Interviewing for Amazon: a literal Orwellian experience


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/12/09/interviewing-for-amazon-a-lit.html


#2

Probably to prevent cheating, but still creepy as hell.


#3

Yes, it is the same software some schools use for "take home" exams too. There I could sorta-kinda understand it somehow, but for a job interview???

People, have some dignity and tell the recruiters where they can shove their stuff when they demand something completely unreasonable like this. They are not the only game in town, qualified software developer will always have plenty of work without having to submit to this type of BS.

I have told this in no unclear terms to both Google and Amazon recruiters before - and they weren't even asking me for this kind of testing.


#4

I've interviewed with Amazon twice. The first time was a series of phone interviews, after which I didn't receive an offer. The second, two years later, was a series of onsite interviews at Amazon Lab126 in Sunnyvale, California, after which I finally did receive an offer. None of these experiences had anything in common with the experience detailed in this article. I've discussed the interviewing process with dozens of colleagues at Amazon, and none of them have related anything even vaguely similar to the experiences in this article. I've taken Amazon courses for giving interviews, and none of them involve techniques or scenarios from this article.

I am in no way a spokesman for Amazon and I'm certainly not knowledgeable about the company as a whole. But as an ordinary programmer working for this organization I am confident that what you've described in no way reflects the mainstream experience of interviewing here.


#5

On the one hand, 13 minute old account...on the other, no fact checking/cross reference in the article.

Can we get some qualifying info in an update?


#6

Oh Christ. The upsetting thing here is the fact that he even started to go along with it. I realise this is partly my privilege talking, but if some asshole felt entitled to demand a video tour of my home I would end the interview right there, and I would make a serious effort to ensure he was physically crying with shame before I hung up. That goes way beyond what can be excused as someone "just doing their job".


#7

I can just about see the need for a way of doing the interview without "cheating", but this seems daft. I'd have told them to stick it.

Interview exams like this should just be conducted on-site.


#8

I've interviewed with Amazon as well. First round was a phone screen, second round was a code test, and the third round was an in-person interview. The code test is done remotely using a collaborative editing tool. They can see what you're typing and what your thought process is, but for something like a code interview, the concept of "cheating" doesn't exist as long as you can solve the problem you're given within the time limits of the interview and in a manner that shows you understand the problem.


#9

Dignity is a luxury that not everyone can afford.

Though I suppose a lot of software devs might be able to! :slight_smile:


#10

By the same token, I got a gig delivering packages for Amazon (Amazon Flex) and I wasn't interviewed by anyone. I sideloaded an app to my phone, and once I watched a few videos in the app (and passed a criminal background check), I was able to start working the next day. It is a pretty good deal once you get past the tedium. I had to quit though because I made the mistake of telling my auto insurance agent what I was doing, and was threatened by loss of coverage unless I coughed up double, which would have meant I was delivering packages to pay for the insurance that I needed to deliver packages.


#11

Just tape your cheat sheet to the back of your laptop screen. Good luck seeing THAT with the camera, proctor.


#12

sigh

ProctorU is a service company- the provide security to off-site exams, mostly for higher education, but other folks, too. They're pretty clear about their expectations, and they (in this case) work for Amazon. The are usually offered as an alternative to requiring the person taking the exam from going to a testing center.
The real problem here, as I see it, is the lack of communication between Amazon and the person taking the interview about what they would need to comply with for testing purposes (both in terms of physical environment, as well as software/computer access) Indeed, it seems very strange that the requirements for the testing environment were not made clear. The author seems weirded out about the "intrusion" into their bedroom, but that's by their own choice. I'd have booked a study room at the local public library, myself...


#13

Listen, if you're queasy about this level of scrutiny and infiltration into your private life then maybe working for a high tech company like Amazon isn't for you.

Might I suggest a career as a miner?


#14

I'd have expected Amazon/ProcturU to have done that and provided the equipment, myself...


#15

I interviewed with Amazon about a year ago and this looks like a corporate overreaction. I wan't told clearly I couldn't look up outside sources to solve their coding issues, so when I walked through my solution and sources I was told me I had to do the interview all over again. I was assigned a new recruiting rep, hopefully the old one wasn't punished for the problem, and I did the whole exercise again.

If repeated interviews were becoming the norm over small issues I can see management starting to impose all kinds of stupid decisions to try and "fix issues" and "improve productivity."

The use of an outside contractor like ProctorU to perform interviews that require tact looks like a mistake that was made by their HR department.


#16

I worked for Amazon for 4 years and never saw such a practice. I conducted several interviews and took the same course. Managing the "interviewee experience" is part of conducting the interview, including when you turn people down.

I don't doubt the story. I do doubt that Amazon will continue to use ProctorU in this same way.


#17

ProctorU specializes in allowing students (or whatever) to do the process in the "comfort of their own home" Or something.
Plenty of for-profit testing centers (run by Pearson and the like) exist all ready- It seems strange one of those wasn't offered as an option, but it may be a matter of cost for Amazon (ProctorU runs ~$13/hr or so, as I recall).
It seems a slightly odd choice for Amazon, but really, it seems that either the applicant didn't listen to the requirements of the environment or they weren't provided with those requirements (and were understandably taken aback).


#18

Or tape it to the front of the screen! Then you can actually see it without having to peer behind the screen, and the camera still won't pick anything up. The interviewer won't notice that you've dragged your coding window out of the way of one part of the screen.

Or, or, or, there are a billion ways to cheat, if such a concept actually made sense in a technical code test. Have a TV in the room, that you turn off when the interviewer asks to scan the room, and on again when they don't. Have a friend project the answers on the wall. Whatever. The whole thing is silly.


#19

Well, I am sorry - if you are software dev you should be able to find a job if you any good. Or just go consulting. We aren't talking someone who is unqualified and can only flip burgers somewhere. Even freshly out of school it shouldn't be too hard to get hired today, with so many vacancies open.


#20

The process is literally Orwellian, an actual Telescreen that a worker can't turn off, from which an unaccountable petty authority figure barks orders.

Would it be unethical for you then to switch on a camera in their house? Sometimes accountability cannot be assumed, it has to be exacted.