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Software Engineering Internship Amazon Interview Experience (rajk.me)
669 points by quantumtremor on Dec 1, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 422 comments

    The following information will be collected during the duration of the exam:

	Your microphone
	Your webcam
	Your physical location
	Your head movements
	Your eye movements
	Your mouth movements
Creepy as all get-out. By all means, lets have more leaks like this.

It's worth noting that these are Proctorio's (https://proctorio.com/) restrictions; they're just a third-party company that Amazon is using to administer the test. I've used a couple of similar systems (e.g. ProctorU - https://www.proctoru.com/, where a human will actually watch you via webcam(!), or ProctorTrack - http://www.proctortrack.com/), and "monitoring" of this sort is pretty much par for the course (no pun intended).

These companies are typically used in settings where some level of rigor is expected (e.g. administering an exam for an accredited university). In that context, I think these restrictions make sense in order to ensure some degree of validity in the test results (especially since you're only expected to run the software for the duration of the test).

> It's worth noting that these are Proctorio's (https://proctorio.com/) restrictions; they're just a third-party company that Amazon is using to administer the test.

If Amazon has chosen to use use Proctorio, with an understanding of how it operates, then it's very much Amazon's restrictions.


And if they don't "understand" their constraints (or pretend not to)... why would you want to work for them?

It just sends the wrong message. As a company, you are advocating tech that spies on people or in this case the test taker. Overall, it leaves a nasty taste in your mouth that a company would use technology such as this. What else would they be okay with doing once you start working there?

Why not do an onsite if you want to make sure of the validity?

>Why not do an onsite if you want to make sure of the validity?

Convenience and logistics. Is it worth yours (or Amazon's) time to pay for travel expenses, when applicants could literally be located anywhere? Evidently not, at least not in the early stages of the process.

If it's not worth Amazon's time to interview me in person then it's not worth my time to consider them as a potential employer. This is just lazy and they will end up with lower quality candidates because of it.

This seems to be a way for them to screen for the 1000s of entry level applicants, who don't have large supporting work histories. They need to screen them somehow. One way is "Only from this list of schools." Another is "Based on what some person thinks of your resume writing ability as a new engineering grad." Another is "Based on what our algorithm thinks of your ability to place keywords in your resume." I don't think this is that much worse an alternative for those who may not have other means to get into a prestigious company.

When I was last in school I struggled with "networking your way into a company" and wound up landing my internship (and ultimately full employment) on the one company who offered a test before the "Fly you out to meet us" step.

They will probably fly you out after this, for another stage of the interview. But at the "FizzBuzz stage", they do really need to make sure that the person answering the question is the same person they're later flying out. There are a surprisingly large number of college students who've gotten used to "paying for grades", who attempt things like that.

Maybe they should just conduct fizzbuzz then?

I think the point is that even if employers do conduct fizzbuzz, some candidates use someone else's answer.

Some do and you will see this at on site. So how big is the harm really?

Wasting thousands in travel and interview costs?

those are the people you should hire. why would you pay to reinvent the wheel when you really need someone to invent better IAM controls?

Because the point of FizzBuzz is not to get a working FizzBuzz class that can be integrated into an application, it's to see if the candidate can actually produce a working version themselves.

Imagine you're hiring someone to do your taxes. Sure, you'd expect them to use a calculator to do all the hard addition/subtraction, or more likely spreadsheets. But if you asked them to add 5 and 3, and they said "I would use a calculator, this is a stupid question, I can't just tell you off the top of my head" then you're probably not going to hire them.

It's a super basic test of 'Can this person code themselves out a paper bag."

Thank you! For a few hours there I couldn't believe I was the only one in the thread that understood this.

which can be determined entirely without the aforementioned methodology. if you read the guys article, you'd see that he'd already completed the basic tests demonstrating basic competency.

being able to solve problems is more important than how you solve problems. (generally speaking, yes i know there are exceptions)

Because people who are both incompetent and deceitful are an utter waste of everybody's time, and also a liability?

we both know those people make it past fizbuzz anyways, and they are left in the dust fairly quickly anyways.

And that's why Amazon's phone-interview coding exercise is a rather complicated coding question delivered under proctoring, rather than simply fizzbuzz itself: to actually filter those people out early and avoid the cost of flying them to Seattle, rather than just "going through the motions" of doing so.

We both know these are the people you were advocating hiring in your previous post.

I interviewed with them a decade or so back. First interview was a phone screen. Ok makes sense. Second interview was another phone screen. Never mind the fact I lived about ten miles away. On there other hand two years ago I interviewed with a company on the other side of the country. After a half dozen phone interviews they decided to fly me out... For more interviews

I agree with your reasoning, i think the alternative perspective is that traveling somewhere to interview is a significant time commitment on my part, and I might welcome alternative testing approaches where I don't have to fly somewhere until I'm reasonably confident I'm going to get an offer.

the internship IS the interview.

Is it worth any applicant's time to participate in a silly dehumanizing screening process that boils you down to a number before ever speaking to someone?

> dehumanizing screening process that boils you down to a number

That's a very long-winded way to describe a prescreening questionnaire. Are you saying that you think no one should ever take a job if there's a prescreening process?

Especially since a resume and cover letter are also part of the prescreening process. And are also kinda semi dehumanizing and silly.

If they need a job? Probably.

It must work (to some extent), for Amazon to use it. And like mailing spam, the cost to them is near zero.

Isn't a normal class room in which you take tests while required to be silent and with an instructor/TA/proctor keeping en eye on you very much akin to spying on people? (using people rather than tech, but why is that distinction important?)

I'd be more concerned about the the level of access the monitoring software has to my computer and any services with vulnerabilities it might leave behind.

I think I'd only consider doing this if I used a computer I could wipe completely before and after. Even then the amount of distrust is off-putting.

There is an idea! Have them mail out laptops to do the tests on and you mail them back in.

Strangely I really like this. It starts the relationship off with trust instead.

Not necessarily, because that classroom proctor is not asking to install spyware on my personal laptop.

I can understand why ProctorU does what it does, but that process puts a significant burden on the test taker, one which is entirely different than taking a proctored exam in a classroom.

Is it spying if they let you know what they will be doing?

Depending on which definition of "spying" you want to apply, it is spying. Moreover, it is invasive and unsettling.

Perhaps most critically, it is a more subtle test for the prospective employee-- are you the kind of person who would comply with a ridiculous request that violates your privacy in the hopes that it will land you a job?

I dunno. If I were an employer and an applicant actually installed this without question, it would make me seriously reluctant to hire them-- this is the sort of unquestioning, docile employee who could be more vulnerable to social engineering,who would not be likely to consider consequences of their actions, who does not take security, privacy, and safety as a priority for even themselves (and is therefore less likely to do so for customers and clients).

These may not be qualities that some companies value, but from my perspective, I think the "nope" letter to Amazon shows strength in independent thinking, creativity, and moral character.

It's like those companies that required you to hand over your social media passwords so HR could dig through your history.


That is horrifying. If Amazon doesn't hire you because of this, it says quite a bit about their company, fuck 'em. Their loss. There are companies out there that actually respect their employees.

Congratulations. You passed the test.

> Depending on which definition of "spying" you want to apply, it is spying.

Without the secrecy aspect, I don't think you can say it's spying by the definition people typically use. If you went to an examination hall and took a real proctored exam [1], would you consider that the proctor was "spying" on you?

> Moreover, it is invasive and unsettling.

This, I can't argue with. It's hard to pin a definition on what makes things creepy or unsettling. Some people find clowns creepy. Why? I have no idea. But there's no sense in arguing about it.

Personally, I think it's a clever use of technology to streamline and scale a traditional process (exam proctoring) that avoids making you travel to an exam hall or interview.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exam_invigilator

> Without the secrecy aspect, I don't think you can say it's spying by the definition people typically use.

I mean it in the sense of "I went on a blind date, but my parents sat at the adjacent booth to spy on me". I knew they were there, but it was inappropriate invasion of privacy.

