Trying to get ready for your Amazon behavioral interviews? These interviews are notoriously tricky.
Amazon relies more on behavioral interviews than other FAANG companies like Apple or Facebook, where technical skills are usually weighed more heavily in product manager interviews.
We collaborated with 6 Amazon product managers, software engineers, and program managers to create this guide and our complete Amazon interview course.
What is the Amazon Behavioral Interview?
Amazon’s behavioral questions focus on your past behavior and performance.
Your answers are supposed to reveal quite a bit about you and help predict job performance—at least in theory.
"I'd rather interview 50 people and not hire anyone than hire the wrong person." - Jeff Bezos, Founder and Former CEO, Amazon
These questions usually begin with “Tell me about a time...” or “Give me an example of...”
Interviewers want to know:
How will you be as an employee?
What are your personal and professional interests?
How do you fit into Amazon's culture?
They also clue your interviewer into how you think. Amazon is always seeking evidence of “leadership principles" in your answers.
What are Amazon’s Leadership Principles?
During your behavioral rounds, your interviewer will focus on how your answers align with Amazon’s 16 Leadership Principles.
Amazon is well known for its strict adherence to the management principles laid out by its CEO, Jeff Bezos.
One of these is the famous ‘Day 1 mentality' that undoubtedly had much to do with Amazon’s colossal success.
But Day 1 isn’t the only tenant that Amazon holds dear. The company has 16 leadership principles, written by Bezos himself, that its employees, and the company itself, are expected to uphold.
Amazon's 16 leadership principles are:
Invent & Simplify
Are Right, A Lot
Learn and Be Curious
Hire and Develop the Best
Insist on the Highest Standards
Bias for Action
Have Backbone; Disagree & Commit
Strive to be Earth’s Best Employer
Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility
Your interviewer wants to hear examples of your performance in past roles.
How did you show similar qualities to Amazon’s own leadership principles?
Top 3 Amazon Behavioral Questions
Although you'll be up against dozens of potential questions, these three behavioral interview questions repeatedly appear in Amazon interviews.
Ultimately, Amazon wants candidates who think outside the box and who can push Amazon to new heights. Regardless of the role, you'll face setbacks and obstacles. Knowing how to overcome them and explaining your thought process is key.
“There are many ways to center a business. You can be competitor focused, you can be product focused, you can be technology focused, you can be business model focused, and there are more. But in my view, obsessive customer focus is by far the most protective of Day 1 vitality.” - Jeff Bezos
Prepare to answer behavioral questions about your relationship with the customer.
Describe a challenging situation in which you had to step into a leadership role.
Tell me about a time when you were dissatisfied with the status quo.
Tell me about a time when your project failed.
Principle 3: Invent & 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.
Amazon has long been known for its culture of innovation.
The company strives to create effective and efficient solutions in everything it does. This commitment to innovation is clearly evident in Amazon’s approach to answering “invent and simplify” questions.
When presented with a problem, Amazon encourages its employees to think creatively and develop novel and practical solutions.
Tell me about how you brought a product to market.
Tell me about a time when you solved a complex problem.
How do you handle roadblocks or obstacles?
Principle 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.
Amazon is known for its customer-centric culture, and part of that is because of the company’s focus on speed and agility. Amazon expects its employees to make decisions quickly and efficiently without getting bogged down in details or second-guessing themselves.
At the same time, when making these decisions, you’ll need to be right a lot.
This can be a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity to show that you can take risks and think on your feet under pressure.
Practice questions on being Right, A Lot:
Tell me about a time you made a decision based on your instincts.
Tell me about a time you had to make a decision without much customer data.
Tell me about a time when you had to convince team members on something you proposed.
Give me an example of a calculated risk you took where speed was critical.
Tell me about a time you had a problem and had to discover the real cause.
Principle 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.
Show your ability to learn new things and explore new ideas.
For example, you might discuss a time when you had to quickly learn a new skill for your job. Or you might describe a time when you devised an innovative solution to a problem.
Emphasize your willingness to adapt and grow in your career.
Tell me about a time when you solved a problem innovatively.
