At MentorCruise, we’ve published this guide to help Amazon interviewees effectively answer questions relating to their leadership principle: “Insist on the highest standards.”
The principle, in Amazon’s words
“Leaders have relentlessly high standards — many people may think these standards are unreasonably high. Leaders are continually raising the bar and driving 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.”
What does insist on the highest standards mean?
Amazon is known for having high standards. This means that they will only look for the most qualified people to be part of their team; however, Amazon also goes beyond just qualifications and looks at qualities like initiative.
Some companies will hire you simply because you showed up on time, but Amazon wants more than that. They want someone who can take the initiative to get their work and someone who will bring the team up.
The Seattle-based company has been around since 1994 and initially sold just books. Today, Amazon is a multinational business that sells everything from electronics to clothing. With such a large selection of goods for sale, Amazon could hardly stay afloat if they hired just anyone. It takes people with excellent skills and unique perspectives to build the type of organization that Amazon has become.
How does this principle benefit Amazon?
Amazon employees consistently outperform those of other companies because they are given more opportunities with every task that is assigned to them. This means that it is suitable for the company but also benefits the employee because they can grow and gain more skills. While other companies may work at a slower pace, Amazon is constantly striving for excellence and works hard to achieve it.
Amazon’s success is attributed to its leadership principle of insisting on the highest standards combined with putting employees first.
Have other companies adapted this leadership principle?
Many businesses have adopted Amazon’s leadership principle because it is beneficial to the company and to their employees. While it may not be something that can be done in every business, it allows for growth while keeping the standards high. It creates a great work culture that benefits both leaders and employees.
Amazon looks for people who are not only willing to learn but who are proactive in their approach. They want someone who is willing to suggest new ideas and can take the initiative. Finally, they look for managers who could lead by example and encourage others to do so as well.
Sample questions related to “Insist on the highest standards”
- Tell me about a time when you didn’t give up on accomplishing a fantastic result despite the fact that others thought something was already fine enough. What was the scenario? What was your role?
- Imagine that you’ve been given the task of redesigning the company’s filing system, and it is due in two weeks. What will your approach be to completing this project?
- Why did you decide to join Amazon, and what do you believe you can contribute to our team?
- What would your former employer say about how well you handled “high standards”?
- How do you handle stress and high expectations?
- What would it take for you to set a date by which you’ll be able to complete this task?
- Would other people describe you as someone who takes the initiative and has leadership qualities/skills? Why or why not?
- Do you think our customers expect us to meet high standards? Why or why not?
- If you were to hire someone for this role, what qualities would you look for?
- Tell me about a time when you had to take the lead.
- Describe a situation when your work was criticized. What did you learn from this?
- How would you handle criticism of a project or idea that you put a lot of time into?
- How does it benefit the employee as well as the company?
- How do you handle deadlines or strict timelines?
- Why is it important to give employees opportunities for growth?
When it comes to the “tell me about a time” questions, make sure to describe your experience in detail. You want to answer these questions with further information so that the interviewer knows who they are considering for the role.
For example, when asked, “What would your former employer say about how well you handled high standards?” saying something like “They would say I always meet deadlines and get my work done on time.” does not demonstrate that you know how to handle high standards. You want to give specific examples like: “They would say that I was often asked to take on additional responsibilities, such as taking on tasks from people who had left the company.”
When answering any of these questions, be sure to give specific examples of your experience.
When it comes to “How would you handle…” questions, think about the situations that are presented and how you would respond. You want to appear confident in yourself but also show the interviewer that you have good problem-solving skills.
Sample answers using the STAR framework
Using the STAR framework to answer these questions will make your answers much clearer and more concise. This will make it easier to remember the key points you want to bring up in your response, which is essential when you have a limited amount of time to interview.
In addition, STAR stands for:
S – Situation or task that you faced
T – Task that you needed to accomplish
A – Actions that you took
R – Results or outcomes of your actions
Question 1: Tell me about a time when you didn’t give up on accomplishing a fantastic result despite the fact that others thought something was already fine enough. What was the scenario? What was your role?
Situation: “I was working on a project with three other people, and we were given an extremely tight deadline. The others in the group said that we should just meet the minimum requirements since it’s almost impossible to accomplish everything in such a short time period.”
Task: “My goal was to get the project done to a high standard without making it seem like we were rushing through it.”
Actions: “I approached my group members and offered to take on some of their tasks. I also told them that I thought we could get more done if we each worked on our own specialities instead of splitting up what everyone had been working on.
After everyone went back to their designated tasks, I worked on my project first. By the time it was time for everyone else to share what they had been working on with the group, mine was already done and ready to present.”
Results: “In the end, we got everything done and were able to meet all of our deadlines. My group members were really impressed with how quickly I was able to accomplish my task and ended up taking it in as their own. We got a great score on our project, and everyone agreed that we should use the same strategy when working on future projects.”
Question 2: Imagine that you’ve been given the task of redesigning the company’s filing system, and it is due in two weeks. What will your approach be to completing this project?
Situation: “I was given the task of redesigning the filing system in my company. My boss told me to get it done in two weeks.”
Task: “My goal was to completely overhaul our filing system within that time frame.”
Actions: “I immediately started putting together a list of guidelines for myself and broke up the project into parts. In the first couple of days, I made a list of all the features our filing system needs to include, and created a design for how it would look. I then prioritized each feature on my list and worked on them one at a time. Day three was dedicated to implementation and testing while day four was spent fixing any bugs that might come up.”
Results: “I was able to redesign our filing system in a short amount of time. My boss was so impressed with the results that he said it would be a great addition to everyone’s job responsibilities.”
Question 3: Describe a situation when your work was criticized. What did you learn from this?
Situation: “My boss asked me to create a presentation with no more than ten slides. I worked on it for hours and gave him the slideshow the next day. He came back to me at the end of the day and told me that the presentation was too wordy and that I should cut out half of it.”
Task: “My goal was to give my boss a slideshow with as little text as possible while making sure all of the information was included.”
Actions: “After getting some advice from a friend, I went back home and decided only to include slides with images. I also cut out a lot of the points from each slide and ended up having to scroll through them.”
Results: “I was able to give my boss exactly what he wanted and even learned that compromising is sometimes necessary in order to get your point across.”
At the end of the day, the quality of your work speaks for itself. If you take on tasks with high standards, give them your all, and work hard to accomplish what needs to be done, the world will see the results.
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