> If you went to an examination hall and took a real proctored exam [1], would you consider that the proctor was "spying" on you?

If I was taking the exam on a personal laptop and was handed mysterious software at the examination hall to install on my machine... (along with images of the inside of my home), then yeah...

I think you're reading too much into this. It's to make sure that the interviewee isn't trying to game the system. Pretty simple. You can opt-out anytime you want. You don't even have to start in the first place. It's not spying by any definition of the word. Unless you make one up for it.

I understand that the goal is to stop cheaters. That's an admirable goal, and a perfectly legit one. However it's the completely wrong way to do it and sends a very strong message to anyone applying that "our company, for any reason that serves our interest, expect you to be compliant, to give up your personal privacy, and to submit to our invasive internal processes whenever we feel it's necessary. Expect more."

Asking this of you, before you're even working for them is presumptive and not a good sign that this is a place you're going to want to be. It's basically a huge flashing "We Fuck Our Employees!" right there on your job application.

submit to our invasive internal processes whenever we feel it's necessary

This is also the company that requires warehouse workers to queue for bag searches on unpaid time.

It's probably the cheapest and most efficient way to screen candidates, and ensure accuracy. Not disagreeing with you -- just saying that their primary goal is probably efficiency (no surprise).

Because this is mainly being used for interns. In general, you don't fly in interns for onsite interviews.

Yes you do.

I don't know what is so wrong with this. It's only for the test duration when they want to ensure that you don't cheat. You can remove the extension once the test is over.

I took a test with ProctorU a few months ago for my university class. It didn't seem creepy at all. They installed LogMeIn and watched my webcam, but as soon as the exam was over they disabled both. It's just a way of making sure there isn't any cheating.

I can't believe what I'm reading. A university installed effectively spyware on your device, to watch you as you were sitting an exam?

I sat about a dozen university exams in the last couple of years and in no instance did I have someone staring at my face, or peeking over my shoulder, during them. There were always supervisors in the theater, but they mostly walked along the aisles of desks and made sure to be unobtrusive and quiet as a mouse.

I really don't see any justification for what you describe.

I really don't see any justification for what you describe.

In the case you describe you have to be physically present at a fixed location at a fixed time. In many cases that might be inconvenient or impossible, and I can certainly see situations where it'd be nice to have an alternative. Not having to have my physical location coincide with the physical location of my university of choice could be quite handy.

Had the same experience. I passed my PRINCE2 (similar to PMP certification in the US) with ProctorU from my home.

I connected with a Lady via cam and she asked me to show via cam in a 360 style if I had anything else in the room I was in (books, someone helping,etc).

Took the exam after that and passed it. It is a bit unusual but very very convinient. If I had to take the exam physically somewhere I would have needed to take a day off.

Yep, and a pretty convenient one at that. When using these services, the effortlessness of taking a test in the comfort of my own home (at a time that worked for my schedule) outweighed privacy concerns, although I certainly empathize with those that don't feel the same way.

Seems like we're ok with using technology for telepresence, but would prefer standard apps like Skype or google hangouts. The question is why standard apps aren't sufficient.

> ProctorU - https://www.proctoru.com/, where a human will actually watch you via webcam

I'd just take it naked. I'm a fat hairy guy. I'm sure it'll be fun for all of us.

Intentional username? :)

This immediately brings to mind the history of scientific racism, specifically with craniometry being used to 'prove' that certain races are inferior. I realize this probably isn't what they're doing, but the fact that they're giving themselves permission to store facial data for later analysis seems questionable given the context.

This is not racism. It's a tool that could be used for racial discrimination but that's not the same thing. It's like saying a knife is murder.

> This immediately brings to mind the history of scientific racism, specifically with craniometry being used to 'prove' that certain races are inferior.

I can't imagine why...? That would be like seeing a freeway and instantly thinking of the Nazis.

I can't imagine why...?

In the news right now: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/new-program-decides-crimina...

If some corporation did want to be racist (which has not been established), they'd hardly need fancy face-analysis technology to do it. They could, you know, just look at the applicants.

Blatant old-fashioned racism would be very obvious - new fangled data science racism is more insidious.

How is a computer looking at the applicant data, including their faces, more insidious than humans looking at it? In either case the company could claim they were totally not paying attention to skin color.

You should check out the history of IQ testing particularly in the US. On paper, it seemed to be a perfectly objective way to determine an individual's intelligence. But correlating the data, it was later shown to disadvantage blacks and that is why IQ testing for jobs is now illegal.

Again, how would this prevent the company from just looking at the applicants with their eyes and discriminating against the ones they don't want?

US corporations have a multi-hundred year history of using thinly veiled proxies for race as part of their hiring practices. This continues to this day, including in the tech industry.

It's not exactly that far fetched to think that someone might someday think it's a good idea to start applying some of those new AI APIs to the candidate interview videos just to see what happens. In fact given enough time and enough departments/companies, it frankly seems more likely than not.

Especially given that we already have AI scouring GitHub looking for people to recruit. Assuming it's not already happening, it seems unlikely that there won't be startups applying AI to hiring interview videos within the next couple years.

> US corporations have a multi-hundred year history of using thinly veiled proxies for race as part of their hiring practices. This continues to this day, including in the tech industry.

That's a pretty serious accusation, one that could spark a lot of successful lawsuits against those companies -- especially in the current political climate in the states they tend to be located in. Do you have any specific evidence to back it up?

Google won't you apply to work there without giving your college GPA, despite the fact that all the academic research, and also their own internal research, shows that GPA doesn't correlate at all with job performance.

C.f. what Malcom Gladwell has to say about this here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLQC3EzDGr4

I don't think Google is asking for GPA anymore. Not for experienced hires, anyway. I can imagine they might still ask it for interns and college hires, where it's relevant. But they didn't ask me two years ago (I was seven years out of university at the time).

That... that's your evidence that Google are a bunch of racists? Because they want to know how well applicants did in college?

Okay, then. Good luck with the lawsuits.

Well, INAL, but maybe that actually might be a good standing for a disparate impact suit. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disparate_impact

Using GPA as a screening measure when members of a racial demographic routinely preform more poorly due to socioeconomic factors, it starts to look more like a proxy for race.

Not to mention:

Any website you visit

What a fantastic way of driving away virtually every candidate that's even remotely high-caliber.

Keep in mind, this is during the test. What are you going to do, take a break and load up some porn?

These conditions only apply for the 24 minutes in which you take the test. How is this different than if a person were watching you during an interview?

It's the principle of it. Needlessly invasive. It's my hardware, and my network traffic—not theirs.

Using such a system in the first place also signals their ineptitude at hiring, or at least an ignorance of quality hiring practices.

>What are you going to do, take a break and load up some porn?

Well, yes:

https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/669103856106668033/UF3c... [NSFW]

What's the non-inept way to stop cheating on the test? They can't ask the applicant to walk into their neighborhood Faraday cage.

Not administer it in the first place.

Paid homework projects are far superior. Plagiarism checks can be run on the provided solutions, and a follow-up conversation concerning the project at the interview should easily suss out anyone who had a third party to do it for them.

That approach also has the advantage of actually being a relevant to the position—unlike some generalized intelligence test.

Frankly if people are putting up with the test they have now, Amazon could probably get away with issuing unpaid homework projects, however classless that would be.

> conversation [...] should easily suss out anyone who had a third party to do it for them

This will lead to hiring people who can be coached until they sort of understand a solution, although they still couldn't create it.

> This will lead to hiring people who [...]

Every non-perfect solution is worthless?

I've found that the answer to all this is to give a 30-60m remote test (no proctoring), where they get to write the thing as they want, and a 15m discussion where you analyze their solution and assign one new feature then let them walk you through the changes. No code, no whiteboard, just discussion.

