In this article, we will see How to prepare for Amazon Onsite Interview.
Amazon has a meticulous and unique interview process, like any other trillion-dollar company. They make their hiring decisions based on the candidate’s qualifications and how to fit applicants are with the leadership principles for the company’s mission. They look for employees with extraordinary abilities who will help raise the company’s standards by increasing their average productivity level.
Amazon selects a few of its employees as ‘Bar Raiser’ or candidate evaluators in the interview process. Aside from holding the interview process, they are also in charge of ensuring the candidates’ being interviewed against their leadership principles. The onsite interview is known as ‘The Loop” including several interviews for testing core technical skills.
Amazon Hiring Process
Amazon’s hiring process happens in multiple steps and may happen in a period of one week to four months based on the role and team of the candidate. Candidates may have technical or non-technical assessments, questions related to behavior, or writing samples.
Candidates either apply online or are head-hunted by the recruiters. The interview process is a four-step process:
- Phone Screen
- Video Interview
- Onsite or The Loop
- Offer or Not
Phone Screen or Screening Interview
The recruiter usually assesses the candidate’s interests and if he’s fit for the particular role. They may also ask basic background-related questions like the candidate’s experience in team management or salary expectations.
After successfully passing the phone interview, candidates are invited for video screening. The recruiter would ask more in-depth questions related to the resume or they may be behavior-based. One example would be to talk about one of the failures the candidates had and how he/she overcame it. Candidates may also have to talk about their past work experiences.
- Software engineers are required to answer technical questions based on coding, algorithms, or data structures.
- Product managers would have to work on cases and answer strategy-based questions.
Onsite Interview or the Loop
Amazon onsite interviews are held in the Seattle headquarters or respective locations where the candidate spends his/her whole day with 4 to 6 staffers (though recently due to the COVID-19 restrictions all interviews are held virtually from home).
The interviewers comprise senior members, prospective teammates, hiring team members, and a bar raiser. Bar raisers are trained employees as interview experts who function as objective mediators. They do not disclose their identity and usually ask questions based on leadership principles. They pay attention to certain things such as:
- The type of questions the candidate is asking.
- If the candidates are aware of their role in the bigger picture or knowledge of the product they would work on.
- If they are interested in how they would impact the company.
- If they have enough empathy for the users.
The hiring committee decides behind the scenes if the candidate would receive an offer or not. They also decide your level and hence your salary.
If they decide to make an offer then the employer would discuss the terms of the employment such as working location, hours, salary, etc.) In case the candidate chooses to negotiate, necessary adjustments will be approved by the compensation committee. Finally when everything is sorted out the recruiter would send the necessary paperwork.
Need to complete a writing sample
Since Amazon deliberately avoids using PowerPoint and other slide-deck presentations, writing skills are necessary even in the case of a software engineer. Employees while presenting new ideas need to write out a memo like a press release. This will be passed on to all the team members at the beginning of the meeting for a silent reading which would be followed by a Question-and-Answer session with the employee.
This kind of interview is usually held in the case of software engineers and various technical roles as well as other applicants. The former needs preparation beforehand while the latter does not since they will be asked simple questions.
Online or Role-specified Assessments
They are either assessments related to work style or sample assessments. They may include Interpreting chart data, appropriate replies to customer questions, or making choices in resolving issues.
The Leadership Principles of Amazon
There are a total of 14 leadership principles upon which Amazon judges the candidates.
- Customer Obsession
- Invent and Simplify
- Be Right A Lot
- Learn and Be Curious
- Hire the Best
- Insist on Higher Standards
- Think Big
- Bias for Action
- Earn Trust
- Dive Deep
- Have Backbone
- Deliver Results
Leaders always start with the customer and then work backward. Their goal is to work in earning the customer‘s trust. They often obsess over the customers and keep an eye out for potential competitors. Some examples of the questions asked related to this are:
- To give an instance of the time when they failed to meet the customer’s expectations. What followed next and how they finally rectified the situation.
- How to prioritize the customer needs when they are working with several customers and it’s tough delivering excellent service to each of them.
- If they have ever refused to indulge in any difficult and unreasonable request from the customer.
- To talk about a situation when they asked customer feedback and how they made use of it for any innovation or improvement.
Leaders are the owners themselves who have to think long-term and not sacrifice those values for short-term results. They never refuse to do their job and act on the behalf of the whole company and not just their teams. Some examples of the questions asked related to this are:
- Talk about the time when they could not complete a task.
- Explain a time when they had to work on a certain project with unclear responsibilities.
- Describe a time when they performed more than what was required.
- To explain a time when they were not sure if they would meet the commitment they had promised before.
Invent and Simplify
Leaders are always expecting innovations and inventions from the teams which they find ways to simplify. They are on the lookout for new ideas and are aware of external activities. Some examples of the questions asked related to this are:
- Talk about a time they solved a complex problem with an easy solution.
- Mention any of their inventions.
- The newest and innovative idea they ever implemented.
- Give an example of an instance when they thought of a novel approach towards a problem.
