Acing Amazon interview questions

Aug. 17, 2021

Want to ace your Amazon interview? Practice answering the right questions.

Acing Amazon interview questions

Generally, Amazon asks these three main types of questions:

  • Questions related to the 16 Amazon leadership principles.
  • Behavioral questions.
  • Competency-based questions.

Like in every interview, you need to take the time to prepare, learn what they are looking for, and present yourself in the best way you can.

The good news is, we have the answers on how to do just that right here. You’ll be acing the Amazon interview questions in no time.

At MentorCruise, we will guide you through:

  • What to expect from Amazon’s hiring process
  • A rundown of Amazon’s leadership principles (you NEED to know these!)
  • The winning technique to answering Amazon interview questions
  • Example questions and answers using the STAR technique

Let’s dive in…

A brief overview of the Amazon hiring process

The first thing to note is that the hiring process with Amazon is lengthy. That’s not to scare you off, only to prepare you.

There are many different departments that all have slightly different hiring processes, but the fundamentals are similar across the board, so let’s have a look at them…

Online applications

All applications to Amazon start in the same place, on the amazon.job hub. Here you will create an account and upload your CV or LinkedIn profile.

Top Tip: Make sure you use keywords in your CV or LinkedIn profile that are relevant to the job you are applying for. Have a thorough read of the job description and make sure you are using similar descriptions and phrasing for the work you have done.

Amazon Online Assessment

In addition to your application, you will be required to do an online assessment. Amazon is looking for candidates that not only have the skills for the job but also a commitment to the company’s values. This is their first step to assessing if you meet their base requirements.

The tests vary but will more than likely include at least one of Work Style Assessment and Work Sample Situations.

Work Style Assessment – This will be a list of statements, and you will be asked to select which statement best describes you. This gives Amazon a quick insight into your professional working style. It will usually take around 20 minutes.

Word Sample Situation – This will be specific to the role that you are applying for and will be a virtual task that you need to complete. This section can take up to an hour to complete.

Top Tip: Amazon’s job postings are very comprehensive so read them carefully as they will be the best pre indicator of what kind of assessments and questions you will be asked.

Once you get through the online assessments your next step will be going through the all-important interview process. We’ll dive into a bit more detail on this below, but what you can expect is:

  • Direct communication with HR Recruiters – their first step will be a call with HR

  • One or two interviews over the phone – next you will have one or a few calls with the relevant hiring team

  • Writing a one- or two-page essay – this is in preparation for your in-person interview and could be on something like “how do you bring creativity to your work?”

  • Six to seven onsite interviews – yes, it’s lengthy! But these are generally packed into one full day of interviews at the Amazon offices

Amazon’s interview process focuses primarily on two key areas of questioning – leadership questions (based around their leadership principles), competency-based questions and behavioral questions.

Let’s take a deeper dive into what questions you are likely to face in an Amazon Interview, and the best way to answer them.

What are the Amazon Leadership Principles?

First, let’s get to grips with what exactly are Amazon’s leadership principles!

Amazon’s leadership principles are the core values that every employee at the company is expected to follow and exemplify. They are also used in Amazon’s hiring process to ensure they are only hiring people that will meet and implement these principles in their day-to-day working.

Why are these leadership principles important to know? Because they are the key foundation that Amazon is built on and are what a good portion of Amazon’s interview questions will cover.

There are 16 leadership principles that Amazon are looking for:

  • Customer Obsession – Amazon wants leaders with a customer-first outlook. Everything is designed to earn and keep the customer’s trust.

  • Ownership – Amazon leaders are long-term thinkers that do not compromise for short-term gains. They act for the entire team and never have a “that’s not my job” attitude.

  • Invent and Simplify – Amazon leaders get innovation and invention from their teams and are always looking to simplify. They recognize that ideas can come from anywhere (even outside the company) and that it takes time for those new ideas to settle.

  • Are Right, a Lot – Amazon leaders have good instincts and strong judgments. This makes them right a lot of the time. They do this by seeking diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs.

  • Learn and Be Curious – Amazon leaders are always looking to learn and improve themselves. They are curious and actively explore new possibilities.

  • Hire and Develop the Best – Amazon leaders recognize exceptional talent and raise the performance bar with every new hire. They take pride in training new leaders and helping them move through the organization.

  • Insist on the Highest Standards – Amazon leaders have incredibly high standards and are constantly moving the bar higher. They ensure issues are solved quickly and permanently and drive their team to deliver high-quality products, services, and processes.

  • Think Big – Thinking small delivers small. Amazon leaders create and communicate bold directions that inspire results and are always looking for better ways to serve customers.

