It isn't surprising that getting a job at one of the big tech companies like Amazon, Google, or Facebook can present quite a challenge. The interviews for these companies have become almost as famous as the companies themselves.
One of the most significant differences between interviewing at Amazon and other FAANG companies lies in their approach to behavioral interview questions. Namely, Amazon has created the following 14 Amazon Leadership Principles.
These principles and the associated questions are designed to investigate your professional background and your ability to handle workplace situations. At Levels.fyi, we know how these may be difficult to improvise on the spot, so it is wise to prepare for them ahead of time. Read on for some of Amazon Leadership Principles questions, sample answers to them, and interview tips.
What are the Amazon Leadership Principles?
The Amazon Leadership Principles describe 14 fundamental values that govern the conduct of the company and its employees. The company states that these values are implemented in day-to-day operations and believes in hiring people who behave by these principles.
These qualities are often tested during the hiring process. They are crucial to know if you are preparing for an interview with Amazon and want to become an excellent candidate.
"We obviously hire based on the principles. We give both positive and negative feedback, which references the principles. We are encouraged to be aware of our own successes and failures in relation to the leadership principles," says Dave Anderson, Head of Technology at Bezos Academy and a former Director/GM at Amazon.
The good news is that you don't have to memorize all 14 Amazon Leadership Principles to get ready for an interview. Instead, Amazon tests applicants on the qualities that are most relevant to the position.
Here are the 14 Amazon Leadership Principles and some essential details to remember:
- Customer Obsession - Successful leaders always start with the customer and work their way backward. They work hard to earn and maintain customer trust, and even though they pay attention to competitors, customers are always the priority.
- Ownership - Leaders think long-term and prioritize long-term value over short-term success. They are owners, and they act on behalf of the company, not just themselves or their own team.
- Invent and Simplify - Leaders always seek ways to simplify and always require invention and innovation from their teams. Their thinking has no limits, and they always search for new ideas from everywhere. And, as they try new things, they expect to be sometimes misunderstood.
- Are Right, a Lot - Leaders are right most of the time. They possess good instincts and strong judgment, which enables them to seek diverse perspectives.
- Learn and Be Curious - Leaders always seek ways to improve themselves and never stop learning. They are curious about new opportunities and aren't afraid to explore the unknown.
- Hire and Develop the Best - Every hire and promotion decision made by leaders raises the performance level. Leaders recognize talent and are willing to support them in their development. They invest their time into coaching and mentoring others.
- Insist on the Highest Standards - Leaders are continually raising the bar of their standards and motivate their teams to deliver high-quality services, products, and processes. Leaders make sure that problems are fixed and defects never get sent down the line.
- Think Big - Leaders think differently and envisage a bold direction that inspires outstanding results. They also expertly partake in calculated risk-taking. They think outside of the box to serve customers and achieve a significant impact.
- Bias for Action - In business, speed matters. Many actions and decisions are reversible and do not require extensive study. They have a bias for action with long-term gains in mind.
- Frugality - Leaders find ways to accomplish more with less and maximize profit. They take constraints and turn them into self-sufficiency, resourcefulness, and invention.
- Earn Trust - Leaders speak candidly, listen attentively, and treat others respectfully. They aren't afraid to be self-critical in front of others and benchmark themselves only against the best.
- Dive Deep - Leaders focus on the details, work at all levels, and audit frequently.
- Have Backbone; Disagree, and Commit - Leaders aren't afraid to speak up and challenge decisions in a respectful way whenever they disagree. They do not compromise, even in a challenging environment. And once the team finalizes a decision, these leaders fully commit to it.
- Deliver Results - Leaders need to focus on the critical things in their work and deliver quality results promptly. No matter what, they overcome obstacles and never settle.
- Strive to be Earth's Best Employer - [Update: Added in 2021] 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.
- Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility - [Update: Added in 2021] 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.
Examples of Amazon Leadership Principles Questions
Here are some examples of Leadership Principles questions you can expect:
#1 Questions on "Customer Obsession":
- Who was your most difficult customer?
- Tell me about a time when you didn't meet customer expectations. What happened, and how did you deal with the situation?
- How do you go about prioritizing customer needs when you are dealing with a large number of customers?
#2 Questions on "Ownership":
- Tell me about a time when you took on a task that was beyond your job responsibilities.
- Tell me about a time when you had to work on a task with unclear responsibilities.
- Tell me about a time when you showed an initiative to work on a challenging project.
#3 Questions on "Invent and Simplify":
- Describe a time when you found a simple solution to a complex problem.
- Tell me about a time when you invented something.
- Tell me about a time when you tried to simplify a process but failed. What would you have done differently?
#4 Questions on "Are Right, a Lot":
- Tell me about a time when you effectively used your judgment to solve a problem.
- Tell me about a time when you had to work with insufficient information or incomplete data.
- Tell me about a time when you were wrong.
#5 Questions on "Learn and Be Curious":
- Tell me about an important lesson you learned over the past year.
- Tell me about a situation or experience you went through that changed your way of thinking.
- Tell me about a time when you made a smarter decision with the help of your curiosity.
#6 Questions on "Hire and Develop the Best":
- Tell me about a time when you mentored someone.
- Tell me about a time when you made a bad hire. When did you figure it out, and what did you do?
- What qualities do you look for in potential candidates when making hiring decisions?
#7 Questions on "Insist on the Highest Standards":
- Tell me about a time when you were dissatisfied with the quality of a project at work. What did you do to improve it?
- Tell me about a time when you motivated others to go above and beyond.
- Describe a situation when you couldn't meet your standards and expectations on a task.