A lot of people can't whiteboard code from scratch but can take a piece of code they've just written and discuss next steps. And it's also an actual work skill that many good coders are bad at, so it gives you a good insight into high and low-level people.

> What are you going to do, take a break and load up some porn?

If they're collecting this much data already, how much of a stretch do you think it is to obtain your browser history?

THIS! This is the real issue. Such unfettered access presents the risk that they won't just collect data on what happens during the 20-something minute window. The risk is that they gather files, collect your browser history, and read your communications.

Keep in mind that if you have extensions installed, many of those extensions will make callbacks to other services. This will track the use of those, too.

>> How is this different than if a person were watching you during an interview?

It's different because they're recording you, not to mention they're doing it by installing spyware on your computer. That's not what a person does when they watch you, unless they're watching you through a camera.

I think it's a bit silly to get so worked up about this. The test is simply to gauge programming skill in an online test, and they want to check you are not cheating. Though I think they could have worded it without freaking people out: "You are going to be video monitored during the test".

What the heck is cheating in programming? Do people watch you on a webcam at work to see if you are reading stackoverflow?

Having someone else take the test for you. Even in sit down on site university tests this is somewhat common.

Although in this extreme case it does sound like checking stackoverflow is considered cheating.

Presumably you're aware that job interviews and the actual job are different things? At a real job no one cares if you use Stack Overflow because there's ample other data to assess your productivity (like...your actual productivity over the months and years that you're employed). The challenge with interviewing is trying to extrapolate performance from a much, MUCH shorter time horizon[1]. You're not testing the exact same environment, but you're using a different environment (the test/interview) to hopefully assess skills that are relevant in the environment you're optimizing for.

This is hardly a new concept: exams work pretty much the same way. There are other ways to assess candidates (like looking at their portfolios), but they have their own weaknesses, and testing skills in a constrained environment can still reveal things.

[1] And this is for the benefit of both parties: I've lost count of how many people I've heard complain about companies that have gauntlets of technical interviews.

Presumably you're aware that job interviews and the actual job are different things?

This is the core problem with tech hiring circa 2016. The sooner this idea dies, the better. It's surprising that more companies haven't noticed the most effective interviews are ones that resemble the company's day-to-day work as closely as possible.

The latter part of the interviews do exactly that with a work simulation. Very cool.

In this scenario it would be things like having someone else answer for you, answer by committee, find the exact questions on a message board...

Doing the test with a friend? I wouldn't want someone who can't complete coding exercises on their own. Also I'd expect people to answer simple questions quickly.

I don't think I was getting "worked up" about it.

It's kind of like when you notice someone staring at you in the subway -- you note to yourself that it's creepy (which it is), and you move on.

There is no cheating in programming. This is absurd.

I think Googling the question exactly and copy and pasting the answer would qualify as cheating.

(Disclaimer: I completed an internship at Amazon and accepted a second internship)

I dunno man. I'd much rather see a well understood vetted email validation(or whatever )copied from stack overflow than some thrown together hack in production code.

being able to look things up is a different skill than being able to understand and properly apply what you looked up. Or being able to understand what you are looking up and why.

That's very easily caught by googling candidates' answers.

There are definitely people who would hire an expert to pass the test for them if they could get away with it.

I have a friend who outsources his job to India. It's not "cheating".

There is cheating in online testing, however.

When I was taking exams at university I am certain the professor could monitor my eye and mouth movements. I could also of course be seen at all times as well as any sounds I made were heard . How is this different?

Did your professor store all of this with perfect recall and shared it with who knows how many people?

Depends on the teacher. For sure, I had no access or control of his memory functions :)

Was wondering if all this information can be used for Machine Learning by Amazon?

Having just reread 1984, it seemed familiar to me. Sure, people cheat all the time to try to get a job (I have no idea why, even a cursory phone call will eliminate the ditch digger). Maybe Amazon should focus on making the jobs more enjoyable so people stick around and they wouldn't need such excess to find live bodies.

The reason Amazon (and other large tech giants) are hiring so many people isn't because they are loosing good talent -- it's because the company is growing at such an aggressive rate that there are always new positions opening.

And lots of contradicting privacy claims:

"Secure Exam Proctor Exam Environment: You can generally utilize the Secure Exam Proctor for taking a proctored examination without revealing any Personally Identifiable Information about yourself. The types of information collected depend on the exam settings and can include video, audio, desktop recording, and websites visited. The aforementioned data is encrypted and will not be used by Proctorio in anyway. This information may be used by "Authorized School Officials" to review the actions of Students during exam administration. Proctorio may collect additional information set forth below in the "Aggregate Information" and anonymous information. Aggregate and anonymous information will be used to improve the quality of the Secure Exam Service. Note: Proctorio utilizes zero-knowledge encryption to keep your information safe."

If it is using proctorio.com as mentioned in other comment, I think it is normal. On Juniper or Cisco certification test (using Pearson vue) they warn the candidate something like this (not fully the same especially for eye and mouth movements, but the candidate is video recorded). Basically it is to make sure the candidate is not cheating. The different is it is using Desktop provided by testing center partner.

Don't normalize it. It is not "normal". It's invasive as hell.

So, what if I run the browser in a VM, and cheat in a second VM? With a secondary input device to switch between which VM is displayed on my screen? Or even an overlay?

They’d be completely fooled.

It’s completely useless, and so needlessly invasive.

If you can cheat that well, I think you'd be probably be qualified for the job. Especially considering the "USB type C" cables they sell.

If it looks like you're typing, and you're not entering any text into the test, they can infer what's going on.

I have a solution for that, too, and verified it kinda works (just needs some improvements).

If you stick a magnet to your tongue, and move it around, a modern phone can recognize that even from below the desk.

So if you had a tongue piercing, and magnetic jewelry for that, you could use that as a crude input device that’s invisible.

Why not just put a second laptop on your desk?

They have a human watch you all the time through the camera, so they’d notice if you look anywhere else. And they require you to show them all around your room first, to prevent that.

That’s why you install the system below the desk, and use it that way.

> And they require you to show them all around your room first, to prevent that.

Holy hell, did I miss that or wasn't it mentioned? This might even be the most invasive of all.

All of this information is available to an interviewer in person.

No, an in-person interviewer will not know the tabs on my browser or the programs running on my computer.

Also at an in-person interview, the interviewee has a symmetrical power relationship to the interviewer in that they can both observe on another. This practice slides the power relationship heavily toward the interviewer.

Furthermore, at an in-person interview, the information is not analyzed in an unspecified manner which further skews the power balance toward the large corporation.

Finally, at an in-person interview, the information is not digitally stored at an unspecified location for an unspecified time and transmitted to unspecified parties. Nor is it subject to unauthorized access by unspecified parties in unspecified countries due to unspecified security arrangements.

The interviewer is most certainly looking at your computer screen if you are using it during the interview.

I will probably never be in a situation that comes close to the staggering power asymmetry of someone deciding whether or not I will have a job. Even if I'm charged with a crime the court has less power over me than an interviewer, in that its decisions are subject to juries and appeals and I get to watch the proceedings.

The information is analyzed unscientifically according to the personal biases and tastes of the interviewer to form an emotional impression he may not even be conscious of. "Not enough eye contact, I don't like this guy." I'd much rather it be judged by an algorithm trained on actual job performance years in.

Ever heard of Greenhouse? Your interview performance (as reported by the interviewer) is absolutely stored indefinitely in some 3rd party's database subject to unspecified controls.

Amazon has piloted a program to make offers solely on the basis of the test, not just to put a gate in front of the onsite. They should be making it at least as resilient to fraud as an onsite, which is why I think these measures are appropriate.

Doesn't really fade me. I mean, it's just for the duration of the exam. Install on a throwaway laptop, do your interview, be done with it.

It's not so much the recording of these metrics that I'd be worried about, but them storing it to build profiles. Different story.

These particular metrics are now quite common for online exam systems.

