Episode 7: How Amazon Hired Me - Audible Content Acquisition Manager

Nick: I'm Nick Dimitrov. Welcome to Episode 7 of the Amazon Bound Podcast. In this episode, we will continue our discussions with you; with our customers. We will continue to have one-on-one conversations with some of you, who have already interviewed with Amazon and who are brave enough to join our podcast and share their best practices so that the rest of you who are still preparing for your Amazon interviews can learn from these stories and improve your outcomes.

How Amazon Hired Me: Audible Content Acquisition Manager

Today's guest is Blandine. Blandine was one of the early customers of “The Essential Course to Prepare for the Amazon Interview.” Blandine was recently hired by Audible as a Content Acquisition Consultant. If you're wondering why we're talking about Audible on a show dedicated to Amazon Interview practices, I should clarify that Audible is an Amazon company. Amazon acquired Audible in 2008 for $300M. At the time of the acquisition to the present day, Audible remains the largest seller and publisher of audio-book content in the United States. Audible is based in New Jersey. And that is where Blandine joins our podcast via an online Zoom call. One last point to make before we jump in: I'd like to share why I think Blandine makes a great guest to this podcast. One of the many reasons for that is that I think Blandine epitomizes persistence. You will find out from her that she interviewed with Amazon several times over the course of several years. She didn't succeed in the beginning, but she stuck to her guns, and eventually, she landed a great job with Audible. So, for those of you who have had less than successful outcomes with Amazon initially, maybe you can use Blandine's story as inspiration and motivation to continue interviewing until you find success.

I'd like to welcome Blandine to our podcast. Welcome, Blandine.

Blandine: Hi there. Thanks so much for having me.

Nick: Absolutely. It is so wonderful to talk to you today. Thank you so much for taking your time and jumping on the call. We're connected via a Zoom call. So, before we tell everyone about your Amazon experience and the interview process, which I'm sure people are interested to know more about, could you please tell us a little bit about yourself first?

Blandine: Sure. Yeah. Definitely. One thing that I would say before we start is that I'm not representing Amazon or Audible and that opinions are my own. So, with that said, hi everyone. I have a background in content acquisition and content distribution. More specifically in independent and foreign films. Prior to joining Audible, I was with Canopy, which is a leading streaming-video platform. And that was really my first experience into tech, which I really loved. And I think that was an excellent transition from a more traditional business environment that I was in, to tech and two values that were really key, I think, in helping me transition from where I was to where I wanted to be in Canopy. And two values that are really important there was being laser-focused on customer needs and I felt like that was a powerful way of streamlining decision-making and the other value was related to my role specifically, which was the head of content, and previously I was a lot more familiar with methods of acquisition that relied on gut feeling and fairly small sample, when you only have your own data, that's been really small scale. Versus Canopy where it was a much more data-driven approach and I think these two values were really key in helping me transition and go to Amazon, where obviously Customer Obsession when I started studying the class, is the number one Principle at Amazon and Audible.

Nick: Thank you. So, you’re at Canopy you’re having this great data-centric professional experience. So, how did Amazon find you? How was your first engagement with Amazon like? How did they identify you for an interview candidate?

Blandine: So, it was definitely a long journey, in the sense that it took four opportunities altogether. I was found through a recruiter, either an internal recruiter or an external recruiter. So, the first one was for Amazon Prime Video, based in Seattle. For that, I was found through an internal recruiter. I had two phone interviews with the hiring team and, ultimately, that did not work out. So, that was strike number one. Then came three strikes with Audible. The first one, I was found by an internal recruiter and I had a phone interview that I foolishly said “yes” for an interview within 24 hours. I really had no idea what it was to interview for Amazon and what kind of preparation that would require. And I definitely would never do that again. And so definitely, even if the first impulse is to say yes, I'm available immediately, that is definitely not the way to go. So, I learned from that and that was a really good experience. And after that, I was also found for two different positions and that's really where I did two full hiring loops. And finally got here and I've been here for two months now.

