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'Clean your desk': My Amazon interview experience (shivankaul.com)
911 points by skaul 285 days ago | hide | past | web | 509 comments | favorite



I have a confession to make. I cheat at my job. I cheat all day, every day.

I have this little book next to my desk I use to write down ideas and notes, and then I refer back to it later. Sometimes my boss is standing right there! I get such a rush.

I found this website called Stack Overflow that has so many answers to problems I run in to. Sometimes I'll just copy the code directly from the site, without typing it out again myself!

Sometimes I even just walk up to colleagues and straight up ask them for help with a problem. They just tell me things I can use in my job, out loud, in a busy office, and we still haven't been caught!

I know that my cheating gives me an unfair advantage in the job market. I know this cheating makes me an inferior programmer. And now I know I can never work at Amazon because I can't get past their super scrupulous interview process. Oh well, I guess I'll just try and get by, cheating my way though life.


Ken Robinson on collaboration in education:

"In the work world, collaboration and team work are essential to success; in school, it's called cheating."

More here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U


Well what a lot of children do in school is indeed cheating outside of collaboration. It's often one person who's already done doing the work of another without much bidirectional creative synthesis.

I would think that students who collaborate on schoolwork or studying are very institutionally fluent and aren't really at risk of the institution stepping over them and calling them cheaters.

I see the college cheating industry as a trade between wealthier cooler kids and the smarter disadvantaged kids, which I suppose is also life in most places, China or US.


Well, cheating is only to be expected in a system that puts a score/grade on the pedestal.

The point of school (American school, at least) isnt to learn, its to get a good grade. When the goal is a number, than 'cheating' is simply trying to achieve the goal.

If the goal was to actually learn, the "cheating" that you see in schools would become "collaboration" - much like in a workplace with quotas and ridiculous metrics, people will cheat the system - in a workplace who values output quality first, you end up with collaboration between employees to reach that goal...

The problem is - 90% of us went through the school indoctrination of "the grade is the goal" ... and carry a lot of that mentality out into the work force.. and at worse, many of them start companies and align their business goals for their employees with that same standard..


Though I don't disagree with your argument that grades weigh to heavily in American education, I disagree that "collaboration" and "cheating" are the same. There are certain, rote skills you need to take away from school and on which you need to be evaluated individually. You must know how to read, do arithmetic and algebra, understand civics, geography, etc. The problem with encouraging collaboration over evaluation is that evaluation is still necessary to determine whether kids are learning what they need to learn.

I think we all remember that kid in school (or college) that joined a group and coasted to grade. I know those people where I work, too. They know little and contribute nothing. We do not serve them by letting them get out of school without the knowledge they need.

So I agree that grade-centric education is poor, but can also not reject either rote learning or evaluation as being an important goal.


The point of school (American school, at least) isnt to learn, its to get a good grade. When the goal is a number, than 'cheating' is simply trying to achieve the goal.

Aka Goodhart's Law[0].

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goodhart's_law


The education system ought be multi-purposed. Some people want school to get them a job. Some people want school to give them a 'well rounded education' on matters like history, American civics, math, sports, sexual education, etc. Some businesses want schools to correctly identify and promote talent, for better hiring signals. Some people view school as a way for preparing for college, where a student might choose specialities.

These are all goals which are harmonious to societal health.


Burning my karma, but I can't resist; lots of students in my high school agreed that collaborating in sex ed was far more beneficial than studying solo.


I don't get it


When he refers to "collaborating in sex ed", he isn't actually referring to studying, but rather to teenagers having sex. Similarly, "studying solo" refers to masturbation rather than actual studying.


Having sex is better than masturbating.


Really? He means intercourse is more fun than masturbation. HTH!


The education system boils down to attempting to certify that someone knows what they claim to know.

This so that said someone can be slotted into place in the company production line.


Yep. Education isnt the goal, menial job placement is. Its cynical, but also true, that an educated populous would grind America to a halt, because we're reliant on people doing a lot of menial jobs... and educated people dont do those jobs...


> Education isnt the goal, menial job placement is.

I disagree. Plenty of times through school I heard complaints of "When will I need this in the real world!" and numerous comments online complaining about education (particularly arts and social science curricula in university) not preparing people for jobs.

Plenty of things I learned in primary school, high school and in my Engineering degree are not applicable to my day job but did make me a more educated person.

It's funny to witness the education system get simultaneously criticised for not preparing people for the workforce and also only preparing people for the workforce.


> Plenty of things I learned in primary school, high school and in my Engineering degree are not applicable to my day job but did make me a more educated person.

It doesn't matter. There must be something that can be taught to you and later used to grade you. Whether it's maths or arts or history of the good deeds of Comrade Stalin, it doesn't matter. What matters is the series of filters, at the end of which is entering the job market. Even the parents don't care what you're being taught - only that you are good at it, so that you can go to better higher-level schools, and get a better diploma at the end. Only few parents and teachers with ideals give a shit about the actual content of the education material...

As for job usefulness, 90% of stuff you'll have to learn on the job anyway.


As for job usefulness, 90% of stuff you'll have to learn on the job anyway.

Of course. Education is about laying the foundation, giving you a bounty of contexts with which you can make faster associations and more quickly learn what you need for the job.


"Plenty of times through school I heard complaints of "When will I need this in the real world!" and numerous comments online complaining about education (particularly arts and social science curricula in university) not preparing people for jobs."

Both of these are correct - and they corroborate my point. The skills taught, they don't prepare you for a real world job - they teach you to stay in line, as few questions, and do what you're told. Thats what you need to be tought to work in a factory or plow a field... or stand behind a cash register.

They don't prepare you for "good" jobs... they prepare you for menial jobs. If everyone came out of high school with real knowledge and real skills, nobody would run the cash register at the gas station for minimum wage...


Not sure why you are being down voted. Perhaps people are just bitter at school.


What a lot of adults do at work is also indeed cheating outside of collaboration.


"In school, taking credit for someone else's work that you had nothing to do with creating is unethical, not accepted, and punished severely. In the work world, it's called Tuesday."

--Anyone who's experienced it

Cheating and collaboration are not the same. If you've ever taken an advanced math/cs/STEM class you've collaborated often on problem sets, they are often too hard to do alone. But you shouldn't have cheated.


Collaboration is great for learning something new as a group.

But how do you then assess whether each individual in the group learned that important concept, or if they just all agreed with the one (and only) student who actually learned/knew it?


It probably requires a shift in what we think of as assessment. Montessori has some ideas:

http://montessoriguide.org/assessment/

Seems to produce good results:

http://blogs.wsj.com/ideas-market/2011/04/05/the-montessori-...


What would be the point of assessing an isolated individual in a world of collaboration?

Its akin to evaluating how someone would do something in the middle of the jungle without tools or support. Sure, you will be able to know who does better in that setting, but what conclusion can you bring of that?


It's gonna kinda suck to be the engineering team where nobody actually learned calculus.

Or the surgical team where everyone "collaborated" on basic anatomy.


How would you know nobody learned calculus?

You are comparing people that dont know to people that know with that allegory. In a collaborative setting you would be able to see what people build, teach each other, and learn.

A team with 5 people that know 20% calculus can produce much better results than a team where 1 person knows 100%. And sometimes they wouldnt be able to produce a result at all.


> but what conclusion can you bring of that

Welllll you could conclude that they are in a prime position to create a YouTube channel with 178 million views /s

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAL3JXZSzSm8AlZyD3nQdBA/abo...


>>What would be the point of assessing an isolated individual in a world of collaboration?

Collaboration can only occur when each party has something meaningful to contribute.


Yes, you're absolutely right, that someone's effectiveness -- in academia or otherwise -- depends on those around them.

But you still have to distinguish those who are not effective at all, contributing nothing, but who are still putting their name on the project.

To use the sibling example, there's a difference between a surgeon who draws on other specialists in the operation, vs someone that knows nothing about surgery.


> But you still have to distinguish those who are not effective at all, contributing nothing, but who are still putting their name on the project.

You dont need an individual assessment to do that. The real work world is exemplary on that. People without degrees very often outrank and outperform people with degrees, either through curiosity or through other skills that make him a more important key member.

In real life if someone is regarded as unproductive by his co-workers is not re-tested individually for validation.


Both collaborative assignments and assessments of those assignments are often poorly conceptualized in school.

Why, for example, do curriculum developers create (or choose to adopt from textbook publishers) scenarios where if one person fails, everybody in the group suffers? That's not why we collaborate. In fact, that's the opposite of why we collaborate. We don't do it to create multiple points of failure.

It's also a problem with the way we assess and the fact that we almost exclusively conduct summative assessments on these types of projects with high-stakes consequences rather than formative assessments that allow the experience to be used to foster understanding.

I'm a parent (and an education journalist). I see a lot of this. My daughter has had to do the entire work for several "collaborative" projects to maintain her GPA just because the other students wouldn't do the work or wouldn't do it well. That's a common complaint.

Two ideas for getting around that:

1. For the types of assignments where a small group produces a single outcome and shares responsibility for it, assess formatively. If the group does poorly, the teacher sits down with them and gives them supplemental instruction. And, in talking to the students, that teacher can also discover where the weaker students are and focus on them. That way you get assessment with zero high-stakes consequences, and you help advance learning rather than ending it with a letter grade.

2. Assign projects where each student has a job and is evaluated singularly for that job but is allowed to work collaboratively with other students (and the teacher) to complete it. There are all kinds of ways to encourage collaboration in those cases without resorting to punishing others for one person's failure in the end product of a collaborative assignment.

As others have said, there's also the question of assessment itself. Why assess for a grade or points or what have you? There's a movement to do away with grades and test scores. It's working fairly well, but it requires serious dedication from the teacher to ensure that students are learning. Large-scale, that's difficult. We don't have 4 million+ teachers who would be willing to do that extra work.


In University for me at least, a lot of those collaborative projects allowed the students to distribute their grade amongst participants.

In my experience at least the weaker contributors to the groups success, even those that just coasted, were still very honest when asked to assess their contribution and the contribution of others.


In my university we often had group projects and at the end of the project you scored your team members. If the entire team scored one member highly or poorly, their grade could be weighted higher or lower.


Furthermore, how do we ascertain whether or not group work is just "outsourcing" for teachers and the students that learned the concept aren't simply k-12 unpaid TAs who find their role as "assistant professor" pretty tedious thus turning off the best and brightest from a lifetime of enriching educational experiences?


Actually you can learn a lot from teaching others or helping others learn the material. When you have to teach someone else something you learn what you don't actually know that well.


I remember having a cheating rig at high school. We were 4-5 classmates, who would always sit close and hangout. Each of us would study the classes we best at. For example I really sucked at English and math, but was really good at physics and biology, one guy was good at English and another one at Turkish literature, another at history, another at Math. Overall high school was really easy for us. It's not like we didn't cheat at exams, we also helped each other before the exams. Teachers tried to separate the group several times but we were smart and doing well, so they chose to ignore at some point. All members went to uni, studied STEM.

Now, I'm well aware that studying things you can already do is not the best way but this was what happened.


Until you get slapped with a parent or copyright lawsuit...


Sir Kenneth Robinson! :-)


Similar to your little book, I have a personal wiki in a Git repository which basically functions for me as an external memory--if I find a solution to a problem that keeps coming up, or write a particularly useful snippet of code, I put it on the appropriate page so I can remember it again later. (When I say 'external memory' I really mean it--in addition to pages like Snippets:Bash I also have things like LifeSkills:SuitcasePackingList.)

Something that worries me is: what if I work for a company that decides that everything I've written on their time belongs to them? If I had all of this in my head there would be no question about it, but writing it down introduces questions of copyright. Should this ever happen it would basically be the equivalent of losing a chunk of my brain, which is a bit of an alarming prospect.


I work for a company that decides that everything I've written belongs to them. Note that I did not include the phrase "on their time." I have to get explicit waivers for any project I want to work on on my own time. It is more than a little disconcerting. I'm pretty sure they technically claim ownership of this comment.


Yes, draconian IP agreements suck!

What can you do about it (if you live outside of California)?

Your key weapon here is knowledge. Specifically, the fact that California Labor Code section 2870 exists.

"...shall not apply to an invention that the employee developed entirely on his or her own time..."

Here's what you should do to avoid draconian IP clauses:

* Print out a copy of 2870 and bring it with you when you go to sign your job offer http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:3qLjxOo...

* Read your contract. If you don't see similar wording in their contract, hand them your copy of 2870 and ask it to be added to the contract.

* If they try to push back, calmly explain that every resident of California gets this "for free". If Google, Facebook, etc employees all get this, why shouldn't you?

* Be prepared to walk if they refuse.

But what if you're already in a job which has draconian IP clauses?

* Try bringing 2870 to the table the next time you are negotiating for a raise or promotion.

* If you are cheeky, go get a job offer from a competitor, and highlight the fact that they are willing to offer you 2870.

But the best thing you can do is to spread the word about 2870! If enough of us demand this, eventually it will be such a hassle (for employers outside of California) that no one will bother trying to trick their employees into draconian IP clauses.

I should give a hat-tip here to my former employer, uShip (Austin, TX). They include this clause by default for all devs, and I'll make sure I ask for 2870 at every future job.


Just because they make that claim does not make it true or even enforceable.

Generally anything you write on company time or using company equipment belongs to them though.


You must have passed the Amazon interview.


That is absurd. You should quit and find a new job. Never sign away your rights to create IP on your own time.


Honest question... how would the company define "on their time"? You are (presumably) salaried, and it's not like we work in a 9-5 industry or can't do work at home. IP is important to them, how else could they structure the arrangement? These "we own your ideas while you work for us" clauses are common.


Most contracts I see these days define it as work that could be reasonably seen as in their line of business, or using company equipment or resources (e.g. internet). I can't remember the last time I saw one that made a distinction based on clock time that wasn't also for a 1099 contractor. These days it seems it either goes "All your thoughts are belong to us" or "using our stuff in a market we sell to".


A reasonable definition of "on their time" for a salaried employee would be things they asked you to do for them. (Presumably they did not hire Arandur to write HN comments.)


Another IMO reasonable definitions:

- you used company equipment for that == it's ours

- you billed us for the time which you spent on doing that == it's ours


Did you not query that clause in the contract?


In my first developer job out of college, I queried that clause, and they basically said the job was conditional on accepting the clause.


And you took the job? Why?


In my case, these are the justifications that I came up with (in no particular order):

1. I liked the people

2. The technology was interesting

3. I felt like I needed to break into the industry as a fresh grad

4. Every other company I'd interviewed with had a similar clause

5. The side projects that I work on are strictly non-commercial, for my own education, tend to be difficult to monetize legally, and have nothing to do with anything that my employer is interested in.

6. (found out later) My employer doesn't enforce its anti-competition clauses or try to take over IP that employees develop on the side.

I haven't regretted it in 8 years, although I'd imagine that a lot of the people on HN would be a lot more entrepreneurial than me.


When looking for a job, one does not always feel in a position to turn down a job offer, especially when one does not already have a competing bid.


Can you share this repo? I really like that idea.


I don't know about his example, but I'm using gojot[1] for that. Automatic encryption, entry management, and syncing if the repo is remote.

[1][https://gojot.schollz.com/]


I'd rather not share the actual repo, it's a mess and also has some semi-private stuff in it. At some point, I may go through and clean some of this up and publish it, but for the moment it really is an extension of my brain--imagine publishing a feed of your thoughts directly to the world (Twitter notwithstanding).

I can, however, give you an idea of how it works. There are many personal wiki programs out there; I settled on Zim[1] as it stores everything in plain-text files and supports a basic markup. On my phone I have the repo set up with Pocket Git[2], and I view it with Coastline[3] (which is just an arbitrary text editor; I don't mind reading the Zim syntax). The Git repository is stored on BitBucket[4] since they offer free private Git hosting, though I now have my own VPN and am considering moving the repo there. Syncing is done periodically (roughly once a month) by committing, merging, and pushing, usually with a few minor edit conflicts to the more popular pages.

Pages are organized into a very loose and fluid hierarchy; for the most part I put things someplace that seems reasonable and then periodically merge, split, and move pages when they grow too unwieldy. The major parts of the hierarchy are:

- Project:(Active/Complete/OnHold): major projects (anything from Barcamp2015Presentation[5] to NewCellphone to BetterWorld[6]) get a page, which collects a narrative about the progress of the project, a summary of the current state, and any relevant links or quotes; this page may have subpages as well.

