Getting ready for an Amazon product manager interview? We've got you covered. We'll break down what to expect in the interview, what questions you'll get asked, and how best to prepare for a PM role at Amazon.
Amazon's non-tech PM roles are great for those with a solid business and design understanding. The job is non-technical in nature and does not require a computer science degree.
You will find that unlike many other tech companies, Amazon has a predilection for hiring product managers with an MBA.
Amazon hires PMs from various backgrounds: undergraduates, MBA graduates (their largest source of PMs), experienced professionals.
While the e-commerce arm of Amazon is open to those from any background, AWS prefers those with a technical background.
That being said, many non-tech professionals have successfully transitioned into becoming a product manager at Amazon.
Amazon has various levels of PMs:
You can begin your application process by searching for “Product Management - Non-Tech” roles on Amazon’s careers page. You will see that project/program/product management--non-tech is an option for you to further filter your results.
Amazon considers having a technical background an asset, but the product manager role is open to those from all backgrounds. Many product leaders at Amazon thrive without having a technical background.
Amazon’s PM program specifically recruits new grads from MBA programs (the largest cohort of all Amazon’s new grad PMs) and other graduate programs. While the majority of MBA grads get L6 positions, some candidates can get L5 roles depending on their experience and expertise.
Amazon also hires experienced professionals of various backgrounds into product management.
What is the process for Amazon to hire new product managers? On average, expect the hiring process to take about five weeks.
You may begin your process by speaking with a recruiter. The purpose of this call is to ensure that you’re a good fit for the role. It’s a fairly straightforward call about your background and fit for the role. Be prepared to elaborate on your work experience as listed on your resume, and be prepared to share why you are interested in the role to which you applied for, and why you want to work at Amazon.
If you do not have a screening, Amazon may just ask for your availability for a first phone call through an automated email.
You will then have a phone call with either the hiring manager or an existing product manager. Sometimes, this interviewer will not be from the team that you applied to work on. This initial conversation will take one hour and have two parts.
First, the interviewer would like to ensure you understand the role you applied for. You'll be asked to explain your understanding of what the job entails. Be sure to do in-depth research into the role, as you may be asked to elaborate on certain aspects of the job. For example, if you applied for a PM role related to the cloud, the interviewer may inquire about your understanding of the cloud and why people use it. It is recommended to have some quick bullets from your background to bring up here, to show why you fit not only the basic requirements of the PM job, but also the preferred qualifications.
Second, you will be asked a few questions on how you demonstrate Amazon's 14 leadership principles. This will be a recurring theme, so be sure to make yourself familiar with the company's 14 principles.
An Amazon product manager Exponent spoke with mentioned, in their initial phone interview, they were asked to talk about a time they declined a customer request and a time they wowed a customer. You will receive the results of this interview within 24 hours via email. Note that some candidates may encounter two phone interviews at this stage. You can expect to similarly encounter behavioral questions based on Amazon's leadership principles and product or strategy questions in this second phone interview.
The on-site interview consists of 5 rounds, each round lasting 1 hour. You will start off with five minutes of introductions, then 50 minutes for your interview, followed by 5 minutes for any questions you may have for your interviewer.
A typical schedule will look like this: 10 AM to 12 PM - two interviews 12 PM to 1 PM - lunch 1 PM to 4 PM - three interviews
Throughout your day, you will speak with a mix of the following Amazon employees: product managers, technical program managers, software developers, software development managers, a bar raiser, and the hiring manager. Regardless of whom you're interviewing with, you will again be asked to speak on Amazon's 14 leadership principles.
All of these interviewers carry equal weight in the evaluation process (with the exception of the bar raiser). A bar raiser is an interviewer from a different business unit than the one that you are applying for. This bar raiser interviewer will be more senior than the level you are applying for and holds special veto power. Their responsibility is not to gauge your fit for the team, but rather they are looking for your fit with Amazon. Bar raisers ensure that candidates who get hired are at least better than 50% of the current workforce.
During the lunch hour, you will have the opportunity to grab food with someone outside of the interview committee. You will be encouraged to ask any questions you otherwise wouldn't be comfortable asking the hiring manager. Details of your lunch conversations will not be disclosed to the interview committee.
You will receive the results of your on-site interview within 24 hours.
If you've done well and there is a mutual fit, you'll receive an offer. Congratulations! You will have a phone call with an Amazon recruiter 24 hours after your on-site interview, where you will be asked for your expectations for your compensation. Your compensation for a non-tech PM role will be a mix of base salary, joining bonus, as well as stocks.
While compensation depends on a variety of factors, those on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) team generally gets paid the most while those on the human resources team typically get paid the least.
As an example, a non-tech product manager Exponent spoke with revealed their offer consisted of $145k base salary, $110k joining bonus (paid monthly over the course of two years), and $200k in stocks (5% the first year, 15% the second year, 40% the third year, and the remaining 40% in the fourth year at the company).
If you performed well in the on-site, but the team did not feel there is a good mutual fit, you may enter a team matching stage where you speak with different hiring managers from other teams. You can expect these post-onsite questions to be more casual. To be on the safe side, you should still brush up on Amazon's leadership principles and have stories for how you embody them.
Amazon's behavioral interviews fall into categories based on their leadership principles.
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.
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."
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.
Leaders are right a lot. They have strong judgment and good instincts. They seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs.
Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.
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.
Note: This leadership is less frequently touched upon in the interview.
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.
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.
Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk-taking.
Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, and invention. There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size, or fixed expense.
Note: This leadership is less frequently touched upon in the interview.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When Exponent spoke with a few folks who interviewed for the Amazon non-tech PM role, some had reported that they also encountered the following questions
After your on-site interview, those who interviewed you will debrief together and discuss if the team got a positive signal for each of Amazon's leadership principles. All of the leadership principles are equally important.
You will be mostly evaluated based on the responses you provide to questions regarding leadership principles. Each on-site interviewer will be assigned 2 leadership principles, for which they will ask you questions. If any of your answers violates any of the leadership principles, that will be a red flag and send a negative signal.
For example, let's suppose you were working on a project and a critical co-worker, whom you needed something from, was on vacation. It would send a negative signal for the "ownership" principle to assume you can wait for your co-worker to return from vacation because their work is not in your scope of ownership.
The most important factor in your hiring decision is your ability to answer the behavioral questions. Be prepared to communicate clearly and succinctly. You should also be able to show in your answers to the leadership principles that you have the ability to think solutions that work well at large scale.
Be extremely well-versed in the principles. Not only should you have at least two examples prepared to corroborate why you embody each leadership principle, but also you must not violate any of the other leadership principles in your answer (which would send a negative signal). The questions will all be in the format of "tell me about x." Oftentimes, the interviewer will then follow-up with "Give me another example of this leadership principle" (hence the importance of preparing more than one example for each leadership principle).
One framework that works well is STAR: situation, task, action, result. In this framework, you would first provide some context as to what was the situation you faced. Then, you would bring up which tasks you were involved in to resolve the situation. Next, you would dive into the actions you took, and finally, what the results of your actions were. Check out some sample questions asked by Amazon in their PM interviews here.