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Amazon Behavioral Interview Questions Guide

Careerflow Team

Landing job offers at FAANG and other top tech companies can be the best thing for a job seeker. However, to achieve that goal, you need to have all your job search tools in place - an optimized resume, optimized LinkedIn profile, mock interview practices, and mentorship from an industry mentor. With the right preparation, every company would want to hire you! 💪

In this blog, we will talk about a FAANG company that strives to be Earth's most customer-centric company 🌎. It is one of the fastest-growing and second-largest employers in the United States today. Not only that, in India, this FAANG company was recently ranked number 1 by Business Today in the list of Best Companies to Work for. You guessed it right - we are talking about AMAZON!

Cracking an Amazon interview is just as challenging as any other FAANG or top tech company. Talking about the behavioral interviews specifically, Amazon has a unique hiring process, and the behavioral interviews require separate preparation to ace them. 📝

Our Amazon Behavioral Interview Questions Guide will take you through everything you need to know to do well in an Amazon behavioral interview. Let's go! 🚀

What are Behavioral Interviews? 🤔

Most FAANG companies focus heavily on behavioral interviews, and Amazon is no different. Behavioral interviews focus on the candidate's past experiences, resume, and other hypothetical 'Tell me about a time' questions. These are aimed at gaining better clarity on the candidate's working style, and cultural fit to predict your job performance. However, what makes Amazon's behavioral interviews different is their Leadership Principles. When interviewing candidates, interviewers look for qualities mentioned in Amazon's leadership principles to determine how good a fit they are.

Although it may seem like behavioral interviews require no practice or preparation, performing poorly in these may hamper your chances of making it to the next round. These questions will not be solely confined to their behavioral interviews at Amazon. Recruiters and hiring managers, and Bar Raisers(if you don't know what a bar raiser is, don't worry. We'll share more about it with you later in this blog) at Amazon, watch out for the qualities from leadership principles at each step of the hiring process.

What are the Amazon Leadership Principles? Let's find out!

Amazon Leadership Principles + Sample Questions 🎖

Amazon states that its Leadership Principles describe how Amazon does business, how leaders lead, and how they keep customers at the center of their decisions to pursue the mission of being Earth's most customer-centric company, best employer, and safest place to work.

Since the introduction of the first ten leadership principles in 2002, Amazon has gone ahead to add six more to the list by 2021. These leadership principles affect every facet of the company.

Amazon focuses on hiring well rather than quickly, which explains its strict adherence to these principles. As a candidate interviewing at Amazon, you will be expected to tell stories from your experiences that convey how you understand Amazon's leadership principles. Let's look at all of these leadership principles one by one, along with sample Amazon behavioral questions for each of them.

Amazon Leadership Principles

#1 Customer Obsession

"Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers."

This principle is all about "customers are always right". It is all about empathy and an understanding of the customers. Interviewers want to see how well you understand Amazon's customers, their requirements, the importance of their trust, and the effect of each decision on customer experience.

Example Amazon Behavioral Interview Questions: Customer Obsession

  • Can you describe a difficult interaction you've had with a customer? How did you deal with it? Thinking back, what would you do differently?
  • Who was your most difficult customer?
  • When you’re working with a large number of customers, it’s tricky to deliver excellent service to them all. How do you go about prioritizing your customers’ needs?

#2 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."

People who say "that's not the job" can never become owners. Amazonians go above and beyond to ensure they're taking the initiative and working not just for themselves but also on behalf of their team for beneficial results in the long run. Ownership is at the core of how Amazonians operate. The culture operates on the belief that everyone is an owner and everyone cares, which means within or among teams, employees are allowed to point something out if they find it wrong, and the other person would be more than willing to take the input to make improvements. For the Ownership principle, interviewers want to know you take the initiative, ownership, and responsibility, even if it means going out of your way for the customer or company's success.

Example Amazon Behavioral Interview Questions: Ownership

  • Give me two examples of when you did more than what was required from you.
  • Share with me about a time you exceeded expectations.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to work on a project with unclear responsibilities.

#3 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."