- Entity:* collects links for anything related to someone or some company I've been involved with; mostly this is backreferences to projects I've worked on for them etc. For example, Entity:Person:JohnSmith could link to Project:Complete:JohnMidiController for a side project I did for a friend.

- Hardware:* collects everything hardware-related, for example Hardware:Computers:RaspberryPi has links to pinout diagrams and the like.

- Software:* collects software-related pages, with subsections for Software:Protocols, Software:Programs, and a smattering of loose pages.

- Snippets:* covers code snippets, such as Snippets:Bash, Snippets:Python, and so on.

This covers about 75%; the other 25% is somewhat less organized and consists of things like fiction ideas, links that don't fit anywhere else, the aforementioned LifeSkills namespace, and Miscellaneous:Quotes:FunnyPhrases ("you there, wear these groceries"[7], "Turns out I'd just existed inconveniently at you"[8]).

Hopefully this rather long post answers your questions, but let me know if there's anything more you'd like to know.

[1]: http://www.zim-wiki.org/

[2]: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.aor.pocket...

[3]: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.rumsunrise...

[4]: https://bitbucket.org/

[5]: http://www.linestarve.com/blog/post/A-Mad-Scientists-Guide-t...

[6]: A Grand (Semi-)Unified Plan for improving everything, encompassing BetterUserInterface to BetterGovernment to BetterEconomy.

[7]: http://www.wildelifecomic.com/comic/195#comment-2550773663

[8]: http://suburbanjungleclassic.com/?p=1207


Today I used "man" to check some parameters of a command. I felt such a rush knowing that I cheated the system.


I think I know what you mean. I had to run a few commands using the `--help` flag this morning to look up features that I wasn't sure they could do. It just feels so _dirty_.


At least we know now that we can't be counting on you in situations of dire need - like https://xkcd.com/1168/.


If you want to cheat a little more you can try tldr: https://github.com/tldr-pages/tldr/

It gives actual examples of commands, just like a cheatsheet does.


This is great, thanks for the link!


whoa, never knew this existed. Thanks for sharing!


Stick it to the, er, authorities!


> Sometimes I'll just copy the code directly from the site, without typing it out again myself!

I realize you're being facetious, but do check with your employer that this is OK! Code on StackOverflow is under a CC-SA license, it isn't public domain or even very permissibly licensed.


I was like "can't be true" but it seems you're right:

http://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/12527/do-i-have-to-w...

The license [1] says that you are free to:

Share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format

Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially.

The licensor cannot revoke these freedoms as long as you follow the license terms.

Attribution — You must give appropriate credit...

ShareAlike — If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.

[1] https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/?


It's not entirely true:

> Starting Feb 1, 2016, all new code contributions to Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange will be covered by the MIT License.

Source: http://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/271080/the-mit-licen...

So, it depends. Code from before then is CC-SA, after it is MIT.


That post has an update at the top that the license change was delayed until March 1, 2016 and a link to a follow-up post: http://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/272956/a-new-code-li...

That follow-up post says that they're "going to delay the implementation", so I assume that today it's still all CC-SA. I haven't found any further information, but would love to know it, or be corrected on my assumption.

My company is struggling with the code license situation and I'm stuck with dealing with it for my project. Clear, up-to-date information about it would be fantastic.


Oh nice catch, I missed that part. And I feel your pain. Starting a similar project here to inventory 3rd party code etc., it's going to be hard.


But usually, code on SO is kinda like the docs, they show you how to do something and is often more of a template than a complete solution (unless you asked the question). Its not like people are writing complex solutions and putting them on SO. I mean how are you going to copyright this? (taken from a SO post):

for (Map.Entry<String, Object> entry : map.entrySet()) { String key = entry.getKey(); Object value = entry.getValue(); }


Or, famously (in a case where people thought carefully about both copyright and patents):

  private static void rangeCheck(int arrayLen, int fromIndex, int toIndex) {
    if (fromIndex > toIndex)
	    throw new IllegalArgumentException("fromIndex(" + fromIndex +
            ") > toIndex(" + toIndex+")");
    if (fromIndex < 0)
	    throw new ArrayIndexOutOfBoundsException(fromIndex);
    if (toIndex > arrayLen)
        throw new ArrayIndexOutOfBoundsException(toIndex);
  }


This is one of the reasons I followed the Oracle v Google suit with such interest.

Below some minimum threshold of complexity, it seems like software ought to cross the idea/expression divide and become copyright-exempt, just as a mathematical formula does. In fact, the example you gave is something that could easily be recreated letter for letter without seeing the original post.

I'd be utterly shocked if that sort of "could have written it from scratch" code ever caused someone an IP problem.


>"I found this website called Stack Overflow that has so many answers to problems I run in to. Sometimes I'll just copy the code directly from the site, without typing it out again myself!

Sometimes I even just walk up to colleagues and straight up ask them for help with a problem. They just tell me things I can use in my job, out loud, in a busy office, and we still haven't been caught!"

I've lost count of the number of (thankfully former) co-workers whose only technical skills were searching Stack Overflow and asking their colleagues for help with a problem. The measure of a programmer is what they are able to do when there _is_ no answer to be had from SO or their colleagues.


I don't think there is an accurate measure of programming skill. Experience, diversity, challenges faced, skillfully using solutions to past problems, effective communication, reaching out for help when needed (including StackOverflow) are qualities that I can think of from a programmer that I would pay to build my product. I work / have worked with co-workers that you are trying to point out but use of StackOverflow was not my measure.


Something not being on SO is normally my first indicator that I've stumbled upon something interesting. I consider it a good thing.


I hope you contribute the questions and answer to SO then! Rising tide lifts all boats!


No, the measure of a programmer is the change in productivity a company suffers were the programmer to leave.


Some programmers work on bespoke algorithms and would do well to listen to the relevant commentators in regards to best practice. Not to mention that trusting everything you are taught can severely stunt your ability - read people's experiences and results.


I get that you're being facetious, but just to take you seriously for a moment: if the help that you're asking your coworkers for is something like "tell me again how pointers work in a linked list", there's a problem.


Why? Maybe they didn't understand it when that coworker explained it the first time around.


...Because if the coworker had to explain it the first time, you probably aren't qualified. Depending on the job, of course.


Hey, don't let too many people know this, but nowadays you often don't even need to copy/paste the code! For example, I have to parse Excel files a lot in my work. Did you know some dummies have already written and tested a bunch of code that does exactly that? And then they place it online in a format that's easy for me to download!

I really hope they don't realize that I'm using their code to cheat.


We specifically have an interview question here which is: "How would you feel about asking for help, either from a colleague, friend or on the internet, to complete a work project?"

(pro tip; the correct answer is, "fine")


Reminds me of this post a while back... https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11700640

"Am I really a developer or just a good Googler?"


Welcome to the club! No shame to be had here. Freedom and responsibility.


> I found this website called Stack Overflow

You missed the part where a search engine shows you several links, including the ones from Stack Overflow.


GP might be cheating, but not that hard.


> shows you several links, including the ones from Stack Overflow.

And all of the stack overflow answers that were linked from the top of the google search are "Have you ever heard of Google, N00B?"


I'm also a big time cheater. :)


Amazon SDE here. The SDES internally are PISSED about all of this, and I assure you many people are escalating with HR to have this new ProctorU-based interviewing process changed ASAP.

edit: I don't know if there'll be an official announcement, but as of right now we're pulling usage of ProctorU for intern loops.

For those asking how this happened, you simply do not understand the THOUSANDS of interns Amazon needs to interview every year over a couple of week period. It's a nightmare to scale. So, someone in HR thought they'd show some bias for action. Oops.


I'm glad you're fixing it, but having been through a second round interview where I was flown out to Amazon in Seattle. I will still never interview with Amazon again. It was the second most frustrating interview I've ever been in. It was clear to me that 4 of my interviewers had no intention of even considering me.

Side note: The most frustrating interview I've ever had was with Microsoft Boulder: they just flat out insulted me in the interview and questioned why anyone would hire me based on not getting their trick question. That said my interviews with Microsoft Redmond were lovely.


I went for an interview in Redmond, for which the recruiting agency had clearly 'oversold' the job description (I should have known better, too) - it was billed as more of a PM position than what it was - line / UAT testing.

Anyway, I got into the interviews, and I could sense something was up. I was answering the questions but they didn't seem... enthusiastic... about them, or me. I like to think I usually interview decently, though of course I can improve.

Eventually someone says, "Hmm, can you wait here a minute?" and a new person comes in with him a few moments later.

"So... I'm not sure why the agency sent you to us." Okay...? "You're definitely over-qualified for this role, and frankly we think you'd be bored." I thought it was a good opportunity to get in the door (and MSFT is a great place to work), so I tried to offer a little placation, when he introduced the other person, "But I know that [name] here has been looking for a PM, so why don't you talk to her."

I walked out that afternoon with a different, better, higher paying job, because someone thought "outside the box".


> because someone thought "outside the box".

That's "thinking for the company" which I had rarely seen during my 10 years working for a large company. "Thinking for myself / department" approach is much more common, unfortunately.


True, true, too.

But I just appreciated that could have so easily been a 'thanks for your time', handshake and leave, with no-one satisfied.


I'm suspicious based on something you said about the interviewers being disinterested and unenthusiastic. I am cynical, having seen this process played out many times, and having wasted more than a few days interviewing for jobs I had zero chance of earning because the employer had already (yet unofficially and potentially illegally) chosen a candidate. Let me explain:

What you've described sounds to me like a setup for hiring an H1B employee. The employer is legally required to interview everyone who meets the requirements, and must hire qualified domestic employees if they are available for work, but the employer will look for any reason to disqualify domestic candidates.

A whole industry of consultants popped up a decade ago that coached companies on how to use this "loophole" to favor H1B over domestic employees (which is on it's face, illegal. If a US employee is available, the employer must hire him so the trick is to find a way to disqualify this domestic candidate.)

Or maybe they already had an internal candidate and were required by HR to interview some additional people (e.g. you) before they discover, to everyone's surprise, the internal candidate is the very best one for the job. "Going through the motions" to interview others when their mind was made up before the job description was even written.

EDIT: Just so it's clear, I'm not saying Amazon does these things; and I don't know anything about this particular case. I am saying this sort of faux-interview happens in the industry, and has the same "feel" of the interviewers simply going through the motions.


This is a common misunderstanding about H-1B. For hiring someone on H-1B, the employer need not prove that they made attempts to hire a citizen or permanent resident first. But to sponsor an employee on H-1B for green card, they have to provide such a proof. What you describe happens during that process - you have an employee you are happy with, want to sponsor her for permanent residency in the country, and are willing to go through the expenses, but state insists that you have to try find another person first.

The right solution for this is to keep employers out of the skill-based immigration process.


That's a perfectly acceptable concern to have. Especially with Microsoft, and its use of the big three agencies, H1B in general, perma-temps, etc.

However, there was a bit more to the story - one, that I'd started discussions with them and the agency prior to moving from Australia to Seattle, and they'd been willing to sponsor a visa (that wasn't needed), and sure enough, a couple of weeks after, my team had some new testers who weren't H1B who'd filled the position.

And it might be a little misleading on my part, there wasn't a sense of absolute, outright apathy. But just a growing more deflated tiredness, perhaps.


That's a funny story, thanks for sharing.


Can you share some details about why you found it so frustrating? Believe it or not, most software devs at Amazon REALLY CARE about interviewing, are happy here, and want to find others too.

We are taught in an internal interviewing class (which is not mandatory unfortunately) that making sure the candidate has a great experience is just as important as getting good data on the candidate.


>We are taught in an internal interviewing class (which is not mandatory unfortunately) that making sure the candidate has a great experience is just as important as getting good data on the candidate.

That's funny. I don't know a single person who enjoyed interviewing at Amazon, and the one guy that did who got in quit a few weeks later and still won't stop talking about how bad it was until he's blue in the face. It was such a bad experience it seems to have partially fused with his identity!

Seems like every once in awhile there's some article taking a crap on Amazon, and then these types of green comments coming to the rescue.


Ex-Amazonian here. Amazon is big enough that there are actually a lot of people in the org who enjoy their jobs, think the company's generally doing the right thing (albeit possibly with caveats), and don't mind defending it. The reason for the throwaway accounts is that the social media policy asks employees not to wade into discussions of Amazon, but rather to forward them to the PR team.

Addressing your experience directly - I really enjoyed my Amazon interview in Edinburgh eight years ago. Lots of interesting free-form problem solving, with the whiteboard there to jot down notes rather than to produce working code.

I'm guessing there are teams or entire orgs which just don't take interviewing as seriously, though - again, with Amazon's scale, it's not surprising.


I don't doubt what you say is true, but Amazon is the only big-3-ish company that I regularly hear some story like this about.

I think every company has a mix of horribleness and goodness, and based on the data I have, it seems like the mix at Amazon is more skewed towards horrible than other major companies.


(disclaimer: Amazon employee)

I've made the same observation as you, but I think there are other factors at play. It seems that Amazon has become the new "cool" company to hate, just like Microsoft was a few years ago. I've personally heard a mix of positive and negative stories from all the big 3, but Amazon seems to be the only one that makes headlines.

I'm not trying to say that Amazon is perfect, or even better than Microsoft or Google, I'm just saying that maybe it is better to trust the opinions you hear from people you know rather than what makes the front page of HN, wherever that happens to take you.

During my Microsoft internship, I watched a male coworker verbally harass a female coworker to tears while she was giving a presentation and no one batted an eye. A friend told me to come check out Amazon, and I've never looked back. I would never go back to Microsoft, but I don't fault people for going there because I know that it is a huge company and that my experience isn't representative of the whole.


Which other big company have you heard of using interview technique described in the OP? The fact that Amazon thought up the process as described here says something about the as a company which you can't explain away as the "new cool company to hate".


Many are doing it - see the rest of this thread.

Anyways the difference here is HR/recruitment was too "ambitious".

The SDEs have found out and we have put a stop to it.


Glad to hear that the practice has been stopped. The fact that SDEs can bring up such bad PR to the attention of management and get it rectified gives one good impression about Amazon.

My wife recently went through the hiring process at Amazon. She completed an online programing test, then went through an interview where a recruiter asked basic CS questions over the phone, and was then invited for an onsite interview. She took a day off from work, and spent about 4 hours doing the interview at Amazon's SF office. The interviewers had come from Seattle. This happened over 3 months ago, but she has not heard anything from her Amazon recruiter about the interview outcome. The recruiter had earlier promised to get back no later than 2 days after the onsite. My wife's emails to the recruiter were unanswered.

We understand why things are this way - the recruiter wants to utilize her time on candidates who convert; any time spent on a rejected candidate is time "wasted". But when a candidate takes a day off from their current place of work to attend an onsite to get treated without common courtesy is sad state of affairs. Imagine if the situation was reversed - once the interview was arranged, and my wife agreed to do it, how would all those interviewers who flew in from Seattle have felt had she not turned up?

You seem to be interested in fixing things at Amazon. I mentioned this incident to point out that recruiting at Amazon can do with much course correction. Take time to look in the mirror and understand why it is that only Amazon among large tech employers attracts such negative attention. Sweeping all of that under the "we are now the cool company to hate" category is dishonest. Again, I am glad that this particular incident posted by the OP has caused a positive change in the recruiting practices.


Glad to hear it!


Microsoft's hyper-aggressive culture has contributed to its organizational dysfunction IMO, and frankly I am still having to recognize and deal with its effects on my interpersonal relations.


>>>The reason for the throwaway accounts is that the social media policy asks employees not to wade into discussions of Amazon, but rather to forward them to the PR team.

Presumably so that said PR team can create throw-away accounts and defend Amazon.


Well, possibly. I can't prove that that's not the case :) All I can say is that I've always taken them in good faith, because they match up with the temperament of some of the people I know and like inside the company.

That's really the problem with the social media policy. On the one hand, it protects the company from the worst possible outcomes of letting untrained employees loose on social media - and given the size of the company and the diverse views held by its employees, I could imagine those outcomes being pretty dire! But on the other hand there's a chilling effect on positive impressions of the company.