Mind you, these are valid concerns, and anyone should feel free to reject them. But on the other hand it's nice to have a remote option (for certifications, exams, interviews...) and at the same time a cheat-prevention system.

You'd be creeped out by the stories I have of freelancers or even consulting companies having some "star" employees doing interviews and then other employees showing up at work instead (remotely or even physically). Once you've been burned by stuff like that, you understand they take precautions.

In OPs position, I'd ask for the storage and retention terms and conditions though.

That they have the webcam and microphone is not 'creepy'.

They just want you to be able to take a test remotely without cheaters.

If this were a regular website, sure, but it's for a specific reason, during a specific event, that ultimately you are participating in.

If you were to go and 'take an exam' on Amazon campus - they'd be doing the same thing - but a human proctor would be looking for the same things :)

I think the contextualization of it (i.e. it's 'your home') definitely seems 'creepy' - but I don't think it's a cause for concern - there's a reason they are doing it, it's not nefarious, they are open about it.

Again - it may feel a little creep-show because we're not used to this, or rather, in any other situation it would be truly creepy ... but I don't think there is cause for concern here.

I also think that the logical questions are not unreasonable.

Is it really creepy? When I interview you in-person I am able to note all of those things if I want to and I can include "Your odor" on the list. They probably just have a legal team somewhere that feels that it is worth disclosing these items that really are common sense in a face-to-face.

Don't have a webcam or microphone hooked up to your computer, problem solved?

I don't see how this is creepy at all. If you're building a product (especially in the entertainment field) and you want to get feedback from users a really good way of doing it is by having access to their facial expressions as they go through your product. This should be done with their consent (such as in this case), so I don't see the issue.

they weren't building a product. it was a job interview, he was at home, and this was software they required to be installed on his own computer (at home)

The same idea applies. The company wants to ensure people aren't cheating and also wants to get some insight into how people respond to their interview process. This only improves the process for future interviewees.

if you're interviewing someone and your interviews questions can be answered by a quick google, maybe you should think that during the course of a work day, the same applies and you should think about a test that actually tests skills involved in the work the candidate will be doing

i have no problem with a candidate doing something totally by themself in part 2 of 5 before in in person interview; theres still another 3 different interviews (many of which will be in person) to catch cheating and such

it's just a filter; it's not the interview

Yes, sure is one hell of an "improvement"!

By all means, this is not unique to Amazon - not that it makes it any better.

I did a post-grad interview for Epic (epic.com - healthcare software) in a similar fashion, that was at least as draconian.

After passing a 15 minute phone screen, they sent me a link to a service that:

* Installed their proprietary software on my Mac

* Connected me to a real person who verified my DL against who they were expecting

* Had me swing my laptop 360 degrees around the room I was taking the test in, to make sure there were no notes or people assisting me on the quiz

* Took remote control of my computer and force quit any programs in Activity Monitor that were on their 'blacklist' (including Dropbox, etc)

* Gave me what I imagine amounted to a three-hour SAT style test with English proficiency, math, logic, etc.

* The whole time, had that same person watching me through my webcam and watching my screen, to make sure that I was not cheating.

I passed, and during my in-person full-day interview in Wisconsin, they had me do a few more of these tests (that were slightly harder and more about communication skills), as well as some interviews with people in person.

It was an interesting experience for sure - definitely a different side of the coin compared to what a lot of HN is probably used to. I ended up getting an offer that was very good considering they are based outside of Madison, but ultimately decided to go somewhere else.

That is a terrible process. I've never been asked that by anyone. The most I've had are some remote interviews where they use something like codepen (on-line group REPL)and they ask you a question and watch you write/run it.

In one of them, my interviewer was a little late and found me trying to open .. and /. I could get a file list of a root file system. There was a file in / titled something like HACKING.txt and explained that you were in a container, but if you did find something, there was a bug bounty program.

They are a big company that operates with a fairly proprietary set of programming language and tools (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MUMPS), and they hire a good number of people right out of undergraduate degrees. I remember there being a large proportion of non-CS students from across the country there interviewing for engineering positions.

What they're looking for, I think, is not necessarily your ability to "hack" and program, but that you fit the mold of someone they can put through a rigorous 6 week (or more? I forget) training program that will teach you the basics of their stack, and then have you banging away.

> and they hire a good number of people right out of undergraduate degrees

If they're using mumps they have to get them early before they know any better.

Personally, I always thought MUMPS was pretty cool. Database support as built-in to the language as you can get.

More than the language itself (I use some ugly ones quite regularly) I'd be worried about not gaining transferable skills. Moving on to the next job would be an uphill battle with recruiters and you might have to go back to entry level jobs.

I think you made the right choice. I live in Madison and have some friends and coworkers who work or have worked for Epic. The burnout is epic (pun definitely intended).

I think the only ones who really like their jobs are a barista and a cook.

I really enjoyed my time there actually. There's a decent burnout rate for some teams and roles (especially for ones that travel a lot), but there are some groups there that do interesting work. I was one of their Security team leads for a year or so right before I left and had a lot of fun with it.

Yeah, that lines up with what I heard from other people that had worked there, or knew people that work there.

For all of the flaws though, they had a fantastic and cheap cafeteria. It's surrounded by cow farms, though, so they have to have some sort of meal accommodation.

How long until the latest phishing scam is promising people job interviews?

Minus one year.

I had my resume up on several job sites. I got an email using the name (and a plausible email) for a real, quality software company that sent me a list of HR-type questions. I sent some answers (no PII involved), and they told me I had the job and asked for some bank account information.

That obviously set off some alarms, so I followed up with the company and found out that they were being impersonated. I would guess that someone spent 3+ hours just on hustling me - they'd clearly read my resume, which was ironically better than a lot of real interviews.

> and they told me I had the job and asked for some bank account information.

Wow. The worst thing is that collecting this information isn't even a red flag when starting a new job, although it's always been done when I get there in person on day 1 for me.

My current job required mountains of background checks and verification, more than enough to do some thorough identity theft. This was setup through a recruiter I met in person though. Imagine how many people they could get if they opened a legit recruitment office for a month?

I'm fairly sure this would have tipped you off - they made the offer with no technical questions or onsite, after talking to only one person, and asked for bank account info before a start date. A little more effort and they might well have gotten me, though.

I can only imagine what a placement company or recruiter could do, just by doing the real job for a bit then bailing with the personal data obtained. It's not pretty, since job offers are such a standard reason to cough up PII.

> Installed their proprietary software on my Mac

1) No

2) What if you don't have a web cam, say a desktop, not a MacBook?

I still have the original e-mail they sent me, below the requirements section to do it online (OS X or Windows PC, Webcam, Microphone, etc), they say:

> If you do not have a webcam, your computer doesn’t meet the technical requirements, or for any reason you'd prefer to take the exam at a proctored location near you, please let me know. I’ll need you to provide your full legal name and current address, and I’ll be able to make alternate arrangements.

I believe the company they use to proctor these tests offers physical locations if you do not have access to a computer with the requirements

I think I would prefer the proctored location in any case.

> * Had me swing my laptop 360 degrees around the room I was taking the test in, to make sure there were no notes or people assisting me on the quiz

What happens if you have a computer without a webcam? Do they just not hire those people?

Wow. I would not consent to that.

Then again, I run i3wm atop Linux. Even if I wanted to take such a test, it would be... interesting.

It probably wouldn't break. As long as you're using a modern browser, webapps are just as good at being invasive and tracking all your behavior on Linux as they are on Windows.

It's not that. It's just that the proctor (assuming there is a physical one) would likely be utterly baffled by my DE.

I wonder how such a company would respond if you have neither a webcam or microphone. I certainly don't, at least not on my desktop. Well, that's a lie, I have a microphone, but it has a physical kill switch that is usually off, unless I'm playing a game where I want to communicate verbally.

