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Ace Your Amazon Interview (Questions + Guide)

The complete guide to passing interviews with Amazon. Including the interview process, common questions, specific interviews, and what comes after the interview.
Ace Your Amazon Interview (Questions + Guide)

Amazon is a company that is known for its high standards and rigorous interview process. If you’re lucky enough to be invited for an interview, you’ll want to make sure that you’re prepared.

The first step is to become as familiar as possible with the company itself. What do you know about Amazon? Beyond Amazon Prime and the Smile?

The Interview Process at Amazon: Step 1 – Knowing Amazon

Did you know that every year Jeff Bezos writes a letter to shareholders which provides insights into the company’s culture and priorities? He ends every letter with a key point from his letter from 1997, “our core values and approach remain unchanged. We continue to aspire to be Earth’s most customer-centric company.”

Amazon calls itself “peculiar.” Do you know why? There are many reasons and you can find several in Mr. Bezos’s annual letters to his shareholders. But, perhaps the best way to understand the “peculiarities” of Amazon is to study their Leadership Principles.

Amazon’s 14 Leadership Principles

Amazon prides itself on a set of 14 Principles that are at the core of everything they do. As they say, it’s “just one of the things that makes Amazon peculiar.” These Leadership Principles will be used to evaluate you throughout the course of your interview.

To prepare for your interview, it’s in your best interest to learn them and consider how you’ve applied them to your previous job experiences.

Amazon’s 14 Leadership Principles

(as listed on Amazon’s job site)

  • Customer Obsession – Leaders start with the customer and work backward. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.
  • Ownership – 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.”
  • Invent and Simplify – 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.
  • Are Right, A Lot – Leaders are right a lot. They have strong judgment and good instincts. They seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs.
  • Learn and Be Curious – Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.
  • Hire and Develop the Best – 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.
  • Insist on the Highest Standards – 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.
  • Think Big – 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.
  • Bias for Action – Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk-taking.
  • Frugality – Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, and invention. There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size, or fixed expenses.
  • Earn Trust – 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.
  • Dive Deep – Leaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit frequently, and are skeptical when metrics differ. No task is beneath them.
  • Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit – 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.
  • Deliver Results – 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.

These Leadership Principles may be “peculiar,” but they resonate with many powerful and influential people as well as regular folks in communities around the world. That’s why they’re so integral to the company’s strategy. If you want to be a part of Amazon, take these principles to heart.

If you feel like you could use a little help with growing your leadership skills, Big Interview has helpful tips on how to do just that.

The Interview Process at Amazon: Step 2 – Amazonians and the Amazon Culture

The culture at Amazon is, first and foremost, customer-centric. Amazonians (Amazon’s employees) are devoted to their work and earnest in delivering results for customers. If you want to work at Amazon, you will need to be able to show that you’re passionate about your work and that you’re customer-obsessed as well.

Constantly raising the bar for themselves and for Amazon, Amazonians have incredibly high standards. If you want to be successful in an Amazon interview, you need to demonstrate that you’re a high achiever who is always looking for ways to improve.

The culture at Amazon is also one of pervasive improvement and collaboration. Teams work together to invent and improve everything from products to standard operating procedures. The bar is set high, and every Amazonian is looking to raise it higher. Does this sound like a good fit for you?

The Interview Process at Amazon: Step 3 – What to Expect During Your Amazon Interview

There are three steps in the interview process at Amazon. A phone interview, an on-site or virtual interview, and final round interviews, also called “Loop” interviews.

Throughout your interview process at Amazon, interviewers will ask you questions about your experience, your skills, and your Amazon leadership principle preferences.

They may also give you a case study to assess your analytical and problem-solving abilities. Amazon interviewers are looking for candidates who are a good fit with Amazon’s culture and who have the skills and abilities to succeed at Amazon.

Amazon Phone Interviews

Amazon phone interviews are typically the first step in the interview process. During a phone interview, Amazon interviewers will ask you questions about your experience and skills. Amazon phone interviews are usually 30 minutes to 1 hour long.

Be ready with a copy of your resume, pen, and paper, your computer with a reliable internet connection, and access to your email. If you’re using a smartphone, be sure you have a reliable signal, and, finally, have a list of questions prepared that you’d like to ask.

Questions can include details about the role, company culture, projects or initiatives, and any other questions you have or can think of. A fantastic question to ask would be “What three leadership principles will be most important for this job?”

Amazon On-Site Interviews

The on-site interview will probably feel like the first big interview with Amazon. You’ll want to review your company knowledge and your knowledge of their Leadership Principles, your familiarity with the role for which you’re interviewing, and prepare for even more questions.