  • Bias for Action – Amazon leaders take calculated risks and recognize that speed matters in business.

  • Frugality – Amazon leaders accomplish more with less. They use their constraints to be resourceful, self-sufficient, and inventive.

  • Earn Trust – Amazon leaders listen attentively, speak honestly, and treat everyone with respect.

  • Dive Deep – Amazon leaders are across every detail of their team’s operation. They audit frequently and benchmark themselves against the best.

  • Have Backbone; Disagree, and Commit – Amazon leaders will voice their opinions and disagree, when necessary, even if it is uncomfortable to do so. They are tenacious, but once a decision is made, they follow through and commit fully.

  • Deliver Results – Amazon leaders always deliver on quality and in a timely fashion. Setbacks don’t stop them, they rise to the occasion and never settle.

  • Strive to be Earth’s Best Employer – Amazon leaders work every day to create a safer, more productive, higher-performing, more diverse, and more just work environment.

  • Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility – Amazon leaders recognize the impact they and the company have on the world and the responsibility that comes with it. This even stretches to secondary effects from actions undertaken by the team. They create more than they consume and leave things better than the way they found them.

Your interviewer will expect you to know them and be able to tailor your answers to show how you exhibit the qualities they are looking for from this list.

Don’t worry, we’ll break down how to do this in more detail below…

Understanding the different types of Amazon interview questions

As we’ve mentioned, Amazon’s interview process focuses primarily on three key areas of questioning: leadership questions, behavioral questions, and competency-based questions.

While most of Amazon’s questions will revolve around the first two, if you are interviewing for a particularly technical job, then they will also ask competency-based questions about your technical skills.

Before we dive into our two key question strategies, let’s look at some quick tips for acing the Amazon interviews:

Fast interview tips

If you feel like you need help or personal guidance from either someone who’s in a similar position to the one you’re applying for at Amazon, or more senior than you, MentorCruise has a wide variety of mentors from the tech industry to help you succeed. That said, there are already some things that you can do to get ahead of the curve.

1.Do your research

You want to know about the company and the job you are interviewing for in detail. What is their culture like, what are they looking for from their staff, etc? Amazon has a culture centered around customer obsession, as we’ve noted above, so keep that in mind.

They’re also not shy about letting you know what they are looking for, so prepare for that. Reading this article is a great first step, but there’s always more you can do.

2.Use the STAR technique for answering questions

The STAR technique for answering the Amazon interview questions is a tried and tested method. We break this technique down for you in more detail below. Learn it and use it, trust us, it will make all the difference.

3. Involve closed-loop thinking

A closed-loop thinking framework involves understanding how your actions have had an effect on the process and operations you may have been tangentially part of. When answering Amazon’s interview questions, make sure to mention how your efforts have benefited your company and team in some capacity.

4.Describe, don’t just tell

Not going into enough detail with your answers is a common mistake people make. Interviewers want the detail and the data. They want to know who was working on the project, how you achieved it, and what the tangible results were

5.It’s all about you, so focus on “I” not “we”

You are not in an interview to sell your team; you are there to sell yourself. Your interviewer will know you won’t have done the job on your own, but this is your opportunity to talk about what you do well and how you helped achieve quantifiable results.

6.Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification

If you don’t understand the question, or you need more information before you can answer it properly then don’t be afraid to ask for more. Your interviewer is looking for that engagement, not for you to stumble your way through an answer hoping it’s the right one for them.

7.Don’t be afraid of your failures

Our failures are what make us who we are and help us grow. They shouldn’t be brushed over. Talking about your failures and how you overcome them tells your interviewer a lot about who you are, which is exactly what they are looking for.

Now that you have those fast tips in the back of your mind, let’s start to dive deeper into the kind of questions you will be asked in your interview and how to answer them.

Leadership questions

As we’ve spoken about, Amazon puts a lot of stock in their leadership principles and will ask you plenty of questions that directly explore how you have shown the qualities they are looking for.

Here are some examples of the questions they will ask:

  • “Tell me about a time you had to deal with a disgruntled customer” (customer obsession)

  • “Tell me about a time you did something at work that wasn’t a part of your usual duties” (ownership)

  • “Tell me about a time you simplified a complex process?” (invent and simplify)

  • “Tell me about a time when you got it wrong?” (are right, a lot)

  • “Tell me about a time you took what you consider to be a calculated risk at work” (bias for action)

  • “Tell me about a decision you made that no one else agreed with” (have backbone)

You get the idea.

Spending some time before your interview thinking about examples from your own experience that match their leadership principles will go a long way in helping you shine in the room.

