How to Answer Amazon's Behavioral Interview Questions (Guide)

How to Answer Amazon's Behavioral Interview Questions (Guide)
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Trying to get ready for the Amazon behavioral interview? Getting a job in big tech is tough. Even for product managers and software engineers with years of experience, behavioral interview questions at Amazon are notoriously tough.

In a way, interview processes at companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon are as famous as the companies themselves.

Applicants can expect to be asked a set of questions commonly referred to as behavioral interview questions.

Amazon relies much more on these questions than other FAANG companies like Apple or Facebook, where technical skills are generally weighed more heavily in product manager interviews.

"I'd rather interview 50 people and not hire anyone than hire the wrong person." - Jeff Bezos, Founder and Former CEO, Amazon

Top 10 Amazon Behavioral Interview Questions

As a preview, here are the most commonly asked behavioral interview questions at Amazon. These are sourced from Exponent's database of the most commonly asked and most recently asked interview questions at Amazon.

You'll find many more of these below.

Table of Contents

What is the Amazon Behavioral Interview?

Amazon's behavioral questions focus on your past behavior and performance. Companies like to ask these because they reveal quite a bit about you and help predict job performance (at least in theory.)

In many cases, Amazon behavioral interview questions begin with interviewers asking to "tell us about a time..." or "give me an example of..." Interviewers want to know:

  • how you may perform as an employee,
  • your personal and professional interests,
  • and how well you'll fit in with the Amazon workplace culture.

They also clue your interviewer into how you think. In Amazon's case, they are also looking for evidence of what they call "Leadership Principles"—something we’ll explain shortly.

What are Amazon's Leadership Principles?

During Amazon's behavioral section of the interview, your interviewer will be particularly focused on how your answers demonstrate an alignment with 16 Amazon's Leadership Principles.

Amazon is well known for its strict adherence to the management principles laid out by its CEO, Jeff Bezos. One of these is the famous 'Day 1' mentality that surely had a lot to do with Amazon's colossal success.

But Day 1 isn't the only tenant that Amazon holds dear. The company has 16 leadership principles, written by Bezos himself, that its employees, and the company itself, are expected to uphold.

The 16 Amazon Leadership Principles: An Overview

  • Customer Obsession
  • Ownership
  • Invent & Simplify
  • Are Right, A lot
  • Learn and Be Curious
  • Hire and Develop the Best
  • Insist on the Highest Standards
  • Think Big
  • Bias for Action
  • Frugality
  • Earn Trust
  • Dive Deep
  • Have Backbone; Disagree & Commit
  • Deliver Results
  • Strive to be Earth's Best Employer
  • Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility

Your interviewer wants to hear examples of your performance in past roles. How did you demonstrate similar qualities to Amazon's own leadership principles?

As we mentioned before, Amazon behavioral interview questions may hold more weight than at other companies.

Which is even more reason to prepare for them ahead of time.

Let's review each leadership principle in-depth.

50+ Amazon Behavioral Interview Questions to Practice

Below, you'll find the short explanation of each leadership principle given by Amazon on their careers page. These principles will be present throughout the entire hiring process.

.Read each explanation thoroughly, as you'll pick up clues as to how your answers to behavioral questions will be scored. When you're ready, watch the expert mock interviews linked and then try your hand at a few sample behavioral interview questions compiled from past interviews

1) Customer Obsession

Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.

Practice questions on customer obsession.

In order to provide great customer service, it is essential to have empathy for the customer.

This means understanding their needs and desires and being able to put yourself in their shoes. Only then can you truly provide the best possible experience.

2) Ownership

Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results.

They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say “that’s not my job."

Practice questions on ownership.

Amazon is a company that values ownership. That means employees are expected to take initiative, make tough decisions, and accept responsibility for their mistakes. If you’re the type of person who shies away from responsibility or always looks for someone else to blame, Amazon is not the place for you.

Amazon is looking for people who are willing to roll up their sleeves and do whatever it takes to get the job done. When answering questions about ownership, be sure to highlight examples of times when you took initiative, made tough decisions, and accepted responsibility for your mistakes. Doing so will show that you’re the type of person Amazon is looking for.