Amazon is all about innovation and simplification. They are constantly innovating new solutions, new products, and new services, which means Amazonians are often met with challenging situations where it may feel like there is no solution, but in reality, there's always another solution. Not just finding this not-so-obvious solution, but finding one that is just as iterable and cheap is important. Interviewers want to hear from you about how you think big, how you come up with solutions that may not always seem conventional but are the best for the customers and the company, and how practically implementable those solutions are.

Example Amazon Behavioral Interview Questions: Invent and Simplify

  • Tell me about a time when you gave a simple solution to a challenging problem.
  • Tell me about a time when you were working on an initiative and saw an opportunity to do something bigger or better than the initial focus.
  • Tell me about a time when you found there was a more efficient way to accomplish a task someone was working on. How did you convey it to them?

#4 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."

As this principle may sound on the surface, it is not about the leaders never being wrong, instead, about leaders being open to being wrong. Amazon expects its leaders to recognize that every opinion matters and should be valued. Regardless of what position or seniority an employee belongs to, they are allowed to voice their opinion, and the decision between right and wrong should be based on what the task is, what options are available and which solution leads to the best results. At the same time, leaders are expected to make quick decisions with little information. When answering questions for this principle, talk to your interviewers about your failures, what you learned from them, how you dealt with situations that required you to make quick decisions with little or no information, and how you incorporated your team's views to come up with the best possible solution, even if it was contrary to your viewpoint.

Example Amazon Behavioral Interview Questions: Are Right, A Lot

  • Tell me about a time when you had to work with incomplete data or information.
  • Tell me about a time when you did not effectively manage your project, and something did not get completed on time?
  • Tell me about a time you were wrong.

#5 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."

Amazon has grown in unimaginable ways since it was founded. From its earliest days selling books out of a garage to striving to be the Earth's best customer-centric company today, the growth invites evolution in all its systems, including how its leaders and employees upskill themselves. Customers are evolving consistently, and to deliver the best to them, Amazonians would be required to grow too. Regardless of the level you're at; you're never done learning. At the same time, Amazon believes that wandering is essential in business, especially when it brings a good prize to its customers. While wandering could be successful sometimes - like in the case of AWS, it may not always be the case. But at times like these, employees are expected to learn from the failures and put the lessons to better use for what they do in the future. Interviewers want to find out what you do to upskill yourself, how you keep evolving, and how you overcome failures.

Example Amazon Behavioral Interview Questions: Learn and Be Curious

  • What is the coolest thing you've learned on your own that you've then been able to apply in your job?
  • Tell me about your most significant career failure and what you learned from it.
  • Tell me about a time you learned something over a short period to accomplish a task.

#6 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."

Amazon believes that to deliver the best to their customers, they will need the best talent to be working for them. Regardless of whether one is a People Manager, it is everyone's task to identify the right talent and develop skills, not just for themselves but also for their peers and teams. As an Amazonian, one should be willing to contribute to developing skills for their peers or newer Amazonians who join the company. Leaders are expected to move talent throughout the organization, keeping in mind the success of the business and the growth and development of the employee. While these interview questions may generally be discussed for senior roles, one may come across them to identify how much they believe in helping their team.

Example Amazon Behavioral Interview Questions: Hire and Develop the Best

  • Tell me about a time you helped someone grow in their career and how it benefited them.
  • Tell me about a time you provided feedback to a peer. What is helpful for them?
  • Tell me a situation where you went out of your comfort zone to learn and deliver something.

#7 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."

Amazon has Bar Raisers for hiring processes, Code Reviews for software, daily Connections requests that solicit feedback from employees, Inspections and Audit Processes all over the place, and more. All of this is in place to maintain the highest standards. Amazon believes that there are two ways to approach a problem - A) find a person responsible and see how it can be fixed, or B) say it won't hurt anybody and just walk by. They believe in picking approach A, and the employees are expected to do the same. It is all about pushing your boundaries and aiming for the best. For this principle, interviewers want to determine how you achieve the best possible standards, what you do to maintain them, and how you fix situations to lead them to success.

Example Amazon Behavioral Interview Questions: Insist on the Highest Standards

  • Tell me about a time when you met a goal with high standards. How were you able to do this?
  • How do you ensure that workplace safety is always a priority for you when you work?
  • Tell me about a time you couldn’t meet your own expectations on a project.
Read here: How to use ChatGPT to Prepare for Behavioral interviews

#8 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."

