Amazon Leadership Principles interview questions by our expert Amazon mentor + 16 Leadership Principles decoded | Exclusive tips to crack your Amazon interview
What are the Amazon Leadership Principles?
In one word, it’s the Holy Bible to the entire ecosystem of the company.
Right from the interviews to promotion and appraisal cycles, at every important step of the employee journey, Amazon interviewers and leaders follow this rule book faithfully.
"We use our Leadership Principles every day, whether we're discussing ideas for new projects or deciding on the best approach to solving a problem. It is just one of the things that makes Amazon peculiar."
So, at the risk of stating the obvious, if you see yourself working at Amazon, you must know the 16 Leadership Principles like the back of your hand.
However, simply knowing them is not enough. You’re expected to act according to the values each one of them holds and present proof to show you have what it takes.
Undoubtedly, Amazon’s leadership principles reflect Jeff Bezos’s effective leadership.
Through these 16 principles, he imbibes a work culture that is built on strong ethical values.
They provide clear direction on how leaders lead and how customer-centric business decisions are made across teams at Amazon.
The behavioural or HR interview rounds at Amazon are quite different from the behavioural rounds at other tier-1 companies.
Your qualities are tested in a peculiar way and in the alignment of these leadership principles at Amazon interviews.
Let’s cut to the chase and see what they are.
Amazon’s 16 Leadership Principles:
- Customer Obsession
- Invent and Simplify
- Are Right, A Lot
- Learn and Be Curious
- Hire and Develop the Best
- Insist on the Highest Standards
- Think Big
- Bias for Action
- Earn Trust
- Dive Deep
- Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit
- Deliver Results
- Strive to be Earth’s Best Employer
- Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility
They are pretty self-explanatory, aren’t they?
Nonetheless, we will simplify them and understand them fully to be able to provide our responses convincingly in the interview.
What to expect from this round?
Can you effectively demonstrate the ability to match your actions with the 16 leadership principles? If yes, you have pretty good chances of clearing this round in one go.
What poses a challenge with these interview rounds is that, unlike technical interview rounds, your interviewer will question you about the principles indirectly.
Your professional background and experience are well-investigated with a set of questions that also evaluate your ability to handle certain workplace situations.
So then would you need to memorise all 16 principles? Or could you just read them quickly right before the interview?
Unfortunately, this approach won’t help.
Instead of memorising or mugging them up, it’s recommended to understand the thought process behind each one of them.
Because it’s all about demonstrating your ability to match your actions with what the leadership principles assert.
How to prepare for the Amazon Leadership Principles round?
Here’s a basic-level approach that would act as groundwork before we head straight to the questions. This approach will help you prepare for this round better.
Step 1: Go through the 16 principles and their descriptions carefully, repeatedly (if required). Try to develop a mindset that makes you think like an Amazonian. See if you can instil these principles into your behaviour and communication at your current organisation.
Step 2: Now go through each one of them slowly while connecting it with a workplace scenario. For example, when it comes to customer obsession, think of a situation where you have prioritised your customers’ needs over everything else. Think of how and why you did that. Ask yourself if the way you did it was the ideal way to obsess over customer needs.
Step 3: Think of questions that may be asked as per your current and previous job roles. You may refer to the list of potential questions given in this article below. Understand what those questions attempt to evaluate - it could be a specific people skill, a mindset, a perception towards something or simply, a manner of doing something.
Step 4: In step 2, if you were successful in connecting each principle with a workplace scenario, half the job is done. Now, in this step, try to put together a well-worded, sensible and realistic response to each of the questions. If needed, create an inventory of your responses and stories and run it by a friend, peer or mentor. Ensure creating your answers in the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method. Mugging up the answers is NOT advised. Regularly practising to create responses in your mind will help you think on your feet in the interview, no matter what the question is or how it has been framed.
Step 5: Practise interview questions with a peer or a mentor. This is a crucial step missed out on by many. Practising your answers beforehand can give you immense confidence. You can learn from your mistakes and perform much better in the actual interview.
Now let’s dive deeper into the 16 Leadership Principles and decode them. We will also look at the possible questions and the aspects they intend to test.