3) Invent & Simplify

Leaders expect and require innovation and invention from their teams and always find ways to simplify. They are externally aware, look for new ideas from everywhere, and are not limited by “not invented here." As we do new things, we accept that we may be misunderstood for long periods of time.

Practice questions on inventing and simplifying.

Amazon has long been known for its culture of innovation. In everything it does, the company strives to create solutions that are both effective and efficient. This commitment to innovation is evident in Amazon's approach to answering "invent and simplify" questions.

When presented with a problem, Amazon employees are encouraged to think creatively and come up with solutions that are both novel and practical.

4) Are Right, A Lot

Leaders are right a lot. They have strong judgment and good instincts. They seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs.

Practice questions on being right, a lot.

Amazon is known for its customer-centric culture, and part of that is due to the company's focus on speed and agility. Amazon expects its employees to be able to make decisions quickly and efficiently, without getting bogged down in details or second-guessing themselves.

This can be a challenge, but it's also an opportunity to show that you're capable of taking risks and thinking on your feet.

5) Learn and Be Curious

Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.

Practice questions on learning and curiosity.

Amazon is always looking for employees who are willing to improve and grow with the company. In your interview, it is essential that you demonstrate your ability to learn new things and explore new ideas.

For example, you might discuss a time when you had to quickly learn a new skill for your job, or you might describe a time when you came up with an innovative solution to a problem. No matter what examples you choose, be sure to emphasize your willingness to adapt and grow in your career. With this attitude, you will show that you are the type of employee that Amazon is looking for.

6) Hire and Develop the Best

Leaders raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognize exceptional talent, and willingly move them throughout the organization. Leaders develop leaders and take seriously their role in coaching others. We work on behalf of our people to invent mechanisms or development like Career Choice.

Practice questions on how to develop the best.

Amazon leaders raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognize exceptional talent and move them throughout the organization. Leaders develop leaders and take seriously their role in coaching others.

In this way, Amazon creates a culture of excellence that starts with our leaders and extends to all members of the Amazon family.

7) Insist on the Highest Standards

Leaders have relentlessly high standards — many people may think these standards are unreasonably high. Leaders are continually raising the bar and drive their teams to deliver high quality products, services, and processes. Leaders ensure that defects do not get sent down the line and that problems are fixed so they stay fixed.

Practice questions on the highest standards:

Amazon expects their employees to always be striving to reach higher standards. They want to see employees who have pushed themselves to meet difficult goals and who will continue to do so in the future.

This is one of the things that makes Amazon such a great place to work. It is a company that is always looking to challenge its employees and help them grow. Employees at Amazon always feel like they are learning and growing, which helps to keep them motivated and engaged.

8) Think Big

Thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. They think differently and look around corners for ways to serve customers.

Practice questions on thinking big.

Interviewers will want to see that you can develop and articulate a bold vision. This doesn't mean that you need to have all the answers, but you should be able to show that you're thinking big and have a clear idea of where you want to take the company.

So, when preparing for your interview, make sure you have a few good examples of times when you've thought outside the box and come up with innovative solutions.

9) Bias for Action

Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking.

Practice questions on bias for action.

Amazon likes to move fast and ship products quickly. This means that they often have to make decisions without all of the information that they would like to have.

In your interview, be prepared to share a time when you had to make a decision without all of the information that you needed. Describe how you went about making the decision and what the result was. Be sure to emphasize that you are comfortable taking risks and that you are always looking for ways to improve your products and services.

10) Frugality

Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, and invention. There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size, or fixed expense.

Practice questions on frugality.

Amazon is constantly striving to provide customers with the best possible value and their leadership principles emphasize this.

This means offering a wide selection of products at low prices, and providing fast and free shipping on millions of items. To do this requires staying frugal at the corporate level to pass savings on to customers.

This interview will challenge you to think about times you've saved money or brought big results with little input.

11) Earn Trust

Leaders listen attentively, speak candidly, and treat others respectfully. They are vocally self-critical, even when doing so is awkward or embarrassing. Leaders do not believe their or their team’s body odor smells of perfume. They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best.

Practice questions on earning trust.