I'd think they should have a few non-green accounts lying (no pun intended[0]) around by now at Amazon HR PR.

[0] that was a lye[1]

[1] removing the stain on my reputation


> The reason for the throwaway accounts is that the social media policy asks employees not to wade into discussions of Amazon, but rather to forward them to the PR team.

So, they are wading into discussions of Amazon, just in a way that's not directly linked with an existing nym? Following neither the letter nor the spirit of the rule?


Hi. Not a green comment, though admittedly I'm not using my real name here.

I worked at Amazon for many years and enjoyed it. Nice to meet you.

It's a huge company with a wide variety of teams and experiences. It's not for everyone. But I am still friends with lots of my former co-workers. Lots of them liked it and, believe it or not, many of them are still there. Some for over 10 years.


I've only heard bad things as well. I respect them as a company but it's clear they don't care about employee wellbeing. Everyone I know thats worked there said the hours and deadlines were unreal.


I interviewed at Amazon and it was fine. The questions were interesting (albeit maybe a few too many graph questions). One of the interviewers showed up in a bathrobe or something I think, due to a bad oncall the previous night or something.

Given that Amazon interviews by team, I think it depends on what team you end up interviewing with...

I didn't take the offer because it was like $20k or more less than another offer, but the process was fine.

There's also going to be selection bias, in that most people who have reasonable interview process aren't going to write blog posts about it...


Not mandatory? In my time at Lab126 (a couple of years ago now), you had to take Making Great Hiring Decisions before you were ever included on an interview loop.


Some orgs make it mandatory. Some don't. There's no global policy


Huh. I had no idea. When I was there, it was mandatory in each org I was in. I had just assumed it was a company-wide policy.


I just had to chuckle at the name of the interview prep course name, of course it would be that.


This was in 2013 so it's out of date now, but it was very clear from the line of questions and the attitudes of the interviewers that they were being made to be there and saw no point. They were in general completely disengaged with me. Of the interviewers all but the last were fairly professional. The last pair I had were more junior and made it clear that I was wasting their time as far as they were concerned.

To be fair I interview poorly, but I would would have much preferred for the person managing the interviews to cut off the process as soon as they were sure that I wasn't a fit. By failing to do so it just created an awkward and frustrating situation.


Sorry to be a broken record, but can you give some specific examples?

I ask because elsewhere on this thread you have people bitching that they were asked some low level CS questions about inverting binary trees and the like, and how insulting they found that.

While I sympathize, it's not going to change the fact that the company does want to hire engineers that are equally competent at contributing to some sexy new high-scale AWS services as some boring business reporting features. Google, Facebook, and Microsoft all do exactly the same thing.

On the other hand, if you had people that were actively rude, did not give you hints when you got stuck, and made you feel unwelcome, that would definitely warrant feedback. Though, as you said, it's too late since it's 2013.

I advise anyone in the future who runs into this kind of situation to contact your recruiter with feedback, and be very clear if you had a bad experience. Amazon takes customer feedback super seriously, and when we interview, the candidates are customers.


I wish I could, but it's been three years so I don't recall specifics.

I do recall the last pair asked me to re-implement a java standard library functionality that was rather complex. It seemed out of place for an interview question.

While there are valid reasons to ask such questions they need to be framed carefully as to indicate why the developer would want to do so. Failing to do that causes frustration because in general the first rule is don't re-implement the standard library.

EX of good question: Facebook has their own COW C++ string with small string optimization because libstdc++ didn't used to have that. It can also provide massive speed improvements on multi-threaded code, what are some ways to implement this?

Ex of bad question: Implement a stringbuilder.


>While there are valid reasons to ask such questions they need to be framed carefully as to indicate why the developer would want to do so. Failing to do that causes frustration because in general the first rule is don't re-implement the standard library.

Seriously, you're bothered because someone asked you to solve a toy problem? Most interview problems are things one wouldn't do in the real job; that's because all real job problems take more than an hour to solve.

Implementing a stringbuilder is a bad question because there's not much depth to it (after you get the basic implementation down, where do you take the question next?), not because there's a stringbuilder in the stdlib.


> I do recall the last pair asked me to re-implement a java standard library functionality that was rather complex. It seemed out of place for an interview question.

Allow me to respectfully disagree.

Even if they ask you something you or they don't think you can do, it's not just about really solving it but at looking at how you approach such a problem.

No one can really solve important, long term problems in an interview but you sure can reason about them and talk/try toy solutions.

> Ex of bad question: Implement a stringbuilder.

You can always say "I probably wouldn't do this unless I had a good reason but, If i had to roll my own, I'd approach it this way:"


We'll have to agree to disagree. I think implement a string builder is a GREAT interview question.

The point is to have a discussion. Why? What are the benefits of a string builder? When is it necessary? What performance characteristics should it have. What kind of questions do you ask, what kind of edge cases do you consider?

It's an interview - if you are not sure why the interviewer is asking you to re implement a standard library, ASK.

This is not unusual for Amazon - most tech companies these days ask these kinds of questions


> Ex of bad question: Implement a stringbuilder.

We used to ask people to implement standard date-related functions. "That's stupid, all the date functions are already written, and they handle all the weird edge cases for you!" That's right - we want to see if you can think about all the weird edge cases.

It's not about the obvious functions, it's about whether or not you can plan reasonable interfaces and think about edge cases.


How about escalating to Bezos?


?


I was going to interview for amazon. The recruiters were so disorganised, I just gave up.


> We are taught in an internal interviewing class (which is not mandatory unfortunately) that making sure the candidate has a great experience is just as important as getting good data on the candidate.

Was that not in the mandatory one?


I'm curious, what was the trick question given to you by Microsoft Boulder?


I don't recall the exact question, but I recall they were only looking for the answer that used bit manipulation. Which was not necessarily intuitive in the context.


I know a common one is how to switch the values of two variables without using a temporary third variable. One way (method 2 here [1]) is to use repeated bitwise XORs.

Does that sound like it could be the one?

[1] http://www.geeksforgeeks.org/swap-two-numbers-without-using-...


Hm, perhaps counting number of bits set to 1 in a multi-byte array?


no, bit wise is logical there. I'm thinking it was duplicates or primes or some such.


Glad that SDES internally are upset but the damage has already been done. Amazon is becoming a place where serious tech talent will not work. No senior or serious talent in their right mind would go through this, so you are going to end up with just junior or desperate devs applying.

Not to mention the turn over. What is that like in most tech depts?

I suppose however, Amazon can simply use the excuse of: we can't find qualified devs so we need more H-1B workers. Heck I am starting to think that this is the plan all along.

I apologize if I am coming off as negative but this kind of stuff really has to stop. I don't understand how it got to this point and how anyone would be willing to give up their privacy or self-respect like this. How did we get here?


> Amazon is becoming a place where serious tech talent will not work.

It's not becoming it. It already is.

Doesn't everyone have conversations with their tech friends about how everyone who's been there is trying to go away and interviewing at Amazon was terrible?

I'm not even kidding. That "never work for amazon" is the image we have from amazon, it's to the point it could be a meme.


I really home recruiting at Amazon takes this comment to heart. They won't, because they're too busy milking the college newgrad pipieline and that looks fat and happy, but experienced engineers in general won't work or even interview for Amazon. You get the naive people, everyone who knows better stays far away.


> Amazon is becoming

It very much already is a place no serious tech talent will work. At my last place of employment, we used to crack jokes about working at Amazon.


Someone was probably promoted for the adoption of this "frugal" hiring practice. This is a culture problem that permeates all of Amazon and goes all the way to the top.

Find a new job. The reputation of your company is going down the drain.


With all due respect, you don't know what you're talking about :)

I, and most people I know have mostly positive Amazon experiences. We are proud of the work we do, and the innovations of the company. I interview a LOT, and I make sure that 100% of my candidates come out with a positive experience, even if they do not get hired.

There are problems at every company, but right now it's fashionable to shit on Amazon, ever since the NYT hit-piece that got a TON of facts straight up wrong, and ever since then every negative Amazon story gets upvoted to the stratosphere. Every company makes mistakes, it's how you deal with them that counts.

Oh and in this case it wasn't a question of frugality, but scaling. Too many interns to interview, not enough time. It was still a bad decision, but it wasn't about being cheap.


Listen, your hiring process reflects your company culture. The fact that HR is in charge and you have to work to change it, rather then you, the people who will be teaching and supervising these interns, sitting down, telling HR "This is what we need, This is what we want, how can we make this scale" and having final approval says a lot.

Further, this expectation of a private quiet clean place to interview for several hours seems rather biased against poor people. Not to mention the test itself sounds like it doesn't account for the possibility of people with motor disabilities, the blind, the deaf and other disabled people.

Honestly, open book tests are a thing that has been extensively studied. Use IRT based adaptive multiple choice tests (like the computerized SAT or GRE where tests adapt to your ability), set a time limit, have a rolling set of questions to prevent knowledge transfer, and have an intern test day every quarter. You can calibrate test responses based on Amazon engineers at their desks.


> rolling set of questions

This is the hard part, and I think it's why open book tests don't happen more. Coming up with good questions is hard. Don't forget that if they're not sufficiently work-like people on HN will still say that your hiring culture sucks.


I haven't worked at Amazon, and I won't speak to whether things are uncommonly bad there. Certainly Microsoft seems to have produced plenty of similar stories while escaping the broad stigma Amazon has acquired.

I will say, though, that I think your bad-reputation timeline is totally off. By the time that NYT piece broke, I had heard "Amazon is a horrible employer" from a half-dozen different places. I didn't even finish the thing, I just shrugged and went "well, matches what people have told me, no new info here".

The first time I was warned away from Amazon, it was over specific (and probably unenforceable) pieces of their internship contract. A friend rejected his offer because it contained a bizarrely broad non-compete that could theoretically have barred him from ever starting a company with anyone else who had ever worked at Amazon. This was 2012.

The second time was from a friend-of-a-friend who spent one year as an SDE. He talked about bureaucracy, burnout, and made the Microsoft comparison. He said it Amazon was reasonable as a ~2 year cash out, but nothing more. This was 2013.

After that, I was still open enough to respond when I heard from a recruiter. The internship interview required invasive rules like the ones at issue here, which proved fundamentally incompatible with my machine/internet setup at the time. I declined it, and scratched off Amazon unless I got news that these things had improved. This was 2014.

How you deal with mistakes is what counts, agreed, but Amazon's reputation struggle is far older and more pervasive than the perception spread by the NYT story. Fair or not (and I honestly don't know), it's a long-standing issue.


I interned at Amazon in 2014 and in 2015. I have not worked there since.

The non-compete and non-solicit for customers & business partners lasted for 9 months from when my internship ended and the non-solicit (titled "Non-Interference") for Amazon employees, contractors & consultants lasted 6 months from when my internship ended.

The interview process was two back-to-back phone screens. I heard from other interns the following summer that it had changed to an online coding test and one phone screen. I had never heard of anything so invasive as what is mentioned here before this article (and the precursor a week or two ago) hit HN.

I was working at Amazon when the NYT hit piece broke. It read like it was about the business/sales/marketing side of the company and it did not at all reflect what I experienced at Amazon.

I have met a few interns who had bad experiences at Amazon but most had good experiences and were invited back. I can only think of one who was invited back but had such a bad experience that they refuse to ever work for Amazon again.

When it comes to things like this, the variation between teams within large companies is much much greater than the variation between large companies.


I agree. If you read the glassdoor reviews, engineers were posting warnings about Amazon back in 2008.


I don't work for Amazon or have any affiliation with the company, but I can confirm that everyone I know who does work there (or used to) thinks highly of the company overall, and more or less enjoyed their time there. This throwaway account seems to be fairly balanced in perspective.

I'm personally of the opinion that Amazon is not a perfect company, but reports of its "evilness" have been greatly exaggerated. Moreover, I think this is a case of people with negative experiences having more of a reason to chime in than people with positive experiences. That somewhat biases threads, unfortunately.

I'm throwing this comment in here because I think it's easy for people to forget than n=1 anecdotes don't really confirm or deny anything (positive or negative) about a company's overall culture.


All of your arguments would apply to any other big tech company like Google/FB/MS. Then why don't we hear as many negative stories about them?


Amazon can be worse than GooFaceSoft, thus getting more stories, and still be pretty good.

My impression has been that Amazon is highly variable internally, a bit like MS (which I actually do read horror stories about).


As someone who left Microsoft for Amazon, most of the things I hear about Amazon align much more closely with my experiences at Microsoft. We're talking about companies that employ thousands of people, you're going to hear different stories from different parts of the company.


It's entirely possible for a "publicity bubble" to cause all this. A big article got published ripping Amazon, got a lot of shares and views. For a while after that, anything negative about Amazon that seems authentic gets upvoted hard because it's what people want to read, and it lets them feel what they would call justified rage. People like that and people who just want forum karma and attention aggressively seek out or sometimes even make up stories to meet what these upvoters want to read. Stories that buck the narrative get downvoted and ignored. And just like that, you form a big popular impression of something that may be false or grossly exaggerated.

I don't know that the impression is actually false in this particular case, but these things can happen, and you'd be wise to not take the "internet consensus" too seriously.


> It's entirely possible for a "publicity bubble" to cause all this.

Possible, but also staggeringly unlikely. Occam's Razor suggests it's a shit place to interview, nothing more complicated necessary.


I've been told opposite stores from my n=2 sample size. One has said it's miserable and he couldn't wait to get out, the other that it's great and his group is doing really interesting work and I'd love working with him.


> Oh and in this case it wasn't a question of frugality, but scaling. Too many interns to interview, not enough time.

I've interviewed for Google and Apple internships and the process has been extremely pleasant, with the interviewers happy to give their time. With Apple, I got to meet the entire team and spend time with them. I've heard similar stories about the Microsoft interview process (I mean, they even fly you out to Redmond).

What makes Amazon incapable of interviewing their interns adequately?


The only people who I've met in real life who say that Amazon is a good place to work are people trying to hire me (with one exception). Everyone else tells me that either that they hated it and quit, or that they hate it and will quit soon. I work for a competitor so there's absolutely some bias in the people I'm exposed to, but the complete lack of positive experiences related to me by humans in real life is surprising and compelling.

The one exception is a friend who started working at Amazon a few months ago. She loves it. But she's also been handed a pile of money and told to basically do what she wants. They hired her to create a new product line (not tech related) and the execs apparently don't know enough to get involved so she's basically got signoff to just do what she thinks is appropriate. So she loves it. Her husband also works for Amazon and hates it.

I'm sure there are other people at Amazon who like their jobs. I just haven't met any and I'm not sure they constitute a majority.


I loved working at Amazon so much that I'm going back to work there. I've also worked for Twitter and Uber to give you a comparison.

Happy to chat about it more, this isn't a throw away account.


I had 2 friends working at Amazon and both of them were reasonably satisfied with their jobs. Overworked sure, but not depressed. I did ask them about the negative stories about Amazon's working conditions but both said that it didn't match with their experience. I know I shouldn't generalize from n=2 but I don't know how to reconcile their evidence with what I read online.


Amazon's social media policy discourages employees from posting about their experiences in reply to negative PR. I'm guessing that means that the employees who hate their job anyway disregard the policy, while the ones who care either don't take action or post on anonymous accounts :P


I was referring to private face to face conversations, not through social media.


It's a big company. How you experience varies based on what stage your product is at (greenfield? possibly being cancelled next month? Launching? Stable?), whether your direct manager is a nice person, what career stage your manager is at, and what five people you spend most of your time with.


I'm sure it's not the hell that you read about online. If Amazon were as bad as some stories indicate, they wouldn't be able to retain anyone decent. Still, I have heard almost exclusively negative stories about Amazon, even in person.


> Oh and in this case it wasn't a question of frugality, but scaling.

Just throw 95% of all applications into the bin before even reading them. That scales as good and you don't look so awful.


> ever since the NYT hit-piece that got a TON of facts straight up wrong

The one about the Seattle culture or the warehouse side? I remember both, and I remember the warehouse one being a lot of garbage too. I was working as a contractor doing Amcare stuff and found a lot of issues with the article.