This leadership principle is all about having a bold vision to do something big. What may seem like an impossible or unattainable task at first might be a massive opportunity in the future. Talk about your stories when you did something that was a game-changer, something that solved a larger problem or led to immense success.

Example Amazon Behavioral Interview Questions: Think Big

  • What is the largest project you have executed?
  • Tell me about a time you came up with a not-so-obvious solution that led to a larger impact on the results of your task.
  • What does 'Thinking Big' mean to you?

#9 Bias for Action

"Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking"

Bias for Action is all about "Speed Matters". Amazon believes that several tasks will not need extensive study, but instead need to be completed with speed. These decisions may not always require careful thought, since they would be reversible. Calculated risk-taking is an important quality at Amazon, and interviewers want you to exhibit these qualities in your responses.

Example Amazon Behavioral Interview Questions: Bias for Action

  • Can you give me an example of a calculated risk where speed was critical?
  • Tell me when you solved a problem through just superficial knowledge or observation.
  • Have you ever dealt with a situation where speed was more important in deciding than thought? How did you navigate through it?

#10 Frugality

"Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, and invention. There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size, or fixed expense."

Although this principle may seem contradictory to the first one about customer obsession, Amazon believes it is all about finding a balance. Frugality is all about delivering more value to the customers while reducing costs simultaneously. It is all about providing the best with limitations and constraints. Frugality is not just about reducing costs but time and resources as well. It is all about managing things optimally.

Example Amazon Behavioral Interview Questions: Frugality

  • Tell me about a time when you had to work with limited time or resources.
  • Tell us about a time when you had to solve a complex task under a strict timeline? What was your approach, and how did you solve it?
  • How would you handle it if you discovered that your inventory levels were too high?

#11 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."

Earning trust is essential at Amazon. This principle focuses on truth-seeking rather than being nice to people. It is about respect, transparency, and accountability. Interviewers want to find out how you cope with mistakes, whether you acknowledge the error and improve on it or find someone else to blame.

Example Amazon Behavioral Interview Questions: Earn Trust

  • Can you give me an example of how you effectively built trusting and working relationships with others?
  • Tell me about a time you received negative feedback from your manager. How did you deal with it?
  • How do you ensure you gain a customer's trust?

#12 Dive Deep

"Leaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit frequently, and are skeptical when metrics and anecdotes differ. No task is beneath them."

This principle of Diving Deep expects Amazonians to get to the root of a problem and solve it with long-term longevity in mind. Regardless of the extra effort it may require, it is expected that the employees will dive deep into issues and operate at all levels to address the right problem. It focuses on maintaining a balance, not micromanaging but paying attention to details.  

Example Amazon Behavioral Interview Questions: Dive Deep

  • Tell me about a time when you used a lot of data in a short period.
  • Tell me about a time you solved a complex problem by looking into the details.
  • Tell me about something that you learned recently in your role.

#13 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."

Disagreement is a part of all workplaces. For this principle, your interviewers want you to share with them experiences where you disagreed with something but knew well when to mention it and how to strike a balance between both.

Example Amazon Behavioral Interview Questions: Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit

  • Tell me about a time you had a dispute with a coworker or manager and how you approached it.
  • Give me an example of when you received criticism. How did you respond to the information?
  • Tell me about a time you did not accept the status quo.

#14 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."

Delivering results is not about achieving the outputs at any cost, anyhow. It is about having the right inputs to produce the required outcomes while doing your best to achieve the goal. This principle is closely tied to several other principles like customer obsession and insisting on the highest standards.

Example Amazon Behavioral Interview Questions: Deliver Results

  • How do you prioritize tasks?
  • Give me an example of a time when you were 75% through a project, and had to pivot the strategy - how were you able to make that into a success story?
  • If you are given two conflicting priorities from two separate managers, how do you figure out how to proceed?

#15 Strive to be Earth's Best Employer

"Leaders work every day to create a safer, more productive, higher performing, more diverse, and more just work environment. They lead with empathy, have fun at work, and make it easy for others to have fun. Leaders ask themselves: Are my fellow employees growing? Are they empowered? Are they ready for what's next? Leaders have a vision for and commitment to their employees' personal success, whether that be at Amazon or elsewhere."

