Amazon Writing Exercise: How to Craft the Perfect Sample

On this page, you will learn how to successfully complete the Amazon Writing Exercise.

We will cover:

  • The role of the Amazon Writing Exercise in the overall hiring process.
    The layout of the writing exercise.
  • The different topics that Amazon wants you to write about.
  • What formatting and fonts to use to ensure you get the best grade possible.

Let’s dive right in.


What Is the Amazon Writing Exercise?

The Amazon Writing Exercise is a writing assignment that candidates for Amazon roles of Level 5 and above. It evaluates candidates’ writing and decision-making skills.

During What Hiring Stage Do You Receive It?

Amazon candidates receive their writing assignments after they complete the Amazon Online Assessment and before the interview stage. The Amazon Writing Exercise is typically due before the interview process so that the interviewer has time to read your writing and can discuss it with you during the interview stage.

Which Amazon Positions and Job Levels Are Required to Complete It?

Most often, the Amazon written exercise is given for management or leadership positions, typically Level 5, Level 6, and more senior positions. Amazon employees in these roles are expected to be able to communicate fluently in writing, as well as to demonstrate their leadership skills.

How Long Should the Writing Sample Be?

While Amazon suggests that you should write up to four pages for your assignment, it’s recommended to write around two pages. This should allow you to talk about your leadership decisions in a concise way and yet get your point across.

What Is the Time Limit for This Writing Assignment?

Different departments at Amazon provide somewhat different deadlines for your writing assignment. Some will only give you 48 hours to complete it, others will send the assignment much earlier, sometimes a week before your interview or even more.

Typically the deadline itself will be set 48 hours before the actual time of the interview, to enable the interviewer to actually read what you wrote!

In some cases, the invitation to submit the assignment may get lost in your spam folder or even get deleted by a spam filter. If you have an interview scheduled in a week but have still not received the assignment, it’s best to inquire with your recruiter about it.

The Topics You’ll Be Asked to Write About

Unlike many other online tests where there are lots of different versions of the test questions for different candidates, the Amazon Writing Sample uses just two questions for all the candidates, and you get to choose one of them to answer.

These questions are behavioral questions that assess your management and leadership skills alongside your writing skills.

Regardless of the subject, you need to be able to demonstrate personal qualities and leadership skills that reflect the 16 Amazon Leadership Principles. You are probably familiar with them by now, but it’s best to go and read them over before getting on with the assignment.

Option A

The first option asks: What is the most inventive or innovative thing you have done? (in some cases, alternately, you are asked to give an example of a situation where you had to convince a stakeholder of your viewpoint).

The ability to innovate and to convince others are both key elements of the Amazon Leadership Principles. If you have made it as far as the Amazon Writing Exercise, you should have a clear understanding of the Leadership Principles and know that Amazon takes these extremely seriously.

If you are asked about the innovation you have introduced, you should clearly and concisely describe what it did and in what way it improved your previous workplace.

Remember, companies want you to either save them money or make them money – so you must clearly explain how the innovation either made your employer money or reduced their expenses. You should also explain the scale and the scope of the innovation’s impact.

Whether or not you are asked to talk about an innovation you introduced or a more general subject of convincing stakeholders, it’s necessary for you to talk about your persuasion skills (if you are writing about innovation, you should still talk about how you secured stakeholder buy-in).

Option B

While analytic abilities are very important to management positions, there are always situations where we must make judgment calls based on incomplete information. In this question, you will be asked to discuss an example of a judgment call you made during your career.

In this assignment, you will be asked to describe the judgment call you made. You should discuss the situation in which you needed to make the judgment call, the different options that were open to you at that time, and the process by which you made your decision.

You are expected to clearly explain why you chose the option you did as opposed to the other courses of action that were available to you.

Format, Structure, Font, and Graphics

Amazon expects you to provide an answer that demonstrates both your leadership skills and your ability to communicate about them in a clear and professional way. Because of this, you are expected to follow certain rules when completing the Amazon Written Exercise.

Answer Structure

You should begin by putting the title of the question you are answering at the beginning of the text document.

In your response, you should roughly follow the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) format. First, you should put in an introduction about five sentences long that introduces the reading to your topic, and provides a basic summary of what you’re going to write, the action you’ve taken, and the results, all of this in a concise format of about five sentences.

After this, you should provide a detailed yet concise answer following the STAR format. In separate sections, describe the situation your innovation or judgment call was meant to address, the task that you had to complete to resolve the situation, the decision that you made, and the results that your decision actually had.

Font, Point Size, Bulleting, and Numbering

You are writing a professional document. As such, it needs to look professional and well-organized. Use a standard font (Times New Roman and Arial are the two most recommended fonts), in 12-point size. Lines need to be single-spaced.

You should not use bullets, numbering, or outline format during this assignment. Your main means of communication should be the words you write and the structure of the writing itself, not any attempts to try and make your meaning carry over better by fancy formatting.

Graphs, Images, and Tables

You should not make use of any images or graphs in your document. You should especially avoid using any material that is proprietary to your previous employer.

Common Mistakes to Avoid in Your Writing Exercise

There are several simple mistakes that applicants make when attempting the Amazon Writing Exercise that, to put it simply, can cost you your entire application where you could succeed.

Here is how to avoid them.

Forgetting The Introduction

Many applicants forget to add an introductory paragraph. This is a serious mistake and makes it much harder for the interviewer to understand what you’re getting at to start with.

Much like writing a newspaper article or giving a speech, you should “tell them what you’re going to tell them”. Your introductory paragraph should contain a brief summary of what you’re going to tell the reader, and then you can go on to tell your story in STAR format.

Forgetting Parts of the STAR

While we are on the topic of the STAR format, many applicants fail to properly address the S part of the STAR – the Situation.

In other words, they fail to properly describe the context in which they made the decision. You should provide enough information for the interviewer to understand the importance of your action.

The Action section is one that applicants also struggle with. It is the most important part of the Amazon Writing Sample, but many applicants fail to provide enough detail about what it was they actually did to resolve a given problem or to achieve a goal.

In writing this section, consider the description of the role you’re applying for, and try and highlight the elements of your action that demonstrate that you are capable of doing things that are relevant to this role.

Some people have problems writing about the Results section. It’s important to provide enough information about the impact of your decision so that the interviewer can understand your contribution.

Too Much, Too Much!

Some applicants make the reverse mistake of the above – they provide too much information about the situation they were in. This makes their story less effective. You want to provide just enough information to allow the interviewer to understand what you are writing about, but not overload them with details.

Tips to Help You Create the Best Possible Writing Sample

To succeed in your Amazon Writing Exercise, you need to follow all the rules above, but there are several things that you can do that will make your writing submission even better. Here we can only go through the main items.

Keep it flowing – You should be talking about your experience in the form of a story. Your narrative shouldn’t be jumbled, nor should it sound as if you are filling out a form.

You should make the narrative flow logically from one paragraph to another so that the interviewer has a clear idea of what you said and why you said it.

Keep it logical – Your writing should follow a coherent logical structure. That does not mean that you should use things like bullets or numbers to illustrate the structure of your writing submission – again, do not use bullets or numbering.

You should keep your writing structured logically by its own content, with each paragraph talking about a single coherent idea, with the text clearly connecting the different stages of Situation, Task, Action, and Result together.

Remember what you wrote – This might sound self-evident, but the interviewer will almost certainly bring up your Amazon Writing Exercise submission in your interview. They will want to discuss the decision you make in more detail and will ask you to dive in on some aspects of your answer. You want to have a complete grasp of the topic so you can discuss it freely and confidently.