Years ago, we successfully cleared our on-site loop at Amazon and secured offers to join the business as senior leaders in London. Our Amazon interview preparation did not entail watching a single YouTube video or investing in any prep resources. If you had asked us if we knew what we were doing, our honest answer would have been "probably".
Amazon's interview process fascinated us deeply. We've encountered structured and competency-based interviewing before, but we've never seen a business trying so hard to stay objective and fight bias during the process. So as soon as we passed our 6-month mark in the company, we qualified as Amazon interviewers. GG later went on to become a Bar Raiser.
We started participating in grad recruitment, and soon after, we began doing our fair share to hire for our teams and helping partner teams fill open roles. While at Amazon, we interviewed recent grads, folks with MBAs, experienced candidates, and current Amazonians looking to switch teams. Being a Bar Raiser, GG participated in, literally, thousands of hiring decisions around the world.
When we left Amazon, we started helping candidates prepare for their behavioural interviews at Amazon professionally. So we developed Amazon Interview Whizz (an online course) and started offering in-person Amazon Interview Coaching. Through a combination of online courses, coaching and a supportive community, we've helped candidates land L4-L8 roles at Amazon.
From our experience, most candidates need an Amazon interview preparation strategy. So, in this article, we wanted to offer our top-line view on what preparation elements you need to include in your routine.
Don't Try to Wing Your Amazon Interview Preparation
We could usually tell if a candidate was trying to wing it, which is a more charitable way of saying they were trying their luck. But, on the other hand, some folks rocked into phone screens with confidence and panache but with little anticipation of what was expected of them and almost no understanding of Amazon.
We'll break an uncomfortable truth to you. Unless you've been lining up competency interviews with other companies before Amazon, the chances of winging it are slim. There are way too many qualified, driven, and well-prepared candidates in the pipeline at any given time for this approach to stand out.
We often get questions from candidates who discover our resources late in the process and ask us what to do if their Amazon interview is scheduled the next day. Our advice is always to move the interview by a week and give yourself ample time to prepare, even if this means passing on this particular opportunity. If you were invited to interview for one role, chances are other positions out there that you can compete for at Amazon. But it would be best if you did yourself a favour and did not risk getting a rejection straight from your first interview.
Don't Obsess Over Amazon Interview Questions and Answers
Most candidates start their Amazon interview preparation journey by hitting Google and looking for "Amazon Interview Questions and Answers". They hope to come across a treasure chest of winning answers. Unfortunately, while there is merit in trying to understand roughly what question format Amazon Interview follows and what some of the typical questions are, this path is full of pitfalls (if you are desperate, check out our list of Amazon Interview Questions).
First, what you might have realised by now is that Amazon Interview questions are looking to assess your performance against Amazon's 16 Leadership Principles (covered in detail in this article). Multiple questions can test every LP. Yes, there is an Amazon interview bank, but every interviewer is free to improvise. For example, we started getting creative when we packed the first six months in as Amazon interviewers. You won't prepare for every eventuality and every possible question by obsessing over them.
Lastly, this pains us a lot to write, but a lot of the most popular resources list Amazon interview questions that you'd rarely get in an actual Interview. For example, "If one of your close work colleagues stole a $1 item, what would you do?" If you know what Amazon interview questions are looking for, you'll know that this question cannot be part of an on-site loop. Sadly, there is a lot of misinformation out there, often published by folks who have never worked in the business.
The bottom line is, to tread this territory with caution.
Do Include Leadership Principles in Your Amazon Interview Preparation
Amazon has a distinct and peculiar culture that the company has forged over the last 20+ years. While 20 years is not old for a huge multinational business, Amazon managed to get incredibly set in its ways. They believe that their culture is the ultimate secret sauce that drives all other elements of business success. Therefore, an Amazon Interview is a vehicle to establish your cultural fit for the business. For non-technical roles, this is the most critical part of your application process.
Here is a particular caution to those interviewing for technical roles. We've seen enough questions on social media from SDE and BI candidates wondering how critical non-technical (LP-based) assessment is compared to Coding and System Design rounds. Our guidance is to treat non-technical evaluation with the same focus and preparation because it is equally as important. In the same Social Media channels, we've seen way too many posts from unsuccessful candidates in an Amazon Interview suggesting that they did not do a great job on LPs. If you're interviewing for a tech role, try to avoid finding yourself in this situation.
Where do you find information about Amazon's Leadership Principles? First, study Amazon Jobs, Amazon's own recruitment website. Then, go through this resource with a fine-tooth comb and soak in every bit of information that it contains.
Second, dive one level deeper and get The Everything Store by Brad Stone. This book is a golden collection of insights about the early days of Amazon. It will give you unparalleled insights into why Leadership Principles are what they are and how they link to Amazon's success.
