How to Ace a Behavioral Interview on Amazon: A Complete Guide

The job application process for e-commerce company Amazon usually includes a behavioral interview. It is a series of questions that aims to see how a job applicant thinks on their feet with varying questions about their work experience and how they can potentially develop within the company.

Why is this necessary? Aside from technical skills, interpersonal and interpersonal skills are huge factors in a person’s work performance and career path. For example, while a software development engineer must be proficient in all related technical skills, they must also know how to communicate and work with their teammates to create a productive working atmosphere.

It is important to prepare for a behavioral interview just like you would with a technical assessment, especially if you are aiming to work for Amazon, a company that promotes specific leadership principles to all employees.

Amazon Behavioral Interview: Overview

Amazon was founded in 1995 by Jeff Bezos, starting from a small garage. Almost thirty years later, it has now become the world’s second largest and biggest e-commerce company. It has many teams or subsidiaries that one can work for, making it one of the top choices for thousands of aspiring job applicants.

Amazon’s growth required many skilled and unique employees; to keep the quality of work, Amazon includes a behavioral interview for leadership roles. This interview is separate from the phone interview, which typically goes first. Behavioral interviews are required by many companies to determine if the candidate’s personality is compatible with the company’s own values and work environment. It is usually face-to-face, but may also depend on certain circumstances such as location and position. In Amazon’s case, their behavioral interview is anchored in its 16 Leadership Principles: sixteen values that leaders must live by in order to keep delivering quality products and services to its customers.

What are the Amazon Leadership Principles?

Amazon’s Leadership Principles let job applicants know the kind of culture waiting for them should they get that job offer. Here are Amazon’s Leadership Principles, their official descriptions, and what they mean for job applicants when preparing for their interview:

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.

Ever since the beginning, Amazon has aimed to be “Earth’s most customer-centric company.” This means that the customer should always be the priority when creating, developing, and delivering products and services.

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.”

Amazon leaders should always hold themselves accountable from the beginning until the end. They act as if they represent the company with every decision, putting to mind the importance of every step.

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 has grown to what it is today because of innovation. It is always important to continuously seek changes and improvements.

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 leaders should know how to make the right decisions and not act on instinct alone. They are not afraid of making mistakes, because they rarely make them.

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.

Curiosity is one of the attitudes that breeds innovation. Staying curious and open to learning allows for improvement and eventually better products and services.

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.

Leaders should learn how to recognize talent in all its aspects, and potential in all forms. Educational background is not enough to hire someone; they must reach the standards set by the company.

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.

Leaders should set, maintain, and live up to high standards so they can set an example for everyone. This goes for every aspect: from the work environment to products and services.

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.

Leaders should go for big goals. If it’s easily achievable, then it is too small.

Bias for Action

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

Action is the name of the game. Calculated risk-taking should allow leaders to make decisions fast, without compromising quality.

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.

With the need for innovation comes the need to become more resourceful. Learn to accomplish even with limitations.

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.

Leaders connect with their team members and encourage them to work to the best of their abilities. They recognize their own gaps and work towards addressing them.

Dive Deep

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

Leaders are always hands-on, no matter their position.

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.

Leaders know when they are in the right and are not afraid to speak out, no matter who they are going up against.

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.

Leaders deliver on their goals and promises. They work every day towards achieving this with their team.

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.

Leaders empower employees, so they can also become better leaders in the future. They look beyond standard measures of performance.

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 Leaders must be aware of their responsibilities to their fellow employees, to their communities, and to the planet.

Why does Amazon use Behavior-Based Interview Questions?

Amazon avoids brain teasers in their behavioral interviews as the company has found them to be unreliable. Behavioral interviews allow human resources officers and team managers to determine if an applicant will be compatible with the company. The assessed responses are a huge factor in whether or not the candidate goes to the next level of the application process or if they will be offered the position.

Behavioral interviews also help in the development of employees; they can potentially check for leadership or management potential.

Questions to Expect

The following are some sample questions for each Amazon Leadership Principle. Remember, you do not have to sound literary or poetic to be considered a good applicant. What matters most is how you answer the questions: clearly and transparently. It is important to answer honestly and avoid oversharing or embellishing.

Customer Obsession

  • Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond to meet a customer’s needs or expectations.
  • How do you ensure that customer feedback is taken into account when making important business decisions?

For these questions, it is important to cite a previous event or situation. Emphasize the problem and your course of action.

Ownership

  • Describe a situation where you took ownership of a project or task, even though it wasn’t explicitly assigned to you.
  • How do you handle situations when things don’t go as planned, and how do you take responsibility for the outcomes?

Describe how you approached an unexpected issue or situation, and specifically how you took accountability for its results.

Invent and Simplify

  • Give an example of a time when you identified a complex problem and simplified the solution to make it more efficient.
  • How do you encourage innovation and creative thinking within your team or organization?

Are Right, A Lot

  • Describe a project where you didn’t know almost anything at first but ended up being successful
  • How do you ensure that your decisions are not biased and consider all possible factors?

As a leader, it is important that you show that you know how to make decisions in order to reduce risk and losses for the company.

Learn and Be Curious

  • How do you stay updated on industry trends and new developments within your field?
  • Give an example of a time when you pursued learning opportunities to acquire new skills or knowledge.

For these questions, you can talk about a new software or product, or a new venture in your previous job that you worked on.

Hire and Develop the Best

  • What steps do you take to ensure you’re hiring the right candidates for your team?
  • Describe a situation where you mentored or coached a team member to help them reach their full potential.