And an engineer jumping out of the 12th floor because he couldn't handle the culture? You don't hear this coming out of APPL, MSFT, GOOG, FB e.t.c


Someone shot himself in Apple's Cupertino HQ. That does't mean much, as we are not even in the plural of anecdote yet, let alone data.


With all due respect to you too, didn't one of your employee's commit suicide? I think something must be wrong if so many people feel perpetually miserable there.


Attempted, he jumped and landed on a balcony 2 stories down or some such.

I don't hold that against amazonm. Any company of a size like amazon is going to have people that may be a bit unstable that get pushed over the edge.

I do however hold their treatment of their warehouse employees against them. When I look at a company I look at all their employees and see how they are treated. When a whole class of employees are treated as replaceable automation its probably the case that they will treat ALL their employees in that way eventually.


I'm glad you guys are pissed, it's insane! I just hope you have enough influence to actually change something about it; as it stands this process is horrifying.


I get contacted by Amazon recruiters every couple months or so. They can be a bit aggressive and will sometimes try to get me to attend one of their hiring events in my city. I would possibly consider a SDE opportunity but they want me to relocate to Seattle. I just feel that if you are going to spend all this time and resources trying to poach devs from other cities, you'd at least open a local office or let them work remotely.


Does MSFT/GOOG/AAPL/ETC do this or is it Amazon-specific?


I can't speak for the others, but I'll get contacted by a Microsoft hiring manager (not a recruiter) about once a year. Microsoft's recruiting process seems very decentralized; one group may have a totally different culture than another group. Some allow you to work remote, others don't. And they have offices spread around Seattle. (disclaimer: I used to work there as a consultant about 10 years ago)

Amazon is the total opposite. Like this dev said, HR has totally taken over the process. To work there you need to go through their meat grinder.


I would never consider Amazon based on what has been posted in the past, but I would also walk away from any interview process that began like this. Stupid.


The question is how it got to this point in the first place. I think it says a lot about the organization and how it thinks of its employees.


Lets at least pretend to apply Occam's Razor to things first before jumping on a company.

It's much more likely those responsible for choosing the ProctorU solution didn't realise everything around what the approach entailed, or necessarily the ramifications. That's especially true if it came out of HR/Recruiting who aren't necessarily the most technical people.

They have a very real problem, with thousands of people in the recruitment pipeline (especially during intern interview season), and they saw a way to significantly filter them out, without having to turn half the business over to more of a recruiting pipeline than it already is.


> It's much more likely those responsible for choosing the ProctorU solution didn't realise everything around what the approach entailed, or necessarily the ramifications. That's especially true if it came out of HR/Recruiting who aren't necessarily the most technical people.

OK, sure. My reasoning there would be that ultimately they don't really care. All due respect to Friar Ockham.


For some reason (in my experience) HR has a lot of power in companies. They can institute painful processes that nobody likes even director/executives and nobody seems to question it or if they do they are powerless to change it. The company I currently work for I wouldn't have a hope in hell of passing through all the hoops the interview process inflicts.


So, someone in HR thought they'd show some bias for action.

The thing is, one suspects it wasn't "someone in HR" who thought up the idea of using draconian new system that's pissing everyone off, and driving candidates away in droves. But rather, Bezos himself, personally. In fact it seems to represent the very essence of his "everything will be automated" philosophy, to the letter.


> So, someone in HR thought [...]

reads like the first sentence in most horror stories programmers go through


So was this an interview for an Intern position? Is this ProtorU thing used for anything else? Should anyone be worried about an interview for a full time non intern position? There seems to be some confusion about this in the comments.


Yes, ProctorU is also used for full-time interviews.

Source: a friend applied, and they made her use it - except it didn't work, so she ended up not even having a second round screen before getting her onsite invitation.


Blocking ProctorU shortens the process? ;)


Figure out what ports they work on and block them at the router? Sounds like a good idea...


My interview was for a full time SDE role.


OK, so then I guess my question for amzn-throw is, how does removing it from the 'intern loops' help when this wasn't an intern interview?


At the risk of making a redundant post, this is surely one of the most pertinent questions in the thread.


I appreciate the problem. It's not easy.

That said, I have to wonder whether the interviews are really necessary in most cases. For institutions that it is familiar with, I suspect Amazon could do just as well hiring interns purely based on their grades in relevant courses. If you reliably take 100 interns from Berkeley or Waterloo, say, it shouldn't be hard to figure out which courses count.

At worst, doing things this way would be much easier. Who knows, maybe it would work even better, by eliminating unconscious bias or something.

By all means keep the interview path for special cases with odd backgrounds.


I agree, fuck everyone who doesn't go to a top school.


Read that last line again.


There have to be automated ways of scaling intern hiring that do not involve this ProctorU-based approach.

If you have thousands of data points, what makes a successful candidate, and possibly, build a model around that?


But will HR change anything about this process due to this escalation?


Good luck.

It's pretty much standing policy that to be hired at Amazon you must be able to write correct code with no aid whatsoever, no documentation, not even a compiler to check your work. If they don't use proctors, they will go back to what they were doing before: having people write code on a piece of paper and then read it back to them over the phone.


or they could use the online editors like they were for years.


Thank you.


All these show what kind of candidates Amazon is looking for. A bunch of desperate people who'd do anything for [money|Amazon brand value|Whatever else Amazon has]. I wouldn't want to work at a place that resembles an irrational hell with such people as coworkers anyway. If someone is really that desperate for a job && believe they are smart to work on things Amazon scale, why wouldn't they find other jobs or heck start a company themselves solving a genuine problem? I do know starting a company is not for everyone to be able to do, but other jobs?


As someone who works as an SDE at Amazon, I find comments like this pretty funny. My favorite part of the job, and the reason I stick around, is the people I work with. Amazon AWS internally is a pretty minimal-bullshit work environment. "Irrational hell" is certainly not how I'd describe it. There are a lot of frustrations working with under-maintained/legacy systems, but that's fine.

Don't get me wrong, I have complaints, but at the end of the day I show up to work to solve hard problems with smart people, and that's very satisfying. I build tools other people build businesses on, and that's a really good feeling. I get paid what I consider to be too much, but that's what it took to get me to relocate from the Midwest (and no one I work with takes the current demand for devs for granted).

And yes, I appreciate the money, the pedigree, and the other opportunities it has opened up for me.


The reality is at BigCo there's always that one part or another part of the company that's fine to work at. There are a whole lot of other parts that are not. The trick is to find out what the good parts are and avoid the bad ones.

Maybe you just got lucky.


I 100% agree with you. It's a gigantic company. As far as I can tell (finger to the wind), my team is in the 90th+ percentile in terms of experience and maturity. I feel very lucky to work with the people I do, I've learned a lot from them.

When we start talking about the distribution of experiences of hundreds of thousands of people over a decade, we should expect a very long positive and negative tail. I expect that if I were rehired, my experience would regress to a mean worse than what I currently have.


Because not everyone [lives in the US | has a North American passport | can afford to not care about money].


I fit the exact combination you were excluding. [lives in the US with a work VISA| does not have an American passport | can NOT afford to not care about money]

I'd much rather apply to the plenty other companies that has opportunities. Seriously, IMO, this country has so much opportunities for the person that is working hard and willing to try.

Work is a place we spend the majority of our living life in the most active age of our life. It has to be at the least "NOT hell". Don't you think?


This is exactly why Amazon's behavior are so unacceptable. They abuse the fact that most people do not have those luxuries to create an unhealthy and exploitative work environment.


Hell to companies who treat their employees like assets!


To this day, i thank my dad who told me to go study in Canada rather in US since he knew how crazy immigration laws in states are. Graduating from a Canadian uni gives me options to work for any company/start up i like without having visa restrictions.


Good for you. Your dad is wise. I have a few friends who are in/approaching/just past the Green Card process, and hearing their stories makes me feel shame. These are people who have been here for years after getting their master's degrees. It's incredible.


Just curious. Can someone who graduates from Canadian university work for any startup/company in the US just like that? Never heard of this before..


Nope not in US, but i can work anywhere in Canada for 3 years which is enough time for me to get my PR.


Same in the US with post-completion OPT letting you stay and work freely for three years (including the STEM extension)


Well, 3 years (at best) to find an employer who will sponsor you for an H-1B visa application. And then you have win the once-a-year lottery to get the actual H-1B visa (~1/3 chance this year). And then you hope that your employer will agree to apply for a Green Card on your behalf right away (which they don't have to; they can keep you on the short leash of H-1B for another six years). The processing of the Green Card application can also take a few years. And if you change jobs while your Green Card application is in process, it's voided -- you have to have your new employer re-apply from scratch. And if, at any point during all of these, your current status (OPT or H-1B) expires, you have to pack up and GTFO of the country.

So no, not nearly the same in the US.


If i know correctly, the difference is you can't get your green card in those 3 years, where as here in Canada you can get your PR in those 3 years.


A non-zero amount of people never get the chance to obtain an immigrant or dual-intent visa during those years and subsequently get kicked out of the country.


In Canada you can pretty easily get a work permit to stay longer and PR without jumping through 70 hoops and waiting years.

The US immigration system is much shittier.


Yikes. That's a pretty heady classification of myself and my coworkers. The funniest part about your response, though, is that you said we'd "do anything for whatever else Amazon has". Looking past your assertion that we're in some way desperate, I'd say yeah, the whatever else Amazon has is pretty nice. I'm by no means a kool-aid drinker, but working with really smart coworkers, having accomplished mentors throughout the company, and working on genuinely interesting problems are nice perks to have. Amazon has its warts no doubt, but that's true of any company this size.

You can have your beefs with the company, that's fine. But I'd avoid the wholesale characterization of over 200k people -- it's not a good look.


I saw an IT Manager job description for Amazon's offices near Chicago. It had items like "Must be able to stand 10 hours a day." What? A managerial position where you're standing all day? Where you have direct reports and meetings and such? No offices or cubes for management? Oh, ok.

Also nice way of saying, "50 hour weeks are the norm."


It's because not everyone gets so emotionally carried away by what the media love to make of Amazon. The company employs 230,000 people. But for every one of them, it's just a day job after all. The scrutiny is justified given the scale and impact of the company, but what you're doing amounts to nothing more than misguided condescension from a bystander with little sense of what it's really like.


Playing such behavior down like "So many thousands work there so it's alright" is a very negligent attitude IMO. Companies that treat their potential employees like this need to be called out and shamed.

I'm not saying Amazon shouldn't scrutinize who they recruit. Please read the post with an open mind and think for yourself whether they have crossed lines of sensibility or not.

"nothing more than misguided condescension from a bystander" - No one is judging Amazon for its x thousand employees. Only its hiring practices. Which is creepy and stupid. I don't need to know everything about the company or its 230K employees to judge their hiring practice.


You misunderstand my point; by "scrutiny," I mean the media coverage on + testimony of things that amazon is doing wrong. I am all for bigCos being subject to watchful eyes. My qualm is that you somehow see this very specific problem we've gathered here to discuss as an excuse to hold moral high ground over the thousands of people who works for the company in a wake-up-sheeple style rant.


Init sure why you think this has anything to do with the people who are already working for the company. My comment was only about their hiring practice and potential candidates.

I do not hold moral high ground over the folks that made Amazon this attractive a tech place to work in the first place.

Still, just calling out their "current" hiring practice as evident from recent experience posts as creepy, stupid and something to be ashamed of.


I am amazed at how far you tolerated it. This is probably how I would have handled it:

> As preamble, the proctor made me download some software, one of which spun up a UI for chatting with the proctor and giving them access to my machine so they can take control of my entire computer, including mouse.

Nope. Goodbye.


Well it's good that someone tolerated it; now I have another couple names for my job black list. Thanks! :)

(Although I wouldn't work for Amazon anyway, but now I don't have to do any research if a company brings up "ProctorU").


You have to really watch those interview red flags. They're super important.

I had one right out of college where the office (on energy efficient lightning) looked like some cubicle version of hell. A person in the elevator on the way to the interview mouthed "run away" to me, and really creeped me out.

I got the job, but literally couldn't even handle a full day in that cave-like godawful place.


Holy cow.. I've got an Amazon SRE headhunter sitting in my inbox right now. I am sorely tempted to decline and send a link to this article as reason why.


I think that would be good feedback, if you're turning it down --hopefully it will incentivize them to change. If you're taking it, of course not.


Same here. It was for lab126, I was excited about it until I read this article..


Some other commenter up there says he worked at lab126 and it's sane there.


Save the link, you'll use it again and again.

I bit at an Amazon posting 5 years ago, but declined to do the Seattle interview when a local (and more attractive) position opened up.

Despite repeatedly telling Amazon's headhunters that I'm not interested, I hear from them about every 6 months.


Please do


Do it.


It gets worse -- when he wanted to leave the interview, the proctor couldn't disconnect those systems and kept making him wait until he finally gave up, cut off the call, and tried to purge it all himself.

That the electronic equivalent of preventing someone from leaving the building.


How else they would buy themselves the time to steal all his porn? ;-)


I would probably have tolerated it for a bit longer than that (On an old laptop or something). Up until the 'Clean your desk'.

Nope, Goodbye.


The clean your desk stuff is fine, but all of this should have been sent well ahead of the interview. Why they waste the time of two people to get ready for the interview is beyond me.


Yeah, I agree. Might have been willing to go through all that hassle. IF they had warned ahead of time the restrictions it might have been acceptable. I would pick another location, like the dining room or something, instead of having to 'clean' the desk. I tend to have an organized mess on my desk, and if I have to 'clean' it will drive me nuts for weeks. But, without heads up that is such a waste of time for everyone involved its crazy. And that's why it was the turning point for me.


"Hold on a second (while I spin up this virtual machine to install this software on...)."


That's when you should just start taking off your clothes just to make sure you're in even more compliance. (Might be writing on clothes)


I've got a server in my basement running VMware Workstation. That's how id approach it.


They won't let you continue if their software detects a virtualized system. Source: I used ProctorU for remote exams with Georgia Tech.

I feel in that case, it was acceptable. Students were encouraged to get a cheap "burner" windows machine and use it only for the proctored tests, and we were warned in advance of all the restrictions.


Seems a bit unreasonable to ask students (who likely already have tons of debt) to purchase an additional laptop just to take exams.


Yes, it does. On the other hand, though, you can get a cheap Windows laptop for less than some college text books.


Well, that's not saying very much, considering the whole thing with college text books. My last gaming rig literally cost less than my wife's textbooks last year.


You might be a bit out of date here. Textbooks are absurdly expensive these days relative to computers; Stewart's "Calculus" is $289[0], for example. That's about the right range for a new low end laptop or a used mid-range laptop.

[0] https://www.amazon.com/Calculus-James-Stewart/dp/1285740629/


Perhaps. But 1) you can rent that book for a fraction of the price (Amazon currently shows it for ~$60) and 2) just because students have to pay for expensive books doesn't mean they have extra money to spend on a second computer.


Some universities loan students laptops for free for like a week.


Oh yeah that's standard procedure for an interview, "I got an interview this afternoon, better build a new machine"


Yeah as a student they gave us about a month warning.


Seriously? Was this a professional program or something? Maybe I was a particularly poor undergrad, but I can't imagine being able to afford a separate computer, even a shitty one, with a month's morning. Nor could I justify the expense -- "oh that's just my test-taking computer."


It didn't have to run any real software except a browser and maybe a PDF reader. Also, yeah it was a remote grad program, so it was a bit of an experiment with how you do testing remotely at scale. I think they were trying to reach a fair compromise that didn't involve rewriting course content to include more open exams.


If you could use a virtualbox I would be totally ok with this, the fact that they exclude exactly that makes it 10 fold shittier.


If you consider the purpose is to monitor the entire computer to see if you have notes pulled up, you can see why they have this requirement.

I thought the entire premise of proctorU and proctorTrack (which gatech is now using instead of proctorU) was ridiculous though. A cheap hdmi splitter and a long cable would be all you needed to pipe the test out to a second monitor in another room where someone could scoop up the whole test for later. Or maybe even feed back answers to some tiny headphones hidden behind the ear. Impossible to detect.


Pretty sure that guaranteed-detection of virtualization is currently an unsolved problem, or we'd be hearing about breakthroughs on the "is the universe a simulation?" question.


In principle you are correct; in practice the commonly-available emulation environments don't do anything to hide the fact that they're emulations. If you ask the OS for the name of the graphics card and get "VirtualBox Graphics Adapter for Vista and Windows 7"...