Fortunately, I still have the e-mail that they originally sent me. They list the requirements as:

  In order to take the assessments from your home, you will need:
  * a webcam (either internal or external is fine)
  * a microphone
  * a computer that meets the technical requirements and equipment test (most Macs and PCs meet these requirements – Linux and Unix are not compatible)
  * a basic calculator (please do not plan to use your phone, computer, or graphing calculator)
  * a government-issued photo ID
However, later in the e-mail:

> If you do not have a webcam, your computer doesn’t meet the technical requirements, or for any reason you'd prefer to take the exam at a proctored location near you, please let me know. I’ll need you to provide your full legal name and current address, and I’ll be able to make alternate arrangements.

I think the company they do this through has testing locations around the USA to accommodate.

So straight off the bat their eliminating linux users, who you'd think would be a large part of their target market.

>a basic calculator (please do not plan to use your phone, computer, or graphing calculator)

Who even has a basic calculator anymore?

You can get them from the dollar store.

Sure, but that requires me to actually go out and buy a calculator. For a single use. It's so incredibly wasteful and forces me to go completely out of my way to complete the process.

Then buy one from goodwill or borrow one? Most people over 50 still have them. You have to buy/do a lot more annoying shit during a job search. I have clothes that are solely for job interviews and I have to replace them if I want to start interviewing again since I gained weight. Complaining about spending a dollar on a calculator is like complaining you have to buy paper to print your resume on.

I don't think you get the point.

You'll have job interview clothes and printed resumes as part of every job hunt. That's just a part of the job hunt itself; there's expectations that you'd need those if you're looking for a job.

A basic calculator, without the ability to use an alternative, is not, and forcing someone to go out of their way just to get through your setup, meanwhile being treated like a cheating high schooler, is not going to make them want to work for your company.

I'm a grown ass man, I don't need to be treated like I'm going to cheat at an interview, especially when said cheating can easily be exposed in any sort of discussion or the first day on the job. Requiring a calculator is fine, but disallowing people from using basic tools they have available to complete the same task because of the potential of cheating (how can you even cheat on a coding challenge with a graphing calculator, anyway) is ludicrous. A 1 minute discussion about the code I just wrote can tell you just as much about whether I cheated or not as the arbitrary rules imposed here.

You still have time! Save yourself. Google around for others' experiences, and do not work for Epic.

Epic asked for my ACT score...

> You will not be able to open any tabs or windows

If I had to code purely from memory, without the benefit of language or library docs, I would not be able to write anything of use.

Personally when hiring, I'm not interested in a candidate's memory recall, but the ability to use resources when faced with a new challenge.

Indeed. When I was interviewing candidates, one of my goals was to get the candidate to respond along the lines of "I don't know.", to which I would follow up with, how would you find out? No engineer knows everything. I also don't want a candidate that is going to try and bullshit me. Admit to me you don't know, but then tell me how you would rectify that. Google SO, MSDN, man pages, whatever, I don't care so long as you can admit you don't know and have an idea about how to correct that.

Personally, I'm doing mostly Python & C++ development at my new job (4 months in) after not using either for 2 years plus. I'm mostly fine with syntax for both, but constantly have my browser open for documentation, mostly for library related info.

It's like that old CS professor joke, "I know everything, just not all at once. It's a virtual memory problem."

In the interview for my first job after university I was asked a Unix trivia question. I said "Oh, I dunno... Most of my Unix knowledge is swapped out to the man pages!"

The company I'm at does two coding interviews for potential developer hires.

The first is kind of a standard phone interview with a Google Doc. There is no expectation that the code you write would actually compile or run. When I conduct this interview I'm always sure to explicitly say that it's not a test of memory and they shouldn't worry about remembering specific standard library functions, etc. If they need something that they know exists but they don't remember the specifics, I encourage them to make up something that seems reasonable and just go with it.

The second is an onsite interview where we plop them at a desktop machine, give them a relatively simple programming task, and ask them to produce a runnable program. They have access to the internet and really the entire machine. They can Google whatever they want and even use Stack Overflow. Nobody is standing there hovering over their shoulder. This interview gets weighted more than the previous one.

Within these restrictions, I don't think they expect your written code to compile. They just want to ensure the integrity of the test itself. Is it worth the invasion of privacy? Personally, I don't think so.

About 8 years ago, I interviewed w/ Amazon & I chose to do my interview in C++. Although there was no actual compilation, I did get called out for small pedantic syntax errors. Maybe it depends on the individuals that are interviewing you.

They 100% expect the code to compile and base your results on the number of test cases you pass.

Well if you participate in an on-site test which the person was willing to do you are essentially tested under the same conditions, so I'd not really consider this to be a privacy invasion.

You're presumably giving them a view into your home and its location. You'd potentially be required to change security settings on your computer, to re-enable things that had been explicitly disabled. You're likely to also want to close whichever browser tabs or open programs that might be deemed unprofessional.

Those are all things that I'd consider invasive that I don't have to deal with during an in-person interview. And the wording is just creepy anyhow.

True enough, but not everybody actually lives in places where on-site testing is an option, and they'd probably prefer cleaning their room up to not having the ability to apply for a job.

And given that all of this happens voluntarily, and assuming that Amazon isn't going to infect you with malware(which seems very unlikely) this kind of testing is a great opportunity for people who have the resources or time to show up in person.

There's some kind of privacy chauvinism involved in these discussions that ignores the realities of people who don't live next to the Amazon HQ.

What I wrote was just a reaction to when you said that the arrangement wasn't a privacy invasion. I don't have any problem with off-site testing, just this particular implementation of it, which seems uncomfortably distrustful, like a harbinger of what working there would be like.

> And given that all of this happens voluntarily

There's voluntary in the sense of willingly (I have no reservations about doing this; heck, I'd offer even if you didn't ask me to), there's voluntary (I choose to do a thing that sucks because I don't seem to have another choice), and there's everything in between. My problem is when the "voluntary" action is more on the negative side of that scale, which it often is when someone's looking for a job.

I'm not trying to criticize candidates' choices. I'm trying to criticize Amazon's implementation of their hiring process. The point isn't that "candidates should be principled enough not to stand for it", but that Amazon should decide "this way sucks, let's find something better".

> assuming that Amazon isn't going to infect you with malware(which seems very unlikely)

True, they just have you voluntarily install someone else's malware.

Not really; on-site is their machine, off-site is yours.

Exactly. If they want to impose all of those conditions, they can send me a laptop or tablet configured however they want.

There's different types of coding. Using xyz UI framework or fancy runtime environment will of course require reference.

Sorting a list of points or finding a simple pattern in an array will not. If you need SO to answer the types of questions they ask, you probably shouldn't be seeking an engineering position at a software company.

I disagree.

I know I might get shit for it from HN, but I don't remember jack shit about specifics of implementing sorting algorithms or how to invert a binary tree, because I don't need it right now. I know some of the ideas about why and when you need some sorts over others, but the ins and outs I can get if or when I need them.

Currently I could talk you damn ear off about 9 different ways of doing a topological sort (and which ones you can use if it's guaranteed to be a DAG, etc...), but that's only because I spent my last few days working very closely with stuff like that. Ask me in a month and I'll be back to knowing jack shit about the specifics.

I'm terrible at these kinds of interview questions, but I feel I'm a productive developer.

The last time I screened with Amazon, they wanted me to have a notebook handy, write down the code in the notebook with a pencil, and read it back to them over the phone. That's just how they roll there so unless you can implement linked lists, sorts and the like from memory, don't work for Amazon.

Exactly. When I was doing this, one of the questions required the use of a custom comparator. I spent the remaining 20 minutes of the challenge trying (and failing) to remember the correct syntax for writing a comparator until it timed out.

I also did that question. You had access to the full Java docs.

I left a nice note explaining how I spent a lot of time trying to do it with the language feature, but couldn't due to runtime restrictions, and gave them a working non-optimized solution.

I was emailed to schedule an interview the next day.

That's why they won't expect anything useful from that process. They will most likely expect some basic programming knowledge and ability to reason about made up problems.