Prep for on-site Amazon Interviews

Amazon on-site interviews are usually 1 to 2 hours long. Your on-site interview will involve additional behavioral questions, questions regarding your education and skill set, and may also involve assessments.

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Sometimes an on-site interview will require travel. When this is the case, your recruiter or company point of contact will be in touch with travel arrangements or will put you in touch with Amazon’s travel agency.

When on-site interviews aren’t possible, they may be held virtually. If your interview is held virtually, your preparation will be slightly different.

Amazon Virtual Interviews

The first step in preparing for a virtual “on-site” interview is signing the NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) which your recruiting contact will send you prior to your interview.

You’ll also need to download Amazon Chime, Amazon’s video conferencing tool, and test it prior to your interview to ensure it works correctly on your device. You’ll be sent an Amazon Chime meeting ID# (similar to a Zoom meeting ID#) before your interview so that you can access your interview meeting.

On the day of your interview, make sure you’re in a well-lit area with a good internet connection. Test your webcam and microphone to make sure both are working properly before your interview. Set yourself up in a place free from distraction and make sure that your device is fully charged.

In the next section we’ll review some of the most common questions Amazon interviewers ask and what they hope to hear from your answers.

Final Round “Loop” Interviews

Depending on what role you’re interviewing for, your final round of interviews may consist of between 2 and 9 back-to-back interviews. The more senior the role, the more interviewers you can expect.

The interviewers you meet may have nothing to do with the role you hope to land, and you may never actually work with them. Their job is to test your fit within Amazon’s culture.

If you can get the names of the people with whom you’ll be interviewing prior to the interview date, take the time to look them up on LinkedIn. Do some research and learn what you can. It’s always best to go into an interview with your eyes wide open.

When preparing for these interviews, review the Leadership Principles and your background. Be ready to answer questions about how your previous roles and experience have readied you for this role.

If your “Loop” interviews go well, you should hear within a week about the next steps. Again, if you don’t, reach out to your contact.

Amazon Interview Questions

Common Amazon Interview Questions

In your on-site interview, you’ll be asked more questions than you were in your phone interview. Your interviewer will probably repeat some questions about your skills and knowledge, but you’ll also be asked questions that are designed to tweeze out the fiber of who you are as a leader, a person, and who you will be as an Amazonian.

Here are some of the most common Amazon interview questions and what those questions are designed to find out.

  • “What would you do if Amazon were to suddenly stop selling your product?” – The interviewer wants to know how adaptable you are and how you would react in a situation that is out of your control. This is a difficult question to answer, but it’s important to be honest and show that you’re able to think on your feet.
  • “What are your thoughts on Amazon’s customer service?” – This question is designed to see how well you understand Amazon’s culture and values. As we know, Amazon puts a lot of emphasis on customer service, so it’s important to show that you understand and appreciate this. In your answer, impress the interviewer by including your own emphasis on customer obsession.
  • “How would you handle a situation where you disagreed with your manager?” – This question is designed to see how you handle conflict and whether you’re able to stay calm under pressure. It’s important to show that you’re able to have a constructive discussion when there is disagreement. Think about how you can demonstrate active listening skills (hearing both sides of a conflict) and demonstrate conflict resolution through communication and compromise.

Amazon interviewers may also give you a case study to assess your analytical and problem-solving abilities. Be ready to be open-minded and have your soft skills at the ready!

How to answer behavioral Interview Questions (Use the STAR method)

Expect to be asked behavioral-based questions and be ready to use the STAR method to answer them. If you’re unfamiliar with the STAR method, don’t worry, we’ll explain.

The STAR method is a structured way of responding to a behavioral-based interview question by discussing the specific situation, task, action, and result of what you’re describing.

Basically, you use storytelling to frame your answer in a compelling way while ticking all the important boxes for the interviewer – evaluating a situation, describing the task at hand, taking effective action, and getting the desired result.

When using this method, avoid generalizations and be as specific as possible. Also, as you’re telling your story and giving examples, don’t omit or embellish details.

Be honest and forthcoming. Remember, leaders insist on the highest standards and earn trust. Here are some examples of questions that lend themselves to the STAR method of answering.

  • Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to solve a difficult problem.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to lead a team.
  • Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond for a customer.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult situation.
  • How would you handle a situation if you were unable to meet a customer’s needs?

To answer the question: “Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer” using the STAR method, your reply could look something like this:

Situation: In my previous position as a store manager, a customer was upset and became belligerent with staff when he learned that we were out of a product he purchased regularly and was in need of in a specific quantity that day.

