If you have an interview with Amazon lined up in the future, you definitely need to prepare for it. You probably know by now that things are different at Amazon in more ways than one. Amazon interview questions are asked with emphasis on the context of Amazon, which is why it is important to prepare extensively for an Amazon interview, often separately for specific types of possible questions. Here in this article, we look at one type of question and ideal ways to answer them. We believe this will help you greatly in your preparation for the upcoming interview.
While preparing for an interview at Amazon, it is of paramount importance to first read through and understand their 14 leadership principles. Amazon expects its employees to embody certain ideas, which they have comprehensively published as their leadership principles. Behavioral questions at Amazon interviews are focused on determining whether candidates can emulate their leadership principles. One such principle is the ‘learn and be curious” principle. Amazon defines this principle as: “Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.” This is actually one of the simpler principles to understand. Amazon wants the candidates who apply to them to be generally curious and intellectually dynamic and are open to experimenting with new methods and strategies at their job. They want to know if the candidate likes to try out things even if there is no particular need for it and whether they keep up with the current trends in their business. Therefore, the interviews at Amazon contain questions that seek to assess whether the candidates possess this way of thinking. Of course, only a candidate would be a good fit at Amazon. We shall analyze some possible questions that can be asked to judge how curious and willing to learn you are to give you a fair idea of answering questions in this category. The following are some questions that fall under this umbrella and their possible answers. Let’s check them out.
How do you motivate yourself and learn new things in your work?
A big mistake that many candidates often make is to say that they do not have the time to try out new things as they are busy with their jobs and their families and are comfortable working with whatever is the common way of doing so. While this answer might be acceptable in some companies and might even be overlooked in some interviews as satisfactory, Amazon sets some very high standards for itself. Motivation to learn is not a bonus trait in an Amazon employee. It is supposed to be the norm. The candidate should talk about the relevant publications and journals they follow to stay up to date with the happenings in the industry and the conferences they have attended in the past in this regard. They may also mention some of their favorite authors in this field to convince the interviewer that they really put in the effort to learn new things for their work.
Tell us about something that you have learned which has helped you in your job.
The interviewer wants to know if the candidate knows how to use technical knowledge to their advantage and contribute to their job. While it is important to know, it is more important to know how to use what one knows. Therefore, a candidate should mention any past work experience when they picked something up at their job and how that helped them later. A detailed answer would be impressive, as it would show that the candidate remembers what they have learned and has an eye for detail. For example, if the candidate has worked at a tech company as a consultant before, they can talk about what part of being a consultant interested them and why, and how they made some effort to learn more about it, such as taking classes. They can then see how they used the knowledge they acquired to contribute to their company’s growth.
How do you keep up with industry trends and what are your competitors up to?
A curious candidate would know about their own job, but they would also strive to keep up with the things in trend in the industry and the ideas and goals the companies competing with their company are dealing with. A good way of answering this question is for the candidate to regularly read publications that emphasize the news related to their industry, such as the Wall Street Journal. They may also talk about how they use social media to keep up with the relevant trends in the industry by following all the right handles. As far as knowing what rival companies are up to, the interviewer won’t expect the candidate to know every detail about it. An overall description of a product by one such company would suffice to display the candidate’s working knowledge.
Tell us about a time when you learned something from a peer or a junior employee at work.
Being curious and open to learning new things involves keeping one’s ego in check and picking up things from one’s peers and juniors. A candidate who is okay with letting a peer guide them sometimes has an open mind, and Amazon would like to see more of this in their employees. This is why the interviewer needs to know the candidate already has some work experience, telling them whether the candidate in front of them has the required attributes. For example, the candidate may mention an instance where someone pointed out something that would add value to some work already completed by them or about how they sought help from a junior when they couldn’t figure something out by themselves.
What is the most recent book you have read and what did you learn from it?
While this question may seem a little off-topic, it is actually very useful in judging the candidate’s learning ability and process. We recommend that the candidate mention a non-fiction book that is relevant to the job. The interviewer would not be interested in what the candidate recently learned from reading poetry, for example. An ideal answer to this type of question would include an articulate list of all the good things in the book and how one can relate them with their job. The candidate can also include how what they have learned from the book has affected their lives and then finish the answer with a short recommendation for the book for others to read. This will show the interviewer that the candidate is constantly absorbing knowledge.