I hear this a lot and it always pisses me off. Part of what I believe gives me value is that I can recall from memory most of what I do day to day without looking it up. I have coworkers who are good, but possess terrible memories. Most are semi impressed with I rattle off a shell script and all the flags needed to get it to work on the first try.

I think the anger comes because I see it as a cop out, and I feel I get the short end of the stick in interviews because of it.

As a developer at Amazon who does interviews, what the fuck?

I imagine part of this is a response to the very, very large amount of time we spend interviewing interns every winter (I know I typically do 2 or 3 sessions of 3 1-hour interviews in a row). There's just too many interviews to do.

Someone wants to innovate and find ways to sort the good from the bad without SDE time spent, I would guess. I hope this isn't the new system for everyone. Then again, if it saves me hours and hours of phone screens...

Coming from the candidates perspective, I loved it. The whole process was efficient and flexible. The coding questions were realistic. The workday simulation was really cool.

I get that the author cares about privacy, but without doing what they do there should be no way to make the process as smooth as it is without getting tons of cheating. (It sounds crazy, but being in uni, I've seen crazy amounts of people cheat, often on the order of >50% of the graduate cs program.)

It's almost unbelievable - and perhaps the perspective of people who interview for one of these in-demand companies can offer the better perspective on why go to these lengths .

I work for one of the big 5 in demand software companies to work for - originally I would do a live-programming question on Coderpad as part of a first round pass with candidates. I used a pretty basic question as sort of a fizzbuzz - build a Pascal's triangle. The amount of people who took the exact top sample direct from StackOverflow without even attempting to change anything or mask their cheating was astounding.

We've since adopted a better heuristic approach that more accurately reflects the day-to-day work and abandoned the smoke test, but as everyone knows, the most valuable resource any interviewer has is time - the more of that you can save, the better off you are.

Did you call it fizzbuzz or pascals triangle and is that how they were able to google it? If you change the parameters to ducky-fuzz (the drinking game variant) and describe the requirements they shouldn't be able to google an answer, at least not a 100% one.

Similarly, people search questions in live phone interviews all the time. If you ask "tell me about UDP", they'll read you the Wiki page. If you ask "tell me about the best known connectionless networking protocol", they're not likely to turn that up in a convincing amount of time.

Unless people already know the problem and its original name.

I'd have thought that's a more valuable '+1' than a correct fizzbuzz answer - shows the candidate can recognise a common pattern in a problem, and know the name from being interested enough to hang out on HN, SO, or whatever.

> Then again, if it saves me hours and hours of phone screens...

aka "I wasn't the one being violated, so I don't care."

It was a joke. I do care. I don't want anyone, especially not people considering joining my team, to feel violated.

I and two good friends of mine all had experiences like this interviewing for Amazon internships. I got this prompt, one of my friends made it as far as the on-site. All of us bailed because things got too Byzantine to look worth engaging with, and other options were pretty available.

I didn't take up SDE time, but my friend did. I'd be curious whether it's costing you more time because you need more candidates to fill a slot...

Years ago I was flown out to Amazon to interview for them. I had like five interviews that day, all from different teams who were all asking questions that had nothing to do with the job I was applying for, never asking about my relevant experience. They were asking me CS questions and I had never gone to college. They asked about computer design - like, draw a diagram of a computer (I had never made a diagram before) and explain how the northbridge on the motherboard works (this was a while ago). Granted, I could have taught myself a lot of that, and I had a general idea about most of it, but they also just could have said "We are looking for someone who has the same skills and knowledge of a Computer Science graduate", and I probably wouldn't have gotten on the plane.

So perhaps a big part of the problem is figuring out what candidates you want to interview first. A lot of these questions are designed just to rule out people who aren't very logical or won't take the time to do it properly, and I understand that.

A manager once told me about a hire they had to fire on the first day. They did a lot of interviews remotely as he was in India. When they finally flew the guy in and put him in the chair, he was a different person. Literally. He had someone else do all the interviews for him so he could get in the door. Pretty weird that he thought they wouldn't notice, but people are that weird sometimes.

If you have too many hires to do, it sounds like you either need to outsource hiring, or build an internal hiring team that can do the technical interviews. This could be a semi-global or traveling team if you're often looking at non-local talent. Or they could do a lot of interviewing via webcam, perhaps with a second webcam shipped by Amazon (it's not like you don't have cheap shipping already) the user could point at their own screen for extra security.

The reason for the very generic interview is that you won't be on the same team in two years. People move around a lot. If they hire you because you know Angular but fuck all otherwise, they're screwing over the team you're going to be on in two years who need someone that can learn C socket programming ASAP.

It's about finding someone who can see things more generally, but then implement solutions with the tools on hand. It's really hard to do, but it means I get to work with incredible people.

(Also, I did a webcam interview this week. It's not a great format.)

Other than in house tech support, or some systems design work for AWS, I struggle to think of many situations in which "Explain the purpose and functionality of the Northbridge on a motherboard / in a CPU" would serve any practical purpose whatsoever. Hell, I've lost track of the number of custom PC builds I've made, BIOS tweaks and I still had to research this.

I don't think it's as bad of a format if you just change the premise to a remote hire or something. You need to do a lot more communicating. But there is really no way to be totally sure about someone.

I also find it mildly insulting that essentially i'm interviewing for a job I don't know i'm going to have, as if I had no choice in what I do, or my choice was irrelevant. If I get hired for a Perl job, don't put me on a Java team, because I hate Java. They could also just skip certain interviews by asking if I have any interest in X team in the future, or if I have any experience with it.

I will say I did appreciate and enjoy my own experience with Amazon - two phone interviews, possibly some code sample, and an in-person. Really nice people. Just an unfortunate waste of time, especially for the interviewers.

> If they hire you because you know Angular but fuck all otherwise, they're screwing over the team you're going to be on in two years who need someone that can learn C socket programming ASAP.

That's even more fucked up. It really shows that they view all developers as interchangeable cogs.

Cogs implies lack of choice. I choose when I move teams. Or sometimes, a manager asks me if I'm willing to move, as there's a team that needs more help.

That sounds fine. The original comment made it sound like people were shuffled around by management with no regard for what their skills are, that angular devs would be move to c sockets.

Off topic here. I am a grad student looking for an internship in India, I tried as many good companies I could but sending emails somehow doesn't feel right. I would like to try amazon India. Can you point me in the right direction? I am kinda lost.

They don't have any internships in Delhi or banglore apparently.

Wait, I see nothing wrong with any of this. Obviously Amazon is trying to curb cheating on remote coding/compatibility tests. They don't actually care to collect any info about you beyond what you do during the test. They don't care which websites you visit before or after the test. Or how you use your clipboard - after the test. But during the test, it's not so unreasonable. People do cheat, especially if they can get away with it and when the payoff is potentially huge.

In a practical sense, it's not much different from a math instructor having you clear the memory on your graphing calculator before an exam; it's an anti-cheating measure and given that this is an online assessment, it almost makes sense.

However, from a philosophical point of view, it's Draconian and unnerving. What assurance does the interviewee have that Amazon isn't storing and using all this telemetry? Amazon is dictating the entire procedure, right down to the specific browser and extension, and the interviewee has no control over this. In fact, I have to wonder if the job seeker's acquiescence is part of the assessment; if they will bend over and take this massively invasive procedure, perhaps they will make for a good little subservient drone at Amazon.

I'm with the author, screw that shit.

> "it's not much different from a math instructor having you clear the memory on your graphing calculator before an exam"

This sort of behavior by teachers is exactly what got me to write my first serious z80 assembly program to mimic all of the menus on the TI-83 circa 1996. Teachers had already caught on to the fact that there were programs that would display the "Mem Cleared" message on the calculators, so mandated they had to do it manually. I never used my program to cheat, I just didn't want to lose my games (had a really good zelda clone & penguins).

I can assure you that, for the vast majority of the population, it has the intended effect of keeping the calculator from storing digital cheat sheets.

