Strong Bad News: I Did a Good Job.

in #amazon2 years ago

strong bad deleted.jpg

I took my Amazon interview for a full-time "process assistant" position the other day, and it did not go terribly. I'm not going to say I did well, because I'm very bad at interviews in general, but it might have been the best one I've ever completed (which is not saying much).

It took 30 minutes and they only asked me five questions.
One of the questions was a math problem.

Math Problem.

You are in charge of 40 associates. They can process 120 packages an hour. If they work four ten-hour days with two 15 minute breaks a day how many packages will get processed?

Now on one hand this is a very easy math problem. In fact, apparently they give the same math problem over and over and never change it, so if you know it's coming you can easily cheat and just have the answer ready.

I did not have the answer ready.

During an interview, which is already a very high-stress situation, trying to figure out a math problem (no matter how simple) is pretty nerve wracking when your job could depend on it and someone else is just sitting there watch you do it.

I hastily scribbled an answer down and came up with 18,900, which I immediately knew was wrong because we can process 50,000 in a single shift using more people and the auto-sorter (the 120/h scan rate has been the standard since day one).

When the interviewer asked me if that was my "final answer" I had to say no and go back to my haphazard handwritten math. I think this was the thing that threw me off the most. Who does math by hand anymore? If I had a calculator I would have been fine.

In any case, the first mistake I noticed was only giving one person a break instead of all 40. The second mistake was the big one: 40 x 40 = 160. OPPS! Yeah I'm missing a zero there (1600). Although perhaps this was a good mistake to make considering it was the mistake that made it painfully obvious how wrong my answer was (off by a factor of ten).

In my opinion, the correct way to set up this math problem is set it up into three parts with two sub-parts for simplicity.

(total_hours - break_hours) * scan_rate

The sub parts are finding total_hours and break_hours separately so it's easier to check your work after. This is how I got 40 x 40. I'm in charge of 40 people and they are working four 10 hour days (10x4=40).

The break hours are also a bit annoying because they are measured in minutes and need to be converted into hours. Two 15 minute breaks a day for four days is 2 hours. So each person gets 2 hours of break total times 40 people (80 hours).

This leaves us with:

(1600 - 80) * 120 = 182400

So I did get the right answer in the interview, but it took me way way longer to come up with than it should have. Not sure if I lose points for that but whatever. My experience with math is that people are really bad at it, so I imagine that many people who take the interview get the answer wrong either from being bad at math or simply because of the high-stress environment combined with doing an archaic handwritten math problem.

Honestly I should have mentioned it in the interview, but the hardest math class I've taken is Physics. Not just any physics (regular physical physics is easy)... Physics: Electricity & Magnetism. The prerequisite for this class is Calculus, which is also a pretty hard class (integrals). So to almost bomb a math question that is just addition, subtraction, and multiplication? Yikes, embarrassing.

On the other side of the coin I feel like interviews are less about finding the right person for the job and more about finding out who is good at interviews and who isn't. There are so many tricks used on both sides of the table to game the system that the system doesn't even really make sense anymore. Almost reminds me of the economy itself.


Some other questions I was asked:

  • You are in charge of a group and notice that they are performing a bunch of [wrong actions] (examples given). How do you handle that situation?
  • Recount a time that you made an error and what you did in response.
    STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Response)
  • If you were in charge of performing a QA inspection on a truck that was running late, would you prioritize the inspection or getting the truck out on time?

I forgot the fifth question, but whatever, you get the idea. These questions are designed to put people on the spot and try to gauge what potential employees would do in high-friction situations. I was reminded of The Office when Michael Scott was asked what his biggest weakness was.

"I work too hard, I care too much, and sometimes I can be too invested in my job."

Indeed, these are the kinds of bullshit answers that one needs to give in an interview
(with a bit more tact, to be sure).


For example

When asked the STAR question about an error and what I did to correct it, I was compelled to talk about something I do all the time: self direction. As I'm walking around the warehouse, I look for lanes that need help and help them. By abandoning the task I was assigned I am technically disobeying orders from Operations to stay "on-task" and not self-direct. However, at the same time I'm also putting myself in a position that will likely net a gain for the company even though I'm technically going against standard protocol.


Interviews are bullshit.
Wage-slavery is bullshit.

Wish me "luck" on this one. I should be contacted within the week with whether I got the job or not. Truth be told, there are a lot of advantages and disadvantages of both sides.

As someone who believes Bitcoin is going to spike up to $280000 over the next 12-18 months, I'd like to get as much as I can before it starts spiking out of control. Because I hardly spend any money, a full time job means I'll have a lot more money to pump into Bitcoin. If I work hard for the next year I may never have to work a bullshit job ever again in my lifetime.

On the other hand, it leaves me a least 15 hours less a week to do what I do here: blogging, programming, and learning more about crypto. My blog payouts are starting to reach a point where I realize that if Hive's USD value keeps going up I can make more here than at my job. However, if that ends up being the case I can always just quit or bust myself back down to part-time (3 shifts a week is the minimum). Also, it's not impossible to write a blog post every day and still have a full time job. It's not hard to do both, I suppose.

Clearly, I have mixed feelings on the subject.

I guess we'll see what happens.


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