I'm sure your VM doesn't have a webcam though. How do you prove that you are not cheating like this?


You can pass a USB device to the Hypervisor with nomachine then pass it to the VM with VMware.


You're gonna do all that work just so that you can take an hour long interview for an Amazon internship?


What work? It is just a VMWare knob.


just what are you to do if you don't have a webcam? go buy one?


Yup. You can get a camera that is good enough with a built in mic for like $20 these days.


My thoughts exactly. If I was reeeeally invested in getting that job, I would have found another laptop lying around, and powerwashed it after I was done.


Thankfully, I would fail this interview the moment they require me to own a Windows or OS X license.

> ProctorU currently supports Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 and Mac OS X 10.4 or newer version of those systems. At this time, ProctorU does not support any Linux operating systems such as Chrome OS, Ubuntu, Fedora, etc.

edit: but I'd like to see them muck around with my linux.git .config to make sure I'm not cheating.


Wow, seriously? I had to shoot down a ProctorU interview at one point because I had some hardware and internet stability issues that were going to scuttle the thing (and I couldn't go to a library or anything in light of all these rules).

But it didn't even occur to me that Amazon might be using an interview service that can't handle Linux. One of the best programmers I knew in school was exclusively on Debian, and spent a semester on a cheap Arch machine when his main laptop died. An interview process that completely excludes him is a jaw-droppingly bad one...


Ironic, since so much of Amazon's infrastructure runs on Linux.


They'd lose me the moment they wanted full access to my system. My computer, my rules. You want to take control, mail me a computer and take control of that.


Underrated post :) This was the first thing I checked too. I run GNU/Linux. My internal web cam has never worked.


This was a huge problem for me at Gatech's online master of computer science program (omscs). I ended up having a small windows partition just to take the exams.

Also note windows 10 isn't explicitly on that list. There were problems early on.


That's why you put Win7 in a VM (e.g. VirtualBox) and let them figure out the rest.


No virtualization allowed if they detect it. ProctorU really isn't prepared to be running this stuff for Amazon.


That still requires a Win7 license.


No, just a Win7 installation


“Clean your desk, please. Your institution [Amazon] has mandated that there cannot be any written material next to you while you take the exam.”

To which I would reply "Fuck you and your institution".

Run a binary on my machine ? I think the interview should be over right there and not from my side. If an employee is willing to run binaries from random people on the Internet on their machines, then they're a security risk.

Is it really so dry out there that people are willing to go through this bullshit to work for Amazon ?

I know some of you are young and inexperienced, but know that you always have the choice to say 'No'. If people mistrust you from the get go - this is the environment you're signing up for. Don't settle for this.

Don't work for Amazon, don't let them establish this bullshit as the norm in the industry.

Trust me, the dream job will come if you know your value.


"If an employee is willing to run binaries from random people on the Internet on their machines, then they're a security risk."

Absolutely. I'm not surprised the Amazon SDEs are fuming about this.


I'm getting really sick of HN's attitude toward Amazon employees. Not Amazon, hate all you want on the company, but I really think the the "only a desperate moron would work at Amazon" type comments don't belong here.

I love my job, but reading HN makes me feel like I should hate it. This is a place that told me to "take as much time as I need" when I got married, told me the same thing again when my dad was taken to the hospital two months later, and again when my father-in-law had a heart attack a month after that. I will never forget the kindness I've been shown in one of the most difficult years of my life.

I know that my experience doesn't align with everyone's. But this broad categorization of Amazon employees as "desperate" or "corporate drones" is just false.


Ex-Amazon here. The good technical skills of my peers was the highlight of being there. Many had offers from the usual Google/Facebook/Twitter & co. No, they weren't desperate.

People here are criticizing the management, not the engineers.


> People here are criticizing the management, not the engineers.

They are though. I have seen Amazon engineers referred to as "desperate", "morons", and "idiots" in multiple threads here on HN. I'm fine with criticizing management. I encourage it. But criticizing the engineers simply for working here is an unfair generalization.


That kind of name calling is way over the top and inapropriate, but to be fair you can be a genius while having a lower bar for what is acceptable during an interview.


Don't worry, this is good for Amazon and you.

If Amazon has the wisdom to hear all this criticism, then the company culture should improve and you will all be happier as employees.

If it doesn't, then you'll eventually see it yourself and it will be easier for you to quit.

Note that we actually work for our bosses - and they work for theirs. We don't do company work, we do what our bosses decide we should do. So a corporation is a group of people working on goals set by others.

If you follow the recursion, you'll notice that these changes need to come from the very top, so that's where you need to knock if you want to improve your company's image.


Criticism of Amazon the company is good, I'm fine with that. What bothers me is the insults toward the engineers who work there.


Then work to change your company's culture. Speak out against those doing what makes headlines here. It's not on us to make sure that Amazon employees are positively represented. It's on you to make sure that Amazon employees deserve to be positively represented.


I do what I can, but any opinion that contradicts the HN hivemind makes me a corporate shill. At this point, Amazon could save a truckload of puppies and HN would find a way to make it evil.


Agree. I'd like to see more spam in favor of Amazon if that's your experience.


But that's not the content that the HN echo chamber wants to see. Amazon is a terrible place to work, so we can only upvote stories that support that opinion. The last time I saw a positive Amazon article on the front page, the comments were filled with absolute vitriol. Amazon could cure cancer and HN would bemoan how terrible the on-call must be for whoever ran the protein folding servers.


You have a positive upvote balance (so far) for your comments. I believe you are victimizing Amazon employees and taking comments personally. Anyone on HN who hasn't worked at Amazon has to rely on the experiences of those who have. And there is a large amount of negative accounts, especially compared to other companies.

Whining about a hive-mind is a self-fulfilling prophesy. Sustaining an opposing view when people generalize about employment at Amazon is a good way to change minds. HN is about entrepreneurial activity and technology, not fatalism.


The worst part about all this is that even if you did submit to all of this garbage, all you'd earn is the right to work with a bunch of people who are either desperate/clueless enough to also submit or managers that think this sort of behavior is a-OK.

Maybe there was no training video. The test was to see if you'd surrender all privacy, your whole computer and let them waste your whole day on pointless bs. There was no spoon, Neo.


Playing devils advocate here...

If they only hire a subset of interns this way, how would a full-time candidate have any clue? If a manager doesn't get an intern that had this happen, how would they know?

Okay now most poeple know, it's on HN (and people are pissed apparently according to another commenter here). Do you expect the current employees to up and quit?

I think it's easy to say that "you'd just earn the right to work with a bunch of clueless people", but Amazon is a huge company. Do you expect that all MSFT/GOOG/AAPL/ETC employees keep close tabs on programs that recruiting are using (potentially even testing?) And do you expect that people with mortgages, families, commitments are just going to walk out as soon as they hear about something like that?

I'm not defending Amazon at all here. Something may be wrong if this shit keeps happening (there isn't a faces of google website, for example), but I don't think the burden here is on a lowly SDE or whatnot who is powerless, and in most cases has no clue of the situation.


>And do you expect that people with mortgages, families, commitments are just going to walk out as soon as they hear about something like that?

No, I'm expecting that the people with the most options will start drifting away. You know, the ones they most need. And now we know they won't be hiring any stellar replacements any time soon either.


Amazon SDE interviews were some of the biggest shit shows I've ever been through personally so this article really hits home.

The furthest I was qualified for with Amazon was in their warehouse, walking 10 hours every day from 8pm to 6 am with two 20 minute for eating and resting. We were not allowed to sit or stop at any point, even going to the bathroom to take a piss or shit were being factored into time. There were cameras everywhere, something like out of 1984. I was treated like a criminal when I had new pair of steel toe boots they paid for in a box and I couldn't represent a receipt. I was scanned with metal detectors, told to take off my shoes, and all in all it was a dehumanizing experience after 10 hours of work consistently.

I felt like HR and everybody else who were sitting around were looking down at us. One time, when a bunch of pickers were walking up stairs, one of the HR guys had a microphone and shouted "both hands on the rails" as he followed right behind the group of workers.

All while I couldn't get Jeff Bezo's smiling face laughing in my head. Fuck Amazon, seriously, except AWS.


"except AWS" I've been thinking about things like this, where for example, if you only buy vegetarian food at McDonalds you are still supporting deforestation and inhumane treatment of animals.

If you buy AWS you are supporting the inhumane treatment of humans.


Draws parallels with Google's Scan Ops - check this interview out here: http://aperture.org/magazine-2013/andrew-norman-wilson-with-...


Is there a business opportunity here?

If Amazon wants complete control over the interview experience, maybe there's room for a service that rents out small office spaces, like ZipCar or AirBnB, but for a desk/small office with just a Chromebook, for this express purpose.

Amazon or any other company could say they need a desk close to some place on some date, and the service could make one available that meets the requirements (laptop, multiple camera feeds, etc).

Or maybe this already exists?


Already exists, lots of certifications are handled this way. There are "test centers", where multiple types of tests are taken, and the computer is severely limited.

The "disruptor" here is ProctorU and similar services. They are cheaper, generally more convenient, easier to schedule and manage.

Maybe you can come up with a better "test center" (perhaps a van?) but most people don't care at all about what ProctorU does with their computer.


> The "disruptor" here is ProctorU and similar services.

And this is why I cringe whenever I hear people talking about "disruption" like it's a good thing.

I once heard someone seriously suggest that higher education should be disrupted by newer education systems that don't have to be accessible to the disabled because universities are "wasting" too much money on accessibility services. See also: AirBNB encouraging landlords to set up unregulated hotels and causing nasty externalities for the whole neighborhood. It seems to me that "disruption" is code for "figure out how to cut corners in a way that makes everybody's life worse to increase your profit margins".


> Maybe you can come up with a better "test center" (perhaps a van?) but most people don't care at all about what ProctorU does with their computer.

Most people might not, but I suspect many of the best people for many tech, especially -- but also many other knowledge work jobs -- do care, quite intensely.


"As part of the interview process, you'll need to enter the back of this windowless van..."


I think the best people in tech are probably not put into this interview/test situation.


Don't be so sure.

I don't know whether I qualify as "best in tech", but: last year I was approached by a large company which uses Django, and which solicited me to apply specifically because they wanted a Django committer on staff. In other words, I was absolutely a known quantity for them.

They still shoved me in their Fizzbuzz phone-screen funnel. Spoiler: for that, among other reasons, I stopped trying to follow up with them.

This does not seem to be an unusual practice for large companies. Even when they're recruiting specific people who they know and initiate the contact with, they still set these awful "prove you're not one of the impostor rabble we say are beating down our doors" hoops for people to jump through.


You are right, Im sure most people, even the best, have to deal with this at some point.


I'd bet most of them were through it at least once.

What does best mean anyway?


Those are different situations. They're fairly fixed tests which are multiple choice and are given to you as an example. My understanding of this is that it's for an interview and requires a little bit of free form thinking.


There's probably other ways to do similar without being as invasive. Maybe a program that loads full screen and gives you a testing environment. Minimize the program and you fail immediately.


Second monitor?


By screen I mean entire viewable area.


This is something similar, except they run test centers rather than just renting out office space for that use:

https://home.pearsonvue.com/


A friend of mine interviewed for a tech position with the government (Canada). After the first couple screening interviews the subsequent interviews were all held in a hotel room. Similar to your suggestion, the hotel was picked so it was close to the candidate's house, and the interviewer supplied laptop and such.


Personally, I'd feel a huge creep factor interviewing next to a bed.


Casting couch?


ProctorU does that for people without webcams/compatible systems.


I don't know if it exists for interviews, but there are definitely firms which offer facilities and services for test taking. I think it's quite common for certification and distance education


Prometric has done this forever. I took the GRE at a place like this in 2001.


ETS.


Many companies don't understand that hiring on their end is almost as competitive as getting a job on our end. While I was going to school I applied for an internship to Epic Systems and another company.

Epic wanted to put me through a proctored, three hour long "assessment" in front of a microphone, camera, etc. before even getting on the phone with me.

The other company gave me a couple of 30 minute phone screens followed by an on site interview that gave me far more insight into who they were and what they did. They made the process as smooth as possible for me and were genuinely interested in making the most of my application. Guess who I ended up working for.


On Epic's side at least, they are actually overloaded with engineers/applicants now, to the point that they removed their referral incentives because they have more people applying than they can deal with. They're perfectly happy if they lose a few percent of applicants if they avoid some false positive hires.


It's still a process that loses the best applicants. The fact that they don't realise this or don't care, doesn't make a good public impression.


>they removed their referral incentives because they have more people applying than they can deal with

That's a surprising reaction. The big four (five?) all have referral bonuses despite being beyond flooded with applications, specifically to avoid false positives - they assume that their current employees are more likely to know other people they want to hire.


I mentioned this in the last post about this process, but this is not exclusive to Amazon. I did a ProctorU test for Epic a few years ago that followed the same requirements.

I installed LogMeIn, let them poke around my laptop, showed some ID and did a sweep of my room with my webcam. I did not quit however, and ended up taking a ~3 hour SAT-like test.

I don't dislike the idea of setting up a standard environment for a candidate to take an assessment, but this process feels a bit inhumane and intrusive, imho.


> inhumane and intrusive

I guess they feel that if they can be inhumane and intrusive towards their minimum wage employees in the warehouses, they might as well treat everyone that way.


I completely agree, and I think this is the natural evolution of Amazon (and, to an extent, corporate America). Amazon gets to treat their min wage warehouse employees as fungible, and their process around hiring and firing shows that. Have they gotten to the point where a certain amount of their engineering resources are the same? It's looking like they are trying to get there.

It's a demonstration of our privilege on HN that we rally against these interviewing practices, yet they are a mainstay for a huge percentage of the USA.

I'm not sure I'm getting my point across well, but I think there's going to be a point where this becomes more and more normal across more and more companies. They'll hire people to abstract the very difficult parts of computers away, and bring people in en-masse to fill in the blanks.


I'd suggest getting organised as a preventative measure against this kind of thing, but that's likely to go down like a lead balloon here. As long as there's a shortage of developers, we're somewhat safe, but that position is very precarious.


Indeed, organization seems to be anathema to the tech-libertarian crowd around here (or, at least, the vocal part of the crowd). To a lesser extent, it is hard to think about this future when times are good, which they definitely are now.

I'm a youngin' around these parts, but it makes me anxious to think about what I'll be doing 30 to 40 years from now. Technology is moving sufficiently quickly and corporate humanity (for lack of a better term) is not keeping up.

Who knows!


I have been wanting a tech worker labor organization since 2002. It was unpopular on Slashdot, too, but that doesn't mean it isn't a smart move for our tribe as a whole, even at the expense of everyone else.

Too many of us think they can think their way out of any situation with sufficient amounts of cleverness, but eventually, clever goes up against brute force and overwhelming numbers and loses.


There is not a shortage of developers. And no, there isn't even a shortage of good developers.


Then why is it that most of the people I interview can barely write a for-loop?


My best guess has been that there's an oversupply of incompetent "developers" trying to play the numbers game, doing enormous numbers of interviews hoping they'll find a company that will hire them anyway.

If incompetent developers do 100 interviews per job, and only last at jobs for 6 months before being fired, and competent developers do single-digit interviews (or 0, getting hired through networking) and stay employed for years at a time, a very small proportion of bad actors can be severely over-represented in interviews.


I think this is correct, however, it doesn't completely explain why I'll go months without meeting a better applicant. If there were a surplus of capable mid-level engineers then wouldn't I see them too?


Location, the kind of position, perceived company reputation and pay...

I've been on your side of the table for a similar role and had the same experience. Literally 20-30 candidates who can't answer basic questions for every 1 who can (and usually the 1 is "just ok").

I think it's just due to the particular pool your company is dealing with. Maybe there is a surplus, maybe there isn't, but you're not able to judge that objectively from your vantage point.


Well, why would those capable mid-level engineers, who probably already have decent jobs, want to interview at your company?

I'm not saying this to be snarky. If you don't have a good answer to this, that probably points to your issue. If you have to think a bit to answer that, it's probably also an issue.


People who can barely write a for-loop go to dozens of interviews per job they get. People who are very competent go to two or three, tops, per job they get.

