Thomas Ross Hallock

Interview with Amazon for Kindle Cloud Reader

Okay, the real reason I went to Seattle was to interview at Amazon for a developer position on their Kindle Cloud Reader project. I should preface this by stating that I am actually quite comfortable working at RGE, however I do not see my position with them as having much potential for making great web applications, which is my current career objective. That is the only reason I am looking to work elsewhere; otherwise, I am quite happy there :) Here is the lowdown on my experience with Amazon’s recruiting efforts:

I submitted my resume to Amazon through their recruiting website. About a week later, I received a call asking if I would be interested in applying for a position working on the Kindle Cloud Reader project, the next step would be a phone screening. Development involves lots of heavy-lifting for building the front-end interface, and will be a web application used by many people. This is exactly the sort of thing I want to work on. I answered “Absolutely”.

I worked out a time with them for the phone screening and a few days later it took place. Amazon’s protocol is to have you write code down, then recite it back to them over the phone. This seemed silly, so I fired up a public Google doc and shared the URL with them; made the process much simpler. The task was rather simple, and while I can’t share the details, I will say that even a simple solution runs in O(n) time (and oh yes, they certainly did ask me about that.)

I received an e-mail invitation a few days later for an on-site interview in Seattle, airfare (from NYC) and hotel (four stars) courtesy of Amazon. I scheduled time off from work, and made the trip out to Seattle for the interview. Flight was direct and took about 6.5 hours. Light rail trip into downtown Seattle took about 45 minutes. Amazon also offered to pay for all cab fare, but I really don’t like riding in cars unless I’m driving.

After I checked in to the Grand Hyatt, I went out to find some food. Found a place around the corner that made a pretty good lamb burger. The waitress suggested I sit at the bar because it’s more fun. Glad I did because I met a very attractive model who just flew in from LA to do a shoot for :) I told her to give me a call if she ever finds herself in New York City.

Friday was the day of the interview. I made my way to the Amazon campus and after a brief tour of the building adjacent to the Kindle building, had a chat with th erecruiter about the position and benefits. Seemed pretty good honestly. Options, relocation, usual healthcare, etc…

The first interview was with the product director for Kindle Cloud Reader. His portion was conducted over lunch and we discussed topics of personality, team dynamics, and career motivation. The remaining interviews were purely technical. I was asked for details on past projects that I found challenging or interesting, and had to whiteboard code solutions to a handful of theory-heavy challenges generalizing state machines, computing lists of prime numbers, using and making a hash table, and implementing LSB encoding. Of note, I was not asked anything relating to web applications, e.g. Javascript, server-side programming, HTTP, framework design, shell scripting, building and using frameworks both client and server-side, the nuances of working with the document object model, client-side and server-side performance optimization, and database design, i.e. In other words, the skills that I suspect I would actually be using on the job.

The interview was entirely theory, and I have to admit that I was a bit rusty on some topics, like the formal definition of a state machine, or how to properly add elements into a hash-table.

In total I had four technical interviews, plus the first interview with the product director. With the exception of one of the interviewers, they all seemed a bit tired and annoyed before I actually said anything, and I can’t help but think this might have influenced their perceptions.

I received a call from Amazon the day after I returned to NYC and was told that I would not be moving forward in their hiring process. No big loss. I suspect that Amazon’s expenses for my travel and hotel were around $800, which I suppose is just a drop in the bucket for them. Before I left for Seattle, I had a four hour interview with Couchsurfing that seemed to go much better. I’m still waiting to hear back from them, and honestly, while perhaps not as technically diverse, it sounds like it would be a much more fun environment in which to work.

One thought on “Interview with Amazon for Kindle Cloud Reader

  1. Gary Hallock

    Thanks for sharing this, Thomas. I’d long been wondering how that all came about and went down. Never thought to look it up here. Maybe I’ll figure out how to subscribe to your RSS feed.

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