How to become a software engineer at Amazon

Amazon's application process is intense and time-consuming, but it follows a set pattern. Persistence is key to becoming an Amazon software engineer.
Written by Matthew Sweeney, Contributing Writer
NicoElNino, Getty Images/iStockphoto

If you're a software developer or engineer looking for a lucrative career with an industry leader, you may have wondered how to get a job as an Amazon software engineer. 

Amazon leads the tech industry for a reason. The company has a reputation for offering great benefits and rewarding creative thinking.

Amazon's application process is highly competitive and rigorous, but proper preparation can increase your chances of landing a great job as a coder or engineer. Breaking down the steps involved is the key to success.

Read on for our guide on the steps you can take to pursue an Amazon software engineering job.

0. Check your readiness.

Start with an honest assessment of your abilities. Do you think you have what it takes to land a job with Amazon? Generally, successful applicants to software development Amazon jobs hold at least the following:

  • A bachelor's in software development
  • Familiarity with C++, Java, and Python
  • Over five years' professional experience

It might make more sense to wait until you have gained the necessary skills and experience.

1. Update your materials.

Make sure your application materials are in order. Double-check your resume for typos or outdated information. 

Update professional profiles on sites like LinkedIn, GitHub, and HubSpot.

You should also update your coding portfolio, as Amazon may request work samples during the interview process. 

2. Research the application process and set your expectations.

Before applying, research others' experiences applying for Amazon and the company's thoughts on their demanding application process.

The application process for a software engineer job with Amazon can take one to three months. 

Jobs with Amazon are competitive, so don't become discouraged if you don't immediately succeed. The process will require patience and your A-game as an interviewee, engineer, and coder.

3. Search and apply for jobs on Amazon's career website.

Once you're ready to make the perfect job application, start searching and applying for jobs on Amazon's job search site. You can typically also find Amazon jobs advertised on popular job search sites

Adjust your resume to fit each position better by using keywords from the listing or emphasizing specific credentials. Competition is fierce, so only apply to jobs where you match at least 85% of the listed qualifications. 

Amazon doesn't allow cover letters, which will save you effort. Links to portfolios are appropriate, though.

4. Take assessments.

Amazon requires applicants to complete assessments either during or after the application process. There are two main kinds all applicants should know about.

Work style assessment

Amazon uses the work style assessment to determine how you would behave in various real-life work situations. To prepare for this assessment component, read up on Amazon's Leadership Principles and start thinking of how you would implement them yourself.

Work sample simulation

The work sample simulation is a coding demo that Amazon uses to test software engineers' skills with various common coding languages. You can complete a practice simulation here.

5. Wait for a screener call.

Amazon won't notify you if they reject your application. However, you can check your application's status on your profile. 

If you seem like a good candidate, Amazon will reach out for a screener call with HR or an internal recruiter.

The screener call assesses your career trajectory over the past five years and how your competencies align with the position. 

You can prepare for the screener call by preparing concise, substantive answers to the following questions:

  • What have been your greatest career achievements?
  • What have been your biggest career failures?
  • Why did you stay on with/leave each position?

6. Prepare for additional interviews.

The exact structure of the interview process depends on the role's level. Follow this link for more interview prep info for a software development role with Amazon.

Generally, the first interview is with the hiring manager — your potential future supervisor. 

Next is a day packed with four to five 60-minute "loop" interviews with software engineering team members, some on teams related to your desired position, others from completely different teams. Each interviewer asks about leadership competencies and technical skills, which are covered below.

You can prepare for the process by checking out Glassdoor's tips on Amazon interview questions and then getting a refresher from us on phone interview tips.

Leadership competencies

During the Amazon interview process, you will be expected to explain how you have demonstrated Amazon's Leadership Principles in your career. Your interviewer will ask for examples of times you showed leadership competencies. 

Plan to answer these questions using Amazon's preferred STAR format. Describe the situation and explain your task. What action did you take to deal with the situation? And what was the result?

Prepare your list of relevant career experiences to date ahead of time. Follow this link for some helpful examples that showcase leadership competencies.

Technical skills

Next in the interview process comes technical questions, which fall into two categories:

  • System design competency: Measures your ability to black-box design a software system
  • Coding competency: Measures your abilities at programming coding languages including C++, Java, and Python

The coding competency category is divided into three subcategories:

  • Logical and maintainable
  • Data structures and algorithms
  • Problem-solving

During this part of the interview, you will be expected to answer technical questions, using personal career examples to illustrate, and demonstrate your ability to improvise to solve problems. 

You can prepare by revisiting Amazon's interview prep guide for more detailed information and by visiting our page on computer science interview questions.

7. Skill up and try again.

Don't beat yourself up if you don't get the job or even an interview. A similar job posting will likely appear on Amazon's career site within weeks. 

Considering the overwhelming number of applications each posting attracts, getting an interview or job is largely down to luck.

Treat the experience as a learning opportunity. Take notes on your interview performance and brainstorm ways to improve.

Consider pursuing more training through a coding bootcamp or by earning your software engineering master's.

In conclusion

Successfully landing an Amazon software engineer job involves one essential soft skill: Confidence. Amazon's behavioral interview questions ask you to explain how you have handled difficult situations over your career history. 

You'll need confidence in your successes and the ability to explain how you will recreate them. 

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