A Senior Engineer’s Guide to Amazon's Interview Process and Questions

~20 minute read

Amazon's interview process and questions

Amazon’s interview process consists of the following steps:

  • Recruiter call OR online assessment
  • Technical phone screen (if you didn’t do the online assessment)
  • Onsite
Amazon’s interview process: online assessment or recruiter call, technical phone screen, onsite

Before we get into the details of each of these steps, here are a few general notes about Amazon’s process, evaluation criteria, and interviewers.

All human organizations operate as a metaphor. Amazon isn’t a sports team or a family; they’re a motley crew of Terminators. They’re a different breed. They reward aggression. And they want to take over the market (or the world, depending on who you ask)..

Amazon’s process is not centralized, and you can interview with multiple teams concurrently. To up your odds, interview with as many teams as you have the appetite for.

Amazon really loves their Leadership Principles (LPs). Amazon interviewers may sandwich LP questions anywhere and everywhere: coding rounds, system design rounds, all rounds. In short, at an Amazon interview, be prepared for Leadership Principles questions anywhere, anytime.

Finally, Amazon has one of the more-structured interviewing cultures. They’re the only FAANG where interviewers exist in a formal hierarchy, and Amazon openly encourages and rewards interviewers who reach the top rung in that hierarchy.

Step 1: Online assessment or recruiter call

Whether you start with an online assessment or an Amazon recruiter call depends on a few factors:

  • Are you a mid-to-senior engineer?
  • Have you previously interviewed at Amazon?
  • Have you previously worked at a FAANG?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you will likely not have to do an online assessment, and your first step will be a recruiter call. That said, we’ve gotten some conflicting reports from Amazonians, and it may be that Amazon has more recently started using online assessments for more senior engineers as well.

If you do the online assessment, here’s how it works. It’s a timed, asynchronous test consisting of several coding problems, conducted via HackerRank. These are usually data structures and algorithm problems of easy to medium-level difficulty. If you do well in the online assessment, you can skip the second step, which is the technical phone screen.

If you end up skipping the online assessment, the first step in your process will be a recruiter call. Please see the section above called “A note about recruiter calls.”

Step 2: Technical phone screen

Amazon’s technical phone interview is a coding interview that tends to focus exclusively on data structures and algorithms. Despite the focus on speed, Amazon interview questions may require a lot of code, and the time allowed is usually 30-40 minutes, which means you’ll usually get one question, as opposed to Facebook, where you might get multiple questions.

For these screens, Amazon uses an internal tool called Livecode, which has syntax highlighting for popular languages but does NOT have the ability to run the code. In fact, no code is ever compiled or run in Amazon technical interviews.

Finally, there’s a 50% chance that your interviewer will throw in 1 or 2 Leadership Principles questions into the phone screen. They’re not guaranteed, but they’ll definitely come up during the onsite.

Step 3: Onsite interviews

There’s some variance, but the typical Amazon onsite, or in-person interview, will consist of:

  • At least one behavioral round (this doesn’t include all the Leadership Principles questions peppered through the other interviews)
  • Three coding rounds
  • One system design round
  • One hiring manager round

Amazon has a special type of interviewer that they include in onsite loops: the Bar Raiser. These are typically senior-level Amazon employees at the top of the formal interviewer hierarchy, and they’re the toughest and most-trained interviewers at Amazon. They serve as an independent and objective evaluator, ensuring that hiring decisions are not influenced solely by the candidate's immediate team or department.

Anecdote from a Bar Raiser at Amazon

“Being a Bar Raiser makes an impact on your promotion packet. Every L5 nearing promotion at Amazon, is encouraged to do the Bar Raiser training. It’s a big input to get to L6 or L7. Part of the promotion packet is: how are you demonstrating some of the Leadership Principles. And “Hire and Develop the Best” is one of the LPs. There’s a lot of work to do in hiring to become a Bar Raiser: you have to do a lot of training and a ton of interviews. Being a Bar Raiser carries a lot of weight at Amazon if you want to get promoted.”

At Amazon, Bar Raisers and hiring managers are the only interviewers who have the formal authority to veto a hiring decision. You can recognize them because they are the only interviewer in your onsite loop who has nothing to do with the team you’re interviewing for. Bar Raiser rounds can be super intense, but don’t shrink when you feel a Bar Raiser throw flames your way; embrace the fire.

The three types of Amazon interview

There are three main types of interviews you’ll face as a software engineer interviewing at Amazon. These are coding, behavioral, and system design interviews.

1. Coding

You will have to do coding interviews in the phone screen and in the onsite. Coding rounds at the onsite are very similar to technical phone screen rounds, except that in the technical phone screen you might get Leadership Principles questions, whereas in the onsite coding portion, you definitely will.