Principle 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 their role in coaching others seriously. We work on behalf of our people to invent mechanisms or development like Career Choice.
Amazon leaders raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognize exceptional talent and move them throughout the organization.
Leaders develop leaders and take their role in coaching others seriously.
In this way, Amazon creates a culture of excellence that starts with its leaders and extends to all members of the Amazon workforce. Amazon expects its employees to always strive to reach higher standards.
Amazon is a company always looking to challenge its employees and help them grow.
Tell me about a time you had a conflict with someone on your team. How did you resolve it? What did you learn?
Talk about your best and worst-performing team.
How do you build credibility with new reports on a team you haven’t built yourself?
How would you motivate your team to perform better?
Principle 7: Insist on the Highest Standards
Leaders have relentlessly high standards — many people may think these standards are unreasonably high. Leaders continually raise 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 expects its employees to always strive to reach higher standards. They want to see employees who have pushed themselves to meet challenging goals and will continue to do so in the future.
This is the thing that makes Amazon such a great place to work. It is a company always looking to challenge its employees and help them grow, which helps them stay motivated and engaged.
Tell me about a time when you made a decision based on data and were ultimately wrong.
As a manager, how do you handle tradeoffs?
Give an example of a tough or critical piece of feedback you received.
Tell me about a time when you questioned the status quo.
Principle 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.
Can you develop and articulate a bold vision? This doesn’t mean that you need to have all the answers, but you should be able to show that you’re thinking big and have a clear idea of where you want to take the company.
So, when preparing for your interview, ensure you have a few good examples of times when you’ve thought outside the box and come up with innovative solutions.
Practice questions on Thinking Big:
Tell me about a time you were creative.
Tell me about a time when you solved a problem innovatively.
Tell me about a time when you devised a simple solution to a complex problem.
Tell me about when you had to sell an idea to upper management.
Tell me about a time you had to convince engineers to implement a particular feature.
Principle 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.
Amazon likes to move fast and ship products quickly. This means that employees often have to make decisions without all the information they would ideally like to have.
In your interview, be prepared to share when you made a decision without all the information you needed or would have liked. Describe how you went about making the decision and what the result was.
Be sure to emphasize that you are comfortable taking risks and always looking for ways to improve your products and services.
Describe a situation where you negotiated a win-win situation.
Tell me about a tough decision you made during a project.
Principle 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 expenses.
Amazon constantly strives to provide customers with the best possible value, and its leadership principles emphasize this.
This means offering a wide selection of products at low prices and providing fast and free shipping on millions of items. To do this requires staying frugal at the corporate level to pass savings on to customers.
This interview will challenge you to think about times you’ve saved money or brought big results with little input.
Tell me about a time when you had to accomplish big results with little budget.
Tell me about a time you had to change the course or direction of a project when you were almost 70% through.
Principle 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.
This principle dictates that employees should always look for ways to improve their work and to be “vocally self-critical” when they make mistakes. In other words, Amazon wants its employees to focus on fixing mistakes instead of figuring out who to blame.
The company roots this philosophy in the belief that every employee has the power to make a positive impact and that blaming others only impedes progress.
Candidates who demonstrate commitment to continuous improvement, trustworthiness, and excellent character are often the most successful at Amazon.
Can you give me an example of how you manage conflict?
How do you earn the trust of your team members?
Tell me about a time when you had to convince team members of something you proposed.
How have you convinced others to take action?
Principle 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.
No company is perfect, and Amazon is no exception. Things will inevitably go wrong from time to time, and it’s vital that employees can find quick solutions. This is where problem-solving skills come in handy.
Interviewers want to see that you can assess a situation and develop a timely and clever response.
Practice questions on Diving Deep:
Tell me about a time when you had a problem and had to go through several hoops to discover the root cause. Watch a video answer.
Tell me about the most complex project you’ve worked on.
How have you changed an opinion or direction using data?
Tell me about a time when you could make a decision without having many data metrics in hand.
Tell me about a time when you decided based on data and were ultimately wrong.
Principle 13: Have Backbone; Disagree & Commit:
Leaders must 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.
