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A 32-year-old software engineer went through a 'super stressful' interview process at Amazonbut turned down the $167,006 offer. Here's how she decided other things were more important than money, without burning any bridges.

Published by Business Insider on Sun, 22 Nov 2020

<p><img src="https://static6.businessinsider.com/image/5fb6abf932f2170011f7015b-1152/Nastya Kholodova.jpg" border="0" alt="Nastya Kholodova" data-mce-source="Nastya Kholodova" data-mce-caption="Nastya Kholodova."></p><p></p><bi-shortcode id="summary-shortcode" data-type="summary-shortcode" class="mceNonEditable" contenteditable="false">Summary List Placement</bi-shortcode><p>For Nastya Kholodova, a software engineer originally from Ukraine who was working in Washington D.C., the chance to get hired at a big US tech company like Facebook, Uber or Amazon seemed like the best way to know that she'd actually "made it" as a developer.&nbsp;</p><p>But she wasn't sure she'd be competitive. So on a holiday afternoon when she and her husband were stuck at home, she started applying.</p><p>"It was Independence Day [2016], and it was a very rainy day in D.C., and we didn't do anything. And in the evening, I was bored at home, a little disappointed. And I thought, as long as I'm just sitting here, maybe I should look at Amazon."</p><p>Kholodova said searched through Amazon AWS careers and ultimately submitted her resume to "All Available." She chose her salary requirements simply by looking up on Glassdoor what people said they were being paid, and picking the median salary.</p><p>To her surprise, Kholodova heard back right away, and began what she called a "super stressful" interview process that ultimately led to an attractive offerand then, an even bigger decision.</p><p>Here's the story of what Kholodova's interview process at Amazon was like, and why she ultimately turned down the offer, while being careful not to burn bridges and potentially have the chance to work with the company sometime in the future.</p><p><em><strong>Read more:</strong> <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/recruiters-at-google-amazon-and-microsoft-look-for-in-resumes-2020-8">7 recruiters from Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and other major companies looked over my resume and offered feedback. Here are 5 things they likedand what they said I should change.</a></em></p><p>Born, raised and educated in Ukraine, Kholodova studied math at university but became a software engineer after graduation, working at an ecommerce startup and making the equivalent of about $36,000.</p><p>One of her goals was to find a way to come to the United States, so both she and her husband, who was also a software developer, landed jobs together at the World Bank, which meant they could qualify for lesser-known G4 visas, which are for foreign employees of nonprofit international organizations in the U.S.</p><p>The World Bank job had also meant a big raise for Kholodova: about $90,000 a year after taxes, and she liked the work. But, she had her sights set on something even bigger.</p><p>"I interacted a lot with the World Bank's statistical departmentsclients all over the globe," she said. "It was one the best experiences, working on all the infrastructure for the websites and the mobile app for data collection."</p><p>Her experience working on websites with high user loads would be attractive to Amazon, she reasoned, and she had some friends and colleagues who worked at the company's facility in Herndon, Virginia, about a 40-minute reverse commute from where she and her husband lived in D.C.</p><p>Very soon after she applied, the company contacted her for a phone screening with an HR representative.</p><h2>Thus began the longest interview process Kholodova said she'd ever been through.&nbsp;</h2><p>First came the HR screen, followed within a matter of days by an hour-long virtual technical screen, where she was interviewed by a senior engineer over a video interface.</p><p>"It's technical, they're just checking your problem-solving abilities, your algorithm knowledge, your skills to code without all the developer tools," she said. "It's super-stressful."</p><p>The next stage of the process was delayed for about two weeks, but Kholodova chalked it up to the fact that August was now approaching, and many people were on vacation. In the meantime, she was interviewing with a startup in Washington, as well.</p><p>Eventually, she heard back from Amazon.</p><p>"They said the technical screen went well, and they asked me to write some short essays, about 300 words each, about my leadership abilities and problem-solving skills. It's the only time I've been asked to do something like that in an interview: 'Tell us about a complicated, big decision you made, and why you made it, and what were the considerations'' Things like that."</p><p><em><strong>Read more:</strong> <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/google-recruiter-4-tips-job-seekers-interviews-and-hiring-2020-7">I'm a Google recruiter who's interviewed thousands of candidates at top tech companies. I wish more job seekers knew these 4 things about the interview and hiring process.</a></em></p><p>Next up was an invitation to interview at Amazon in Herndon, VAa six-hour, day-long process, interviewing for a software position within <a href="https://aws.amazon.com/inspector/">Amazon Inspector</a>.</p><p>This was "intense," she said, executing six different interviews with a total of around nine or 10 Amazon employees, including both her possible future manager and other engineers on the team she'd be working with.&nbsp;</p><p>"It was very similar to the video screening, but it's longer, and of course the person is right there with you. You need to write code on a white board. It's super-stressful. A lot of people think these interviews are more about your ability to manage anxiety, than your ability to code."</p><h2>Kholodova must have aced it, however because within a few days after that, she got a call from the HR department saying Amazon planned to make an offer.</h2><p>On August 25, she got the details via email, including a $132,050 salary, bonuses of just under $30,000 during her first and second years, and a restricted stock grant.