Amazon asks mostly medium-difficulty LeetCode-style coding questions and avoids hard questions. The idea is to let candidates demonstrate how quickly they get to the optimal result, all in the service of hiring engineers who can churn out new features quickly.

Despite the focus on speed, Amazon questions may require a lot of code, and the time allowed is usually 30-40 minutes, which means you’ll usually get one question, as opposed to Facebook, where you might get multiple questions.

Amazon’s coding rounds test the following technical skills:

  1. Computer science fundamentals and knowledge of data structures and algorithms
  2. The ability to write logical and maintainable code. These rounds require writing some classes and implementing some functions, e.g., “Implement some common functions of a file system”

Although your performance in technical interviews matters (if you fail the technical, you usually will not move forward), it’s not as important as the outcome of the behavioral interview, and coding interviews during the onsite at Amazon actually feature Leadership Principles questions.

Anecdote from a Amazon Interviewer

“Because no code is ever run on an editor, the approach, speed, and testing are most important. Code syntax, typos, variable naming, and edge cases are less important.”

Graph questions are among the most popular types of questions asked at Amazon, as well as tree questions that require BFS or DFS. Classic questions like LRU cache, meeting rooms, word break, word search, word ladder, and so on may also come up.

We’ve heard from Amazon interviewers that all of the data structures and algorithms questions in Amazon’s official question bank are actually on LeetCode. That said, Amazon interviewers are allowed to ask whatever they want in coding rounds, and some will deviate from the question bank to ask more practical questions such as, “Implement a function with some behavior with the help of these two APIs…””

Finally, like Facebook, Amazon shies away from dynamic programming questions (though they’re not banned outright).

For everything you need to prepare for Amazon’s coding interview, check out the section called "Amazon coding interview preparation resources" below.

2. Behavioral

The behavioral interview is one of, along with coding interviews at the onsite, the most important in terms of leading to an offer.

Anecdote from a Bar Raiser at Amazon

“I’ve done over a hundred interviews at Amazon. The behavioral interview is most likely to get someone pushed over the line if they were borderline in their technical interviews. The opposite is not true: if they don’t meet the behavioral bar, we don’t care how they did in technicals, we aren’t hiring them.”

Behavioral is an extremely important part of the Amazon interview process – Amazon is more likely to downlevel or reject you solely based on behavioral – and their behavioral round might be the most well-thought-out interview in all of big tech. It also might be the easiest to fail if you don’t specifically prepare for it. There’s no flavor like the flavor of an Amazonian behavioral interviewer; if you’ve never encountered it before and don’t expect it, it can be jarring.

One of the most common mistakes our users make is not taking this interview seriously because at most other companies, behavioral interviews tend to be more lip service than a meaningful part of the process. The bottom line is, if you want an Amazon job at a senior level or above, you have to seriously prepare for the behavioral interview questions.

Tip to get unstuck

Not all Leadership Principles are created equal. Customer Obsession is the 👑one Leadership Principle to rule them all. When in doubt, demonstrate Customer Obsession. If you get a curveball, give an answer that shows you’re deeply committed to making things customers love.

Anecdote from Amazon Bar Raiser

“If you have a bad LP round, or if LPs are problematic in the debrief, it’s almost always a ‘no hire.’ But if you have great LPs then there is a conversation where we try to see if the candidate can be hired even if the technical rounds weren't at the bar. But not the other way around. But if there’s anything ‘at the bar’ or ‘below the bar’ for LP, then you fail.”

Anecdote from Amazon Bar Raiser

“If a candidate does not do that well on the technical round but they do well on LPs, there is always a possibility of recycling the candidate because they’re a good fit for Amazon but not good for the team. So sometimes we’ll help them interview with other teams, and they don’t have to do a full onsite: they just need to do 1-2 more rounds as a follow up. But if they’re below the bar for LPs, then they’re not a fit for Amazon so Amazon wouldn’t help set them up to other teams with shortened onsites.”

In this round, expect questions from all 5 of these categories:

  1. Technical problem solving
  2. Learning (and failure)
  3. Getting stuff (for the business) done
  4. Interpersonal conflict
  5. Ambiguity

Honestly, the best place to find a detailed question list for Amazon’s behavioral interview, as well as a bunch of other interview preparation resources, is our Senior Engineer's Guide to the Amazon Leadership Principles Interview.

3. System design

System design and coding aren’t the be-all and end-all at Amazon – of course, you still have to pass them, but if your performance is borderline, doing well on behavioral Leadership Principles questions will take you over the finish line. In fact, interviewers will likely ask you 1-2 Leadership Principles questions in your system design interviews. Try to be efficient when answering LP questions in system design rounds. LPs come first. Finish them early so that you have more time for the technical question.

Anecdote from an Amazon Interviewer

“In many debriefs, I hear the hiring manager say that we can extend the L5 offer with the understanding that system design is not their strength, but it's coachable. At the L6 level, the system design bar is comparable to Facebook or Google.”

