Acing Amazon’s Behavioral Interview Questions (2022)

If you want to get a tech job at Amazon, you'll need to have a successful behavioral interview. In the following we'll show you want you need to do to "pass" this test.

6 min read

2 Feb, 2022

Acing Amazon’s Behavioral Interview Questions (2022)

Amazon, like other big tech companies, incorporates behavioral interview questions into their interview process. In fact, Amazon isn’t shy about its research-backed behavior-based approach to interview questions with these examples:

  • Tell me about a time when you were faced with a problem that had a number of possible solutions. What was the problem and how did you determine the course of action? What was the outcome of that choice?
  • When did you take a risk, make a mistake, or fail? How did you respond, and how did you grow from that experience?
  • Describe a time you took the lead on a project.
  • What did you do when you needed to motivate a group of individuals or promote collaboration on a particular project?
  • How have you leveraged data to develop a strategy?

These may look intimidating now, but you should be able to ace Amazon’s behavioral interview questions after reading through this guide.

Amazon Leadership Principles and Workplace Diversity

Whether you want to work as a software engineer or as a remote executive assistant, Amazon makes preparing for the interview a very transparent process.

Amazon is also very transparent on its hiring trends:

How is this data relevant to preparing for Amazon’s behavioral interview? This shows that Amazon is committed to diversity and unbiased in its hiring practices after no longer relying on AI software for hiring. Now, it’s easier to prepare for the questions of "Why Amazon?” for a company that no longer has biased hiring practices.

Diversity and inclusion are part of the customer obsession that Amazon pushes with its leadership principles. Amazon uses these leadership principles questions when evaluating interview candidates. All this information and data is what Amazon wants you to research when looking into its culture, as Amazon cannot ask Amazon leadership principles questions without having values of its own.

The 14 Amazon Leadership Principles

There are 14 Amazon leadership principles to learn. Fortunately, you do not need to memorize all 14, but it helps to understand these principles, and some Amazon leadership principles questions posed during an interview.

  1. Customer Obsession:
  • Can you build customer trust by starting with the customer and working your way backward?
  • Example: Tell me about a time you deal with a difficult customer.
  1. Ownership
  • Can you take initiative at work?
  • Example: How did you handle a challenging task that went beyond your job responsibilities?
  1. Invent and Simplify
  • Can you invent new ways to simplify things?
  • Example: What was a complicated problem that you found a simple result for?
  1. Are Right, A Lot
  • Are you a strong leader who almost always makes the right decisions?
  • Example: Tell me about a time you faced a complex decision and had no one of higher authority to help you make that decision?
  1. Learn And Be Curious
  • Always look for ways to improve yourself.
  • Example: What situation in the past changed your perspective?
  1. Hire and Develop the Best
  • Only hire and lead the best.
  • Example: Were you ever a mentor? How did your mentee turn out?
  1. Insist on the Highest Standards
  • Always set your standards higher.
  • Example: Tell me about a time where you couldn’t meet your standards.
  1. Think Big
  • Always think outside the box.
  • Example: Tell me about a time one of your bold ideas paid off?
  1. Bias for Action
  • Can you act quickly and effectively?
  • Example: What was the biggest risk you took?
  1. Frugality
  • How much can you accomplish with few resources?
  • Example: Tell me about a time you had to complete a project with very little help.
  1. Earn Trust
  • Treat others the way you want to be treated.
  • Example: Tell me about a time you had to earn the trust of your team for a collaborative effort.
  1. Dive Deep
  • Be able to take on any role in the team.
  • Example: Tell me about a time you did an audit and found contrasting metrics. How did you handle it?
  1. Have Backbone Disagree and Commit
  • Do you have conviction and commitment?
  • Example: Tell me about a time you had an idea that no one else believed in.
  1. Deliver Results
  • Can you deliver on time with the best quality?
  • Example: Tell me about a time where, despite all odds, you still delivered results.

Preparing For Amazon Behavioral Questions

Amazon does not do trick questions. While big companies, such as Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn like to throw brain teasers into their interviews, Amazon shies away from that practice.

"Our interview process is geared toward finding true examples of the work you've performed." -Stacy Milgate, Senior Client Lead, Amazon Web Services

Here are some tips:

  1. Don’t be afraid to follow up on a question: Following up on an interview question confirms to an interviewer that you’re listening. It will make a good impression during your interview to not only seek additional context if the question is too vague, but to ask follow-up questions to show your interest in the position.
  2. Structure your answer: You don’t want to ramble during a behavioral interview. Be concise with your answer so that it has a beginning hook and an ending with a positive outcome. Rambling during an interview might show a lack of confidence and poor communication skills to not only Amazon but any employer.
  3. Don’t be afraid to mention your failures: One of the best tips from Cody Nelson, Senior Manager of Recruiting, Worldwide Operations, states, "Failure isn't a bad thing as long as you improve from the lessons you learned. Understand how you've taken risks in a positive way and be able to communicate that to your interviewer." What he is saying is to market yourself as someone who has taken risks and failed, but someone who has gotten up each time and learned from each mistake.

Much like other companies, such as Stripe, Amazon uses the STAR methodology.

STAR Method Amazon Examples

Amazon themselves details the structure of their behavioral interview: The STAR method:

  • Situation: Detail the situation to the interviewer.
  • Task: Detail the goal you or your team worked towards.
  • Action: Describe each action you took or how you contributed to your team.
  • Result: What was the result of your actions, behavior, or teamwork? Did you learn anything from your success or failures?

Cody Nelson recommends you look at the job description of the position you’re applying for. Now that you know what’s expected of you between Amazon leadership principles that include the STAR methodology, let’s look at examples of Amazon’s behavioral interview questions and answers.

Keep in mind, these may not be exact questions that Amazon could ask during an interview, but it will help you structure your answers when preparing for the behavioral interview.

Question 1. "Can you tell me about a time you were told the current direction of your project needed to change?”

What Amazon is looking for here is your ability to adapt. What action did you take under pressure?

"After a project update, a client was not happy with the current direction and gave my team new requirements. I sat down with my team to put together a new course of action and how we can quickly implement these changes. With our new approach, we adapted quickly to these changes and met all of our client’s demands.”

Question 2: "How did you handle conflict at work?”

What the interviewer is looking for here is how you can deal with conflict or a team member with opposing ideas. Did you get upset? How did you resolve the conflict?

"I remained calm when a team member became defensive over my constructive criticism of his work. Instead of fighting back, I asked him what I could do to help him improve. When he realized I was on his side, he calmed down and we collaborated on the project to deliver quality results.”

Question 3: "Tell me about a time you dealt with a crisis during a project?”

A crisis or emergency question is handled the same way you would handle the first question, except you’re dealing with a lot more pressure.

"COVID-19 struck when we were on a very tight deadline for a project. Not only were multiple team members getting sick, but others who picked up their work experienced intense burnout. It became increasingly difficult to not only manage a team but to bring in additional team members and catch them up to speed on our project.

Fortunately, I’m not the type to panic. I sat down with my team and went over clear expectations. I was flexible and filled in any roles I could for the team. I provided direction and balance until we were able to get back up to full working capacity.”

Each of these questions mentions a situation, a task, an action, and a result to touch every base of the STAR method. Be clear and concise but deliver results with your answers. Whether you’re looking for remote work with Amazon or want to work on the logistics side, following these tips will help you ace Amazon’s behavioral interview questions. Good luck! 💪

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