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PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

An Airbnb host is offering mock Amazon job interviews for $5,300

Reuters/Abhishek N. Chinnappa
What would you do for a dream job?
  • Michelle Cheng
By Michelle Cheng

Reporter

Most Airbnb experiences are built around getting people away from work. Not this one.

In Seattle, a host named Nick is offering an experience for people who want to work—more specifically, for people who want to work at Amazon.

In the backyard of the Amazon headquarters, Nick’s experience offers a five-hour workshop, with the opportunity to practice interviewing with former Amazon employees who previously held similar job levels and roles the attendees are applying for. Participants are also promised constructive feedback on how they do in the mock interviews. The listing, called “Simulate the Amazon.com Interview Loop,” goes for $4,497. Breakfast and lunch are included.

The host only recommends it for people who have already gone through his “Prepare for Amazon Interview Loop” session, a separate experience sold on Airbnb for $797. It entails an eight-hour workshop designed to help job applicants craft their verbal responses, as well written components, of the interview. The listing promises the workshops have no more than 10 people. 

But who is Nick? And are the experiences he’s selling any good? Do they actually yield job offers? What does Amazon have to say about them? And could it possibly be worth plunking down a combined $5,294 for help with interviewing skills?

First, the host

According to his bio on Airbnb, Nick co-founded Amazon Game Studios in 2013, the result of “a series of direct pitches to [Amazon CEO] Jeff Bezos.” Amazon has since invested heavily in gaming, he notes, including its 2014 acquisition of Twitch for $970 million.

Nick also says he was involved in more than 350 interviews as an “Amazon Bar Raiser,” a designation for employees who help determine whether the company should hire a job candidate or not, and helped new hires as an orientation host, assisting people on their first day of work at Amazon.

Cross-referencing the information in his bio with several sites, Nick turns out to be Nick Dimitrov, who according to his LinkedIn profile led a business development team for the games portion of the Amazon App store. He left Amazon in 2018 and co-founded Amazon Bound, a service meant to help applicants prep for their Amazon job interviews.

Dimitrov declined to speak with us about his Airbnb listings.

San Francisco-based Airbnb says it vets each “experience” on its site for quality, with hosts having to demonstrate expertise, the ability to connect with guests, and an ability to provide people purchasing experiences with “‘insider access’ to places or things they couldn’t find on their own.” The company, which currently has more than 40,000 experience listings on its site, says over 90% of all “experiences” have five-star reviews.

Speaking of reviews

“I learned more in one day than I would have in months of Internet research,” one reviewer of the starter workshop writes. “Most importantly, I gained hands-on knowledge by completing all exercises and case studies.” Another reviewer describes the workshop as “intense.” 

Although attendees of the Amazon mock-interview workshops left positive reviews, there are no mentions of whether they landed the coveted job afterward. To be fair, it seems not all candidates take the workshop specifically to land a job at Amazon; some simply take it for the corporate interviewing experience, as one reviewer noted.

Airbnb declined to comment on this particular listing, but the company notes that only people who have taken an “experience” can leave a review.

What does Amazon say about all this?

Quartz reached out to Amazon, and the company told us it does not vouch for the workshops’ validity. “This training is not affiliated with Amazon and we don’t recommend it to our candidates,” an Amazon spokesperson says.

The spokesperson adds that Amazon’s recruiting team provides candidates with a range of resources, which are all publicly available online, on how to prepare and what to expect in interviews, from the format of the meetings to the technical topics that will be covered.

Cracking the code

The fact that a mock Amazon interview listing even exists is a reflection of how obsessed people are with landing jobs at the tech giants—and how selective these employers can afford to be. “I’d rather interview 50 people and not hire anyone than hire the wrong person,” Amazon’s Bezos reportedly told a colleague in the company’s early days.

Tech’s most prestigious employers are notorious for asking tough interview questions. Some people compare the interviews to taking a standardized test, arguing that candidates’ technical skills (coding, for example) matter less than how well candidates can navigate the interviews.

Google was known to ask brain-teaser-type questions (which have been now banned) that included problems like “Why are manhole covers round?” or “Explain the significance of dead beef.” Nowadays, prospective Google applicants can expect more behavioral-type questions during interviews.

The low odds of getting these in-demand jobs, combined with the lucrative salaries and perks on offer, all contribute to a market that is working on cracking the tech job interview. To wit, a popular book among programmers and software engineers is Cracking the Coding Interview: 150 Programming Questions and Solutions. Those willing to make a more substantial investment might be tempted by a four-week bootcamp promising to teach the best route to an offer letter, or by Problem-Solving for the CS Technical Interview, a course that’s given at Stanford University.

Given the interest—and the stakes—it was probably only a matter of time before an enterprising Airbnb host got into the game.

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