Nick: That's wonderful. So, I think something that was very inspiring about your story, among other things, is how you really stuck to your guns, how you remained persistent, you remained upbeat and positive. And you did suffer some setbacks in the beginning, but you persevered. And I think it's very important for a lot of people who are hopefully listening to this, to take away heart and to take away the feedback from you and the motivation if you will, that if you really want to achieve this successful outcome with Amazon, it is possible. And like you said, maybe you can't improvise a good outcome, if you get approached for a call or an interview, and you don't have enough time to prepare. Maybe it's wise to postpone that event, but I think one of the reasons why you're so inspirational for all of us is because you did succeed after having gone through some adversity in the beginning.

Blandine: Yeah. I used to hear or read a lot of stories that said: “I'm so happy that it worked after so many times.” I was like, I really don't know that this is really working. I definitely had doubts but I think ultimately, it was really important for me to work for this company, very specifically. I was going to make this work. I think what was really important in keeping going was that I knew that others had gone through the same process. I'm sure that it happens, but it seems fairly uncommon to be hired by this company at the first strike. And knowing that is, very much like, oh this isn't about me but it does take time. So, I think that's really important that if you are going after your first interview or your second interview like it's a lot of people who are going through these many strikes.

Nick: Absolutely. I will also mention that it took me three times to be hired by Amazon in the end. And a part of this is, that it’s a rigorous process that they put people through but also another part is, it's not a very consistent process. Sometimes you are at the mercy of individual opinions and sometimes it's just not a good match individually.

Blandine: That's great that you are sharing that it also took you some time. I think it will be liberating to a lot of listeners. They will be like, “What? But Nick is such a fit? What do you mean?” Yes. I think that's really great to be sharing that for sure.

Nick: So, how did you prepare for, let's maybe talk about, your successful interview?

Blandine: I have to admit that, obviously, your class was definitely the most, I think that it was the only thing that really helped me in many different ways. And I think for me was two things, two specific aspects that were especially helpful: I realized that while I had already prepared for other interviews, I had not gone deep enough. And that I really needed to be adding additional details. Providing more context: I think that was really key to the examples that I could think. In other words, I was not there. And I think it was really good to see that the bar was so high that it wasn't going to fly. That I really need to go back. I need to go deeper, and that came very helpful during the interviews, where I had fairly in-depth questions and I was ready to answer all of them. And the second one I think was about, to me coming from the outside world because of a lot of the press and a lot of various business practices, Amazon could come across as pretty opaque. That's very intimidating. And you're like, well, I don't know much about this. And I think your class was very helpful in just this is how this works. And, so it felt that while I was there I already knew my way around. And I think that was definitely very helpful. And not only did I know my way around, but I think also I was fluent in the Amazon language.

Nick: Perfect. Thank you. Thanks for those kind words. So, how did the interview go? The big day comes with interviewing with Audible. And what happened? Walk us through the blow-by-blow of what the day looked like?

Blandine: Sure. Well, it was snowing. I had to wear my snow boots to an interview, which isn't exactly great, but it's what happened. Altogether, my interview Loop was two and a half hours. I was greeted with a written test where, essentially, I had to answer a behavioral question in writing. And then that was followed by four interviews for 30 minutes each.

Nick: And I should underscore that it's somewhat unusual for a behavioral question asked during a corporate Amazon Interview, to be answered in writing. And it looks like Audible has slightly different practice along those lines, but I think there's a lot of good similarities that people can learn from.

So how did you feel at the end of the interview? So, the day's done. How did you feel? Did you feel happy? Did you feel relieved?

Blandine: I was frazzled. I did talk to people. This is over, but definitely quite frazzled. You know, two and a half hours of thinking and talking, and with pretty high stakes. So, I was definitely happy that it was behind me. But definitely, one of the things that I would say is, not only bring food to the interview but actually eat it.

Nick: Use some calories during the day. When did Amazon get back to you? When did Audible get back to you after the interview? How long did it take them?

Blandine: 24 hours. Just amazing. It was great. I really liked that call.

Nick: In hindsight, what do you think are some of the steps and approaches (or behaviors) you would do differently even though your interview ended up being successful?

Blandine: Definitely for me, it would be doing it earlier and I don't really know why I delayed it. And so I think that I would go back and that would be braver. Okay. This is what I want to do. What are the steps that I need to be taking to actually get in there?