It's pretty simple logic from there.


Nobody with talent wants to interview at your company. Either your company has a bad reputation, or you're offering crap pay.


Do you interview everyone who applies? Have you considered that your process of choosing who to interview may be flawed?


I wouldn't know because I don't choose the candidates; I just do the coding interviews


An engineer needs to be involved in the initial phone screening.

At my previous company we usually were able to find someone within a reasonable amount of time to fill an open position. One day, HR decided to seize control of the hiring process. They would conduct all of the resume and initial phone screening and then hand us a few "approved" resumes. It became impossible to find anyone after that.


There will always be a shortage of any type of worker...

  ...willing to commute from their home to your premises
  ...and work with your crazy cargo-cult process
  ...on your badly-architected, tech-debt-riddled legacy system
  ...for the crap salary you are offering.


I'd recommend suggesting it. You might be pleasantly surprised.

(I'm not quit-my-job-level supportive, but I'd like to join such an effort (as long as it wasn't michaelochurch) - so what's the way forward? Joining a general union until there's a critical mass that can spin off as a software-specific one?)


> Joining a general union until there's a critical mass that can spin off as a software-specific one?

There's a number of software workers in "general" unions already, particularly (but not exclusively) public sector workers. And there's arguably quite a bit of utility in being part of a bigger union like SEIU, IWW, etc.


There is at least one union for software developers: http://www.iww.org/no/unions/dept500/iu560

IWW can be a bit extreme for my tastes, but it's the only one I've found.


If it was the natural evolution of "corporate America" then Amazon's behavior would be the norm, not the exception. Amazon has a reputation for being terrible in this regard, so that's actually a good thing. It means this kind of behavior hasn't been normalized.

Surely, Amazon isn't the only bad company and there are many workers elsewhere who should be treated better. But if there's an overall equilibrium, Amazon is one of the companies on the wrong side of it.


When I did a ProctorU test for Epic earlier this year I was instructed to tear my scrap paper up and to then throw the scraps into the air. It wasn't until after I did that was I told by the proctor that they were "just kidding" about throwing the scraps.


That's disappointing. When I interviewed and worked for Epic some years ago they just flew you onsite and gave you a machine to take the tests on.

They also made you do some strange IQ test, but I think they stopped that.


After passing the ProctorU portion of the test, I was flown in and did more computer exams, as well as interviewing with some people in person.

In chatting with people while I was there, it sounded like it was very expensive to fly everyone in for the entirety of the computer interviews, so they started outsourcing the first part to weed people out.

For what it's worth, I did have to do a "logic" assessment that felt very IQ test like, though I have never actually taken an IQ test


Makes sense, since I was there when it was smaller than it was today. Let me guess, the logic questions were along the lines of "You have two coins that equal $0.55, and one is not a nickle"?


> After about an hour of this, I tell the proctor that I am no longer interested in the interview, and that I want to quit. I’m asked if I want to reschedule. I repeat that I want to quit. I’m told that a Log Out Procedure(™?) will have to be initiated.

Isn't enough to have total access to your computer, you also have to leave them enough time to clean up (?) any copyrighted material they might have downloaded on your equipment...

Interesting that you'll never know if they have uploaded some material from you, be it documents, photos or whatever.


Honestly, I wouldn't go in for this process unless I had a new partition or had wiped the contents of my machine altogether.

Not because I actually think they're stealing data, but because I don't trust their competence to not collect something personal while doing their system profile. And, of course, because I'm opposed to surrendering ownership of a system I care about on sheer principle.


I imagine that a continuously-running backup process could capture anything they do. There’s not really a way for them to “clean up” anything.


You could just run the test software from inside a VM - with all those helpful 'written materials' on your real desktop.


They check to make sure you aren't running within a VM, unfortunately.


Malware checks for VMs too, there are documented ways to trick things into thinking that they're running on bare metal.


Judging by the article and the comments, that sounds to me like more effort than Amazon is worth.


This vividly reminded me of PLEASE DRINK VERIFICATION CAN


I had no idea what this was so I found it, and its great:

http://i.imgur.com/dgGvgKF.png


One of the better greentexts, probably because it hits so close to home.


Greentext? It was a Black Mirror episode.


Unless the Black Mirror episode aired before 2013, the greentext predates it.

http://imgur.com/r/4chan/dgGvgKF


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifteen_Million_Merits

"first aired on Channel 4 on 11 December 2011."

But it's Cuppliance, a substance (drug) to ensure compliance during 'Hot Shots' auditions rather than to verify identity.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifteen_Million_Merits

The episode aired on 11 December 2011. Seems unlikely that they are connected.


In black mirror its a can of compliance


This may not be cost effective, but the way Redhat does remotely proctored exams isn't bad. Granted it's not a job interview, but it is an example of someone monitoring you remotely during an exam. It depends on you living nearby or traveling to one of the remote testing locations though(yes, I see the irony).

The experience is: you sit in a room at a standard monitor with a keyboard and mouse. There are video/audio monitors placed:

- above your head, roughly 2 feet, looking down

- in front of your face, able to observe your eyes

- to the left and right of you, about 2 feet

- behind you

Basically, you are watched from all angles, including what your eyeballs are looking at. I always feel like a probe is about to come whizzing out of the desk and begin prodding me when I begin, but the feeling subsides after awhile.

protip: As a male, asking the male proctor to stop looking down my shirt didn't have the humorous reception I intended.


Thanks for the info. I was seriously considering applying to an interesting role at Red Hat, but it's not interesting enough to go through that. I've gone through many interviews during my career, but this sounds more like them reusing their existing Linux certification exam room for interview job applicants as well. I believe what you say, but I still find it hard to believe Red Hat would do this and that the respected Linux kernel and userland developers went through this without publicly blogging about it.


Hey, wanted to reply because I think I gave the wrong idea! I was suggesting that as an alternative to what the original article described for "remote monitoring". That experience was just to take an exam - their interviewing process isn't like that at all :)

But...I can describe it for you if you are interested. My interview process with Redhat started with the normal recruiter phone call, then scheduled some interviews with potential team mates. We used a video conferencing platform called "BlueJeans", which runs fine on windows/macos/linux, and worked through some exercises so they could observe how I solved problems.

I feel bad for giving the wrong idea in my original comment, Redhat is definitely not that crazy in their interviews :)


That makes more sense. This sounded like a certification exam.

The process you describe sounds normal and fairly reasonable, although I must say if I were the maintainer/developer of some Linux lib/app and applied at Red Hat, I would expect to skip most of that to be honest. But even Google wanted to make Ken Thompson go through their process, which he didn't and thus couldn't work on their main code base. Maybe he did by now or they granted him a license to commit, but it was hard to believe at the time.


I do not want to hire a developer that knows everything off the top of her head. In my industry, best practices can change. One who is able to work without any research is probably not using the best methods... they're using the last greatest thing they learned. This isn't completely bad, I do like knowing how people solve problems... but I hate the "invert a binary tree on a whiteboard" mentality.


Exactly, if an engineer isn't continually updating his knowledge of best practices and isn't using all the resources available at his disposal then he probably isn't gonna produce better results than someone who does use every resource they can get.


I'd quit the moment I was told they need to have something more than just a "share your desktop".

The hell is this, really...


The moment they wanted access to my screen...

I would have terminated it. I'm not a privacy nut, but I am a respect nut... and if your level of respect for your engineers allows you to enforce such a ridiculous policy of "testing" in the interview process, well, you don't have much respect for the engineers... or their time, or their own privacy (on their own machine).

I wont work for a company who installs "screen watching" software on your machine. I wont work for a company who middle-man's the SSL cert. I wont work for a company who drug tests. (I smoke MJ, but a lot of companies state MJ doesnt fail, but I still refuse to take a drug test, its principle)

We aren't cattle. When you're treated as such in the interview process, you can strongly infer that you will be treated as such in your position.


I interview people remotely all the time. We allow people to go through Coderpad or something like that, but in practice, I always suggest screensharing.

The reason I suggest this is not that I am interested in the rest of their computer: I don't want keyboard or mouse control, and our rubrics have absolutely nothing to do with what else is running your box. What I am interested in is letting the candidate work with their favorite tools. It's your computer, with your favorite editor, with whichever bindings you have, and whichever libraries added to your project as you like to use. In our interviews you can also check language docs and stack overflow if you like: In fact, it's pretty common for people that pass the interview to do so.

Interviewing is stressful, and other than letting people work on a longer interview project on their own time, the best thing I can do for my candidates is to make them be at ease in every other way possible. In case people worry about privacy, I am happy if they just share a window, especially if it's for an IDE that lets them both see the code and show me test results at the same time.

So In my employer's case, a preference for screensharing is not really about treating people like cattle. We discuss all those pros and cons with candidates prior to screening, and accommodate them in almost every case. While I'd agree 100% that the ProctorU plan wound not be something I'd find acceptable, there's a great case for wanting access to your screen that is for the candidate's benefit.


Well, screen sharing is okay (even though I'd prefere some 3rd party service with real-life code editing) and most OS has this kind of feature by default. Or via something like Skype (some other IM softwar has similar features too).

My main 'concern' was about "The proctor then proceeded to shut down all my running applications for me" - the fuck is this? Pardon my language.


I've had one interview using Skype screen sharing where I had to import a toy project in my IDE and deal with some more "real-life" kind of tasks, and it was a good experience. Collabedit and the like are a bit limiting outside of Google-style algo questions.

I'd never install something like LogMeIn/TeamViewer though.


Showing my screen is one thing... I prefer a collabedit or something similar... I work on a MacOS computer... so even when apps are closed, notifications still show. I set my messages notifications to show the full message... including images... so even with Messages closed, if my wife SMS's me, it shows on my screen. I dont want to have to go shut off notifications for an interview process... and i shouldnt have to.

There are plenty of tools to share the code view in many IDEs.. there are sites and services dedicated to this. To have access to my entire desktop, INCLUDING control of my mouse/keyboard and installing software... I would have a hard time telling them not to go fuck themselves... because the level of disrespect in treating an adult like a child student is so high its painful...


I hate having to shut down notifications for screen shares as well, but I found out that there is a pretty easy way to mute them temporarily on macOS. Alt + click on the notification button (top right corner) and it will mute notifications.


To be honest, my exact reaction to something like this would be to tell the recruiter the only way it was happening was in a virtual machine, with no camera or mic access. I'll happily do a video interview, but I'm not going to be given a test like that under such invasive, low trust circumstances. Either you trust me not to cheat, or you don't trust me enough to give me the position.

I'm also a bit against tests of this sort, beyond just the privacy issue - in the real world, if you're not looking up things you're unsure of, you're making a mistake. Denying someone even written resources seems like setting them up for failure. But the privacy issue is a big one, and would likely cause me to quit before even allowing access to my machine.


>you don't trust me enough to give me the position.

This. Why would I want to work in a company that labels me as a some sort of cheater before proven otherwise?


I would have quit the moment that either a) they asked me to turn on a camera inside my house or b) they asked me to give them access to my computer.

I'm a pretty private person, and giving anyone access to either of these is a dealbreaker. Hell, I don't even let my friends in my house, much less an employer.

One of the last times I dealt with a recruiter, he wanted me to have a Skype interview with him before he passes my contact information on to the employer (for a job I really didn't want, but I was unemployed so I didn't have a choice if I didn't want to lose my unemployment). I tried to argue him out of it, and I ended up doing the interview in my backyard because there's no way in hell I'd ever turn a camera on in my house.


That seems overall sensible to me. I don't have any cameras* in the rooms I stay/work/sleep, and made sure that things like microphones are really only active when I want them to (eg. the mic line on my VoIP phone is hard-wired to the big, red indicator light on it). I feel very uncomfortable when I feel watched/listened to, and with digital devices there is no easy way to discern "could watch/listen" and "does watch/listen", so restrictions need to be placed in the real world, not in the world of bits and bytes...

* Actually I do have one-or-the-other (D)SLR, but these are "dumb", not networked, and can positively not take pictures without somebody noticing - clack.


It's an general aptitude test. If someone cheats they move forward when perhaps they shouldn't and they waste Amazon's time.

ProctorU does similar things for universities. I've taken a few, they're not always this intrusive, but I understand the sentiment. People cheat. It's hard to stop that and even harder to do remotely.


Seems like the proper way to handle this would be to have the test taker go somewhere with a proper test taking environment. If you don't want them to come on sit, then I'm sure there are local facilities they could contract to handle it.

Attempting to take over a person's own computer in order to prevent cheating on a test is simultaneously an egregious invasion of privacy and completely insecure. Are we really supposed to believe that you wouldn't be able to hide some cheating materials from your own webcam?


I recently had this a version of this with test taking - As part of immigration, I had to complete civics and language learning courses. Both had tests to take to complete the training.

The tests were held at the schools, all online. Purses, bags, jackets, electronics and so forth were left at the front of the room. Paper and pencils were provided in the computer labs, which were recorded and inspected for signs of cheating. Humans were at the site, but video wouldn't have been out of the question either.

It wouldn't seem too much to be able to rent a local school's computer lab for these sorts of purposes, for a small fee. And the internet and security on these is already tax-payer funded. This should put test taking environments well within reach of most people.


> Seems like the proper way to handle this would be to have the test taker go somewhere with a proper test taking environment. If you don't want them to come on sit, then I'm sure there are local facilities they could contract to handle it.

I'm certain it's more expensive for the company, though. And some candidates don't have nearby access to this.


There a so many locations that almost all do -- certainly much easier than any local interview location.


But easier and cheaper than ProctorU? That's the main sell.


Doing things badly is usually easier and cheaper than doing them properly.


Exactly. There are proctored testing labs worldwide -- there is absolutely no reason for Amazon not to handle it this way if they really feel the proctoring is necessary. Someone at Amazon just didn't do their job properly.


Mensa International tests work similar to this, ie. they rent a room in a VHS or university for a couple hours to conduct the tests.


The FAA's written exam for pilots is similar, they have certified testing centers which can administer it. That's what made me think of this approach. Looking around a bit, it looks like dedicated testing centers are fairly common.


What is cheating in this situation? When we are talking about university exams - yes, you can cheat by using materials you are not allowed to.

As a software developer - I alwasy kind of cheat. I use Stackoverflow and infinite google search abilities :)


I consider cheating to be part of my job. I look up things I've done a dozen times before, if I haven't done them in a few weeks. I'll often ask google how to do something, then while it's loading the results, start writing the code that does that thing. A more valuable test, in my eyes, is how well someone CAN cheat in the interview. I want to hear someone say "you know, I've never actually heard that question before, let me see if anyone's talking about it on StackOverflow." Admitting you don't know the answer, and coming up with a way to get the answer is far more important a skill, to me, than blind recall. I've said "I don't know" in an interview, and while getting the words out took some effort, it showed the interviewer that I could admit to not knowing, and started a dialog between me and the interviewer, which gave him an idea of how I think about new problems.


You can consider this tantamount to a blackboard exercise. In all likelihood they're looking for basic algorithm stuff.

In that instance, in your daily job you wouldn't even cheat by looking it up, you'd just use a library. I would assume that they value people who understand how these things work rather than just being able to implement it. After all, you can teach someone basic Python and how to use Scipy in a couple of hours, but does that make them a data scientist?

Anyway my point is lots of companies have programming exercises/tests, and I'm not aware of too many that let you just look stuff up while you're doing them. Debate the merits of that, but it's common enough that seeing it in this platform shouldn't feel totally shocking.


So it filters for only the good cheaters, then.

To be fair, those people are very likely to be successful!


He could just have set up a separate user account.


It sounds like he didn't know it would've been this intrusive. I had no idea personally and I know a lot of people who have worked at Amazon.


Exactly. I respect Amazon as a company, and wanted to work there at the time. Wasn't quite expecting this.


Serious question. Given the US laws (compared to Europe) of easily hiring and firing employees regardless of probationary periods, do they really have so many "con artist" applicants who turn out to not deliver (skill or motivation lacking) that they void the trust during the interview phase by monitoring the applicant's machine? I've interviewed a small and large places, and if they really want to be sure about this part, they have you come onsite and sit in the same room with you.

