In his five years at Amazon, Nick Dimitrov learned a thing or two about what it takes to interview stronger and land a job with the tech giant. Despite the fact that the company now employs more than 600,000 people worldwide and 45,000 in Seattle, Amazon doesn’t hire just anybody.
Dimitrov, who helped launch Amazon Game Studios, was an Amazon “Bar Raiser,” one of a small number of employees who can potentially torpedo an aspiring Amazonian’s application if they deem the person ill-suited to the company or the role. In three years, he interviewed more than 350 applicants.
In February, Dimitrov walked away from his position — in which he said he once had the pleasure of pitching directly to CEO Jeff Bezos — to start his own company, called Amazon Bound, to see if he could teach other people how to get through the grueling interview process and land a coveted role at Amazon.
In the months since, Dimitrov has built a three-tiered program, now available on the online course creation platform Teachable. Amazon hopefuls looking to prep for an interview can spend $200, for a 2 1/2-hour “essential course”; $700 for an 8-hour “complete workshop”; or the top tier of $4,500 for several hours where Dimitrov acts as Bar Raiser in a simulated Amazon interview loop, complete with friends who are current Amazon employees.
“Amazon is such an intense company with such a peculiar culture that if you’re not at all aware of it, even if you’re a good candidate, you could completely flounder,” Dimitrov said this week in an interview at Makers Workspaces in Seattle. “They’re very efficient at finding out exactly who you are, where you come from, what the data is.”
In an ideal interview situation, Dimitrov said only about five to 10 percent of the time should be spent trying to understand what the candidate has previously done. Amazon would rather talk about “substantive value add” — or, how you will raise the bar at the company.
Dimitrov was also a New Hire Orientation host during his time at Amazon, in which he would join new employees during their first day on the job and give them an introduction to company culture. In his early days as a startup founder, Dimitrov has given speeches at workshops and meet-up groups, or through events organized by colleges.
He originally offered Amazon Bound through Udemy, another online course platform, before migrating recently to Teachable. And Dimitrov also uses Airbnb Experiences, which allows people to use the hospitality site to find unique things to do in various cities, such as forge a knife out of a horseshoe, learn how to sail, take photos at Pike Place Market, or … prep for your Amazon interview.
He’s attracted hundreds of participants thus far, including a startup founder from South Korea who booked the course to learn more about e-commerce. Another man from Las Vegas was preparing for the interview process because he was interested in Amazon’s new Delivery Service Partner program.
The workshop and the live interview simulation are built around a real Amazon job requisition so that Dimitrov can use actual data to tailor the loop to a real function and level at the company. The $4,500 price tag gets you five to six 45- to 60-minute interviews as part of the loop, and at the end you get to witness your debrief as a fly on the wall, during an audio or video call-in.
“The Bar Raiser quarterbacks the exercise and they determine whether you’ve raised the bar or not,” Dimitrov said. After the deliberation, he also offers a personal one-on-one in which he explains how a customer can improve her candidacy and go from a “no hire” to a “hire.” Amazon provides no such feedback after an interview.
Dimitrov, who spent almost 14 years at Microsoft before joining Amazon, is well versed in the hiring practices of other tech companies in Seattle, such as Google, Facebook, Tableau and more. His ultimate goal is to bring some level of automation to the highly nuanced work that the Bar Raiser does — or equivalent at other companies — using loads of data to better predict whether a candidate would turn into a good employee. Dimitrov was quick to point out that this dream algorithm would eclipse what Amazon already tried and failed at, when its recruiting engine developed a bias against women.
Dimitrov has heard from five customers who have been hired by Amazon, and he’s heard from others who have been hired by Facebook, Pemco, Tableau and Slalom. About 40 percent of what he teaches is Amazon specific, with the rest being “behavioral interview” material. While those skills transfer to other interview opportunities, his company is called Amazon Bound for a reason.
“As a startup, you’ve got to have a white-hot center. It’s got to be just super focused and have lots of value for a small number of people,” Dimitrov said. “I was literally thinking, ‘Hey, I could provide immediate value to people who want to interview with Amazon because I know the Matrix. I know the code.’ I can see that I can bump your chances going in by about 20 to 30 percent. If you’re hovering close to that bar, I can push you over just by helping you articulate yourself.”
Dimitrov knows as well as anyone that Amazon is a very secretive company, so he’s been above board with letting them know what he’s up to. He said he’s met with Amazon legal reps and a former human resources VP. He said he doesn’t use Amazon branding, and while he doesn’t expect a thumbs up from Bezos himself, the hope is obviously to avoid getting a cease and desist.
He even thinks — with 8,000 job openings in Seattle and another 50,000 to eventually fill at newly named headquarters locations in Virginia and New York — that Amazon could offload some of the prescreening and interview workload to a company like his.
“What Amazon has taught me, among many other things … is you start off with something very small and simple and you nail it,” Dimitrov said. “And then you do something bigger and bigger and bigger.”