Sneak Peek: The three most common Amazon interview questions. Tell me about a time when...
- You solved a customer pain point. Watch Amazon PM's answer.
- You solved a complex problem. Watch Amazon TPM's answer.
- You raised the bar. Watch answer.
Ready to learn the ins and outs of Amazon's behavioral interviews? It's no secret that getting a job at the big tech companies is challenging. Even for product managers with years of experience, the behavioral questions can be intimidating.
In a way, interview processes at companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon are as famous as the companies themselves.
Amazon does things a little differently.
Applicants can expect to be asked a set of questions commonly referred to as behavioral interview questions.
Amazon puts an enormous emphasis on these questions as they strive to find candidates that will fit in with the company culture. Amazon relies much more on these questions than other FAANG companies like Apple or Facebook, where technical skills are generally weighed more heavily.
"I'd rather interview 50 people and not hire anyone than hire the wrong person." - Jeff Bezos, Founder and Former CEO, Amazon
Behavioral questions are difficult to improvise on the spot, so it'd be wise to prepare for them ahead of time. This article will allow you to do just that.
Table of Contents
- What are Behavioral Interview questions? — A quick introduction to Amazon behavioral interview questions and what they assess.
- What is the STAR Method? — A framework for answering behavioral questions effectively.
- What are Amazon's Leadership Principles? (with sample interview questions and answers) — A deep-dive into each of the 16 leadership principles Amazon uses to assess candidates and 50+ recently-asked interview questions. Practice, and example answer including several mock interview videos.
- Tips For A Successful Amazon Behavioral Interview
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Learn how to ace your Amazon interview with our in-depth look at the interview process, tips, and example interview questions.
What are the Amazon Behavioral Interview Questions?
Before we get down to it, we should probably explain what exactly a behavioral interview question is.
These 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 are looking to deduce your skillset, 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.
Some examples of Amazon behavioral interview questions include:
- Tell me about a time you solved a pain point for customers. Watch Amazon PM answer to this question.
- Tell me about a time you came up with a simple solution to a complex problem. Watch Amazon Program Manager's answer to this question.
- Tell me about a time when you raised the bar. Watch answer to this "Insist on the Highest Standards" interview question.
You'll find many more of these below.
What Is The STAR Method?
You may be asking yourself, what is the best way to answer behavioral interview questions?
Under the 'Bias for Action' leadership principle, Jeff Bezos claims that: "speed matters in business."
This attitude extends towards their interviews as well.
Your interviewer won't appreciate meandering anecdotes 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 thought.
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.
What are Amazon's Leadership Principles?
Use every behavioral question to demonstrate alignment with the Amazon's Leadership Principles.
Amazon is well known for its strict adherence to the management principles laid out by its CEO, Jeff Bezos. In fact, you'll likely see references to some of these principles in the job description for the role you apply to.
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, mostly written by Bezos himself and updated as recently as 2021, that its employees and the company overall are expected to uphold.
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The 16 Amazon Leadership Principles: An Overview
- Customer Obsession
- 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
- Earn Trust
- Dive Deep
- Have Backbone; Disagree & Commit
- Deliver Results
- Strive to be Earth's Best Employer (New in 2021)
- Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility (New in 2021)
Naturally, your interviewer will be listening closely to the examples of past performance you give in response to their behavioral questions, and how you've demonstrated Amazon 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 in-depth.
Leadership Principles In Practice: Examples of Amazon Behavioral Interview Questions
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
What does this mean at Amazon? "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."
Watch an Amazon PM answer the Customer Obsession question: "Tell me about a time you solved a pain point for customers."
- "Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a very difficult customer."
- "Describe a situation where you negotiated a win-win."
What does this mean at Amazon? "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."
Watch an Amazon TPM give a sample answer to the Ownership question: "Tell me about a time where you were dissatisfied with the status quo."
- "Tell me about a time you made a bold and difficult decision."
- "Describe a tough situation in which you had to step into a leadership role. "
- "Tell me about a tough decision you made during a project. "
3) Invent & Simplify
What does this mean at Amazon? "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."
- "Tell me about a time where you came up with a simple solution to a complex problem." Watch an expert answer this "Invent and Simplify" question.
- "Tell me about a time when you solved a complex problem and how you went about it?"
- "How do you handle roadblocks or obstacles?"
4) Are Right, A Lot
What does this mean at Amazon? "Leaders are right a lot. They have strong judgment and good instincts. They seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs."
Are Right A Lot: Instincts
Watch Stephen, Exponent CEO and Google PM, answer the "Are Right, A Lot" Amazon Leadership Principle question, "Tell me about a time you made a decision based on your instincts."
To submit your own answer for this question and get feedback, visit the answer in our interview question database.
- "Tell me about a time you made a decision based on your instincts." Watch an expert answer this "Are Right, A Lot" interview question.
- "Tell me about a time you had to make a decision without much customer data."
- "Tell me about a time when you had to convince team members on something you proposed."
5) Learn and Be Curious
What does this mean at Amazon? "Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them."
- "Tell me about a skill you recently learned." Watch an expert answer this "Learn and Be Curious" question.
- "Tell me about a time you built out a process."
- "Tell me about a time you exceeded expectations."
6) Hire and Develop the Best
What does this mean at Amazon? "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 for development like Career Choice."
- "Tell me about a time you had a conflict with someone. How did you resolve it and what did you learn?"
- "Tell me about a time when you fired someone."
7) Insist on the Highest Standards
What does this mean at Amazon? "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."
Highest Standards: Raising the Bar
Watch Stephen, Exponent CEO and Google PM, answer the "Insist on the Highest Standards" Amazon Leadership Principle question "Tell me about a time when you raised the bar."
To submit your own answer for this question and get feedback, visit the answer in our interview question database.
- "Tell me about a time when you raised the bar." Watch an expert answer this "Insist on the Highest Standards" interview question.
- "Tell me about a time you had to make a decision to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains."
- "Tell me about a time when you made a decision based on data and you were ultimately wrong."
- "As a manager, how do you handle tradeoffs?"
8) Think Big
What does this mean at Amazon? "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."
- "Tell me about a time where you came up with a simple solution to a complex problem." Watch an expert answer this "Think Big" interview question.
- "Tell me about your greatest success."
- "Tell me about a time you were creative."
- "Tell me about a time when you solved a problem innovatively."
9) Bias for Action
What does this mean at Amazon? "Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking."
- "If you have to work on 5 different projects, how do you prioritize?"
- "How have you convinced others to take action? "
- "How have you managed risk in a project?"
What does this mean at Amazon? "Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, and invention. There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size, or fixed expense."
Frugality: Turning Down Resources
- "Tell me about a time you turned down more resources to complete a project."
- "Tell me about a time you faced technical and people challenges at the same time."
- "Tell me about a time you had to accomplish big results with very little budget."
11) Earn Trust
What does this mean at Amazon? "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."
- "Tell me about a time you made a mistake."
- "Can you give me an example of how you manage conflict?"
- "How do you earn the trust of your team members?"
12) Dive Deep
What does this mean at Amazon? "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."
- "Tell me about a time when you had a problem and you had to go through several hoops to discover the root cause." Watch a former Google PM answer this "Dive Deep" question.
- "Tell me about the most complex project you've worked on."
- "How have you changed an opinion or direction using data? "
- "Tell me about a time when you were able to make a decision without having much data metrics in hand."
13) Have Backbone; Disagree & Commit:
What does this mean at Amazon? "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."
- "Tell me about a time you disagreed with someone and how you resolved it."
- "Tell me about a time when you had a disagreement with your manager."
- "How you you manage difficult conversations?"
14) Deliver Results
What does this mean at Amazon? "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."
Deliver Results: Tell me about your proudest project
Watch Stephen, Exponent CEO and Google PM, answer the "Deliver Results" Amazon Leadership Principle question "Tell me about your proudest project."
- "Tell me about a time when you worked on a project with a tight deadline."
- "Describe a challenging project you worked on and why it was challenging."
- "How do you prioritize?"
15) Strive to be Earth's Best Employer
What does this mean at Amazon? "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."
- "Tell me about a time when you had to motivate a team after a demoralizing event."
- "Tell me about a time when an employee gave you negative feedback."
- "Tell me about a time you had to mediate a conflict."
16) Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility
What does this mean at Amazon? "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."
- "Tell me about a time you had a problem and had to discover the real cause."
- "Describe a time when your project failed."
- "Tell me about a time you were not satisfied with the status quo."
Want more? Give these bonus practice questions a try:
- 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.
For even more on the subject, John Rossman wrote a remarkably helpful book that explains in detail what each leadership principle is and why they're important to Amazon's business philosophy. Give it a read, and you should have no problem impressing your interviewer with your clear understanding of the leadership principles during your Amazon interview.
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.
Consult With an Exponent Coach
Here at Exponent, we understand that it may be both extremely exciting and nerve-wracking when you have an Amazon behavioral interview just on the horizon. That's why we put together some Interview Prep Courses for Product Management, Software Engineering, Data Science, Product Marketing Management, and many more.
Alongside our courses, we also offer industry-leading interviewing coaching to help you
- Get an insider’s look from someone who’s been interviewed, got the offer, and worked at the companies you’re applying at.
- Receive an objective evaluation of where you stand as a job candidate.
- Obtain personalized feedback and coaching to help improve and get more job offers.
A few of our coaches have even worked at Amazon, so you can trust that they know exactly what you need to do to prepare. If you're interested, be sure to check out the profiles of former Amazon interviewers Abhishek Joshi, Sai Boddupalli, and Vichitra Kidambi to request a coaching session today.