A hiring guide: Amazon Leadership Principles

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How to Interview at Amazon Using the Amazon Leadership Principles


You're interviewing at Amazon soon, and you know you need to do well in your interview to get the job. 

You've practiced answers to common interview questions and read the job description and everything you can find about the company. You think you're ready. Are you?

You might be ready for the interview IF you've practiced answering questions with the Amazon leadership principles.

Amazon's Leadership Principles in Interviews:

What are Amazon’s leadership principles? They are a set of 14 concepts that Amazon uses as a mission statement.
Why are they so important for interviews?

After all, most companies have mission statements.
Because the principles are used to ask questions in every interview at Amazon 

What do you mean the principles "are used" to ask questions in an interview?

In typical interviews:

You may be asked a question like this,"Tell me about a time when you demonstrated customer obsession?" (Customer obsession is one of the 14 principles.)

Easy question?

Now, maybe this seems like an easy question. Okay, good. Actually this one seems pretty easy to me too.

Not so easy question

But what if they ask you this, "How do you resonate with the principle, 'Are right, a lot'?" 

If you haven't thought about this principle (yes, this is one of them) will you be able to answer this? I couldn't. I didn't even know what it meant before I thought about it (a lot). 
How to answer interview questions with Amazon leadership principles
1. Take them seriously

A few of these principles sound silly to me (dive deep!). And they may sound silly to you too. Too bad. Your interviewer doesn't think they're silly. Amazon employees accept these as part of their culture. If you want the job, you need to take them seriously.

I just helped a client prepare for an Amazon interview and we both laughed at some of the principles, but then we stopped laughing and prepared answers.

Yes, he got the job (after a 1.5 hour interview where the interviewer asked him ONLY questions with the principles - he said she asked him an for an incredible level of detail in each answer). 
2. Read them carefully

Some of these are not easy to understand ("Are right, a lot"; "frugality"; "dive deep"). On the surface they may seem clear but if you read the explanation given with them you can see they are not straightforward.

It embarrasses me to admit that I have trouble with them - after all, I am a native English speaker. But I don't speak techie-corporate every day, so I need to switch that part of my brain on when I need to read it.

If you're not a native English speaker, I do advise you to spend some extra time thinking about these. If you don't read them and think about them before you go into the interview, you may have trouble. 
3. Memorize them

What? Why? 

A popular interview question:

"Which Amazon leadership principle do you resonate most with?" 

Trust me, they're not going to write them on the whiteboard for you to choose from.
4. Understand how interviews are evaluated

You must incorporate the principles into your responses because your responses are evaluated and you are rated based on how well you performed according to the leadership principles. 

I don't understand. Is every question going to be about the principles?

No. Most people will have a phone interview with HR first. Then, some people, like my client, will have interviews that are only questions with the principles (he was interviewing for a non-technical role). Some people will have technical interviews and also get questions with the principles. You may get a mix of general questions, like "Give me an example of a time you failed at something," and principle questions.

The important thing is that you show you use these principles (even if you don't get asked about them directly.

What do I mean?

Take "bias for action." If you get asked, "How did you solve a recent business problem?" and you talk about how you researched the problem for six months and brought in a team of consultants to do more research, this is not demonstrating a bias for action. 

You may not have been asked directly if you have a "bias for action," but you have shown by your answer to the question that you are not a risk taker. Therefore you will get evaluated badly on that principle. 
5. Plan your answers using STAR

You should plan to answer all questions using the STAR technique. What is that?

The STAR technique is a very common system used to answer interview questions. It provides a structure for you to remember so that you include the correct data in your answers. 

Amazon actually asks its interviewees to use the technique in these type of questions.

These are the 4 steps of the technique:

S - Situation - context, background

T - Task - what you had to do (not the team - you)

A - Activity - what you did - use as much detail as possible - this should be the longest part of the answer

R - Result - positive; quantifiable; what you learned; what you would do differently next time

Which questions can you answer using STAR? Ones that sound like this, "Tell me about a time when..." So the question might be, "Tell me about a time when you showed customer obsession" or "Tell me how you've showed customer obsession."

If you get asked one of these questions, answer by going through the letters in order. First give the S part - explain the basic situation. Then give the T - what was your job in this situation? Then A - show what you did. Last, give the R - what was the outcome?

Use "I" in your answers. Don't talk about what your team did. 
6. Use their words in the answers

What do I mean by this? If you get asked, "Tell me about a time you showed customer obsession" your answer should use "customer obsession." Don't say you "value customers" or "pay attention to customers" or "are customer oriented." Say you are "obsessed" with customers. 
7. Keep your answers short and clear

They should be between 1 and 3 minutes long. More is not always better. 
8. Prepare two stories for each principle
Why two?

They may ask you one question about a principle and then ask if you have another example. If you've only prepared one example that shows how you're customer obsessed, you'll be in trouble. 

You can do well at your Amazon interview even if your English isn't perfect. Don't spend your time reviewing your present perfect tense homework from high school - spend your time practicing your responses using STAR and the principles.

If you want some feedback from a coach, email me at jennifer@interviewgenie.com

Source Author: Jennifer Scupi

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