I admire your tenacity too.

I do not disagree with your assessment, but it was a great motivator for me to learn z80 assembly. I just wish I knew how to use the stack. Modern me shudders at how horrible that code was - it worked, but god damn was it ugly. I still have the Z80 assembly reference manual on my bookshelf. It just hasn't been opened in close to 20 years. I've never had a physical x86(_64) reference manual, but I usually keep PDFs handy - just in case while debugging. I think I still have Atmel AVR & Motorola 68k docs physically somewhere...

I know Z80, more or less, but it's hard to get your hands on the link cable for a TI-83+ where I live.

I'll probably have to order one off Amazon at some point.

On the TI-84 (not sure about earlier models) you could archive programs which made them stick around past a memory wipe.

I'm sure that the candidate has no such guarantee. But does some kid barely out of college care more about potentially landing a job at Amazon or about the small chance that Amazon will retain some info collected during the test? It's a tradeoff, but it's nothing compared to the tradeoff we make by using Facebook or Google services.

> It's a tradeoff, but it's nothing compared to the tradeoff we make by using Facebook or Google services.

I don't disagree, and I recently stopped using all Google products in part because of how much information they have collected and still want to collect from me. After the account suspension drama from several days back, I was spooked and came to realize just how dependent I was on the company, and what I stood to lose should I come into the crosshairs over a simple ToS violation or even just a random bug in their service.

But that only strengthens my point of view about this hiring process and how wrong it is. When a company wants to exert that much control over someone who doesn't even work there yet, it speaks volumes about their overall culture and attitude towards people in general.

> However, from a philosophical point of view, it's Draconian and unnerving. What assurance does the interviewee have that Amazon isn't storing and using all this telemetry?

How is that different from being recorded by multiple cameras during an on-site interview?

I honestly don't see why the information they're collecting is a big deal. They are remotely interviewing you for a position, and would like to minimize cheating as much as possible. Instead of sitting you in a room, they use the technology available on your computer, while clearly telling you upfront what kind data will be collected. If you don't like it, get an interview elsewhere.

saying "if you don't like it get an interview elsewhere" is pretty unhelpful, because that's pretty much what he did; refused to continue with the current process. it also doesn't really work in the real world, because nothing would ever get fixed. if there were awful terms in a license agreement and someone found out, it's all well and good to say "go somewhere else", but what if it's in something like, say, windows that many people are forced to use for various reasons. sure, you might be able to go somewhere else but the practice still needs to be criticised and shown to others

Yeah, I somehow felt that people were going to read that last sentence and forget everything before it. Bad call keeping it in I guess.

well, as i said in another comment as well, if your questions can be answered by a quick web search, then maybe they should think about how you actually work; you web search a LOT. ask questions that filter on something less obvious

there are still in person stages; this is just a filter for them. it's not like it's the only data you get to hire or not hire someone

Why is everyone assuming that a cheater will only do a "quick web search"? You could call someone to walk you through it over Skype, or get a person to solve it over remote desktop, or even have a friend sit in and do it for you, etc.

These are the cases where monitoring is needed. Whether or not what Amazon is doing is actually effective is another issue entirely. All I'm saying is that it's not as huge a deal as a lot of people on this thread are making it out to be.

> How is that different from being recorded by multiple cameras during an on-site interview?

I'd refuse this too. But the difference is that the on site one isn't a massive security threat.

>while clearly telling you upfront what kind data will be collected

It doesn't even satisfy the legal requirements for informing people their personal data is going to be collected (in my country at least). They don't tell you what happens to the data, who has access to it, they don't provide a way to let them know you want it deleted, and so on.

I agree, but it's an OK start.

" it's Draconian and unnerving"

Let's chill here, 'Draconian' is a strong word.

'What if Amazon is using the data for nefarious purposes'.

It's a reasonable conclusion, but also a big 'what if' :)

Their motivation is pretty reasonable - they just want you to be able to take a test remotely.

They 'dictate the process, right down to the extension' for reasonable cause.

It's reasonable to ponder the ways in which there could be bad things going on, but I don't think it's reasonable to assume that there is, or even malicious intent here.

It just 'seems' creepy.

In the future, could you not use the phrase "bend over"? I don't think it has a place on HN.

...Aparently, HN disagrees.

What's wrong with it is that real programmers constantly use whatever means possible to get the answer to questions as fast as possible. What they describe as "cheating" is what real programmers do all day long.

Unless you are working with a really small API surface then it is unlikely that a programmer is going to have much of the API memorized than the ones he uses on a daily basis. And with people radically changing their stacks every few years it is unreasonable to expect it.

Also, people copy/paste/tweak things from StackOverflow all the time. Disabling clipboard is unreasonable for that reason.

What a programmer can do using only things completely in their head is quite different than what programmers do in reality. Programmers are constantly looking up things they don't know throughout the entire day.

Keep in mind too that online tests are for screening, not a complete interview. You bring people in after that and do several rounds of interviews. Under that circumstance having a friend next to you or supplying you the answers doesn't really get you far if you know you have to do similar tests once you get into the office. There's isn't a lot of incentive to cheat.

The bigger concern is that this is a red flag about the work environment / culture. If I saw that I wouldn't go anywhere near it as well. In fact I deliberately put things in resume that some companies might find objectionable in order to purposely weed out with such cultures.

Yes, I agree that cheating should be curbed. But not at the expense of tracking every running application on a computer, or the exact location of interviewees. Videochat and on-site interviews exist and don't have these kind of problems.

Ok, but any techie should have little problem preparing an environment for such a test. Use that freshly formatted, dusted off laptop from college? Maybe even consider using a VM, like others suggested. Or how about install a portable version of Google Chrome, so no existing browser data or extensions would be a cause for concern (or worse, imagine a buggy extension crashing the browser and, thus, ending the test session)?

This is a great point, and I address it at the end of my post. The basic idea is that freedom shouldn't be limited to people who 1) have the technical knowledge to do all this and 2) have the time to set up such an environment. Freedom should be default. By being OK with these kinds of testing platforms, these could eventually be used for non-technical positions very easily, and those applications wouldn't know how to circumvent this.

But Amazon is primarily a tech company. Hate to say it, but non-techies comprise a very small percentage and they're an edge case. I also think that there is little chance that Amazon would care much to impose such strict oversights during non-technical remote tests.

But the real question is: should they have to? Quantumtremor already listed several alternatives that indeed don't have the same problems. Why would you risk ruining the goodwill of your privacy-conscious applicants by making them format a laptop, create a VM, or even install another application. None of that is going to make me want to do your interview.

Maybe that's the real test!

Video and on-site interviews are much more expensive and leave employers open to lawsuits. Not that I necessarily agree with this practice, but I could see why this approach would be considered.

The premise that cheating is a major risk or issue in job interviews is .... nutty.

And yet...I have seen people cheat on technical interviews conducted over video chat. It's pretty obvious in that situation — oh, where did that come from? — but I can see it being an issue in a highly automated interview process with minimal human oversight.

Of course, I think that the real answer for that is to use a human to interview everyone. It's crazy to treat potential future employees this way.

Had something similar while interviewing Chinese offshore developers from Accenture. We caught on that the translator was basically answering the questions, and not the candidate. As a result of that experience, I will not work with anyone that does not speak English (I don't care if it's not their first language - I can work with poor grammar & broken English and I can handle heavy accents over a phone), but I will not go through a translator (and I don't want to have to go through a translator for day-to-day work, anyway).

More than once I've conducted phone screens and heard candidates attempting to look up the answers to questions online. (Hint: it's hilariously obvious when you ask something that follows the previous answer, the connection goes silent except for a few clicks of the keyboard, and the candidate then suddenly has the answer that sounds a LOT like it came from StackOverflow.)

I've even had a candidate whisper the question to someone else in the room with them. Seriously, it's ridiculous what some have done.