#8 Questions on "Think Big":
- Tell me about your most significant professional achievement.
- Tell me about a time when you had to make a bold and challenging decision.
- Tell me about a time when your vision led to a great impact.
#9 Questions on "Bias for Action":
- Provide an example of when you took a calculated risk.
- Describe a situation when you took the initiative to correct a problem or a mistake rather than waiting for someone else to do it.
- Tell me about a time when you required some information from somebody else, but they weren't responsive. What did you do?
#10 Questions on "Frugality":
- Describe a time when you had to rely on yourself to complete a task.
- Tell me about a time when you had to be frugal.
- Tell me about a time when you had to rely on yourself to complete a project.
#11 Questions on "Earn Trust":
- Describe a time when you had to speak up in a difficult or uncomfortable environment.
- What would you do to gain the trust of your team?
- Tell me about a time when you had to tell a harsh truth to someone.
#12 Questions on "Dive Deep":
- Tell me about the most complicated problem you've had to deal with.
- Give me an example of when you utilized in-depth data to develop a solution.
- Tell me about something that you have learned in your role.
#13 Questions on "Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit":
- Describe a time when you disagreed with the approach of a team member. What did you do?
- Give me an example of something you believe in that nobody else does.
- Tell me about an unpopular decision of yours.
#14 Questions on "Deliver Results":
- Describe the most challenging situation in your life and how you handled it.
- Give an example of a time when you had to handle a variety of assignments. What was the outcome?
- Tell me about a time when your team gave up on something, but you pushed them to deliver results.
#15 Questions on "Strive to be Earth's Best Employer":
- When was the last time you built a team? What did you consider when assembling it together?
- Give an example of a time when you developed the careers of people on your team.
- How have you managed varying strengths and weaknesses of members in your team?
#16 Questions on "Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility":
- Describe a moral or ethical dilemma you've faced in the workplace. How did you handle it?
- Give an example of a time when you've left a project in a better position than you've found it.
- What's the largest impact you've had on your environment?
Structuring Your Answers to Behavioral Interview Questions
Interview preparation tips
When preparing for your Amazon interview, take the time to study the Amazon Leadership Principles questions, and develop two stories that demonstrate each of them. No, you don't need to think about answers to 28 questions. Some of these stories may tackle different leadership principles at once.
Your stories need to demonstrate the leadership principles and boundless curiosity to improve yourself on the job.
However, even if you have a good story to tell, your interviewer won't appreciate unstructured meandering anecdotes. They want your ideas and answers to the Amazon Leadership Principles questions to** be concise and precise** while still showing a depth of understanding and superior knowledge of your expertise.
There are two methods of answering behavioral interview questions in a succinct yet complete way: STAR and CAR.
Whatever method you choose, make sure that you contextualize the results of your actions within a closed-loop thinking framework. In other words, you should elaborate upon the effects of your actions on other processes and the overall system within which your team operates. Whether you're an engineer or a marketer, you need to emphasize your leadership skills and bold vision in the face of adversity.
STAR stands for "Situation - Task - Action - Results".
For example, in behavioral interview questions like this, you could easily employ the STAR method for a complete answer:
"Tell me about a time when you had to make a decision, which included short-term sacrifices for longer-term goals."
Situation. Begin by briefly talking about the context and situation:
"I was once managing a website, and it suddenly started showing slow performance due to a mistake on our side that went unnoticed for a long time. As a project manager, I took full responsibility and worked with the engineering team to resolve the issue promptly."
Task - Elaborate on the necessary tasks involved in the resolution of a situation:
"This mistake has shown me how important it is to monitor non-functional requirements in addition to the development of new features, on which I was spending most of my time."
Action - Describe all the steps you took to complete the above tasks:
"After fixing the issue, I made sure that such mistake doesn't happen again: I have implemented a good application management tool and set up to receive email alerts when website behavior exceeds set SLAs or thresholds. I spent the time to learn the tool myself to analyze previous issues further."
Results - Talk about the consequences or outcome of the situation and your actions:
"With these actions, we were able to have consistent page load times under 3 seconds. I also shared my experience with other project managers in the team through a brown bag presentation to prevent the situation from happening again."
The CAR technique of answering Amazon Leadership Principles interview questions is very similar to STAR.
CAR stands for "Context - Action - Result".
Let's take a look at this Amazon Leadership Principles question:
"Tell me about a time when you had to deliver results in the face of challenges."
Following the CAR method, you would answer the following way:
Context - Set the scene and describe the situation of a relevant example from your past experiences:
"In my previous employment, the sales division has been experiencing decreasing sales. I was invited to help reverse the situation. The biggest challenge I faced was to manage the team effectively so that they can not only meet but exceed their sales targets."
Action - Explain in detail what action you took, your steps, and the rationale behind it:
"Over a period of six months, I have implemented several initiatives, such as setting measurable sales targets for each individual, holding weekly sales meetings, and implementing a sales training program."
Result - Talk about the outcome of your action in detail:
"In the first quarter, we increased sales by 60% and exceeded sales targets by 25%. We continued to increase our sales throughout the next year."
Negotiate Better Job Offer Conditions with Levels.fyi
The Amazon Leadership Principles are an excellent way for the company to screen candidates that would fit the company culture.
If you are getting ready for an interview with Amazon, take your time to reflect on your past life experiences and prepare a handful of stories that are broad enough to fit a variety of potential questions.
But, of course, you need to be genuine in your responses and make sure to show your real personality to ace your behavioral interview questions on Amazon Leadership Principles.
If you require additional guidance negotiating a great job offer, check out the salary negotiation services provided by a team of experienced recruiters at Levels.fyi.