This principle dictates that employees should be continually looking for ways to improve their work, and that they should be “vocally self-critical” when they make mistakes. In other words, Amazon wants its employees to focus on fixing mistakes instead of figuring out who to blame.

This philosophy is rooted in the belief that every employee has the power to make a positive impact, and that blaming others only gets in the way of progress. As a result, candidates who can demonstrate their commitment to continuous improvement are often the most successful at Amazon.

12) Dive Deep

Leaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit frequently, and are skeptical when metrics and anecdote differ. No task is beneath them.

Practice questions:

No company is perfect, and Amazon is no exception. Things will inevitably go wrong from time to time, and it’s important that employees are able to find quick solutions. This is where problem-solving skills come in handy.

Interviewers want to see that you have the ability to assess a situation and come up with a timely an clever response.

13) Have Backbone; Disagree & Commit:

Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.

Practice questions:

Leaders are expected to have strong opinions and be able to stand up for what they believe in. There are times when it is necessary to set aside personal beliefs in order to move forward as a team.

As you review leadership principles, think about how having to make decisions affects the macro outlook of a company like Amazon.

14) Deliver Results

Leaders focus on the key inputs for their business and deliver them with the right quality and in a timely fashion. Despite setbacks, they rise to the occasion and never settle.

Practice questions:

Employees aren't afraid to take risks and learn from their mistakes. Of course, this doesn't mean that you don't care about quality. You should always strive to do your best work, but know that there is always room for improvement.

Amazon would rather deliver a product or service that is good enough than miss a deadline or fail to meet a goal. This philosophy has served them well in the past and believes it will continue to serve them well in the future.

15) Strive to be Earth's Best Employer

Leaders work every day to create a safer, more productive, higher performing, more diverse, and more just work environment. They lead with empathy, have fun at work, and make it easy for others to have fun. Leaders ask themselves: Are my fellow employees growing? Are they empowered? Are they ready for what's next? Leaders have a vision for and commitment to their employees' personal success, whether that be at Amazon or elsewhere.

Practice questions:

The "Earth's Best Employer" policy is more than just a nice-sounding platitude. It's a concrete way of demonstrating that a company is committed to its workforce.

A company that can show it is dedicated to being an Earth's Best Employer is likely to have an easier time recruiting and retaining top talent. And, as any manager knows, a happy, engaged workforce is essential to a company's success.

By creating a safe, diverse, and just work environment, companies can not only boost their team's morale and productivity, but also set themselves apart from the competition.

16) Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility

We started in a garage, but we're not there anymore. We are big, we impact the world, and we are far from perfect. We must be humble and thoughtful about even the secondary effects of our actions. Our local communities, planet, and future generations need us to be better every day. We must begin each day with a determination to make better, do better, and be better for our customers, our employees, our partners, and the world at large. And we must end every day knowing we can do even more tomorrow. Leaders create more than they consume and always leave things better than how they found them.

Practice questions:

As one of the world's largest companies, Amazon has a responsibility to its employees, shareholders, and the planet. That's why sustainability and social responsibility are core values at Amazon, even if customer obsession seems to dominate the conversation.

The company strives to make sure its operations have a positive impact on the environment and that employees work hard to create a workplace where everyone can thrive. They understand that Amazon's size and reach gives a unique opportunity to make a difference in the world.

Additional Amazon Leadership Principles Interview Questions

  • Tell me about a time when you took a calculated risk.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to leave a task unfinished.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to work with incomplete data or information.
  • Tell me about a time when you influenced a change by only asking questions.
  • Tell me about a time when you invented something.
  • Tell me about a time when you solved a problem through just superior knowledge or observation.
  • Give me two examples of when you did more than what was required in any job experience.
  • Tell me about a time you had to handle a crisis.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to make a quick decision that was going to have a significant impact on the business.
  • Tell me about a time when you had a group conflict, and how did you overcome this conflict?
  • Tell me about a situation where you directly impacted customer satisfaction.

What Is the STAR Method?

Under the 'Bias for Action' leadership principle, Jeff Bezos claims that: "speed matters in business." It's one of the most important Amazon leadership principles.