Tip to get unstuck

If you’re in a system design round at Amazon, and you don’t know what to talk about, talk about performance. They want Amazon to be the number one customer of AWS. And they love to find engineers who understand and are passionate about fine tuning performance in the cloud.

Amazon is more likely to ask you practical system design questions. For example, if you’re interviewing with a team who controls Amazon’s inventory management, they might ask you to design a piece of an inventory management system.

Other common system design questions include:

  • Design autocomplete
  • Design file upload/download to the cloud
  • Design search

The design questions are most likely about designing well-known features, as opposed to a complete system from scratch like Design Facebook or Twitter.

Amazon interviewers are allowed to ask whatever they want in system design, but a lot of interviewers fall back on reusing questions from Amazon’s question bank.

For tooling in system design interviews, candidates can usually choose any type of drawing tool. Excalidraw is most popular, followed by Miro.

How Amazon makes hiring decisions

The two most important interviewers at the onsite are the Bar Raiser and the hiring manager. At Amazon, all of the other interviewers could vote to hire, but if the Bar Raiser or the hiring manager aren’t on board, that candidate is likely getting rejected.

Tip to get unstuck

At Amazon, identify the Bar Raiser (the only person whose work has nothing to do with the team for which you’re interviewing) and the hiring manager (if you don’t know who it is, ask the recruiter before the onsite or an interviewer if during the onsite). Most of your energy should go towards impressing these two people – since Amazon relies so heavily on live discussions to make hiring decisions, impression management is more impactful here.

Amazon has one of the more well-structured decision-making processes in tech: teams typically do a pre-brief (live meeting before the onsite), submit asynchronous feedback, and also do a debrief (live meeting after the onsite). They rely heavily on live discussion to make decisions. Notably, though some interviewers might be able to tell an outlier story of a time a regular interviewer out-argued a Bar Raiser, most of the time the interviewers go along with what the Bar Raiser says.

Amazon interviewer’s grade on a 5-point scale: Strongly Inclined, Inclined, Neutral, Not Inclined, Strongly Not Inclined.

Amazon coding interview preparation resources

We’ve aggregated a bunch of useful Amazon content for you! We have replays of candidates doing mock interviews with Amazon interviewers, long-form solutions to common Amazon questions, and deep dives into technical topics that tend to come up in Amazon interviews.

Amazon interview replays

Below are a series of mock interview replays, conducted by Amazon interviewers on our platform. Watch them so you can learn from others’ mistakes.

Solutions to common Amazon questions

Below are common questions that interviewers from Amazon ask on our platform. Since our data comes from mock interviews, questions may not be exactly the same as what you'd see in real interviews.

Data Structures and Algorithms

Three Sum

Given an array of integers, return an array of triplets such that i != j != k and nums[i] + nums[j] + nums[k] = 0.

Data Structures and Algorithms

Count Complete Tree Nodes

Given the root of a complete binary tree, return the number of nodes in the tree.

Data Structures and Algorithms

Partition Equal Subset Sum

Given an array of positive numbers, determine if the array can be split such that the two partition sums are equal.

Data Structures and Algorithms

Longest Substring with At Most K Distinct Characters

Given a string, find the length of the longest substring in it with no more than K distinct characters.


Find Leaves of a Binary Tree

Given a binary tree, extract all the leaves in repeated succession into a list of lists by starting at the bottom and working your way upwards.

Data Structures and Algorithms

Top K Frequent Elements

Given a non-empty array of integers, return the k most frequent elements.

Data Structures and Algorithms

Boundary of Binary Tree

The boundary of a binary tree is the concatenation of the root, the left boundary, the leaves ordered from left-to-right, and the reverse order of the right boundary.

System Design

Design LeetCode

Design a coding competition platform with a leaderboard and execution environment.

Data Structures and Algorithms

Meeting Rooms

Given a list of meetings, represented as tuples with a start and an end time, determine the minimum number of rooms required to schedule all the meetings.

Technical topics

To figure out what technical topics will come up in your Amazon interviews, we did two things. First, we spoke to a bunch of Amazon interviewers in our community. Then we cross-referenced all the anecdotes we heard with Glassdoor data AND our own data-set of mock interviews in the style of Amazon. Based on all of the above, here are the technical topics you’re likely to encounter:

Other Amazon interview preparation resources


System design

  • A Senior Engineer's Guide to the System Design Interview
  • The AWS Well-Architected framework is a good resource, especially the reliability and operational excellence pillars
  • Study up on performance and fine tuning performance in the cloud
  • Practice practical system design questions such as “Design a component of the service this team works on.” Practice making simple scaled-down versions of their service.
Want to know if you’re ready to interview at Amazon? Do anonymous mock interviews with real Amazon interviewers, and see exactly where you stack up.
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