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November 2016

October 2016

Dogs in costume walk the runway at Amazon.

It's too bad we don't have more opportunities in life to see dogs dressed up in costumes. It's been a year since we wished you a "Happy Howloween!" with a bunch of dog photos from our Amazon Seattle offices. Some of us, unfortunately, have pets who show a clear disdain for dressing up, so we have to go long periods of time without dogs-in-costume photos. My dogs looked mildly tortured by the dinosaur costumes I bought them last year and I swore to them we would never do it again. But I still need a fix of dogs in costumes.

Fortunately, our social media team recently did a broadcast of pups in costume walking a really frugal runway. Aside from the ridiculously cute dogs (you have to stay tuned long enough to see Michael Jackson tell his wig to "beat it"), I'm pretty impressed by the collecti0n of human footwear.

Geekwire also covered a costume contest hosted in Van Vorst plaza on Friday, with some adorable entrants and employees talking about what it means to them to be able to bring their dogs to work. What, you think we'd only have one dog costume event on Halloween?


Recruiter Spotlight: Verjeigh McMillon speaks about her involvement in Amazon’s Black Employee Network

VerjeighFrom time to time, I’ll introduce you to recruiters here at Amazon who have something particularly interesting going on that I think you might want to know about. Today’s post is a recruiter spotlight with my co-worker Verjeigh McMillon, who is on the board of Amazon’s Black Employee Network.

Heather: Hi Verjeigh, can you start out by introducing yourself to our readers?

Verjeigh: Sure, I am Verjeigh McMillon, a Technical Sourcing Recruiter for the Customer Relationships team. They are the people who develop new customer experiences on Amazon.com based on the relationships between account holders - like households, and families who want to manage access to content and buying privileges for kids.

Heather: How long have you been at Amazon?

Verjeigh: I am a new comer to Amazon. My family and I relocated from Washington DC 8 months ago.

Heather: What is your favorite part of working at Amazon?

Verjeigh: Two things come to mind: opportunity and ownership. I have been encouraged to be ambitious and to innovate in my space. I have been able to launch new initiatives –such as an upcoming recruitment event in partnership with our Black Employees Network (BEN) – in days, that would have taken years in other organizations. With preparation and a good business case the sky is the limit with Amazon.

Heather: You mentioned that you recruit for the Customer Relationships team. What kind of positions do you recruit for and what kinds of skills or qualities do you look for?

Verjeigh: I recruit for a number of professional profiles, both tech and non-tech. From UX designers, data engineers, (the ever coveted) software development engineer, to marketing, program and product managers, we’re hiring for them all. Customer Relationships is a growing new initiative team and is part of our e-commerce platform. We are true innovators and are enhancing the customer experience across amazon.com, membership platforms (Prime, Amazon Library, Amazon Households) and devices. At the core of our team are pioneers, individuals who thrive in ambiguity and are willing to explore new territory. So job-seekers that match that profile are a great for our team. Also, the customer-obsessed also have a special place in our hearts.

Heather: You are a part of Amazon’s Black Employee Network. Can you tell us a little about the organization and your involvement?

Verjeigh: I have a passion to increase opportunity for underrepresented populations and joined the Black Employee Network to make an impact. Recently, I was voted in as Technical Recruitment Chair for BEN at Amazon. The Black Employee Network provides support for underrepresented minorities at Amazon through building community, and it champions diversity throughout the company. The group was established in 2005 and was Amazon’s first affinity group. And although BEN was created to provide support for black employees at Amazon, it’s not an exclusive organization. We welcome membership and participation from those outside the black community. We have committees that support recruitment, retention, professional development, community service, social activities and minority business. We host a variety of events including community outreach, recruiting events, happy hours and tech talks. We have an open house event for technical job seekers coming up in November.

Heather: How does an employee become a BEN member?

Verjeigh: They just repeat after me: “I want to be a part of BEN.” it’s really that simple. We have an email alias that can be subscribed to that keeps members up to date on coming events and opportunities to participate.

Heather: BEN is co-sponsoring an upcoming interview event for software developers at Amazon. Can you tell us about it?

Verjeigh: We’re excited about hosting Amazon’s first Black in Tech recruitment event on Wednesday, November 16, 2016. BEN has partnered with the Customer Relationships team, which I support, for this event focused in interviewing and hiring senior software developers.

Heather: If someone is interested in being considered to interview at this event, what should they do and what does the process look like?

Verjeigh: We are seeking Software Development Engineers. Candidates fitting this profile are invited to apply at here or contact me directly at verjeigh@amazon.com . Candidates that do not fit this profile can email me directly with their resume to gain information about current or future opportunities.

Our process is fairly straight forward. Once a candidate submits their resume/application we will review and invite well aligned candidates to complete an online technical assessment. Candidates who complete a successful assessment will be able to speak with a team member and then be invited to visit us onsite for a full-day interview. At this event candidates will meet team members, view our beautiful campus, discuss their background, and code (in their language of choice). We’ll be making hiring decisions shortly after the event.

Although this event is being launched in partnership with an affinity group all candidates are being considered equally.

Heather: Can you explain a little more about the hiring team?