Whenever I was asked to code something as the 2nd step of the interview process like homework assignment, I'm always glad if it's not a site like hackerrank with a timer running out and JavaScript monitoring what tabs I navigate to. Especially, if they already know and have seen my public code and revision history, I feel like I'm applying for public office of some sort when they remove trust and make your go through that in addition to spending your personal time to work on some little project for the interview.

The biggest paradox here is that industry regularly complains about the lack of qualified engineers while ignoring probationary periods and trying to replace them with a 4 or 6 step interview/examination process. In many European countries both parties can walk away from the partnership with zero hurdles during the probationary period. It varies from 1 month to 6 month in Europe and if the company fails to assess the employee in that time, you cannot blame the employee and make him go through increasingly more distrusting interview process. One has to consider that not everybody lives in San Francisco and has potential jobs lining the streets, so it's time inefficient for applicants to go through many interviews.


some of our best programmers are those whose skill with googling searching rivals their coding skills. knowing where to look for suggestions is nearly as valuable as knowing how to code it


i got an offer from them without ever interviewing in person. Frankly, i suspect a lot of people attempt to cheat because it's the difference between a life at a big name company making six figures and whatever their alternatives are. Especially for people like the poster who aren't american. We have all seen how much indians cheat on standardized tests.


> i got an offer from them without ever interviewing in person.

May I ask what the process was (steps) and what kind of accolades you have?


i don't have much in terms of 'accolades'. I'm a student who interned at another big name company. They actually said they would have interviewed me on campus if I hadn't done as well on their online tests and that only some small percent get to skip them. The process was as follows:

1. Amcat assessment. Essentially an online IQ and debugging test. Asked logical based questions that were similar to IQ.

2. Couple hour long "work simulation". Puts you in phony work situations and asks what you'd do. (Hurt your team vs hurt another team vs hurt customer). The work simulation ended with around 3 coding questions, one of which was difficult.

3. 20 minute chat with hiring manager over phone to discuss offer and answer any questions I had.

4. Rejecting their offer.

For the record, they monitored my browser, but nothing else.


Interns at some big companies typically get offers without any in-person interviews.


I think this is interesting. Most of my interviews with other companies since I became a software engineer (with a "pedigree" at a big name company) have been informal chats on the phone or in person with 3-4 people about a combination of technical and professional matters.

I remember going through the degrading 6-hour IQ-tests, silly white-board interviews, etc. at a bunch of companies when I was first looking for a job, but even then there were a few companies that did a pretty good job. I had an interesting conversation about IoC and clean code at a consulting company, after which I interviewed with the company president and talked business. That interview stuck in my mind as being very respectful, and I'd seek the company out again if I moved back to the state.

My Amazon interview (which I got an offer from) was a quick round of 4 interviews with some tired engineers (they had been marathon interviewing on the road). I was asked some softball applied algorithms and data-structures problems, mostly to make sure that I didn't make easy problems too complicated from what I can tell. The reject rate on those interviews in very high, and there are probably a lot of false-negatives (and there is a lot of money at stake), so I think it's understandable that emotions can run pretty high about them.

A few years in: I turned down the last job that gave me an offer after a very silly whiteboarding session because I lost a lot of respect for the company after going through their interview process. Something like this "ProctorU" bullshit would cause me to quit the interview immediately and send a terse but polite message to HR at the company that their interview process was a non-starter for me, and that I would not consider working for a company that did not treat me as a professional.


honest question, I don't mean to be provocative, I'm just trying to understand.

what the hell is wrong with Amazon's company culture? I feel like I can't go three months without reading about some story about something with Amazon related to hiring, working conditions, or management style that is deeply offensive and alarming.

why does this keep happening over and over again? it's so notorious that the NYTimes has written magazine articles about it. it's so notorious that Bezos has to go write apologias in the annual newsletter. what's going on?

I'm asking because 4 or 5 times a year I get an offer from an Amazon recruiter to come in and interview for a position that otherwise looks appealing. I say NO every single time because of these issues I keep reading about.


Amazon's culture is strictly hierarchical and all the mechanisms designed to protect lower-level employees are busted. You're supposed to be able to transfer to a new department, but many directors and VPs work to block transfers. You're supposed to be able to report problems to HR, but they ignore everything that can't get Amazon sued.

So nothing removes or punishes dysfunctional leaders, and every branch of the org chart is the sum of all the different ways the people above you are flawed. Each branch of the org structure is a nightmare in its own way, but they all eventually become some nightmare somehow because the psychopaths don't mind and the actual humans eventually leave.


sounds like they've created their own special hell. guess I won't be interviewing with them any time soon.


It's weird that so many American schools and so many American companies seem to think the best model for them to follow is the one of a prison, with inflexible, arbitrary rules that dehumanize and disenfranchise.

Maybe the fact that America imprisons so many of its citizens is to blame for this.


I suspect (though admittedly without any specific theory behind it) that the cause and effect are the other way around: the mentality of inflexible disenfranchising rules that permeates the American cultural mentality is what causes both the school and corporate models as well as the mass incarceration.


At some point in history we, as a programmers, allowed that HR 'professionals' insert themselves between us and employers. Approach used in this interview is nothing that any half-decent programmer would choose as a reliable test. This has HR written all over it.

This has nothing to do with quality (of candidates) only to do with HR person ticking another interview done.

Being contractor, I don't accept any HR involvment for some time, if company insists on running stupid tests they can't count on me. I have never seen any HR like approach with hiring that made ANY sense.

If you need and want job done call me. If you want agile/scrum pretending to work its not for me...


You'd think a company with massive turnover would try to remove barriers to finding new talent, not create them.

http://www.ibtimes.com/amazoncom-has-second-highest-employee...


I'm curious and didn't see an answer to this question while reading that link (or the link to the original source) -- how does 'median tenure' distinguish between a company where people are leaving quickly, and a company that is aggressively hiring/growing? A bunch of brand new employees drags down median tenure without necessarily being a sign of massive turnover.


Yes, but the purpose of this is to increase hiring throughput, by reducing the number of SWE hours spent interviewing the average candidate.

People who don't want to put up with this bullshit drop out early, so they don't cost the company much time.


How you're treated during the interview is a good indication of how you'll be treated by the company if hired. Unless you really need employment, I'd stay away from Amazon.


I had a similar experience when taking Acquia Certification exams for Drupal a couple of months ago.

I was required to install an application called 'Sentinel' [1] that monitored my pc, could not have a second monitor or external keyboard attached and had to move my laptop to show that nothing was on my desk. If I remember correctly, I wasn't even allowed to use the built-in camera of my laptop.

At some point in the exam the monitor paused the exam because I was holding a pen (I use a wacom as a mouse) and I had to put it away in order to continue. When the exam crashed, they told me to just reboot the application. But you can't login again after a certain time has passed, so they had to reset my schedule.

I was able to successfully finish the exams, but it added unnecessary stress to the entire experience and the whole experience felt outdated.

[1] https://www.novell.com/training/courseware/ts_proj_info.jsp?...


I choked when i saw 'Drupal Certification'


This seems like an excellent interviewing technique if you invert the results. If someone actually lets you install spyware on their machine, they fail. If they raise no concerns about access to reference materials, they fail. The ones that pass would be security conscious and outspoken about how good software is written.

... well, except that it would be exceptionally adversarial.


Amazon is truly awful at hiring. Their engineers often give strange programming puzzles to solve, then add arbitrary constraints like, "this needs to operate in 16MB of RAM".

If Amazon can't spring for a $15 stick of memory it's probably not going to be a great work experience.

I also wouldn't want to work with engineer who asked BS questions like that. Waste of time.


But this is a legit question. Believe it or not, even at Google/Facebook/Amazon a) memory is neither infinite nor free and b) tasks tend to run in thousands of instances.

Being able to save 10M means much more that $15 for a single die.


This may come as a great big surprise to you, but memory capacity is legitimately a problem, most especially at scale, and even where you can just "spin up a new instance".

Taking your "$15" stick of memory comment, that's a cost of $1.5m dollars when you start talking about a hundred thousand servers. You could pay the salary of a number of SDEs for the lifetime of that generation of servers for that much money.

Working in a memory constrained approach can lead to lower latency and faster applications, and make the difference between a service being profitable or not.

Without going in to details that would put my NDA at risk, when I worked on an AWS team, there was a change went through that improved the efficiency of the service by about a third. The original code was well written, extremely logical, and exactly what almost anyone would write when presented with the problem. You could have shown it to developers anywhere and they wouldn't have found fault with it.

Stopping and thinking very carefully about largely fictitious constraints revealed a potential other approach, one that was somewhat left-field, but both worked and came without any risks.

When your service is operating on many tens or hundreds of thousands of servers worldwide, or more, being able to retire up to a third of your servers is far from negligible in annual costs.


Obviously though the idea is you would be writing code at scale, where you will be processing a much greater volume of data where a $15 stick of memory is not going to solve your problems. Also, it's common to introduce those constraints to force you to use the 'clever' solution rather than the brute-force method.


It is true that their hiring process may be far from optimal. But IMO it's also fair to ask algo related questions by throwing in constraints and see how the candidate reacts.


> arbitrary constraints like, "this needs to operate in 16MB of RAM"

Given https://aws.amazon.com/iotbutton/, that hardly seems arbitrary.


Actually, posing a simple problem and then varying the constraints is one of my favorite approaches to interviewing. It tests a candidate's ability to reason under unfamiliar and changing conditions (like the real world) rather than regurgitate textbook answers.


I don't mean this in an offensive way at all, but for me and a lot of my coworkers this would be extremely abnormal. About the time they asked to take full control of my machine I would've told them politely that there was no way on God's green Earth they were getting no holds barred access to my machine for any duration of time, especially with someone who I did not know, and if the security restrictions were so tight they were more than welcome to Fedex me a laptop on which I could take my interview tests.

Maybe it's just my privilege showing, I don't know. But employers need to have boundaries too. Just because you're giving me a paycheck (or at this point, just considering it) doesn't give you carte blanche to my fucking life.


"Maybe it's just my privilege showing, I don't know"

This is part true, and is partly your morals and outlook on life.

The truth is that if you need the money, it is harder to enforce those boundaries or to fight against them. This is why more people can't have blue hair or visible tattoos: It can get you suspended, fired, or make you un-hireable. It is why some of the health insurance incentives really aren't a choice if you can't afford the extra 40% premium from your employer. It is why some folks can't avoid pre-employment drug tests (or random ones at work) on purely moral grounds.

But once you get past some of the crappy money ranges, not taking some of this stuff proves life outlook. You can choose not to work for the prestigious company because you disagree with their methods. And so on.


It is definitely privilege. There are plenty of life situations where people would have to just suck it and take what comes their way. For example, when you are on a visa that only gives you a couple months to find a job or gtfo.


When I worked at a $BigCo about 3 years ago I used to joke about what it'd be like if we worked like we required candidates to interview.

Me, in a meeting: "Hey Kate, that's a great idea! How about you code it up on the whiteboard right now."

Kate: "Sorry, what?"

Me: "Write it, on the board, right now. No bugs."

Kate: "Can I use my laptop?"

Me: "Of course not. Here's your pen. Hope you like drawing curly braces."


The previous HN submission about an Amazon interviewee being monitored during an online test was kind of strange but not a big deal.

But this... this is absolutely horrific. Clean your desk?? Do you expect people to not use paper in the real world, or what exactly?


I've also had the annoyance of being 'interviewed' using this ProctorU method. They have this 'feature' where you are not allowed to navigate away from the webpage that has the test, and if you do, it 'blocks' you from doing anything until you message the proctor and have them reset it for you.

Except, in my case, this damn thing kept blocking up every few minutes, and I had no idea why. Contacting the proctor, having them diagnose it, and getting them to reset it, wasted a few minutes every time.

I finally realized what the 'problem' was. It was firing the 'navigate away' event every time the mouse went outside the boundary of the page. Since I often play with my mouse, moving it around the screen, it would block me any time the pointer left the page. I eventually figured it out, but it took me 3–4 block-contact-reset cycles.

All in all, a pretty annoying experience.


This cannot be real. Seriously, every candidate asked to submit to this should tell the recruiter/employer to get f*cked. Totally unacceptable, unreasonable, patronising.


Semi-related tangent: I had a not-terribly-unpleasant experience when taking an online exam for a linux certification. The certification exam was effectively an interview round similar to this one because it was the first step the employer suggested after I submitted my resume for the job. The test proctor was unseen but could use my webcam to see me. It made me uncomfortable, for some reason I thought I'd be able to see and hear them if I needed anything. I suppose they might multiplex the proctors across multiple test takers. I knew in advance that they wanted a tidy area, so I used a guest bedroom with a small dresser that I set my laptop on.

I was logged into a VM through my browser and tasked with several simple sysadmin jobs. Unlike this person's Amazon interview, the technical difficulties that I encountered were all my own doing. On my server, I tried to be very disciplined and used 'sudo' sparingly (sudo for each command that I issued that required escalation. No "sudo -i", that doesn't leave quite as nice of an audit trail. Well, I fat-fingered something while in visudo (grant privileges to a user was one of the tasks). I forgot the user's name so just exited but I must've 'ZZ'd instead of :q!'d. visudo puts up big scary banners about the syntax error and I quickly dismissed them because I planned to go right back in fix it in a jif. Well, sure enough, those syntax errors effectively neuter sudo. Of course, that's the right behavior for sudo and I just hadn't thought it through. I couldn't complete the remainder of the exam's tasks without sudo. I thought for sure there's a way for the proctor to reset the system to neutral -- I'll just start the exam over and go through it quickly. No such luck. I can reboot the VM but there's no way to halt the VM during the bootloader. :(

I did whatever I could without privileges and wrote detailed text files about what I would have done for the ones that required privileges. The autograder gave me a failing grade and the human that told me to take the exam didn't seem to care about the problem I encountered (or believe me).

Lesson learned: leave a terminal open in the background with "sudo -i" for later. You never know when you might need it. [this advice is for exams and not real sysadmin]. And while you're at it, go slowly and heed that warning from visudo. ;)


No disrespect intended, and with the qualification that exam-taking is a stressful environment for many people, but..

You can't make that mistake in production. They were right to fail you.

I can see that it was a side effect of being more cautious than usual (so unaware of the effects of your actions), but that demonstrates a different problem.

All of which is to say, that you tried and failed, which puts you ahead of the people which didn't try at all, and imparts some hard won learning that will benefit you next time. We've all been there.

But you can't overlook a mistake like that. It shows that you were not ready to pass the evaluation in question. The rest of your actions (acknowledgement, discussion of error etc) show that you should be ready next time. But to shortcut it would be a mistake.


You can't make that mistake in production. They were right to fail you.

Considering these kinds of mistakes happen all the time in production: what exactly do you mean?

If such a mistake actually can't be tolerated, there is no way sysadmins would be allowed to log into a production system and run the risk of mucking it up in the first place. They'd be forced to do the responsible thing and implement changes in a test environment, and use configuration management to replicate the change into production. Possibly in a maintenance window, certainly with a rollback strategy.

Paradoxically, the no-mistakes-ever environment makes the parent poster's fuckup as even less of a red mark than it otherwise would be. In a more flexible shop, there is some level of chance he made the mistake on a live box, in a controlled shop there is none (excluding some phases of disaster recovery ofc).


I absolutely agree with most of that you've said. But remember, this happened in an evaluation environment. Not a day to day work environment.

If you can't fail an eval by locking yourself out and being unable to complete the task, how do you fail?

The ideal is proper config management, test/stage/prod envs, automated deployment, etc. I've come close to that ideal at certain points in the past, but it's far from universal.

Remember the problem is that OP was using unfamiliar tools and being careless. We have all made that mistake, but for it to happen in an eval or an interview has to be a failure. In day to day ops, it would be tough to justify giving root access.

You want to pass or hire the person who will not do that because they have already cleaned up that sort of mess in the past.

As OP states in followup, they weren't interviewing for a systems admin position, which does change the equation. If the eval board is sitting on your desk and requires just a firmware flash to recover, then OK, it's safe to not care so much.


> You can't make that mistake in production. They were right to fail you.

shrug I kinda agree, sorta. It's certainly not what I would imagine is the intent of the test. But I definitely made it so I could not complete the test objectives.

> But you can't overlook a mistake like that.

