would love to know.
Overall here are my thoughts on this experience:
- They need to improve their recruiting system. My phone interviews were missed 3 times out of 6 and I got rejected and reconsidered within 1 month. Also, ask me about my graduation date if you are not going to hire me anyway.
- The employee I had my interviews with are very smart people and I had a great time chatting with them. I also learned quite a lot particularly from one of them (I do not remember his name though).
- Seattle is a great city, go see it if you get a chance.