This attitude extends towards their interviews as well.

that seem to jump all over the place. They want you to be clear and concise, while still demonstrating a depth of understanding with clarity of thoughtYour interviewer won't appreciate meandering anecdotes.

That's why Amazon isn't secretive about its encouragement of something called the STAR method.

The STAR method is a way of answering these types of questions in a succinct, yet, complete way.

STAR stands for:

  • S - Situation
  • T - Task
  • A - Action
  • R - Results

So, for example, pretend your interviewer were to ask you to answer one of the most common Amazon behavioral interview questions, "tell me about a time you had to make a decision to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains."

You're advised to use the STAR method to make the most out of your answer without any rambling or confusing answers.

Explain the Situation

You'd begin by briefly describing the situation in which you had to make such a decision.

What was the context, how'd you know you needed to make the decision, etc.

What Task Did You Work On?

Elaborate on the necessary tasks involved with the decision to make short-term sacrifices.

Tasks are not actions you took, but rather general concepts.

What Action Did You Take?

Different from tasks, what specific actions did you take for the task?

If your task was to learn more about user behavior, your actions may be phone calls or surveys sent via email to users.

Share the Results

Finally, talk about the results that came as a result of your actions.

In this case, you'd focus on long-term gains.

Sample Answer Using the STAR Method

Here's a sample answer a member of the Exponent community gave to "Tell me about a time you made a mistake."

Situation: Let me tell you about a time where a website I managed suddenly showed slow performance. Our mistake was that it went unnoticed until a user reported the issue to management. As a PM for that project, I took full responsibility for the situation and worked with the engineering team to quickly resolve it.

Tasks: This mistake taught me the importance of focusing and monitoring non-functional requirements. That's in addition to new feature development /adoption where I usually spend my time.

Action: After deploying the quick fix, I ensured that such a mistake doesn’t get repeated. I did this by putting a good application management tool in place and set it up to receive email alerts and necessary Pagerduty alerts when website behavior exceeds set thresholds/SLAs. I personally took the effort to learn the tool myself to further analyze past issues and call out optimization areas to engineering.

Result: With that effort, we are able to show consistent page load times to be less than 3s. I also shared my learnings with other PMs in my team in a brown bag session so they could also benefit.

Using this method, your interviewer will learn a lot of useful information about you in a short amount of time. This answer goes beyond what an HR manager might have even listed in the job description.

Behavioral interview questions can often be directed at past situations that can be very complex, nuanced, or that require some context to fully understand.

But with the STAR method, you don't need to worry about leaving anything important out or wasting the interviewer's time with a long-winded response.

Tips For A Successful Amazon Behavioral Interview

It must be remembered that unlike other questions you'd be asked, there are no right answers, per se.

That is, there can be countless right answers, as it's based on your personal experiences.

However, there are several tips you can keep in mind to ensure an effective performance in your Amazon interview.

Do Your Research

First and foremost, you should do your research on the general scope of the behavioral questions you may be asked.While you'll never know exactly what questions you'll be asked, looking over the following list should give you a good idea about what you're up against.

Tip: Amazon interviewers have been known to give "pop quizzes" on the leadership principles, so be sure you can recite them as well as effectively answer behavioral questions.

Brainstorm Possible Situations

You should brainstorm possible situations from your previous experiences that you could use for these questions. If you read through our list of behavioral interview questions, you’ll get a good sense of what answers employers are generally looking for. You can use as a good starting point in your brainstorming.

Write the Situations Down & Flesh Them Out

After you’ve brainstormed relevant work experiences, write them down and flesh them out so that you're not stumbling to remember some of the details amid the questioning. Make sure to write them down according to the STAR method, as well, to make sure your answers are both concise and fully developed.

Study the Role You’re Applying For

Given Amazon's notoriously high standards for their hiring process, you should also do as much research as you can about the role you're applying for along with the work that the role's department/team actually does. Your interviewer is bound to ask questions aimed at evaluating if you're a culture fit, and your prior research will only help to make the best impression possible.

Not only that but your research regarding the role you're applying for can give you a good impression on the behavioral skills necessary for the job. And by extension, it can give you a good idea of the behavioral questions they may ask regarding those skills.

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