And, in terms of the actual interview, I don't think I would do anything differently. Not that I think that I did everything perfectly, in any way. But there isn't anything major that I would change except for asking for a break. These people know that this is very hard. They know that you are a human being. It's okay to just say, “can I please have five minutes.”

Nick: If we were to distill maybe your “pearls of wisdom” to share with other candidates who are currently crunching for their interview-loop day. What would be some of the pieces of advice you would share with people?

Blandine: I'd say don't give up and also just really be prepared. That's really the only way. It seems like a very easy sentence: just be prepared. Well, what does it mean? Well, that really means work really hard because, essentially, the questions (at least in my experience) were not hard. They were not necessarily unexpected questions, but it's about the delivery. It's about the delivery and the content. You need to have your content ready, your responses ready. But you also need to have your delivery ready and that means we are rehearsing like a mad person.

That means submitting your own homework to Nick who can say, “Yeah, that's great. But you can really do better.”

Nick: I keep mentioning, one of the reasons why you're such a great person to talk to, is because you've hit this arc of going from failure to success. If you were to look introspectively as a vocally self-critical Amazonian or Audibler, what would you say are some of the things that you did differently in the final interview versus some of the things that you didn't do so well during the first couple of interviews.

Blandine: I think it was really practice. I think that was knowing that I had prepared and delivered, and yet the delivery, I felt like, was not exactly perfect. And, I think the more you do, it the better. So, what I would say, being self-critical, is not just prepare more, but take more opportunities to interview even if that should be with other companies.

Nick: I think it's very important the emphasis you brought on “don't stop preparing.” Don't stop getting ready. It's easy to lull yourself into thinking that, oh, I'm ready. I know my work well, myself. So I'm sure the interviewers are going to understand what I'm trying to say as well. Almost have this focus on just trying for perfection, if you will. Because that's going to be the type of people you're going to encounter during the interview loop: these almost, near perfectionists. Their fault, in a lot of ways, is that they don't necessarily give the benefit of the doubt to the external candidates of not knowing what the internal culture is like. But I think some of this they do by design. And they want to weed out the people who truly want in, the people who have truly prepared, versus the ones who don't. And even if (it sounds like) you've had a great career at Canopy, you've done a ton of outstanding accomplishments. But unless you ready to articulate them and impress on people what the impact on the outcome of those accomplishments was, you’re tossing a coin about what the outcome would be of the interview. And you want to eliminate that chance as best as possible and I think what you're saying is: the ticket for that is to over prepare. Prepare, prepare, prepare.

Blandine: I think, introspectively, that really calls out the relentless in Amazon, in general, in terms of excellence. They don't stop when they provide something amazing to the customer. They keep going and they keep going for more and I think that really shows in the hiring process.

Nick: Absolutely. Anything you thought we should talk about or you would like to chat about that we didn't cover?

Blandine: I think definitely getting yourself ready is really important. But like a lot of things in life, it also takes a team. And I think as much as possible really try to surround yourself with people and professionals who are going to get you referrals. But really also family and friends. I was very lucky to have a very supportive network, at large.

And I had an army of text messages right before my interview like, “you're gonna kill this,” and that was really important. So, I think as much as obviously getting yourself ready is important, really have people ready to help you and be there for you. And then once you are hired, once you get there, then help others. Talk to them about your secret weapon: Nick, and also really share your experience.

And, obviously, you can't share everything. A lot of it is confidential, but as much as it’s non-confidential, then share and help them get in. I think that's what I try to do anyway.

Nick: Perfect. Blandine, I just can't say thank you enough. You have such an infectious positive presence. It's so wonderful to see you succeed. As you said, you are very keen on paying it forward and helping other people. I’m sure, everybody listening to this appreciates it deeply. So, thank you for taking the time. We are rooting for you in Audible or wherever you'd like to go in the future. And yes, please stay in touch. Yep.

Blandine: That sounds good. Thank you so much, Nick. Bye.

Nick: Okay, this wraps up Episode 7. Thank you for listening. Please, subscribe to our podcast and please give us a review if you can. Thank you.

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