Tell us about a time when you took up a responsibility outside of your regular work domain.
This is a question to test whether the candidate is comfortable with working on unfamiliar grounds. Amazon often requires its employees to step up to unusual situations and take charge. A candidate who has experience delivering on areas that are out of their range of expertise will definitely be a good hire. The candidate should briefly describe the project they worked on and the lessons they learned from it. They should also talk about how they successfully delivered on it and how that has inspired them to take up newer responsibilities and try out newer approaches to a job whenever there is an opportunity. Finally, they should talk about how they found the whole experience rewarding, which will, in turn, show the interviewer that the candidate is not only okay with trying out new things but also enthusiastic about it.
What would you do if you were expected to work on a project that required you to learn something new?
A candidate’s ability to adapt to unknown circumstances by learning new things is an important part of the principle of being curious and open to learning. The interviewer wants to know what the candidate would normally do if they are tasked with work they know little about. Since this question is asking about prior experience, it should not be too difficult to answer it. All one needs to do is talk about what approach they took in such a situation, how much time it took them, and how they managed to get the information they needed. The candidate should impress the interviewer that they will go to any length to procure information needed for any job.
How do you feel about breaking with tradition in order to try something new?
The candidate should take the interviewer through identifying some shortcomings in the prevalent processes and devising a new one to deal with the work at hand in a better way. They should talk about how they were appreciated by their colleagues and their supervisors for their work in this regard. Wanting to try out new ways constantly is something Amazon greatly appreciates in its employees, and someone who breaks with tradition to try out a new path will be preferred. The candidate should also briefly mention what they learned in that process and what they would look for in future projects while doing the same thing. This will almost seal the deal for the interviewer, as they would like to know that the candidate before them is someone who would not be afraid to challenge the status quo from time to time.
Tell us about a time when you took some significant risk at work and how did it turn out?.
Someone willing to try out new things will also have to take responsibility for the risks involved in the process. While a candidate should be open to trying out new things, they should not be whimsical about it. The candidate should talk about an incident where they took a calculated risk after being convinced that their way was the best way to go. They should mention how they managed to hold their ground in front of their superiors when they disagreed and eventually convinced them. Even if the measures they implemented did not succeed in how the candidate would have liked them to, it would be a good idea to talk about the line of reasoning they used and how they took responsibility for their failure. The interviewer needs to know that the candidate will try out new things at the job and can be held accountable for them at the same time.
How do you judge yourself?
This may seem like a broad question, but in the context of curiosity and learning, it means to check what standards of learning the candidate holds themselves accountable to. A good leader, according to Amazon, is never satisfied with what they have and is always looking to improve themselves. This should automatically apply to their learning process as well. An ideal candidate should have very high standards of learning, and to demonstrate that, the candidate may say that they always keep some time aside for themselves to read and understand new things relevant to the job. The candidate should also be open to conversing with peers and superiors to learn their points of view on matters related to work. Someone who constantly challenges themselves on the job to be a better version of themselves will be a good hire for Amazon.
So there you have it. To be hired at Amazon, you need to show that you are curious by nature and are always up for learning something new. In addition, you need to show that you are already in the habit of practicing what the company would like to see from you as an employee. If you do not have the experience they like to see, you can always outline the strategy you would adopt in the specified circumstances and show that you are a quick learner who can adapt easily to new situations. A candidate who likes to keep themselves updated and is passionate about improving themselves and experimenting with new approaches will be one Amazon would want to hire.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Should I talk about being curious and willing to learn during other questions as well?
Amazon asks questions assessing a candidate on each of their 14 Leadership Principles. You will be asked about being curious and learning anyway. You don’t have to point it out at every opportunity.
- How should I dress for the interview?
Dress professionally. A sloppy appearance will give the impression that you do not take the job seriously. Amazon takes itself very seriously, and it likes its employees to do the same.