What’s It Like to Interview at Amazon; Retailer Says a Job Candidate’s Projects Trump School’s Name

May 1, 2013, 6:16 p.m. ET

What’s It Like to Interview at Amazon

Retailer Says a Job Candidate’s Projects Trump School’s Name

By MELISSA KORN

As Amazon.com Inc.’s AMZN -2.20% share price has soared in recent years, so has its stock with M.B.A. students. The company now ranks among the most-coveted destinations for aspiring business leaders. Last year, the Seattle-based online marketplace hit No. 6 in a Fortune survey of where M.B.A.s wanted to work. In 2007, it didn’t even crack the top 25. Amazon’s growing popularity among business-school students keeps Jennifer Boden, director of global university programs, busy. The company hires “hundreds” of M.B.A.s each year, she says, as well as hundreds of recent college graduates and others with technical backgrounds. Amazon focuses its campus recruitment on schools with analytics and entrepreneurship programs, including Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business and the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.Ms. Boden spoke about assessing candidates, avoiding interview mishaps and why M.B.A.s deserve their salaries.

Edited excerpts:

WSJ: What qualities do you look for in M.B.A. applicants?

Ms. Boden: We hire M.B.A.s into a variety of roles, including senior financial analyst, business manager in our North America retail organization and operations manager for our fulfillment centers.

The core qualities that cut across each of those positions are a really strong sense of ownership, customer obsession, a strong bias for action and teamwork. Built in there is the ability to influence others, to invent and deliver on behalf of the customer.

We’ll ask them to tell us about times that they’ve owned projects from start to finish. We’ll talk about tying results to customer demands. We tend to look for real, practical work experience.

WSJ: What can undergraduates offer the company?

Ms. Boden: We’ve been building out our undergraduate program over the last couple of years [beyond hiring for software engineers].

We are hiring into our operations organization, where they are managing teams in our fulfillment centers, our consumer business, or retail, where they’re learning vendor and inventory management.

We’re hoping that the Amazon experience replaces the need to go back and get your M.B.A. We’re expecting undergraduates to grow into those positions that the M.B.A.s are taking now—not that we’ll stop hiring M.B.A.s. Our needs are big.

WSJ: M.B.A.s command much higher salaries than undergraduates. What makes them worth the price?

Ms. Boden: M.B.A.s typically have a few years of experience before going back to business school.

And what they’re learning in business school is what we are looking for in our leaders—a strong focus on analytics, the ability to use data to help drive decision making.

We want them to incubate new ideas and be able to take them to market fast. A lot of schools are building out entrepreneurship programs. That’s very attractive to us.

WSJ: How can students outside your “target” schools get your attention?

Ms. Boden: We tell applicants that it doesn’t necessarily matter where you’ve been, the school name that’s on your résumé. What we’re really looking for is the experience that you’ve had, what you’ve actually delivered. People should make sure their résumés highlight what impact they’ve had.

WSJ: What tends to trip candidates up in interviews?

Ms. Boden: Most people will trip up when they focus on where they’ve been, the name, and they don’t focus on what they’ve done. Or if they can’t explain to us the process of how they delivered results.

WSJ: The recruiting calendar for large firms is very structured at business schools. Do you stick to that?

Ms. Boden: We follow typical campus schedules, where we will come in the fall for a presentation to begin our on-campus recruiting efforts.

What is different about Amazon is that if you’ve missed that October deadline for interviewing in on campus, we’ll still interview you. We’re still interviewing and recruiting now.

Amazon Rundown

Number of employees: 91,300 full- and part-time.

Number of M.B.A.s hired annually: Hundreds

Sample ‘target’ schools for M.B.A. hires: Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business

Sample jobs for M.B.A. hires: Senior marketing manager, senior product manager, senior financial analyst

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: