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If you’re preparing for an interview for your dream job, here are some tried-and-tested tips to help you give your best performance. These tips come from interviewing over 500 candidates when I worked for Amazon, and working 1:1 with almost 150 clients since I became a professional interview coach.
Ed Jackson

Executive Coach & Consultant, ex-Amazon, ex-Microsoft, ex-Cisco

I’m Ed, an interview coach and former Sales Leader at Amazon. I make my living from helping people to be successful in job interviews. I can’t turn terrible candidates into great ones, but I can help the good ones put in a great performance. I’ve run 1:1 interview coaching sessions with 145 clients in the last 12 months, and 107 (74%) of them landed job offers. This compares to a typical success rate of 40%-45% which I see for uncoached candidates.

In this article, I’ll share 5 top tips to help you stand out in your job interview, focusing on how to answer behavioural interview questions. These are heavily used by Amazon, where I used to work. But they’re used by other companies too, and experience tells me that these tips will help you in an interview with pretty much any company you apply to.


Before I started coaching full time, I worked for Amazon Web Services (AWS) for 10 years. Amazon grew incredibly quickly during that time. In fact it could barely hire people fast enough to keep up. It was all hands to the pumps: everyone at Amazon was expected to contribute to the hiring effort, by spending time interviewing candidates.

Most candidates will have interviews with 4 or 5 Amazonians. One of them is an Amazon Bar Raiser (BR). BRs are senior, tenured Amazonians who make sure that only the right people are hired: people who will be effective, long-term fits for Amazon. The BR is the most powerful person on the interview panel. If the BR doesn’t rate the candidate, they don’t get hired.

I was a BR for 5 years. In that time, I interviewed 520 people who’d applied for jobs at Amazon. I interviewed every type of applicant, for every type of role, in every part of Amazon. I left Amazon in 2022, and now spend my time on the other side of the fence, as a self-employed interview coach. Here are my 5 biggest tips to help you succeed in your next job interview.


Don’t just say, I did X, then I did Y, and then I did Z. Instead, try this: “I realised that I needed to do 3 things: first, I did X. The second thing I did was Y. And third, I did Z.” I like candidates who use numbered lists in their narrative. It shows good preparation, analytical thinking and structured communication. And it makes it easy for the interviewer to write up their interview notes.

How many items should you include in your numbered lists? Well, 2-3 is generally a good number. People often think in twos and threes. Maybe four. More than four might be overkill.

You can use numbered lists in different parts of your story. You might say, “I identified 3 challenges which I had to tackle”; and later “I saw 3 results from the new campaign which we launched”; or “We categorized our customers into 3 types of company.” After each of these statements, list the 3 things slowly enough for the interviewer to write them down.

You may need to write out your lists in advance. It takes an incredibly agile mind to talk through multiple numbered lists if you haven’t thought it through beforehand. No-one wants to see a candidate reading from a full script, but glancing at a few bullet-points in your notebook is perfectly acceptable. It shows good preparation and a grasp of the commercial impact of your work.


Nearly every client I work with is guilty of using jargon, abbreviations or acronyms which I don’t understand. “We considered the LOA.” Do you mean leave of absence, or letter of approval? Or something else? “We recommended a combination of EC2 and S3.” What does that mean?

You probably use abbreviations every day with your colleagues or customers. Your interviewer might know what they mean, but they might not, because maybe they work in a different field from yours. So the first time you want to use an abbreviation, define it. “I spoke to the Chief Information Security Officer, or CISO, and outlined my concerns.” The next time you use it, it’s fine just to say ‘CISO’. Or, “You probably know that every car has its own unique identification number, which is called a VIN, or vehicle identification number. So I started by going through the list of VINs in our system.”

This may sound simplistic but you can lose your listener very quickly by using terms they don’t understand. Sometimes interviewers will think, I should probably know what VIN means, but I don’t, and I can’t ask because I’d feel foolish. So spare them their embarrassment, avoid any chance of confusion, and define your abbreviations the first time you use them.


Don’t lose your interviewer right at the beginning of your answer. Don’t start with, “We had to load our stock levels into Stockify by 9.30 but this was taking too long, and we were getting too many late notices.” When was this? What was your role, what were your responsibilities, and who do you mean by ‘we’? What is Stockify, and what’s a late notice?