</p><p style="padding-left: 40px;"><em>Congratulations! The team and I are delighted to extend this offer to you for the Amazon Web Services <strong>Software Development</strong> rolefor the Herndon, VA Office Location AWS team. I have your offer details approved and I've listed all components below, please take some time to review today and let me know what will work for you to discuss the offer and any questions that you may have about the information attached.</em></p><p style="padding-left: 40px;"><em><strong>Title</strong>: <strong>Software Development Engineer</strong></em></p><p style="padding-left: 40px;"><em><strong>Proposed Start:</strong>&nbsp; TBD</em></p><p style="padding-left: 40px;"><em><strong>Base Salary: </strong><strong style="color: #ff0000;">$132,050</strong> (annual)</em></p><p style="padding-left: 40px;"><em><strong style="background-color: #ffff00;">Year 1: Estimated Compensation: <strong style="color: #ff0000;">$167,006</strong></strong> (this includes the base salary, year 1 cash and 5% of your initial restricted stock grant)</em></p><ul><li style="list-style-type: none;"><ul><li style="list-style-type: none;"><ul><li style="list-style-type: none;"><ul><li><em><strong>Guaranteed Sign On Cash</strong>:</em><ul><li><em><strong style="color: #ff0000;">$29,600</strong> broken out and paid monthly in 12 installments throughout your first year of employment.</em></li><li><em><strong style="color: #ff0000;">$27,400</strong> broken out and paid monthly in 12 installments throughout your second year of employment. You are paid once a month at the end of the month.</em></li></ul></li></ul></li></ul></li></ul></li></ul><p>The compensation represented a significant raise over what she'd been making at the World Bank, and she was thrilled to realize that one of the largest and most successful technical companies in the world wanted her.</p><p>"I was really excited," she said. "I didn't think I could get to the end."</p><h2>But now, with the offer in hand, Kholodova realized she had a problem.</h2><p>The issue had to do with her visa status. Kholodova could work for any company in the United States, but only as long as her husband continued to work at the World Bank, since she was the spouse or dependent of someone legally in the country on a G4 visa.</p><p>But, she didn't want her husband to have to stay at the World Bank forever, and she also hoped to get a more permanent status to remain in the United States indefinitely.&nbsp;</p><p>The startup she was interviewing with at the same time was offering to have its law firm pursue her case and help her try to get permanent residency.</p><p>The Amazon offer had represented a lot of what she thought she wanted, but the promise of help to get permanent residency was enticing. And, she was less excited about the 40-minute commute.</p><h2>She started to think also: <em>Do I want to leave a big organization like the World Bank for another big organization'</em></h2><p><em>Or would it be more interesting to change my environment entirely, by going to a small startup'</em></p><p>Kholodova had a few phone calls back and forth with Amazon, and went on vacation. When she formally replied 11 days after receiving the offer, it just was to ask for more time to decide.&nbsp;</p><p>Amazon gave her the extra time, and Kholodova was still talking with the startup. Finally on September 15, which was now three weeks after the offer, she replied.</p><p>"I want to thank Amazon for this opportunity," Kholodova wrote. "It is a big honor for me to receive the offer from Amazon and from such [an] amazing team as Amazon Inspector."</p><p><em><strong>Read more:</strong> <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/ats-resume-how-to-build-templates-dream-job-2020-11">If you want a shot at your dream job, your resume must be ATS friendly. Here's what that means, along with templates on how to build one.</a></em></p><p>But she said, she was going to reject the offer because the promise of help to get permanent residency from the other company was too good to pass on.</p><p>"Thank you again. It was an incredible experience interviewing at Amazon," she wrote. "I hope there may be opportunities for us to work together in the future. (After I receive my green card :) )"</p><h2>Amazon replied saying that once she started working it was possible that the company could help her get permanent residency, but Kholodova felt they'd been evasive on that question during the application process.&nbsp;</h2><p>Besides, by now she'd already accepted the other offer at the smaller startup, Bizy, where she was the only foreigner in the company.</p><p>"Their legal department was like, all mine to use," she said. "They didn't have a line of people to process for immigration," as she expected there might be at Amazon.</p><p>From Kholodova's perspective, things worked out. Bizy helped her to get her green card, and she then sponsored her husband to get one as well. She stayed at Bizy through last year, before leaving to start a fitness tracker for CrossFit, called <a href="https://wod.voopty.com">WOD Insight</a>.</p><p>But, she said, she'd still consider working for Amazon somedayand in fact has stayed in touch with the company.</p><p>"I actually talked with them yesterday," she said. "They have their database of people they've given offers to, and once in a while they just go through the database and contact you again. When they email me about open positions, I usually talk to them. I'm curious. And if not me, maybe I can suggest someone else."</p><p><strong>SEE ALSO:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-land-job-hubspot-glassdoor-best-place-to-work-2020-11" >How to land a job at HubSpotGlassdoor's No. 1 Best Place to Work for 2020according to its chief people officer and a former company recruiter</a></strong></p><p><a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-nastya-kholodova-interview-software-engineer-stressful-experience-2020-11#comments">Join the conversation about this story &#187;</a></p> <p>NOW WATCH: <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/racist-origins-marijuana-prohibition-legalization-2018-2">The racist origins of marijuana prohibition</a></p>
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