They could ask about any of the leadership principles so it’s worth having a couple of examples of each in your pocket.

Below we will go through exactly how to structure your answers to these questions using the STAR technique and to highlight your leadership qualities.

Behavioral questions

First, let’s look at what exactly is a behavioral interview question?

They are questions designed to look at your past behavior and performance in your working environment. These types of questions are popular with companies like Amazon because they can (and do) reveal a lot about you and the way you work with others.

They also give a deeper insight into your skills, how you might perform as a part of their team, and whether you will be a good fit for their workplace culture.

Here are some examples of some behavioral questions:

  • “Why Amazon?”

  • “Tell me about your proudest professional achievement.”

  • “Tell me about a time when you identified a problem with a process and fixed it”

  • “What would you consider to be your biggest weakness?”

  • Tell me about a time you made a mistake?

Again, thinking about these kinds of questions before your interview is important.

“Why Amazon?” is a particular favorite question they ask, and one where they are looking for a bit more than, ‘because it is an exciting company with an opportunity to work for a large-scale company’. They want to know how Amazon fits into your career path and goals, how you can give back to the organization, and what you’re wanting to learn from them.

Competency-based interview questions

As a quick addition - for anyone applying and interviewing for a more technical orientated job like a software engineer then there will also be competency-based interview questions.

These are, you’ll be surprised to hear, designed to determine your level of skill and competency in the area you are applying for.

Example questions could be:

  • How would YOU design a warehouse management system for Amazon?

  • How would YOU design Amazon.com to handle 10x more traffic?

  • How would YOU design TinyURL?

Using the STAR technique to answer the questions

Time matters, especially in an Amazon interview!

Spending time giving long elaborate answers to their questions is not what they are looking for. The interviewers want clear, concise answers that show you have understood the question and have a depth of knowledge and expertise in your answer.

At MentorCruise we have a tried and tested method for doing just that - the STAR technique.

Simply put you break your answers down into four clear sections:

  • Situation

  • Task

  • Action

  • Results

Let’s break these down…

Situation

First, you want to outline the situation you are going to talk about. Set the scene so to speak for the story you are going to tell and the problem you are going to solve.

Example answer: Let me tell you about the time a customer was unhappy because their shipment was running late due to an unexpected error in our auto shipping protocols. As the PM I took full responsibility.

Task

Next, you want to talk about what you needed to do to fix the situation. The task you set out for yourself to meet the customer’s needs.

Example answer: My first task was to fulfill the shipment asap, and then ascertain the issue before it affected any other shipments and remove the risk of it ever happening again. I was also keen to safeguard against anything like this slipping through the net in the future and have a process whereby we could catch any errors before the customer notices an issue.

Action

Now you talk about the actions you took to complete the tasks you outlined.

Example answer: As the auto shipping protocols were new, and most of my previous experience was in manual fulfillment, it was a quick and easy job to get the items delivered to the customer promptly. Next, I set about finding the cause of the error (which was a glitch centered on one particular item) and corrected the issue. I wanted to protect against missing something like this again in the future, so I added a step to our standard procedure which is a small safety check when an order is taken.

Results

And finally, outline the results of your actions.

Example answer: The customer was pleased we managed to fix the delivery issue so quickly, and I’m proud to say that since adding the safety check to our process we haven’t had any issues since.

Using the STAR technique really is your ideal ticket to giving clear, concise and answers that give the interviewer great insight into you and how your work.

To help cement this method in your mind, let’s have a look at a few more examples of it in action for both behavioral questions and leadership questions…

Sample answers

Behavioral questions and answers

Question 1

Tell me about your proudest professional achievement.

Answer 1

S. I remember I was leading a design project for a new product that I had been working on for over a year. We were finally ready to present it to the rest of the company and launch the product. However, the night before our big presentation I decided to do one last test and discovered a major issue with the design. I knew that the presentation had to go well the next day as the product was scheduled to launch in the coming weeks so this was a big issue with next to no time to fix.

T. I set about trying to work out how the issue had passed us by, and how we might overcome it.

A. Working solidly through the night I, and the rest of my team thankfully, tweaked and tested the design over and over until that underlying issue was resolved and the whole thing worked perfectly.

R. The presentation the following day went without a hitch, and the product was launched soon after. In fact, that product ended up being our best seller that year. I am thankful that I decided to do that one last test and proud of the team around me and the work we put in that night, in particular, to get the job done.

Question 2

Tell me about a time when you identified a problem with a process and fixed it.