We used to give people with no real experience or portfolio small homework assignments to do - one of them forwarded it to his friend, asking him to complete it for him - but accidentally CCed my boss...

While it's true that a follow-up interview would further determine a candidate proficiency, the remote interview is meant to be a weed-out test. If enough people cheat, then it becomes useless for Amazon. And yes, I've heard of people cheating on interviews, including for Amazon.

Yeeeeeaaah, I don't think you can say that.

But what you can say is: "If you want me to jump through all of those hoops, send me a $99 tablet that's already configured for the test conditions you want to subject me to."

Asking questions that give an incentive to cheat are typically poor questions in my experience. Or maybe an indication that the job is gonna suck a little bit.

It is actually (unfortunately) incredibly common.

If this test was happening at their own premises on their own machines then sure. But if I personally had to do this on my own machine on my own premises without being notified beforehand? My response would have been "Please erase my details and never contact me again". My current employer has very strict privacy and confidentiality concerns which I respect. But a prospective employee who has no contract with me? They can kindly GTFO.

habituate the populace to inspection

It's a modern-day (i.e. 'digital') proctored exam. It's not the equivalent of CCTV in UK.

What you're saying is "I have nothing to hide." Don't let them get their foot in the door.

> They don't actually care to collect any info about you beyond what you do during the test.


Get out of here with the reasonable analysis.

I went through Amazon's two online tests in October 2016 while interviewing for a full-time position.

I took the first test just like the OP, the logical reasoning part seemed kind of irrelevant and a waste of time for me. That was nothing compared to the second online test.

The environment of the second test was like a scenario out of Black Mirror. Not only did they want to have the webcam and microphone on the entire time, I also had to install their custom software so the proctors could monitor my screen and control my computer. They opened up the macOS system preferences so they could disable all shortcuts to take screenshots, and they also manually closed all the background services I had running (even f.lux!).

Then they asked me to pick up my laptop and show them around my room with the webcam. They specifically asked to see the contents of my desk and the walls and ceiling of my room. I had some pencil and paper on my desk to use as scratch paper for the obvious reasons and they told me that wasn't allowed. Obviously that made me a little upset because I use it to sketch out examples and concepts. They also saw my phone on the desk and asked me to put it out of arm's reach.

After that they told me I couldn't leave the room until the 5 minute bathroom break allowed half-way through the test. I had forgotten to tell my roommate I was taking this test and he was making a bit of a ruckus playing L4D2 online (obviously a bit distracting). I asked the proctor if I could briefly leave the room to ask him to quiet down. They said I couldn't leave until the bathroom break so there was nothing I could do. Later on, I was busy thinking about a problem and had adjusted how I was sitting in my chair and moved my face slightly out of the camera's view. The proctor messaged me again telling me to move so they could see my entire face.

The whole experience was degrading. If you're wondering why I did it, well, I've been using various AWS services for five years and I admired the work that the AWS team had done. Furthermore, I need the income to support my parents and Amazon was the best chance I had at the time. I got invited to do an on-site interview but I declined once I had another offer, and I'm glad I did.

EDIT: Small detail I forgot to mention. When I was showing them my desk, I had the monitor for my desktop (I was using my laptop for the test) and they asked me to turn the monitor so it was facing backwards.

I do understand why Amazon might do this, but I just can't get onboard with this. Being treated like a cheater upfront is just not how I want to start my relationship with a potential employer.

Even when I was in college my university (Rice) had an honor code which meant, among other things: (1) professors didn't have to be present in-class during exams, and in fact they were encouraged to leave; (2) professors could give take-home exams and students were trusted to not cheat or otherwise violate the terms of the exam.

It wasn't just theoretical; most of my exams were not directly proctored in college, and I never personally knew of anyone who cheated. If you did cheat and got caught, though, you would have a trial before the entirely student-run Honor Council. If found guilty the punishments were extremely severe.

I know Rice is not the only school with this sort of honor code. I believe Caltech has one as well, and there are definitely some others.

Vanderbilt does the same, and it works well, especially the whole Honor Council concept.

Creepy. Not a company I would want to work for.

Wow, can't believe I'm seeing people justifying/defending this--on HN of all places! This is unacceptably invasive, and if this is a glimpse of the future of getting a job, we're all in for a lot of trouble. If you think this kind of information is acceptable to monitor/record during an interview, what on earth do you think is off-limits??

Justifying this as "just to make sure people aren't cheating" is like justifying the police putting a camera in everyone's living room "just to make sure people aren't criminals" or putting a GPS collar on your spouse "just to make sure she's not having an affair". Totally unacceptable.

> Justifying this as "just to make sure people aren't cheating" is like justifying the police putting a camera in everyone's living room "just to make sure people aren't criminals" or putting a GPS collar on your spouse "just to make sure she's not having an affair". Totally unacceptable.

While you might have good reason to get offended and find this to be a big privacy invasion, probably like 90% of people here, the comparison you use here is invalid. Putting a camera in people living room or a GPS tracker is a permanent surveillance. This in comparison is only for the duration of the exam. In many schools, especially in some cultures where cheating is more common and accepted , there's pretty strict measures implemented for exams, including humans checking all of the same things that tool is checking.

Again, it's definetely a big privacy invasion, but it's Amazon tentative at scaling/automating the first phase of the job interview process. I'm sure anyone with proven credentials could bypass this step, but if it gives a chance to prove one's skills for a job without having any special degree, I'm sure some people would be fine with the temporary privacy invasion.

OK, then we'll turn the camera and GPS on only once in a while, when we have a good reason to make sure things are kosher.

Depends. If they warn you long before turning on the camera, you decide the exact moment when the camera is turned on, and how it is positioned, and you only have to turn it on once while taking a test, would it be so bad ? Just put your laptop facing a wall, and the personal information you give is your face (which your prospective employer would see at some point anyway) and the color of your walls (big deal !).

It is an invasion of privacy. Is it an unacceptable invasion of privacy for the duration of an interview/test ?

Yes, it would be bad. Privacy is not a slider. You either have it, or you don't.

Then you don't have privacy anyway since a long time, and since it is not a slider, this doesn't change anything...

Your comparison isn't fair at all. The interview monitoring is: invasive, but voluntary, only for a short period of time, and for a specific, articulated purpose. The police example is: invasive, as well as involuntary, permanent, and completely unlimited in its scope.

To make a comparison like your comparison: Apple stole $500 from me when I bought my iPhone! Thieves!

Giving something up of your own free will (in exchange for something else), is very different than having it taken from you.

If you disagree, argue with the actual facts of situation.

From the article, the monitoring is presumably only voluntary insofar as if you don't consent you are guaranteed an unfavorable outcome (you don't get the job). The hypothetical living room camera could be voluntary as well: If you don't consent it's because you're hiding something.

Doing something in exchange for a chance to get a job is 100%, completely, in every sense of the term voluntary.

If I don't pay Apple, they won't give me an iPhone. Am I involuntarily paying Apple for my iPhone?

As for the camera, a mafia-esque threat of "if you don't have a camera, we get very suspicious" by a government which has the power to prosecute and put people in jail, is incredibly coercive and horrifying.

Amazon is making you an offer, which if you refuse, leaves you no worse off than the status quo. If you accept their offer, there is potentially a job which you are apparently interested in, since you are applying.

I'm not saying the conditions are involuntary. I'm saying they are unacceptable.

""just to make sure people aren't cheating" is like justifying the police putting a camera in everyone's living room"

This is a completely false comparison.

You are taking a test remotely, they want to make sure you are not cheating, it's completely reasonable - during the duration of a test.

It's beyond unfair to suggest that this is in the same category of 'state authorities putting cameras in your house to arbitrarily spy on you' or putting a GPS collar on you.

I suggest it would help if in the terms that Amazon spelled out that they are not storing any data or what-not.

We live in a new world of tech, we have to think a little bit about what these things mean, and when we can apply tech reasonably and when we cannot, we can't just be knee-jerk about it.

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