Introduced in 2021, this principle focuses on creating an environment that is the best for its employees - in terms of safety, productivity, growth, fun, progress, and results.

Example Amazon Behavioral Interview Questions: Strive to be Earth's Best Employer

  • Tell me about a time you saw an issue that would negatively impact your team. How did you deal with it?
  • How would you help a high-performing team member progress in their career?
  • How would you keep your team motivated?

#16 Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility

"We started in a garage, but we're not there anymore. We are big, we impact the world, and we are far from perfect. We must be humble and thoughtful about even the secondary effects of our actions. Our local communities, planet, and future generations need us to be better every day. We must begin each day with a determination to make better, do better, and be better for our customers, our employees, our partners, and the world at large. And we must end every day knowing we can do even more tomorrow. Leaders create more than they consume and always leave things better than how they found them."

Amazon anticipates its employees to understand that as they grow in their contribution and impact, employees must be mindful of the consequences of their decisions to the larger audience. Leaders and managers are expected to operate with responsibility in whatever they do.

Example Amazon Behavioral Interview Questions: Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility

  • How do you think [a particular product/service] at Amazon can be improved?
  • What are the responsibilities associated with your position on a larger scale?
  • Tell me about a time you made a decision that went wrong. What was its impact?

Bonus: Check our Careerflow Resource for Amazon’s Behavioral Interview Questions tied with each leadership principle here for more examples.

Phew! That's a lot to work on, isn't it? If you've understood these sixteen principles, your following question would be, how should I go about preparing for these? Take a look at the next section to find out!

The STAR Method (+Sample Answer)

Acing FAANG interviews requires practice and preparation. Especially for companies like Amazon, where you're expected to demonstrate leadership principles at each step of your interview, preparing your stories well in advance is key to confidently appearing for your interview.

The STAR technique is important to crack FAANG behavioral interviews.

The STAR technique is a popular one when it comes to approaching behavioral interviews. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Preparing answers using this technique can help you give your interviewer an idea of the situation, what you were expected to accomplish, and what actions you took to achieve the goal and outcome. As simple as this technique may sound, most candidates fail to use it in the right way.

Let us take one of the questions from above to understand how you can implement the STAR method while demonstrating the leadership principle qualities.

Question: Can you give me an example of a time when you exceeded expectations?

Answer: This question allows you the chance to demonstrate the Ownership principle.

Situation: In my last role, we implemented a new service where we would ask each customer to review our service after a transaction.

Task: My instructions were to email every customer immediately after the transaction with a link to the internet page with our review.

Action: Personally, when I receive such unexpected emails, I ignore them, so I decided to ask customers at the end of our calls if they would mind sharing their feedback with us. This helped me humanize the process while also ensuring customers shared their feedback since I had already spoken to them about it.

Result: On doing so, my response rate was 45% higher than the rest of my coworkers. I also made sure to check with my manager before doing so, since I would otherwise be breaching his instructions. My manager was happy to allow me to modify the process, and I was pleased with the favorable outcome.

This answer wonderfully summarizes the entire situation, task, action taken, and outcome while also explaining the candidate's thought process while making decisions and a sense of ownership in modifying the process.

Final Tips for Preparation 🎯

Here are quick tips to keep in mind when prepping for your Amazon interview preparation.

  • Understand the company's culture. Simply reading the leadership principles will not help you ace the interviews. Spend time understanding where these principles come from, how the organization operates, and the culture it upholds. Cultural fit is an essential element considered during the hiring process.
  • Write your stories down. As confident as you may feel about being able to answer behavioral interview questions on the spot, things may not always go down as expected. To ensure you don't forget any of the stories you've prepared for each leadership principle, document them on paper as bullet points for quick reference before the interview.
  • Prepare for follow-up questions. This is another mistake candidates make. Not preparing for follow-up questions or not being able to answer them satisfactorily may lead the interviewer to think what you shared with them was not accurate or disrupt your overall performance.
  • Practice out loud. Practice your stories aloud to see how it goes when you speak them. Edit your answers to ensure you're conveying all the essential details within the time constraint.
  • Practice with ex-Amazonians. Yes, that's right! Practice with industry mentors who work at Amazon or previously worked there. What's better than receiving feedback from people who know the culture the best?

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