Be Right, A Lot
Leaders should be right a lot or most of the time. They should possess better instincts and stronger judgemental abilities. Some examples of the questions asked related to this are:
- Mention an instance when they were wrong.
- Talk about a time they had to work with or make any decision with incomplete data.
- Discuss when they made difficult decisions based on the inputs of various people.
Learn and Be Curious
Leaders are always learning and seeking ways for improving and upgrading themselves. They are always curious and ready to explore brand-new possibilities. Some examples of the questions asked related to this are:
- Describe a time when they only asked questions for influencing a change and were successful.
- Mention a time when their observation or knowledge helped solve a problem.
- The coolest thing they ever learned by themselves and used it on performing their job.
Hire the Best
Leaders have the responsibility of raising the bar for performance during every hire or promotion. They can recognize unique talents and utilize them in the correct ways. Some examples of the questions asked related to this are:
- Talk about their mentoring experience.
- Discuss an instance when they hired the wrong person, how he found out about it and solved it.
- Describe a time when they built a new team for a particular project.
Insist of High Standards
Leaders are people with high standards which may seem unreasonable to some but are for the company’s best. They are always raising the bar and demanding a higher quality of services, products, and processes from their teams. Some examples of the questions asked related to this are:
- Mention a time they were not able to meet their expectations.
- Talk about the time when any member was not able to meet their expectations in a project.
- Discuss a time when they were not satisfied with the status quo and what they did to change it.
Leaders need to have a bigger picture. They invent and communicate a bold direction that would inspire people for good results. They have a different thinking capacity and are on the lookout for new ways of serving their customers. Some examples of the questions asked related to this are:
- Describe the time when the organization’s senior members adopted their vision.
- Discuss an instance when they used an opportunity for achieving something bigger while working on a goal or initiative than its primary focus.
- Mention the professional achievement they are most proud of.
Bias for Action
Leaders are aware of the fact that speed matters a lot in business. The value calculated risk-taking. Some examples of the questions asked related to this are:
- Mention a time when they took a calculated risk.
- Describe the time they had to retrieve information from an irresponsible person.
- Discuss the time they took an action before discussing it with their manager.
Leaders should always be self-critical, attentive, and respectful. Some examples of the questions asked related to this are:
- Mention an instance when they had to tell a harsh truth.
- Talk about a critical feedback
- Describe a time they noticed their team member struggling.
Leaders follow the rule of accomplishing more with less. They put on constraints that result in self-sufficiency, inventions, and resourcefulness. Some examples of the questions asked related to this are:
- Mention a time they had to work with limited resources.
- Discuss an instance when they had to manage the budget.
- Talk about the time they thought of a new way to save the company’s money.
Leaders have to operate at every level, make frequent audits, be skeptical when the anecdote and metrics differ and always stay in connection with the details. They value all tasks as equal and no task is beneath them. Some examples of the questions asked related to this are:
- Mention two examples of when they did more than their job experience required.
- A new thing they learned in their job.
- Talk about the most difficult problem they worked on.
Leaders have to disagree and respectfully challenge all the decisions they are against despite it being exhausting and uncomfortable. They are tenacious and do not compromise for social cohesion. Some examples of the questions asked related to this are:
- Mention any unpopular decision.
- Talk about the time they had to disagree with a member’s approach.
- Talk about a time they disagreed yet went with the group decision.
Leaders have to look after their crucial business inputs and deliver them. Setbacks do not stop them from rising to any occasion. Some examples of the questions asked related to this are:
- The most challenging situation in their life.
- Talk about the time when they were responsible for handling numerous assignments.
- Mention an instance when they were leading a team but failed to reach the goal.
Things to Keep in Mind Before and During the Interview
Use the STAR Method
Amazon emphasizes the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method. The candidates are also advised to research behavioral questions and prepare at least 5 stories using this method.
- Situation: Describe the situation or the task
- Task: The goal the candidate was working on
- Action: The actions that were taken for addressing the situation
- Result: Explain in detail the outcome of those actions.
To know all the Leadership Principles
Besides observing the candidate’s technical skills, the recruiter also keeps a note on how he/she identifies with the leadership principles in Amazon. Regardless of the post or job, the employee has to own these leadership traits.
Look out for the Bar Raiser
The bar raiser has veto power in the hiring power that even the hiring manager cannot deny during the final verdict. So the candidates need to be familiar with the bar raiser’s role and what they observe.
The best way to answer Amazon’s onsite interview questions is to deliver the facts. Candidates should not make up stories for fitting the image since that would make them seem fake and inconsistent. This would also not allow them to show their true potential. The only thing they need to be prepared about is to explain their own merits and achievements that would show their leadership qualities.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Are these the questions that are asked every time?
These are sample questions. There might be some similar questions but they are not always the same.
- Should someone negotiate for their salary?
One should negotiate for their salary if they wish to. It is completely their decision.
- How does one recognize a Bar raiser?
Bar raisers often focus on the leadership principles and usually interview the candidates last.