Answer 2

S. Not so long ago my previous company was still using paper invoices sent by post. It was a time-consuming process for us, and many of our customers took advantage of this method by claiming to have not received invoices. This meant we often had very overdue invoices and erratic payment schedules, which caused many issues for the company’s cash flow.

T. I knew there would be a better way of handling this, and after a little research, I found a great solution in Invoicely, which would streamline and digitize our invoicing process and track receipt and payment times.

A. I put together a presentation outlining the benefits of using the software and pitched it to the board.

R. They agreed to implement a test of the application on a few clients. It quickly became clear to them that processing our invoices in this way made a huge difference to not only productivity and efficiency, but also ensured payment on time from our clients. It was then immediately implemented across the entire client base.

Question 3

What would you consider to be your biggest weakness?

Answer 3

S. I have always suffered from a lack of confidence when it comes to public speaking. I was asked to give a presentation to the board on the project that I had been working on as it had gone particularly well, and they wanted to understand my process better to replicate across the company.

T. While I had prepared thoroughly and knew the information inside out when it came to the actual presentation my nerves got the better of me.

A. Giving presentations is not a part of my everyday job, but I am aware that it is a skill that is worth delivering, and a fear I am working to overcome. I am currently reading a book called ‘The Art of Public Speaking’ by Dale Carnegie to do just that.

R. I believe that no matter how old you are or how much experience you have, there is always some self-development that can be done, and this can only be positive for you, the company you work for, and the people around you.

Leadership questions and answers

Question 1

Tell me about a time you had to deal with a disgruntled customer

Answer 1

S. My previous role was client-facing and I was their main point of contact for the company. One client in particular I remember was becoming increasingly difficult, constantly changing their requirements, making unrealistic demands, and becoming more and more irate with us each time he called. When we spoke, he was rude and claimed we didn’t know what we were doing.

T. I knew how important his business was to our company, and I am not one to take these things personally, so I set about trying to build a good relationship with him without compromising or deviating from the agreed work we were doing for him.

A. At every step, I was calm and worked hard to try to find common ground. I asked questions to see what his end goal was for the project and explained our processes and reason for working the way that we do and how it will benefit his company.

R. Over time I managed to win him around, allowing us to deliver the work to the original specifications, and him being delighted with the end result. He has been a regular customer ever since.

Question 2

Tell me about a time you did something at work that wasn’t a part of your usual duties

Answer 2

S. It wasn’t that long ago that I was finishing up work late on a Friday when the company’s website went down suddenly and for no apparent reason. This was particularly bad timing as we had a big launch of a new product scheduled for the following Monday. We didn’t have an in-house IT department, but it still needed to be fixed asap. My boss asked for any volunteers to stay and help fix the issue, and I volunteered.

T. I’ll be honest, I had very little knowledge of websites at the time, but I put a plan together and set about trying to find a solution online.

A. After much searching I managed to find a freelance website developer with the expertise to fix the issue on Upwork. After some quick communication, I liaised with the freelancer to try to find the root cause and to bring the website back online. Eventually, we discovered that the website had been hacked due to some out-of-date plugins.

We quickly updated these and got the website back online that very same evening.

R. We had no issues with the website for the launch of the product on Monday. Something being outside of my responsibility or even expertise doesn’t stop me from offering to help. I see it as an opportunity to learn something new and broaden my skill base.

Question 3

Tell me about a time you took what you consider to be a calculated risk at work

Answer 3

S. I was working to a particularly tight deadline on a project that needed delivering on a Monday. In order to meet the deadline, I had to work over the weekend. On Saturday, however, my company laptop refused to turn on. Come what may, I could not get the laptop to work.

T. Fortunately all of my work was backed up on the cloud, but I still had the deadline to meet and no laptop to work on. My company only allowed purchases of up to $300 before having to get approval from your line manager. My line manager, however, was unavailable.

A. I decided to take the risk and buy a laptop as I knew that waiting for approval would mean missing the deadline, which would reflect negatively on the company, and potentially lose future business.

R. It was a calculated risk and one that I would happily do again. I got the work done, and fortunately, my line manager had no issue with me taking that decision. I do not take risks lightly, and will only do so if I believe it is of benefit to the company, but am not afraid to take them when the need arises.

Get ahead with the right mentor

The bottom line is preparation is key. Getting to grips with what the process entails, what interview questions may come up, and familiarizing yourself with Amazon’s leadership principles are all important steps for your preparation.

Then, once you’re in the room, utilizing the STAR technique will be your key to really acing Amazon’s interview questions.

MentorCruise can help you go the extra mile with your interview prep. We have a wide range of resources available, and our mentors are on hand to guide you every step of the way.

Good luck, we have no doubt you’ll nail it!

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