Leaders are expected to have strong opinions and be able to stand up for what they believe in. Sometimes you must set aside personal beliefs to move forward as a team.
As you review Leadership Principles, think about how having to make decisions affects the macro outlook of a company like Amazon.
Practice questions on Having Backbone; Disagree & Commit:
Tell me about a time when you had a disagreement with your manager.
How do you manage difficult conversations?
Tell me about a time when you had an idea you proposed that was not agreed on.
Tell me about a time you disagreed with someone and how you resolved it.
Principle 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.
Employees aren’t afraid to take risks and learn from their mistakes. Of course, this doesn’t mean you don’t care about quality. You should always strive to do your best work, but there is always room for improvement.
Amazon would prefer to deliver a product or service that is good enough rather than miss a deadline or fail to meet a goal.
Describe a challenging project you worked on and why it was challenging.
How do you prioritize?
Describe a situation where you negotiated a win-win situation.
Tell me about a time you used a specific metric to drive change in your department.
15) Strive to be Earth's Best Employer
Leaders work daily 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' success, whether at Amazon or elsewhere.
The “Earth’s Best Employer” policy is more than just a nice-sounding platitude. It’s a concrete way of demonstrating that the company is committed to its workforce.
A company that can show it is dedicated to being Earth’s Best Employer will likely have an easier time recruiting and retaining top talent. And, as any manager knows, a happy, engaged workforce is essential to a company’s success.
By creating a safe, diverse, and just work environment, companies can boost their team morale and productivity and set themselves apart from the competition.
Practice questions on Striving to be Earth’s Best Employer:
Tell me about a time when an employee gave you negative feedback.
Tell me about a time you had to mediate a conflict.
Tell me about a time when you had to motivate a team after a demoralizing event.
How would you motivate your team to perform better?
What do you look for when hiring for a team manager role?
16) Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility
We started in a garage, but we're not there anymore. We are big, impact the world, and 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 improve daily.
We must begin each day with a determination to make, do, and be better for our customers, employees, partners, and the world. 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 is responsible to its employees, shareholders, and the planet. Amazon's core values are sustainability and social responsibility, even if customer obsession dominates the conversation.
The company strives to ensure its operations positively impact the environment and that employees work hard to create a workplace where everyone can thrive.
They understand that Amazon’s size and reach give the company a unique opportunity to make a difference.
Practice questions on Bringing Broad Responsibility:
The STAR method is a way of answering these types of questions in a succinct but complete way.
STAR stands for:
S - Situation
T - Task
A - Action
R - Results
Sample question 1: Tell me when you had to make a short-term sacrifice for long-term gain?
Imagine your interviewer asked you to answer one of the most common Amazon behavioral interview questions, “tell me about a time you had to make a decision to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains."
Use the STAR method to make the most out of your answer with no rambling or confusing answers.
Explain the situation
Briefly describe the situation in which you had to make such a decision.
What was the context, how’d you know you needed to make the decision, etc.
You could say:
Let me tell you about a time I had to push back a launch - short-term sacrifice for long-term gain. I was working on a product, preparing for a launch in North America, when I was told that the launch would have to include Europe in the same timeframe.
Knowing the complexity of globalization, I knew I had to consider different languages and translations, laws & regulations, and currencies to do this. So I knew, right off the bat, that there was no way to make this timeframe work.
What task did you work on?
Elaborate on the necessary tasks involved with the decision to make short-term sacrifices.
Tasks are not the actions you took but are instead general concepts.
I needed to talk to my Head of Sales to understand better what was at the heart of this request change so I could know how to move forward.
What action did you take?
Different from tasks, what specific actions did you take for the task?
If your task was to learn more about user behavior, your actions could be phone calls or surveys sent via email to users.
So, I set up a time to speak with the Head of Sales, and, in parallel, I set up a time to meet with my Tech Lead to scope the additional work so I would have a realistic timeframe in mind.
After speaking with my Head of Sales, I discovered that there was a potential client in Europe with an additional budget in Q3 that they wanted to spend and put toward our product.
Of course, this was also good for our company, because it would help us better hit our revenue targets for the quarter. However, I knew there was no way that we could fit in the additional work that was needed for a good user experience for this potential client. I did not want to rush the launch at their expense and have an angry or upset client.