Decoding Amazon Leadership Principles + Potential Questions
Do refer to the in-detail descriptions of each principle that are given on Amazon’s website. Following are only the one-line summaries of those descriptions.
🟠 Customer Obsession
Businesses run on fuel named customer trust; strive to earn it and keep it.
- Tell me about a time when you failed to meet customer expectations. How did you deal with the situation?
- How has your experience been dealing with a customer or client who was difficult to handle? What makes one a ‘difficult’ customer? How did you act in such a situation?
- Give me an example of miscommunication in customer service or interaction. What did you do to resolve the matter?
- What does delivering high-quality products and service to the customer mean to you? Explain with an example.
Own what you do; think long-term and act as the leader of the company.
- Was there a time when you had to take responsibility for a task that was not a part of your job responsibilities?
- Give me an example of the time when you had to leave a task unfinished.
- Tell me about a time when you took the initiative to bring a positive change into a process or workflow. How did your initiative make a difference?
- Give me an example of a time when a certain task with unclear responsibility or objective was handed to you. What course of action did you take?
🟠 Invent and Simplify
Always be aware, ideate and invent to make lives simpler for all.
- Tell me about a time when you simplified a complex process or task and its impact.
- Was there a time when you ideated with your team to provide new solutions to specific problems? How did you do it?
- Give me an example of a time when you invented something that brought a positive outcome.
- Tell me about a time when you tried to simplify a process but failed. How did you handle the situation?
🟠 Are Right, A Lot
Be open to different perspectives, have strong judgement and a good instinct.
- Tell me about a time when you were wrong about something and had to come up with a better solution to fix it.
- When was the last time you had to work with incomplete data and you had to come up with predictive analysis to fill the gap? What approach did you take and what was the impact of it?
- Give me an example of a scenario where you had to solve a complex issue by using your judgement effectively.
- Tell me about a time when you had to collect different perceptions or solutions from your teammates to solve a problem. What was the process you followed and how did you solve the problem?
🟠 Learn and Be Curious
Always explore new possibilities, and keep learning and improving.
- What do you consider to be the most important learning from your last project? How do you plan to use it in the future?
- Tell me about a time when you were curious about something and your questions about that helped someone find the right solution to a problem.
- Was there a time when you thought you were not trained on a concept enough to fulfil a project requirement? What course of action did you take?
- Tell me about an experience that changed your way of solving a certain type of problem.
🟠 Hire and Develop the Best
Leaders create more leaders, so identify exceptional people and mentor them.
- Tell me about a time when one of your hiring decisions went wrong. When did you find it out? How did you handle the situation?
- Have you ever had the opportunity to mentor someone? How and when did you identify the need to mentor that person?
- What set of qualities (that are undebatable) do you look for in a candidate when you’re responsible for hiring decisions?
🟠 Insist on the Highest Standards
High standards are never unreasonable, so continue to deliver high-quality products.
- When was the last time you inspired your teammates to go above and beyond the expectations of the project?
- Explain a scenario where you were highly dissatisfied with the quality of work or outcome in a certain project. What did you do to make improvements in the same?
- Tell me about a time when you could not meet your own expectations for a project.
- Was there a time when your teammates could not meet your expectations for a project and you had to bring about some changes to improve the quality of delivery?
🟠 Think Big
Communicate a direction that inspires great results; think bold, think big.
- Tell me about a time when you exceeded your own expectations in a project. How did you pull it off?
- What has been your biggest professional achievement so far?
- Was there a time when your direction inspired your team to achieve extraordinary results? Tell me how you made it possible.
- Have you ever been told that your vision is too big or too bold to achieve?
🟠 Bias for Action
Focus on speed, but also calculated risk-taking; eliminate time-wasting actions.
- Explain a situation where making a decision was a time-sensitive matter and your manager was not around or available to advise you.
- Describe a time when you took corrective action proactively without waiting for any other team member to do it.
- Tell me about a time when you had to take a calculated risk. How did you go about it?
- When was the last time you eliminated time-wasting elements from your team’s tasks?
Get more with less by being resourceful, self-sufficient and inventive.
- Was there a time when you had to rely on yourself completely? How did you complete the project?
- When was the time when you had to work with limited resources and budget? How did that work out for you?
🟠 Earn Trust
Be attentive, honest, self-critical, polite, and respectful always.