Third, watch YouTube videos of Amazon's Executive Leadership Team (or S-Team) discussing Leadership Principles. Look for videos featuring Jeff Bezos, Jeff Wilkie and Andy Jassy. The beauty of Amazon's Leadership Principles is that they are so revered inside the organisation that even those public videos represent the culture well and are a legitimate source of Amazon Interview preparation.
Lastly, watch all the videos on our YouTube channel.
Do Understand Amazon's Quirks and Peculiarities
Stemming from its Leadership Principles, Amazon has accumulated a myriad of cultural quirks and peculiarities. But, of course, the company is aware of this, which is why you are told repeatedly that "Amazon is peculiar" during your first six months in the business.
For example, you won't find it surprising to learn that Amazon loves its talent to be exceptional problem-solvers. One of its Leadership Principles, Dive Deep, explicitly expects Amazonian Leaders to be able to roll up their sleeves and cut through the sea of details to find solutions to complex problems. However, what would constitute the right solution in many other businesses won't fly in Amazon.
Amazon has an engineering ethos, which treats problems as defects. In an engineering or manufacturing environment, defects that are not eliminated at the source are passed down the production line. They scale with every unit that leaves the conveyer belt - a horror story for a business that obsesses over customers.
Hence, Amazonians have a culture of root-causing problems and asking themselves, "Why did this problem occur?" several times before they land on the fundamental defect. This way, they ensure that issues are fixed not by patching up symptoms but by repairing root causes at the source.
Why is it important to understand Amazon's quirks and peculiarities, like its approach to problem-solving? Because you will be able to interpret all drill-downs and follow-ups that happen during Amazon Interview correctly. You will know where your interviewers are coming from, and you will be able to frame your answers appropriately (as opposed to being confused and short of words).
The best place to soak in Amazon's quirks and peculiarities is a collection of Jeff Bezos' letters to shareholders. He includes these messages in every quarterly earnings report, and there is a cultural nugget in each letter. Here is where you can find a decent collection, all pulled together. For the more recent ones, you'll have to dig through the earnings statements (trust us, it's worth it).
Do Understand Amazon Interview Format
Amazon follows a competency-based interview format. While the structure itself has been around for ages, what is peculiar about Amazon is the extent to which the business relies on competency-based interviews to make hiring decisions.
Understanding competency-based interviews and how they are meant to work for the employer will allow you to be comfortable in an Amazon Interview. It will also allow you to quickly discard hundreds of fake Amazon Interview questions posted on the Internet (you will know in an instant if they fit the format or not).
You can read about the competency-based interview format in this article and this YouTube channel. Otherwise, there is a lot of information on the Internet about this interview style - most of it is useful.
Do Practice STAR Responses
STAR stands for Situation, Task, Actions and Results. It is the format of an Amazon Interview response that is highly recommended in a competency interview setting.
Despite the STAR interview response format being around for a while, candidates still struggle with it. Therefore, a good half of our Amazon Interview Coaching sessions focus on helping folks master this interviewing skill.
Why do candidates find STAR difficult? Because it asks an interviewee to frame an actual life situation into a 10-minute Shakespearean play because it makes a job of an interviewer easier. Candidates find it hard because real situations are messy, often with multiple action threads. When we find ourselves in the middle of a business problem, solutions are usually iterative and call on intuition and structure. At the same time, a STAR response expects you to distil your real life only to the bare essentials while discarding second-grade details.
Mastering the art of compressing real life in 10-minute STAR openers. Here is how we recommend preparing. First, watch our YouTube channel to get a basic understanding of what is required to form a decent STAR response to a behavioural interview question. Second, read the article about STAR Method pitfalls. Third, find interview partners (you can get our FREE course and get access to our free community), and get plenty of feedback on your responses.
Amazon Interview Preparation: Bringing It All Together
We've created a collection of resources to help you prepare for your Amazon Interview. While you don't need to use any of them to do well, they are here for you to make your life easier. It's a series of shortcuts if you will. But, we are confident that you will find them of high quality. We poured our hearts, souls, and experience interviewing candidates for Amazon and coaching candidates when we left into these products.
First, check out the rest of the articles in this blog. This article tries to give you a whistle-stop overview of the Amazon Interview process and should be an excellent place to start your preparation routine.
Second, we've created a YouTube channel where we post free interview prep content.
Third, we've used our own experience and research to create a signature piece of training - Amazon Interview Whizz. This all-inclusive training set leaves no stone unturned. You will develop a deep understanding of all Leadership Principles, quirks and peculiarities, master STAR format and loads more. Please don't take our word for it and read live testimonials to find our training and coaching reviews.
Fourth, if you're a paid student, you can book time with us for a 1:1 coaching session. You can expect to walk out with meaty feedback outlining where you need to improve — all personalised to you and your level of preparation.
Finally, do take advantage of our Membership Community to find Amazon Interview partners. The community is incredible, and everyone is looking for interview partners all the time. You can get access to the FREE Community with the FREE Taster Course on Customer Obsession.
As ever, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us via our Community.
GG and Evgeny