So, I asked to speak directly with the client, where I told them it would not be possible to meet this deadline, but I gave them the newly scoped launch date in the following quarter so that they could budget accordingly.
Share the results
Finally, talk about the results that came because of your actions.
In this interview question, you’d focus on long-term gains.
As a result, the client appreciated that I was upfront and honest with them and willing to meet with them. Because I was so quick with my response, they could move some things around and allocate accordingly to become a customer of our product in Q4.
So, while it was at the expense of some revenue targets in Q3, I knew that building a trusting, long-lasting relationship with the customer was more important and well worth the sacrifice in revenue.
Sample question 2: Tell me about a time you made a mistake.
This sample answer uses the STAR method to articulate the situation, tasks, action, and result.
Let me tell you about a time when a website I managed suddenly showed slow performance. Our mistake was that it went unnoticed until a user reported the issue to management. As a PM for that project, I took full responsibility for the situation and worked with the engineering team to quickly resolve it.
This mistake taught me the importance of focusing on and monitoring non-functional requirements. That’s in addition to new feature development /adoption, where I usually spend my time.
After deploying the quick fix, I ensured that such a mistake doesn’t get repeated. I did this by putting a good application management tool in place and setting it up to receive email alerts and necessary Pagerduty alerts when website behavior exceeds set thresholds/SLAs. I took the effort to learn the tool myself to further analyze past issues and call out optimization areas to engineering.
With that effort, we showed consistent page load times to be less than 3s. I also shared my learnings with other PMs in my team in a brown bag session so they could also benefit.
Using this method, your interviewer will learn a lot of helpful information about you in a short amount of time. This answer goes beyond what an HR manager might have even listed in the job description.
Hiring managers will often direct behavioral questions at past situations that can be very complex and nuanced or require some context to fully understand.
But with the STAR method, you don’t need to worry about leaving anything important out or wasting the interviewer’s time with a long-winded response.
Unlike other interview questions, there are no correct answers to behavioral questions, per se.
That is, there can be countless “correct” answers, as it’s based on your personal experiences.
However, there are several tips to help you succeed:
Do your research
Research the general scope of the behavioral questions Amazon may ask you during your interview.
While you’ll never know exactly what questions you’ll be asked, looking over the questions listed in this guide should give you a good idea about what you’re up against.
Reviewing the position's job description may also help guide you in the right direction. For instance, managerial positions may get asked different questions than an Amazon RPM.
Tip: Amazon interviewers have been known to give “pop quizzes” on leadership principles, so be sure you're generally familiar with their purpose.
Brainstorm experiences to share
Brainstorm possible situations from your previous experiences that you could use for these questions.
Use this guide as a good starting point in your brainstorming. Focus on stories that directly touch on Amazon's leadership tenets.
Write down your stories
After you’ve brainstormed relevant work experiences, write them down and flesh them out so that you’re not stumbling to remember some details amid the questioning.
Write them down according to the STAR method, as well, to make sure your answers are both concise and fully developed.
One particularly effective way to do this is by creating a story bank.
Study the role
Do as much research as possible about the role you’re applying for and the work that the role’s department/team actually does. Your interviewer is bound to ask questions to evaluate if you’re a cultural fit, and your prior research will only help to make the best impression possible.
Not only that, but your research regarding the role you’re applying for can give you a good impression of the behavioral skills necessary for the job. And by extension, it can give you a good idea of the behavioral questions they may ask regarding those skills.
Amazon interview coaching
Alongside our Amazon interview prep course, we also offer industry-leading interviewing coaching to help you:
Get an insider’s look from someone who’s been interviewed, got the offer, and worked at the companies you’re applying to.
Receive an objective evaluation of where you stand as a job candidate.
Get personalized feedback and coaching to help improve and get more job offers.
Many of our coaches specialize in Amazon interviews. Check out the profiles of former Amazon interviewers Nathan Yu (Amazon PM),Vichitra Kidambi (Amazon TPM), and Abhishek Joshi (Amazon PM) to request a coaching session today.
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