Generally, the interview process sets the tone for the future of your working relationship with an employer. If you are treated poorly at any point in the interview, you can just assume that your treatment will be no different in the future should you choose to offer your services to that employer. The employer is going to assume the same thing about you.
So, if you are presented with a low effort, recruiting mill generated, outsourced, thoughtless interview situation, you need to understand that you are applying for a thoughtless, outsource-able, mill work job with an employer that is not going to spend a lot of effort on you.
There’s nothing wrong with taking that kind of job when you need to as long as you understand what it is. Sometimes the paycheck is worth it. If that’s not the kind of situation you are after though, then cut the interview short and move on. There’s no need to send outrage emails to the recruiter, or to assume that the interview process is somehow not representative of the job waiting behind it. They know what they are doing, and they know what kind of laborer the employer is looking for to fill that position. Also, don’t assume that all job postings at the same company will have the same grating interview process. Hiring is often done departmentally, and the process in each department can be very different, so don’t let one bad interview put you off of an entire company.
Now specifically- this is Amazon that the author is writing about here. Go search on ‘amazon working conditions’, or talk to some people who work there. It’s a famously, frustratingly bad place to work. Except for the money.
So… applicant beware.
Just want to say that Amazon is not a monoculture. I work here and love it. The conditions are not what the NYT article would lead you to think.
What has your experience been like? I’m honestly curious.
The truth is that there’s so much variation within companies that, while these exposé articles can give a general sense of the average-case outcome and the culture set by upper management, there are protected harbors in bad companies and dysfunctional teams in good ones.
The old career advice was that you should choose the best company rather than the best team or manager. That made sense when people would stay with one firm for 20-40 years and (more importantly) when landing on the wrong team meant you got the opportunity transfer instead of fired. It isn’t true now. I will never again do regular software engineering in a BigTech (I’ve made that mistake) but I would absolutely work on the Core AI team at Amazon or Facebook if I had the pedigree necessary (which I obviously don’t; talent, yes, pedigree, no).
I’m not feoh but I also work for Amazon and love it so far, and also haven’t encountered any of the issues cited in the NYT article. My management all the way up is sensible and human, and I have complete confidence that I’ll be able to build and manage my team the way I like it: professional, diverse, responsible, representative, balanced, ethical, mentoring, and with a high degree of process and service ownership by the SDEs I’m privileged to work on the behalf of.
The experience in the original post is not at all the way that Amazon wants to treat any customer-applicant, and when I saw that and escalated it to high levels in the company, I received an immediate response that they were shocked as well and that they’re working to resolve it.
To your point that it used to be a great practice that people could move around inside a company: Amazon recently revised its policy to permit internal team-to-team transfers starting on day 2 of employment, down from day 365. From my personal experience, the internal transfer process is fast, seamless, much less political than I had any right to expect, and effective.
I’d be happy to answer any questions about my experience so far; my personal e-mail address is my lobsters username at gmail dot com.
My personal experience at Amazon has been overwhelmingly positive. It is undeniably the most challenging place I’ve ever worked in my 25 years in this business, but I say that as a positive.
They set the bar very high, but unlike most companies, you actually get the support you need to achieve that bar. It’s a data driven culture, and that percolates through every aspect of your life here.
As I said, I love it, and would recommend it to anyone who truly loves what they do and are willing to work hard and reap the satisfaction and rewards that work will bring.
What I would be interested in is the account of someone who went through this annoying interview process and did take the job. It’s really hard for me to imagine why someone would put up with this, in this software job market. I’m sure Amazon pays well, but there are a lot of companies that pay well and don’t do this. Is it the name-brand thing? The idea that you’re going to get truly fuck-you rich off stock options? Surely the potential there is pretty limited at this point–Amazon went public almost 20 years ago.
I don’t know about Amazon, but BigTechs tend to separate their interviewing process from team-matching. That is, you interview with the company (to keep a consistent bar) and are put on a team after they accept the offer. Even if the company has odious interviewing practices, there are good teams with good managers where it is worth taking the job.
The idea that you’re going to get truly fuck-you rich off stock options?
I don’t think that this is a motivation for many people. The people who get rich at BigTechs are political game-players, just like anywhere else. Most people do it not to climb the ladder (most won’t) but because it benefits their careers to have reputable companies on their CVs.
Surely the potential there is pretty limited at this point–Amazon went public almost 20 years ago.
Technically speaking, whether there is an IPO is orthogonal to whether it is possible to get wealthy from the stock. IPOs bring liquidity to founders and executives, but shouldn’t change their net worth. If the stock pops after an IPO, that means that the IPO was underpriced and the company got screwed. Of course, there’s some survivorship bias. These days, it’s really hard to IPO and companies that are falling apart are less likely to be IPO’d in the first place. However, the value of the equity improved, at least in securities theory, not because of the IPO but because of the underlying strength of the business that enabled it to IPO in the first place.