- Imagine you have onboarded some new team members. What steps would you take to establish trust among your team members?
- Tell me about a time when you had to tell a harsh truth to a coworker you cared about.
- Describe an event where you had to be honest and speak your mind in an awkward or embarrassing situation.
- Tell me about a time when you had to decline working on a task because it was outside of your area of expertise.
🟠 Dive Deep
Audit frequently; have a detail-oriented approach.
- Tell me about a time when you had to audit your team’s work. What approach did you take while auditing and how did you communicate the feedback?
- When was the last time when you adopted an in-depth approach to analysing a problem to come up with a sustainable solution?
- What would you say was the most valuable thing you’ve learnt from your previous role?
- What was the most difficult problem you’ve had to solve in your professional career so far? How did you solve it?
🟠 Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit
When a situation demands, disagree, but respectfully; be firm on your decision; have conviction and commit wholly.
- Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your team manager. How did you convey your point of view?
- Give me an example of a decision you made which did not sit well with your teammates.
- When was the last time you did not agree to an approach to solving a complex company-wide problem? How did you deal with the situation?
🟠 Deliver Results
Pay close attention to the key inputs that help you deliver results; Setbacks are temporary, so never settle for less.
- Tell me about a time when you had to set priorities for a number of high-priority tasks. How did you deal with them?
- Imagine you and your team are halfway through achieving your goal, but then you realise that the goal was not right. What would you do in this situation?
- When was the last time you had a variety of assignments to complete within tight deadlines? How did you handle the stress?
- How do you deal with a team member who is feeling demotivated? How do you push that person to deliver results?
🟠 Strive to be Earth’s Best Employer
Have a vision, have empathy; empower your teammates and create a safe, productive, fun, and diverse work environment.
- Imagine one of your coworkers is feeling unconfident or hesitant to complete an important assignment. How would you assist that person?
- Imagine you found out that someone at work is discriminating against a colleague of yours. How would you call it out?
🟠 Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility
End each day knowing we can do more and better tomorrow.
- Imagine a situation when you felt that your team needed guidance and support from you, but you were not available to provide the same. What would you do in this situation?
- How do you work on up-skilling your teammates?
- When was the last time your work was highly appreciated by your team manager? How did you deal with the success?
Watch this mock interview by our Amazon mentor:
Some dos and don’ts to consider
Concluding your preparation for the Amazon leadership principles round?
Don’t wrap it up without giving these pointers a read:
- Listen to the questions intently.
- Answer the questions in a lucid manner, as if you’re telling a story. But at the same time, stick to the point and explain results in a quantifiable way.
- Be specific while constructing your answer in the STAR format. Do explain all the necessary details.
- Adopt multiple problem-solving approaches and be open to accepting other better approaches even if those were not the ones you chose in a certain situation.
- Practise better communication and presentation. You might have all the insights and instinct to crack the interview, but explaining those insights efficiently requires hard work.
- This one’s kind of a given, but make a conscious effort to be polite. Ask the right kind of questions to ensure you’re the right fit for the role.
Here are the things you definitely do not want to do in your interview:
- Do not contradict yourself. Do not let yourself sound dubious.
- Do not be repetitive or try to overcompensate. Do not tell a different story to prove the same point.
- Do not leave any gaps in your answers or try to avoid answering any questions.
- Avoid fumbling or stuttering as much as possible. If you sound uncertain, you can fix it with lots and lots of practice. If you need some time to think about a scenario, ask the interviewer to give you one or two minutes.
One final piece of advice
Do ask the interviewer about the specific leadership principles that are most relevant for the person filling the role you’ve applied for.
This will convey a message that you’re genuinely invested in this role and the company, you’re eager to align yourself to the Amazon values, and that you already see yourself working in the same zone.
Still think preparing for the Amazon Leadership Principle round is a complicated matter?
Let us help you prepare.
We, at Preplaced, can get you the best Amazon mentors who can help plan your entire interview preparation, right from resume rounds, and tech rounds to behavioural rounds.
You can study from the most reliable resources and have your mentor conduct mock interviews for you where you will get honest and elaborate feedback.
Related article: Amazon Interview Process for Senior Software Development Engineer (SDE)