Verjeigh: The Customer Relationships team, also known as Amazon Households, is made of product management and technical teams that develop new customer experiences. Their engineers create and maintain services that enable business teams to offer household related benefits through programs like Amazon Prime, Amazon Family, Alexa, and Family Library. Their work impacts millions of customers shopping on Amazon.com and other Amazon marketplaces, using Kindle and watching Fire TV. Technical teams across the company leverage the services developed by this team.

Heather: Do you have any recruiting words of wisdom for people who are interested in working at Amazon?

Verjeigh: Become familiar with the Amazon leadership principals (LPs). This is truly the core of our culture and a clear picture of the type of individuals you will work beside on a daily basis.

In preparation for my Amazon interview, I studied the LPs (I didn’t cram, I studied for a week). I picked 4 LPs I index high on and wrote out examples where I showed these qualities in my professional background. I didn’t speak to all the examples I wrote but, it put me in the right mind to have the level of discussion needed with my interviewers. I was prepared.  

Also have fun and relax, you are interviewing us just as much as we are interviewing you.

Heather: Great advice. Thanks Verjeigh!


Using Amazon’s Career Site (blog series)


ValuesActive job-seekers out there are no doubt spending some time on company career sites – and I suspect many of you have visited ours. I’m in the process of creating some new content for Amazon.jobs, which will help users learn about working in our Consumer Division. But in the meantime, I’m going to share some thoughts on navigating the site and highlight some of my favorite content. I’m also going to drop a link into the menu bar above, so you can click through and check it out.

In normal Amazon fashion, I will work backward from the user experience and talk about how you might navigate the site depending on how much you know about Amazon and your interest in specific roles. I envision 4 scenarios:    

    1) A user shows up on Amazon.jobs knowing the group they want to work in and the role that best fits them

    2) A user shows up on Amazon.jobs and doesn’t know what group they are interested in or the right role. Hey, they are just browsing here.

    3) A user shows up and knows the right job role for them but there are so many groups to choose from and it’s hard to find them on the site.

    4) A user shows up on Amazon.jobs with a burning desire to work for a specific organization, but isn’t sure how their skills would fit.

I’m going to create a separate blog post for each of these scenarios. I will also provide info on good places to find additional info on Amazon.jobs and some tips, regardless of which user scenario best matches your situation.

So while you are waiting for those posts, I will share some of my thoughts on career sites in general.

Typically, people visit a career site specifically to search for job postings that match their background. And obviously this kind of searching behavior is a lot of what we see going on at Amazon.jobs. But something that I would encourage visitors to also think about when visiting a career site is using it to understand what the company values. Any well-constructed career site is going to feature more than just job postings. Sometimes you have to dig a bit, and even though you might think that all career site content feels the same (I mean, everyone talks about making an impact and that type of thing, us included), you can find some nuggets that give you a true sense of what a company thinks is important. On Amazon.jobs, our leadership principles are the best example if this I can think of.  

If you look at those principles and think “I feel like that too!” or “those are the things I value”, there’s a good chance that you will like it here. If you look at them and even feel lukewarm, I’ll be honest: this might not be the place for you. Because as an employee here, you will hear those principles referenced day in and day out. They are used for decision-making from the high level strategic decisions around our vision as a company to simple choices around how we do our work. And our employees are held accountable by those principles.

So when you are on a career site, Amazon’s or another company’s, look for an indication of what is valued and decide how closely their values resonate with you.

I recently watched video of an organization where teams sing when visitors walk through their work area. For some people, that might sound like fun. For others, perhaps it would feel like torture. But having silly fun was part of their culture and clearly an attractor for the right kinds of job-seekers. This is exactly the right kind of content for companies to be featuring on their career sites, by the way. Candidates should have some kind of reaction to the content and use it to opt in or opt out.

Another recommendation is to use career sites for resume and interviewing intelligence. In the past, when I have spoken with people seeking advice about their job search, one of the things they ask about is getting the attention of recruiters. This is definitely the right thing to be asking, especially if you are interested in working at a company that receives a massive volume of applicants. Reading about the company values I mentioned above, as well as the job specs (and the words they use to describe the work) should help you write or tweak your resume to get the attention of recruiters. First, you should be looking at the actual words they use in the job specs and ensure that you are using the same words to describe that kind of work on your resume. For example, referring to the software development framework used as either “agile software development” or “scrum” can mean the difference between a resume showing up in a recruiter’s search and not. Now hopefully, a recruiter looking for this experience is going to search both of those things, but often they will start with the simplest search first. And if the job spec calls for “scrum experience”, that is how they will search for it. So look at the job postings to understand the words used to describe specific types of experience.

Also look at the job postings and the company information on the career site to identify what is important to include on a resume. It’s easy to look past a lot of the buzz-wordy content on a job description. But if you know Amazon cares about delivering results (and we do, because it’s in our leadership principles and many job descriptions), you know it’s important to be explicit about the types of results you were able to achieve in previous roles. By the way, I don’t know a company where delivering results isn’t important so you should do this exercise anyway. But definitely think about how you can incorporate some of the culture elements into your own resume (and still be honest, of course).

More coming on using Amazon.jobs soon. And please feel free to add questions here if there’s anything I can answer for you.