Use simple language to make sure you’re not bamboozling your interviewer before you’ve even got going. Try this: “I work for ABC Co. We sell cleaning products to companies across New York and New Jersey. I’m a manager in the Inventory department. Our suppliers send deliveries to our bit of the warehouse, and we get them ready for our drivers to ship them out that day. I manage a team of 4 people, and we’re responsible for making sure that we hold the right levels of stock to fulfil the deliveries. So we do a daily stock-take, where we count everything. We log it all in our stock-management system, which is called Stockify. If we don’t do this by 9.30 every morning, our procurement team doesn’t know what to re-order in tomorrow’s delivery. If we miss the 9.30 cut-off, we get something called a ‘late notice’, which is like a warning that our stock-take is taking too long.”

I just read these two versions of the story out loud to myself, with the stopwatch going. The first one took 8 seconds. The longer version took 40 seconds. But the extra 32 seconds of information means that the interviewer doesn’t have to spend the next 3 minutes asking more questions to clarify what I meant. Invest time in the start of your story, and use simple language where you can. You may be able to speed up a bit after that, once you know the interviewer is following you, but don’t mess up the start by assuming what the interviewer knows. Start your story like you’re talking to your friend, or your aunt, or a neighbour.


Amazon believes that the best way of predicting how a job candidate will perform is by finding out how they performed in the past. That’s why they rely on behavioural interview questions. It’s easy for a candidate to say, “In that situation I would do X and Y.” But that won’t give the interviewer 100% confidence that they’d actually do that, if they get this job.

So an interviewer might ask, “If you get this job as Marketing Manager, what would you do in the first 90 days?” This is a hypothetical question. The candidate could say, “In the first month I would analyse our customers’ spend, and segment it by product line. Then in month 2, I’d start to create campaign outlines based on customer type, industry and spending patterns.”

But consider answering it like this instead. “Let me answer that by telling you what I did in the first 90 days of my current job. I think it will be a good illustration of how I’ve tackled a similar challenge in the past. When I joined ABC Co in 2020 as Marketing Executive, the department was growing fast and we didn’t have enough data on our customers’ spending habits. So I spent the first month analysing our customer’s spend, and segmenting it by product line.” And so on.

It’s more useful to hear what a candidate did before than to let them muse on what they think they might do in the future. It also gives you, the candidate, a chance to talk about what went well and what didn’t, last time around. “One of the things I learnt from this exercise was that X cost a lot of money with limited results, but Y and Z generated a much better return for the money we spent on them. In 2021, I repeated the exercise but focused on Y and Z this time, which generated 30% more pipeline than we’d seen in 2018. This is definitely the approach I would take next time.”


OK. This is my best tip, which is why I’ve kept it to the end. A great way to prove what you’ve achieved in your professional past is to back it up with numbers - like how much time or money you saved the company, or how much revenue you brought in.

Behavioural questions often begin with, “Tell me about a time when…”. So for “Tell me about a time when you exceeded a goal you were given”, you might have a great story about beating your annual sales target in 2021. Most of your story is how you did it - like, you spent January analysing and planning; you spent the next 3 months prospecting and kicking off your customer engagements; and over the next 8 months you executed your plan by closing some great deals. That’s most of the story. But the proof is in the numbers, and this is how you should finish off the story: “I had a target of $2.0M but I brought in $2.3M, which is 115% of quota. I delivered 48% year-on-year growth in my sales territory, which was the 2nd best performance out of the 34 people in my team. I met 11 of my 12 technology sales goals, which was better than any of my peers.”

You’ll need to write down the numbers in your notebook, when you’re preparing for the interview. Don't turn your interview into a memory test.

The numbers which back up your story are the proof that you did what you say you did. They reinforce your credentials as a strong candidate. Powerful metrics include 1/increased revenue ($ or %), 2/cost savings ($ or %), and 3/time savings (man-hours, days, or weeks).

You can also include some non-quantitative proof-points in your stories. If I’m interviewing a candidate who doesn’t have the metrics I’m asking for, I’ll give them a chance to prove their impact some other way. “What feedback did you get from your boss? What feedback did you get from your customer? Did it help you get promoted? Did any of your peers adopt your new approach?” This isn’t quantifiable, but it’s still ‘data’ and it might make your story even better.

One final point on metrics. Don’t disclose $ figures if they’re commercially sensitive. The interviewer won’t hire someone who’s happy to give out confidential information from their current employment. Sometimes it’s better to use percentages instead. “I can’t disclose how much my customers spent last year, but I did 115% of my sales target. And I generated savings of 7% on my team’s annual marketing budget while increasing the number of sales leads by 22%.”


To see how I can help you land your dream job, you can book a session with me today. My coaching sessions are tailored to the individual candidate, and I focus on your individual areas for improvement. You can find me on the MentorCruise website (https://mentorcruise.com/mentor/edjackson/) or on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/edwardwilliamjackson/). I’m very happy to have an initial chat, at no cost and without obligation, if you’re not sure what help you need. Good luck!

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