I dunno, would you fire me if I'd done it at Amazon? Seems like a simple recovery. Note that the position I was interviewing for was not a support or sysadmin job. I'm a design engineer. I'd have been designing the tests most likely! I even imagined how I could spin it into a feature I could work on to recover/reset the system, scoring that event however they deemed appropriate.

Where I've worked, if anyone ever bork'd a system you reload it and move on. We're not supporting customers, so there's never any discipline that would result. The worst you could do is brick a $1-2k devboard or a limited-run early prototype production unit. The latter could cause delays but it's always chalked up to mistakes and that's why they build more than one prototype.


Well of course I'm coming from my own context, where remote mission critical servers are the norm.

The problem is that the mistake you made was not knowing your tools, and being careless. That can't be an acceptable combination.

On the other hand, automated grading is useless, and your role might never involve the same concerns about recoverability.

It's a big industry, but in my little corner of it, a person who locked themselves out of root during an interview would be very hard to support in a hiring meeting.


> You can't make that mistake in production. They were right to fail you.

When I took the RHCE exam, someone made an extremely simple mistake similar to this that led to the machine (a VM) being unusable.

They knew exactly what they'd done, they knew how it could be fixed, etc - and the instructor sympathized and was apologetic, but it was just not allowed for them to restart that portion of the cert exam over, and it was impossible to pass without this section.

The person in question had to pay to re-take the exam at a later date.


WTF am I reading. What about su?


Requires the root password, which possibly wasn't provided?


Yes, that's correct. If they'd provided the root password it would've been a trivial recovery.


Um, ok. I'm not up to date with the state of the art in Unix administration so is this some new Good Practice™ to have an account with unlimited sudo instead of a root password or just another instance of unrealistic interview question?

And speaking of solutions: stop vi with ^Z, do whatever you want in the shell, resume vi, finish editing, write, quit :)


Some distros don't even set a root password in the default configuration, and I generally would expect in all larger environments that if a root password exists, it isn't easily accessible to an individual admin. If someone leaves, you just have to turn off their account and not replace the root password everywhere.


Makes sense, thanks.


Jesus Christ! Even when I entered programming competitions, which were supposed to be arbitrarily constrained, we were allowed any printed material, as long as it fit in a 1 foot-square cube. The world-finals disallowed printed material, but still let you write notes during the event and the documentation for each allowed language's standard library is pre-installed on each machine.

There is no possible scenario where this is useful.


> documentation for each language's standard library is pre-installed

I've never entered a programming competition but I'm glad to hear there is still some sanity left in this world.


From the description this sounds very naive and stupid on the part of the hiring company.

What exactly are they wanting to test? Is it just a simple aptitude test to reduce (not eliminate) the chances of cheating? Do they also ask to look into the interviewee's ears for tiny bluetooth earpieces? What about the ceiling for hidden microphones and cameras?

The "show your room" part reminded me of (older) movies with funny situations where the person hiding is always behind the view of the person looking around.

If someone really wanted to cheat, I guess these people would need to do a much better job…or just get the person to an office and do the interview face-to-face.


You should come to Holland, you get to work tax free (for 5 years) and there are lots of interesting companies in Amsterdam.

We're the #1 place for English speakers in Europe because the local population are smart and bilingual.

Oh, and I've never seen douchy things like this (I rejected the Amazon recruiter, not worth taking a pay cut to work for them).


Tax free? Are you talking about the 30% ruling? Not exactly "tax free", but a good deal nonetheless.


My alma mater had an interesting way of dealing with cheating. They would allow every kind of reference material you thought you may need. The test was just going to be that difficult and have questions no cheating (outside of copying) would help. There was one final in particular that averaged 17 hours to complete.


Horse Crap.

17 hours?! Who in the hell would let their grad students out of lab for that long? :)


it's ok, test room was technically in the lab


This is... the opposite of what I see sensible.

An opposite and goal:

tl;dr: Don't assume providing stress and isolation makes people work their best. Especially under stress. Taught a course in university, saw response to strict environments take a while for people to break out from.

Context: I have the chance to do quite a bit of campus work with local universities while working at a bank. Ops and IT. This usually involves working with final-year students, and can be quite hands-on.

Background: Working with a local finance university (top in country), I ran a final-year class on banking for around 40 students (and quite a bit of the faculty in attendance). Mainly banking operations, not technically hard. Visit the university with an AVP or VP expert in a varied function, different visitor and topic each week. Ops, Trade, Finance, HR, Tech, from fund transfer to letter of credit to dormant accounts to labor law. Basic banking and business but at a practitioner level.

Finals arrived: Not a member of the university, but asked to design and supervise the assessment. We'd covered a lot, and assigned essay answers for 3 of 10 questions over 2 hours, hand-written answers. Just answer it as fully as you liked. Some questions more numerical, some less. Really something for everyone.

I said I was busy with a call I couldn't refuse, and would be in the room next door. I wasn't. One hour later I returned to the room, to see each person hunched over their papers.

Books were not open. Phones were not doing checking. I was disappointed, but not unsurprised. To be caught 'cheating' in a university in China can mean the end of your degree. Still an hour to go, I encouraged opening of books (to protest) and full use of internet.

This seems the opposite of the Amazon policy.

The best papers that came in were a full 10 answers long (more than the required 3), photocopied, with multiple and varied signatures on each, and different handwriting in different paragraphs. Some individually submitted papers were very good. Choice had been achieved. Not only had books been opened, but collaboration had over-achieved. In only an hour remaining.

Hopefully this was a small lesson.


Is there a list of companies with over-the-top/invasive hiring practices somewhere?

It would make it easier to avoid them, and maybe send a message.


I'm impressed by the author's patience. I usually slam the door shut after "we need you to spend 5 hours on this take-home exercise", or "here is a link to coderank for you to show how well you know how to implement bubble-sort and quick-sort".


After reading this (and the previously posted piece from the same author) I'm thinking of applying to Amazon, not because I have any particular wish to work for them but because I just thought of a way to cheat their counter-cheating and I want to try it out.


You mean like in Cryptonomicon? ;-)


The only way I'd agree to do that would be on a machine that I'd reimage before and after. Hopefully I'll never be that desperate for a job though.


I recently also interviewed with Amazon, the experience, as the blog states, was surreal. I was very surprised when I received an offer email without actually having any interaction with a human that worked at Amazon.


I a similar scenario for my "Linux Foundation Certified Engineer" exam. Except I had to show 2 forms of photo ID for the examiner through my webcam and then put them the other side of the room so I couldn't use them as notes.

I was repeatedly told off for tapping on the table whilst problem solving. (A hard habit to break after years of doing it)


Honestly, I'd have simply told them to bleep off. That is so far beyond acceptable behaviour that it would make me certain the company itself was bureaucratic beyond satire. If you don't have a level of basic trust in my probity, we can't negotiate.


Sometimes you need to prioritize yourself. This is one of those times: tell them “no”. Assuming they aren’t robotic enough to hang up on you immediately for refusing, politely educate them on how no other company on Earth has asked you to do anything remotely similar to this, and suggest that their process is way out of line. If they won’t listen, send a polite letter to someone else (heck, even the CEO). They deserve a clue, at least.

Remember that there are a ton of companies out there and you owe it to yourself to explore as much as possible before submitting to any one company’s ridiculous process.

Heck, years ago I used to look elsewhere just for being asked to format my résumé in a particular way.


I imagine Amazon pays engineers $450,000 because of all of these hoops?


Not unless they are Jeff Dean.


I'm honestly shocked that someone would give them such access to their machine.

More than the absurd test rules, which seem quite common in some educational or testing environments, the fact the he would relinquish so much of his privacy and security makes me think he doesn't know his own worth.

It's OK to indulge them in some things but it's not OK to lose perspective and forget it's a negotiation. If you surrender to every demand, how can you negotiate later on? With what?


I'm a cheater too. I confess to using Google, Stackoverflow, Hacker News, and tons of other online resources to look up stuff every day. This is obviously stuff I should know already, and be able to recall on-demand. I'm so ashamed.

Seriously, though, that is one of the most surreal things I've ever read about our industry. I would have quit the interview too, but probably earlier in the process.


That's why I only work for myself and rather fail at my company until I die, than to work for someone else and be treated like this!

This is the main reason I quit university to start my own company and the main reason I will never look for investors.

If I had no choice I would work part-time at a non-tech company for as long as it took for my company to take off.


Maybe you can spin up an EC2 instance and run the test from there.


They would still require access/camera probably


Why would you do this to yourself, in this market for engineers?

If you're going to work at a BigCo, go for one that doesn't abuse you. Otherwise, work at a startup where at least you'll learn a ton and maybe get some equity. I can't see any advantage to working at Amazon.


Putting up with the bullshit is a part of the test.


Both sides are being tested. In this case, Amazon fails.


Yes, it's a screening for compliance as well as technical knowhow.


I don't like how you're right.


Is this at a specific location or something? From what I can tell, NYC and Seattle just do the standard code test on your own time (and allow you to use whatever external resources you want) then if you pass that, a day of in person interviews.


Probably a specific department. From everything I've heard about Amazon, the way they treat people depends entirely on your manager. Each manager has so much leeway that every group might as well be a separate company.

Which is why you see people tell horror stories about Amazon while other people rebut them and say their experience working there was great. There's no consistency between groups.


At my last job a candidate was hired after having done their interview by moving their mouth on camera while someone off screen was actually talking. I believe they did the spin the computer around thing too, no system is foolproof


Universities are moving towards using software like proctor u and other computer lockdown programs for online education. It's absolutely absurd and every single work around get patched up real quick.


The funny thing about this type of bullshit is that it's really similar to the stuff that Civil Service exams do -- quantitative evaluations of your reactions to workplace events, exams of your subject matter expertise.

Except when fast-mover companies like Amazon or their lobbyists show up to peddle their products to governments, the conversation ultimately moves to this topic. They usually get to a point where they're telling the government employees how dumb they are, and that they don't have archaic processes like exams for jobs, etc.


Ita not surreal. The word they were looking for is 'Kafkaesque'


FYI: same topic (not dupe) a few days ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13076073


I've interviewed twice with Amazon and came away both times with bizarre stories to tell. Some great people work there but I wouldn't want to with the folks that interviewed me!


I can't help but wonder, what was the test like that you could prepare cheat sheets for? most dev interviews are problem solving that you can't simply lookup in 5 seconds

just curious why they are so paranoid about that. i do phone screens where i can hear people type to google for answers but it's usually pretty easy to tell that they don't know something and then they come back with textbook answer. but most questions are not the kind you can just ask google.


Amazon recruiters contact me all the time because I've worked with some big name companies and movie studios in and around the LA area. I immediately tell them I only have an associate's degree so they stop calling, texting, and emailing me.

That tells me everything I need to know about working for that company. I just wish they would just blacklist me and pass it around to their outsourced headhunters.

Wells Fargo is another one that has a love/hate relationship with my resume.


I wouldn't let anyone remotely take over my machine. I'd just go get a cheap used laptop from the pawn shop and use that for the interview.


Smith, Winston! Recite quicksort into the telescreen!


I went through the AWS interview for an SDE position. And the whole experience wasn't that bad.

The online test didn't use ProctorU. I was told that a working webcam was required, but it actually wasn't. I didn't had to give them full control of my laptop.

I received clear explanations about every step of the process.

The onsite interview was well organized, although very impersonal and predictable.


If this was an article about a startup I'd write it up as the (quite reasonable) fear of the cost of a bad hire. When you've only got 6 months cash in the bank having someone who isn't up to their job on board could end your business. Amazon need to understand they can afford to make mistakes now so long as their review processes are good.


Amazon is doing many great things, however the way they are going about it is starting to freak me out a little bit. This is how we end up in the corporate dysutopias described in Neuromancer and Snowcrash... Don't we somehow have to take a step back and try to avoid this, rather than keep trying to optimise our hiring processes ?


I guess the key takeaway here is to set up a clean guest user account on your computer before you interview with Amazon.


My Amazon interview experience consisted of scheduling a time for a recruiter to call and having them not call, then reaching out to them to see if they needed to reschedule and set up a second time to call and having them (surprise!) not call a second time.

Fuck Amazon for the collective amount of wasted time they've caused.


This reminds me of a case when we were hiring for a programming slot.

I have a simple set of tests on paper that you take in person. This guy came in, looked at the tests, handed them back to me and said he looks stuff up in books. He was a consultant, but he refused to take simple tests and just walked out.


lol what a joke, I'm never going to apply to Amazon if this is the interview experience. If this meant that I could avoid the onsite coding exercise, then I might be okay with it, but my guess is that I'd still have to whiteboard onsite, so what's the point.


Just avoid amazon.

It's really not that difficult.


I would argue if the candidate is taking their security light enough that they would submit to such invasive software to be installed on their machine, they should be automatically disqualified but I guessed Amazon has different opinion about it...


Sorry for my language but this is just fucked up. I honestly don't get how Amazon got so successful at what they're doing(I mostly mean cloud services), if this is the corporate culture they promote. Something just doesn't add up.


Proctor sounds so much dystopian.


Coming soon: Amazon automated testing centers featuring Amazon Go Store tracking AI


What happens if you don't have a webcam? Do they just deny you the position? I don't have a webcam or mic on my desktop currently... I guess I'm never going to work for Amazon :/


Supply and demand. Most companies are willing to accept some false negatives in the hiring process to avoid the false positives.


Wouldn't it be possible to start a VM and connect to the proctor using the VM? Then the software you have to download would only be able to get control of the VM, but not the whole laptop.


Now I know that I will need a ready-to-use VM when I apply to Amazon.

But seriously, what?


If this had been me it would have been a really short setup mostly consisting of me saying "go fuck yourself" and then writing an angry email telling Amazon to go fuck itself too.


I am sorry but this saga is tiresome. I have taken online certifications before and had similar trouble with my FIRST one. The proctor paused my test and called me to confirm everything was clear from my desk, my floor, etc. Even had to stand up and walk around. At the end of the day I had no choice which made me feel wronged but in hindsight this is their process for certifying you didn't cheat on a test.

They are allowed to have that process, if you don't like it don't use it. Better yet, if you don't like it how about brainstorming better solutions instead of being overly dramatic on the internet about someone closing your applications on your computer for you?


Alright, so I had one HR smalltalk, a one technical over the phone with the manager, I am having onsite soon - none of these funny proctor stuff, but yeah your mileage may vary.


1. could the user run this in a VM and avoid some of the hassle?

2. part of the hate should go toward the proctorU company too right? they're the company who made the software


I'm very glad people are speaking up about this. This is horrifying. Good job on stopping the process when you felt uncomfortable, we should all be doing this.


This sounds like a perfect opportunity to outsource this job to a webcam guy/girl. Just pay the person to pretend to get off on this kind of humilation.


The ethics question you asked there is a tough one. I don't know what I would do if I would be forced to make such a choice.


This made me think of IOI in Ready Player One.


Amazon mostly sucks at interviewing from what I'm told.


Hah, he wasn't asked to drink a verification pill that Amazon sent him 2 week earlier.


Watching Amazon reps try to sugar coat everything in this thread is hysterical. I've heard bad things from several people I know who worked there briefly. Good to see this article and confirm I'll never apply there.


wt bloody f?!

There is no way I'd go through the first steps of this stupidity, let alone as far as the OP did


Does this software work on Linux?


The moment they suggested installing remote control software on my kit, the interview would have been over.


Y


How is this even a point of such outrage? No one is compelling you to interview with Amazon. If you don't like their conditions, just don't do it. Why write about it as if it was such a huge burden? It's their job, their rules, their conditions. If you don't like it, simply move on.


It could be perhaps because most people around here think Amazon is a decent place to work as developers (and it probably is) but posts like this bring recruiting issues at Amazon to our attention and awareness. Now if I were to interview with Amazon and given ProctorU, I know I should turn it down immediately.


I didn't previously know about this. Now I won't ever have to waste my time interviewing at Amazon just to get to this point and have to quit.


it's an outrage because workers can and should demand better treatment. there is an industry wide standard of how developers ought to be treated and Amazon is well below it.

yes, of course nobody is compelled to interview at or go work for amazon. however, working conditions anywhere matter for workers everywhere.


Amazon: Where we are all terrible and we kill puppies (probably, I don't know, I think I read it in an article somewhere)

^ I've summarized the comments




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