What changes as a company ages, at least in economic theory, is not that its stock runs out of expectancy/growth but that the volatility goes down as both the company matures and the liquidity of its stock goes up. You could still get (moderately) rich on Amazon stocks if your $100k in equity does 10X (26% per year) in the next decade. That’s common with startup stock (-100 percent years are common, too) but unheard-of for large-cap tech stocks.
This is a roundabout way of saying that stock compensation in publicly-traded companies isn’t innately worse than in private equities like startups. If anything, the reverse is true. I’d rather be paid $100k in AMZN shares that I can sell than 0.01% of something that is “worth” $1 billion because a bunch of rich guys agreed on that valuation, derived from terms (e.g., preferences) where I probably don’t know what they are but that reduce the real value of the common stock significantly.
The other thing that’s in play is compensation autocorrelation. A pure economist would say that it shouldn’t exist, because labor ought to be compensated based on what it brings to the table rather than a person’s previous pay. However, in the real world, if you were given $30k/year of stock that is now worth $200k/year, you’re going to get better packages in the future, even if you were a lowly employee who had nothing to do with the stock’s rise; you were just lucky. This is true for people who stick with the same company (if you got 40 shares per year in your four years and those shares double in value, you won’t be refreshed at 20) as well as people who change jobs. So, even if the share prices don’t balloon into fuck-you money, there’s still a chance to get a better next job based on being able to say, “I made $300k last year” while omitting that most of that was due to stock increases.
The hilarious part of this is how easy it would be to run the spyware inside a VM, completely defeating its purpose.
I would honestly be somewhat tempted to “cheat” solely in order to spite them for treating interviewees so badly.
Same here. It’s the natural reaction to a process which reeks of having strictures in excess of their utility.
Also it just sounds like a fun puzzle.
A fun puzzle involving computers!
Who doesn’t love those?!
Except from what I saw in a prior discussion of the article @av linked they don’t even bother (i.e. arrange instead for an in-person assessment) if you:
A. Run anything other than Windows or MacOS.
B. Don’t have a webcam.
I run Linux and don’t have a webcam. While I could jury-rig something in a VM, I haven’t screwed around with Windows in so long that I wouldn’t begin to know which settings are required to make a VM appear to be not for this sort of thing.
If they’ve gone through that much effort, they’re probably checking to make sure it’s not running in a VM.
A lot of people on these boards like to geek out on the tech side of it, whether their spyware can be beat by clever tricks or “invisible” vms. It may be fun to think about, but this isn’t the kind of problem that you solve with technology. This is solved by telling whoever your contact is for the placement that this is unacceptable and has nothing to do with evaluating your ability to solve problems for Amazon, that you would be happy to come into an Amazon office to do a normal interview, but will not participate in this bizarre “monitored test”.
Something similar which popped up recently - link
I don’t know if I’m more disgusted with Amazon for doing this, or that people go along with it.
I wonder how much of people’s interview annoyances are purposeful on the part of the interviewer to see how people reach to strange situations. I’ve read of a few people who basically “rage quit” interviews and then wrote about it online… maybe they failed the test and didn’t even realize?
Rejecting full access to your computer has little to do with rage quitting and everything to do with personal safety. One rogue employee and you could be the victim of identity fraud.
I understand that Amazon has to scale up their interview process, but this is only going to turn away good technical candidates.
I don’t think this guy did reject though, he seemed to lose it when the video didn’t load. This also isn’t really Amazon, it’s the proctoring service, ProctorU, doing the dirty work. I assume Amazon is aware of how interviews are conducted but perhaps they don’t see how it’s implemented.
Edit: Me fail engrish?
this is only going to turn away good technical candidates.
Presumably if they’ve outsourced the computer science trivia asking stage, they’re not actually interested in good candidates. This pipe is for mass hiring kids onto CRUD apps.
At that point they might as well outsource everything or not bother interviewing people, but that would destroy the illusion that such companies only hire the best to work on the best.
Honestly if someone were to agree to have a stranger take complete control of their primary computer, it shows they don’t take security all that seriously. Maybe he failed the test when he agreed to install their spyware?
Wow. I love interviews that telll you more about the company and working conditions than they intended. The best information I received at an interview was when I asked about taking my government’s paid parental leave as a male. The bossman said “No one has done that here, we couldn’t allow it”. I didn’t get the job which was fine by me and I found a better one later.
But that is nothing compared some of these horror interviews I hear about.