Insist on the Highest Standards

  • How do you maintain quality and high standards in your work, even when facing tight deadlines?
  • Describe a time when you had to make trade-offs between time and quality, and how you handled it.

Showcase your need to meet all the standards when it comes to your job. Take note of the leadership principles and apply them to the situation.

Think Big

  • Tell me about a time when you proposed an ambitious idea that led to significant positive outcomes.
  • How do you encourage your team to think beyond conventional solutions and aim for big goals?

Bias for Action

  • Describe a situation where you had to make a quick decision with limited information. How did you ensure it was the right choice?
  • Tell me about a project where you proactively took initiative to move things forward, even in the face of uncertainty.

Frugality

  • Give an example of a time when you identified opportunities to cut costs or optimize resources.
  • How do you balance frugality with ensuring the quality and effectiveness of your projects?

Earn Trust

  • Describe a situation where you had to rebuild trust with a colleague or team member after a setback or disagreement.
  • How do you establish trust in new relationships with stakeholders or customers?

Dive Deep

  • How do you approach problem-solving to ensure you fully understand the root causes of issues?
  • Give an example of a time when you had to work the frontline all of a sudden or talk to a customer after an issue. How did you resolve the problem?

Make sure you discuss a time when you had to resolve an issue: be specific with the problem and the results, and what you did to make sure it never happens again.

Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit

  • Describe a situation where you disagreed with a team decision but committed to supporting it once the decision was made.
  • How do you foster an environment where open discussions and healthy disagreements are encouraged?

Deliver Results

  • Give an example of a project where you faced obstacles but still delivered exceptional results.
  • How do you set clear goals and priorities to ensure timely and successful project completion?

Provide just one example of how you were able to deliver despite challenges. Start with the goal, then the problem or challenge, and then the steps that brought you to success.

Strive to be Earth’s Best Employer

  • How do you continuously seek opportunities for improvement in your work or processes?
  • Tell me about a time when you exceeded expectations and achieved excellence in your role.

Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility

  • How do you promote diversity and inclusion within your team or organization?
  • Give an example of a situation where you created an inclusive environment that fostered collaboration and respect.

Understanding the role you are applying to can help you narrow down which principles might get discussed in your interview.

How to Prepare for the Amazon Behavioral Interview

Preparing for a behavioral interview is just the same as any other interview: you must be ready for almost anything by equipping yourself with the right tools and skills:

Be the STAR

The STAR (Situation-Task-Action-Result) Method is highly suggested by Amazon itself when responding to behavioral-based interview questions. It is an easy way to structure your responses on the spot.

Or choose the CAR

Another method is the CAR (Context-Action-Results), where the situation and task are combined in the Context part. You can learn more about these methods and get prep packs from websites like JobTestPrep!

  • Prepare with Practice Questions. Practice your preferred methods with practice questions. If you can, practice with a friend or family member so you can get feedback, not just about your responses, but also about your tone, posture, and other mannerisms that may be distracting. You can list down significant events that you can connect to the leadership principles, but practice answering out loud.
  • Expect Follow-up Questions. Since you will be discussing your work experiences, expect that there will be follow-up questions. This is why you should avoid lying or embellishing, as your interviewers will most likely see through it and ask for more information.
  • Keep it Clean and Structured. In their official guide for interviews, Amazon notes: “Keep in mind that we are data-driven. Ensure your answers are well-structured. Provide examples using metrics or data if applicable. Reference recent situations when possible.” Once you have worked on keeping your answers structured, you can work on giving them your personal touch. Amazon also asks for specific examples that showcase experience and how you have taken risks, succeeded, failed, and grown.
  • Become an “Amazonian”. Embody the Amazonian skills during your interview: be confident and innovative, but aware of the roles and risks that come with the job. You can watch videos or read statements from other Amazon employees to see how they view their jobs and their ways of thinking.
  • Avoid overselling yourself. Take note of the leadership principle, Earn Trust. As a potential leader, you must be aware of your own failures or gaps. Avoid showing off or coming off as the “perfect applicant”. Instead, emphasize how you continue to improve yourself and are open to learning.

Becoming the Leader Amazon Needs

The Amazon Behavioral Interview is designed to assess candidates’ thinking skills and discuss their work experience. It is anchored in Amazon’s 16 Leadership Principles, which provides information on what the company is looking for in its team leaders or managers.

Preparing for the behavioral interview part of the application process is just as important as the technical assessments. Candidates must prepare and embody the leadership principles and make sure their answers are clear, structured, and in the context of the Leadership Principles. Good luck!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the Amazon behavioral interview?

It is an interview that Amazon administers to applicants, mostly for leadership positions, which aims to assess their thinking skills and methods.

Are Amazon interviews hard?

It depends on how much you have prepared. Study the Amazon Leadership Principles, where the questions will be based, and practice so it will not be as hard during the actual interview.

How long should Amazon behavioral interview answers be?

The length of the interview varies depending on the position, the number of questions, and the follow-up questions the panel has for the applicant.

Can you repeat answers in an Amazon interview?

It depends on the context of the questions. Make sure to reconstruct your response or experience and connect it to the question or Leadership Principle.

How do you pass a behavior-based interview?

The Amazon Behavioral Interview challenges applicants’ ability to think on their feet with the varying questions. The company emphasizes that it looks for clarity and structure in the responses, so focus on these when preparing for the interview to get higher chances of passing or moving on to the next step of the application process.