Task: I checked my in-store inventory and found that we were, indeed, out of stock of the product in the quantity he requested.

Action: I apologized to the customer, and explained that we were out of stock in the quantity he requested, however, I could have it shipped from a sister store in the area and have it to our store by the afternoon and I would happily waive the shipping charge for him.

Result: The customer was satisfied with the compromise, apologized to my staff for his behavior, returned later that day for his product, and remained loyal to our store.

When used effectively, the STAR method is the best way to highlight your strengths and skills in an interview.

If the phone interview goes well, you’ll be invited to move on to an on-site interview (or perhaps a virtual interview) within 2 days. If you haven’t heard from the interviewer by that time, don’t be shy about following up.

Specific Amazon Interviews

Amazon New Grad Interviews

Interviews for new grads follow the same process: a phone interview, followed by an in-person or virtual interview, and then final round interviews. However, there are some additional opportunities available for students and new graduates at Amazon.

Amazon Internships

Amazon often recruits fresh college graduates for internships and full-time employment roles. There are opportunities for new grads in many different departments. Find a full list of available amazon internships for undergrads, graduate students, PhD, and MBA students on Amazon’s Internships for Students page.

Full-Time Operations

If you’re a fresh college graduate looking for a full-time opportunity in Amazon’s operations, you have plenty to choose from. In North America you can explore roles in human resources, supply chain management, and environmental health and safety.

Student Veterans

Amazon also offers specific opportunities for student veterans and new grads in the military community. With positions including area manager and safety specialist, Amazon values individuals with the leadership skills to take charge and make a difference.

Amazon Pathways

Amazon Pathways is a 5-year fast-track to senior operations management within Amazon. This program is designed for MBA or masters-level graduates, or “high-potential transitioning military leaders.” It grows and develops the skills necessary for its members to become Amazon’s next General Managers and Directors.

Pathways is challenging and demands a lot from its participants, however, if you’re interested in becoming the next great leader in a global Fortune 100 company, this program could be for you!

One Pathways member, Kareem, explains his experience in the program and gives recommendations on how to prepare for your Pathways interview in this short video.

More opportunities for college graduates and students can be explored in greater detail at Amazon’s Student Programs site or Amazon’s Student FAQs.

Interviewing for a Tech Position

If you are interviewing for a technical position, your interview will consist of additional topics including:

  • Programming language
  • Coding
  • Algorithms
  • Data structures
  • Object-oriented design
  • Databases
  • Distributed computing
  • Operating systems
  • Internet topics
  • General machine learning and artificial intelligence

While this list may seem long, Amazon interviewers don’t expect you to memorize every aspect of each of these topics for your interview. Your best bet is to review your foundational computer science and coding knowledge.

There are also opportunities in software development with Amazon. These positions require at least 2 years of job experience and a successful demonstration of your skills. Amazon has a complete guide for software development interview preparation on their website. Check it out!

After your on-site (or virtual) interview, you can expect to hear back from your point of contact within 5 business days. If you haven’t heard from them by then, don’t hesitate to follow up with a phone call or email.

Of course, after every interview, you should send a thank you note or email to your interviewer. This helps you stand out from the crowd and give a reason to remember you.

After The Amazon Interview – What’s Next?

If you haven’t sent a thank you note (or email) already, do so now to everyone you interviewed with.

Immediately following your final round of interviews, your interviewers will hold a hiring meeting in which they will discuss your candidacy. You should hear a result within a week of your final interview.

The offer

Finally, what you’ve waited for all along- the offer. If all has gone in your favor and you’ve proven yourself to be a leader and the next great Amazonian, you’ll receive a request from Amazon HR for your current and expected salary. Based on your response and the level of job you applied for, you may receive a written offer or an invitation to an offer meeting.

If you plan to negotiate your salary, you must do that before the meeting. Amazon has an unusual and extraordinary structure for compensating their employees which includes a base rate + bonus + RSUs (restricted stock units).

If you decide to negotiate your salary, be sure to take into account the big picture and your long-term goals. Don’t immediately discount additional payouts and valuable stock options offered by the company simply in favor of a higher base rate.

Further Reading:
Interview with Josh Goldstein – How to Stand Out in a Job Search
11 Classic Interview Mistakes and How To Recover
How To Sell Yourself in a Job Interview
WSJ Live – How Not To Bomb a Job Interview

Pamela Skillings
Pamela is the co-founder of BigInterview and an expert interview coach on a mission to help job seekers get their dream jobs. As an HR authority, she also provides consulting services to companies wishing to streamline their hiring process.

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