Acing Amazon's writing exercise

July 4, 2022

An unprecedented shift in the global workforce has caused many to rethink their career aims. Remote work has gained traction the world over, with the traditional office model falling by the wayside.
Acing Amazon's writing exercise

Certain companies lead the pack when it comes to offering remote work capabilities. One such company is an internet giant that has shaped the overall workforce as we know it: Amazon.

Amazon is one of the top performing companies globally. It’s no wonder competition is fierce for positions within this global powerhouse. According to one statistic, Amazon was recognized as the “most desirable workplace” in the United States for the second year running.

In order to be considered for certain positions within the company, a written exercise is administered. This serves as part of the hiring process for those interviewing for more senior positions within Amazon.

This writing piece is a crucial part of the hiring process and rightfully so. Amazon is a world-class company, and possessing the practical knowledge to succeed as an employee is one way in which this written assessment identifies top talent.

At MentorCruise, our article will help lay out what you need to know about the Amazon writing assessment in order to position yourself as a top candidate.

What Does the Process Look Like?

Submitting the written sample is a non-negotiable part of Amazon’s hiring process. The ability a candidate has to distill thoughts into writing is what this exercise seeks to determine.

Looking for perfect grammar and punctuation is not the primary goal of an Amazon writing sample. Rather, hiring executives are looking to find candidates that can express the experience they bring to the table in a clear way. Being able to communicate crucial information concisely via the written word is one of the top goals of this exercise.

The exercise is structured by 2 questions. Each candidate need only pick one question to answer and submit within the appropriate time frame. The answer should amount to no more than 4 pages, but a typical response generally evens out to about 2 pages.

Each candidate has the same 48-hour time period in which to craft a response to the question of their choice. This 48-hour period is given prior to the in person interview portion, and recruiters will typically send this out one week, at minimum, before the interview.

Evaluations are completed by a fairly straightforward set of criteria:

  • How concisely a candidate has expressed their answer

  • The flow of logic and ideas presented in the answer

Items to Remember

When starting the Amazon essay, it’s important to remember perfection is not the goal. There’s no need to add stress to the process if English is not your first language, or if you have trouble with syntax and grammar. Remember, it’s the ideas you’re conveying, not the writing itself per se.

When completing your piece, be sure to follow a structure outline known as PAR, which is short for Problem, Action and Result. PAR is a common formatting method used when answering behavioral interview questions. It’s commonly used by organizations because it allows space for candidates to answer questions in a thorough yet succinct way.

There is no exact right answer that will fit under the PAR umbrella. Rather, this method helps applicants describe specifics regarding what they can bring to the job. It helps a candidate tell a story that relates specifically to the position they’re applying for with logical, in depth examples.

In addition to helping a candidate explain their qualifications, it assists the hiring team to extrapolate information about how a candidate approaches their work.

How to Format Your Answer

When writing out your response, there are some guidelines to keep in mind that will make the process easier. Remember to avoid excessive use of bulleted points in your response and don’t include any sensitive or confidential information in your writing. Remember to outline which question you’re providing an answer to at the top of your document. Lastly, provide your written response through rich text format (Microsoft Word is a straightforward option to employ the rich text format).

If you’re unfamiliar with essay formatting by using the PAR approach, don’t worry. Let’s look at an example of how to structure your response. Upon completion, you should have five sections formatted out for your Amazon interview writing sample.

  1. Introduction

  2. Description of problem

  3. Description of action steps

  4. Descriptions of results due to action taken

  5. Conclusion summary of the above

Introduction

The introduction section is fairly straightforward. In this part, you will introduce the topic you’ve chosen to explore and a brief summary of what you will be writing about in the following sections.

This section doesn’t have to be lengthy – about four or five sentences should be enough to get the ball rolling.

Description of Problem

This section focuses on the ‘Problem’ part of the PAR format. You will be explaining the backstory of the problem you’ve chosen to explore.

In this section, you should provide full context of the situation. This particular part you can flesh out to be about a half-page worth of explanation. For example, the question you are asked might be something along the lines of “tell us about a time you took initiative to solve a problem at work that wasn’t yours to solve…”

In the description section, you would specify a recent example why the initiative was warranted. The next section you will provide the steps you took to rectify the situation.

Description of Action

Providing specifics in this part will help, such as what judgment calls you had to make in the process of coming to a conclusion. This section will house the majority portion of your writing. Feel free to go in depth and paint a solid picture of the steps you took to come to a resolution.

This section can help hiring teams glean whether or not candidates might be more task-focused or more solutions-oriented.

Results

Don’t be afraid to go all out in explaining the byproducts of your actions above. Regardless of the level of success in relation to the question asked, any information gleaned in this area will be helpful to the hiring team. This area can help determine whether or not candidates tend to be more results-oriented. Such information can help a team see if a candidate has good managerial skills or is better suited to team-oriented roles.

This section is great for displaying the outcome of your intentional action.

Conclusion

The final section should be no longer than a paragraph if possible. This part is simply to wrap up and summarize the details of the points you’ve covered above.

Write Thoughtfully

One of the most major benefits to this model of interviewing a candidate is the time in which each candidate has to thoughtfully craft a response. Regardless of the level of professionalism or job experience, we all tend to function differently under pressure. This written test provides a way to explain specific circumstances in your own time and with proper detail.

To score highly on the Amazon writing test, remember to utilize the following tips during the process:

  • Provide the most recent workplace example

  • Provide an example that fits for the role in question

  • Be as authentic with your answer as possible

  • Provide detail but don’t over explain

  • Avoid utilizing bullet points

  • Convey your answer honestly and succinctly

  • Don’t be afraid to point out challenging scenarios

We all deal with adversity on the job, being able to explain problems you’ve faced and how to overcome issues is a bonus in any role you take on.

The number one thing to remember when it comes to this assessment is the reason behind it. Written communication is a necessary skill in any profession, Amazon is no different. Fluency of the English language is not a high priority so much as your ability to convey your skills relevant to the job.

Example Question and Answer

Let’s look at an example answer if the following question was posed: “Please share about a time you handled a difficult team project.”

During my time at ABC Company, I worked in tandem with colleagues on a company wide software implementation program. Our manager at the time was spearheading operations and implementation. Our manager assigned each of my teammates and I different sections to work on to ensure a smooth, company-wide transition for utilization of this software.

Due to the large amount of data being handled by each of us, I set up bi-weekly meetings to ensure a smooth workflow and to address any ongoing concerns during the rollout.

Our manager appreciated the team effort we put into making sure the project was a success. The focus we all put on being team-centric helped to alleviate some of the stress from our manager’s shoulders. This allowed our team to not only finish the project, but complete it ahead of schedule.

The new software was successfully implemented on time, saving the company X amount of dollars year-over-year.

Enhancing Your Career

Reaching the written interview portion for a position at Amazon is an achievement in and of itself. If you’re looking to nab that promotion, having accountability and building on your leadership qualities can help.

At MentorCruise, we’re here to help you do just that. Our mentees work with committed mentors to build industry knowledge and enhance their business acumen. Working with experts might be just the thing you need to give you a competitive edge in a competitive job market.

If you’re looking to get training for the career you want, don’t hesitate to book an introductory call with our team. We’d love to help guide you through any questions you might have regarding your career shift. Our introductory calls last approximately 30 minutes in which we’ll explain how our mentorship programs works. We can’t wait to work with you and get you fast-tracked toward the career of your dreams! 

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