The Amazon Behavioral Interview is a key part of the Amazon hiring process. This article provides an explanation of the structure of the Behavioral Interview, and the best ways to prepare for the interview and to answer the interview questions.
Let’s get started.
The Amazon Behavioral Interview is a form of video conferencing-based interview used by Amazon to assess candidates based on their past work experience.
Rather than focus on technical knowledge, behavioral interviews focus on character traits that Amazon finds desirable in potential employees.
The purpose of the behavioral interview is to see if the candidate is capable of acting and thinking of problems in a way that’s compatible with the workplace culture and values at Amazon, as described in Amazon’s 16 Leadership Principles.
To do this, you are expected to discuss situations from your work experience and describe how you’ve handled them (both situations you’ve resolved successfully and others where you’ve not been as successful).
Amazon expects candidates to describe their experiences in a structured way, both to demonstrate their ability to communicate in a clear fashion and to make it easier for interviewers to evaluate answers. Two methods are recommended for answering Amazon behavioral interview questions.
STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. This is the answer format most commonly used in Amazon interviews.
It is a four-step process, in which you describe a workplace situation you faced and the mission you had to accomplish, that is to say, the task – whether it is to resolve a customer complaint or to improve your team’s efficiency.
You then describe the action you took and the result that you achieved – typically, this will be a success, but in some cases, you might want to describe situations in which you were less than successful – nobody succeeds every single time in life, and Amazon expects you to be truthful about your experiences.
The CAR method is another less frequently used way to talk about your workplace experiences. CAR stands for Challenge, Action, Result, where Challenge describes the workplace situation you faced and Action and Result mean the same as in the STAR method.
There are several different types of answers you would want to avoid when you’re facing behavioral interview questions.
Amazon expects its employees to care about customers. Amazon strongly believes that business success comes first and foremost from serving customers’ needs. As such, all Amazon roles, even those that are not customer-oriented directly, are expected to have a customer focus.
Questions may include:
A response must provide an example of the situation, as well as a clear explanation of how you responded and what the result was.
Good leaders take responsibility for their decisions. Amazonians are expected to take ownership of a problem and take care of a solution even if the problem might require them to veer somewhat outside of the formal ‘scope’ of their job description. They don’t toss off responsibility to others and say, “that’s not my department”.
Some questions about ownership may be:
As a candidate for a role at Amazon, you need to talk about your experience pursuing a solution, even if it was beyond the specific boundary of your role.
You need to clearly describe what you did to solve the problem and how this went ‘above and beyond what you were formally required to do. This might be by solving a problem at the office or helping a coworker with difficulties with a task.
This is an important Amazon leadership principle. Leaders who have ownership in mind think long-term and don’t sacrifice long-term values to achieve short-term goals. They represent the entire company, not just their own team.
Leaders need to innovate. They encourage their teams to bring in new solutions and improve existing ones.
The interviewer might ask:
We can see here that these questions can be answered by discussing a situation where your team faced an issue (whether a one-off problem or a general situation that could use an improvement), and describing the improvement you introduced and the results you achieved in clear terms.
At Amazon, leaders are expected to have good intuition and good judgment, while seeking diverse perspectives.
To see if you possess this quality, you might be asked:
All of these questions have several things in common. All of them are questions about your thought process and your decision-making.In all of them, even in the ‘mistake’ question, you need to demonstrate competence and professionalism.
You need to describe the problem you faced, and the specific thought process you used to resolve the problem, using hard data and logic wherever possible.
To be an Amazonian means to be constantly on a path of self-improvement. Leaders at Amazon are expected to be always learning and developing themselves.
The interviewer may ask:
This question doesn’t require you to use the STAR or CAR method to answer. You just need to talk about your learning process in a way that will persuade the employer that you are interested in your work and are motivated to learn and improve yourself.
A good leader not only expects the best from their employees, but they also bring out the best. Amazon managers need to spot and hire the best employees, coach them, and direct them towards improvement, and, if necessary, let go of underperforming employees.
Questions may vary and include things such as:
In your answer, you must talk, in a clear way, about how you recognize skill and competence in candidates and employees, how you provide management feedback, and how you coach high-performing employees and help them grow – even if they’re not always people like yourself!
To be a leader means to set high standards for yourself and others. Leaders constantly work to improve their team’s performance.
This question can be answered by following the STAR format. You need to demonstrate that you don’t only achieve what you are asked to do but that you go above and beyond what is required and strive for excellence.
Part of being a leader is seeing the big picture. You must set out a bold, inspiring vision for improvement that your team will follow.
These are different questions, but they are also similar in crucial ways. In answering them, you need to discuss your thought process.
You need to demonstrate (again, follow the STAR format!) the ways in which you make your decisions and to talk about how your thought process and aspirations are not limited to the small scale of the here-and-now.
While it’s always best to take considered, rational decisions, sometimes you must trust your instincts and step forward. In those situations, calculated risk-taking is superior to inaction.
There are many more questions that you could face that all drive to the same point: you need to talk about a situation where you made a decision on limited information and in limited time, discuss your decision-making process, and discuss the results you achieved.
Amazon is a commercial company, and it’s here to make money. Leaders should always look for ways to create savings for the company and make their team more efficient.
You could be asked:
It is fairly easy to answer all of these questions if you’re familiar with the STAR format that we already described above.
The ‘challenge’ or ‘task’ in this case is managing a situation of limited resources, and what you need to talk about is how you’ve accomplished this in the past, and to have a clear explanation of your results, ideally in the form of describing quantifiable metrics.
Leadership is all about communication. They listen to other people and talk back honestly while treating employees with respect. They admit flaws in themselves and their team and work towards improvement.
Questions may include:
As you can see, those are almost the same – you need to talk about the situation with your team, how you listened to get a better handle on their attitude and how you communicated with them to build mutual trust.
A real leader must remain connected to the details and specifics of the business – they are never “out of touch” with the situation and stay informed about the facts on the ground.
Sometimes you must have the conviction and politeness to challenge decisions you disagree with and do so in a respectful way. However, when a decision is made, you must follow through unswervingly and without hesitation.
In answering those questions, the principle is always the same – you must talk about a time when you disagreed with other team members, explain why and where you had a disagreement with other team members, why you disagreed with them, and talk about how you politely, yet firmly, expressed your disagreement.
If you lost the argument, then you are expected to commit yourself to the team’s decision and talk about how you worked with others despite the disagreement.
Companies hire you for two reasons – to make money or create savings. Leaders are expected to deliver clear, measurable results that can be described as metrics.
Example questions can include:
A sample answer could be:
In a previous job, I managed a team of salespersons. I was asked to improve the sales of product X, and after I took action Y, the sales increased by Z percent.
Employers and management must work continuously to make the work environment safer, fairer, more diverse, and more productive. They must empathize with team members and provide them with opportunities to grow professionally.
Amazon started in a warehouse, but it is now a mighty global company. This means that it has global responsibilities, not only to customers, employees, and business partners but also to the world at large. Real leaders are responsible and strive to leave things in better shape than they were when they arrived.
At the end of the interview, you will probably have the opportunity to ask your interviewer a few questions. This is a good time to leave a good impression about yourself. It’s useful to ask them about their experience working at Amazon, or about ways to prepare for the workplace. Remember, you want to appear to be striving to learn.