Amazon PM interview: the only post you'll need to read

PM interviews at Amazon are really challenging. The questions are difficult, specific to Amazon, and cover a wide range of topics.

The good news is that the right preparation can make a big difference and help you land a Product Manager job at Amazon. We have put together the ultimate guide below to help you maximize your chances of success.

Here’s an overview of what we will cover:


1. Interview process and timeline

Amazon PM interview process and timeline

What's the Amazon PM interview process and timeline? It takes four to six weeks on average and follows these steps:

  1. Resume, cover letter, and referrals
  2. HR Recruiter email or call
  3. Phone screens (two interviews)
  4. Take-home exercise (one to two pages)
  5. On-site (six to seven interviews)
  6. Hiring committee review
  7. You get an offer!
1.1 What interviews to expect

First, it's important that you understand the different stages of your interview process with Amazon. Here’s what you can expect:

  • HR Recruiter coordination
  • Phone screen: one to two interviews
  • Take-home exercise: a one to two page essay
  • On-site: six to seven interviews

In most cases, the interview process starts with an HR recruiter call or email. They are looking to confirm that you've got a chance of getting the job at all, so you should be prepared to explain your background and why you’re a good fit at Amazon. They will then help schedule the first interview, which will be done over the phone.

Your phone screens will typically be with senior members of the Product team, including the hiring manager leading your recruitment. The objective of these conversations is to make sure you have the basic qualifications to do the job. You can expect behavioral questions like, "Tell me about yourself," "Why Amazon?" or, "Tell me about a product or feature you launched from start to finish." When answering even the most common interview questions, be sure to express your understanding of Amazon’s Leadership Principles (more on that below).

If you pass the phone screen process, in many cases you’ll be asked to write a one to two page essay in preparation for your on-site interviews about a topic such as: “What is the most innovative project that you have worked on?” or “Talk about an experience in which you were able to simplify the lives of your customers.” It’s important to remember that interviewers will be looking for how your essay relates to the leadership principles independently of whether this is stated in the assignment instructions or not.

The next step is to spend a full day at one of Amazon’s offices and participate in six to seven interviews. These interviews will last about 60mins and be a one-on-one with a mix of people from the team you’re applying to join, including peers, the hiring manager, and a senior executive. Each interviewer is usually assigned two or three leadership principles to focus on during your interview.

One of your last interviews will be with what Amazon calls a “Bar Raiser”. These interviewers are not associated with the team you’re applying for, and focus more on overall candidate quality than specific team needs. They get special training to make sure Amazon’s hiring standards stay high and don’t degrade over time, so they are a big barrier between you and the job offer.

1.2 What happens behind the scenes

Your recruiter is leading the process and taking you from one stage to the next. Here's what happens at each of the stages described above:

  • After the phone screen, your hiring manager decides to move you to the on-site or not, depending on how well you've done up to that point
  • During the on-site, interviewers will test your culture fit using the Amazon Leadership Principles and the Bar Raiser plays a critical role in the group’s final decision
  • If you pass all of the interviews, the recruiter will be in touch with an offer, usually within a week of the on-site

It's also important to note that recruiters and people who refer you have little influence on the overall process. They can help you get an interview at the beginning but that's about it.

1.3 How technical do you need to be?

Broadly speaking Amazon has two product roles: Product Managers (PMs) and Product Managers - Technical (PMTs).

PMs work for the e-commerce arm of the company and tend to come from a wide-range of backgrounds. PMTs work on more technical products such as AWS and in most cases have a background in computer science or engineering. PMTs are also expected to contribute towards technical problems. As a result, they tend to be paid 15 to 20% more than PMs.

Both roles run very similar hiring processes and you can expect the same type of questions. The main difference is that if you are applying for a PMT role you will be asked some technical questions such as, “What is virtualization?” or, “What’s the difference between a router and a switch?” These questions aren’t a test of your coding ability, as they focus on assessing how deeply you understand certain technical concepts — especially system architecture.

If you’re applying for a PM role but discuss technical projects in your behavioral interviews then you may be offered a PMT role. Also, if offered a PM role some teams might let you request to apply for a PMT role. In that case, the recruiter will typically arrange an additional interview which will be more focused on technical questions. Your original PM offer will not be rescinded even if you do not clear the technical round.

Note: for the rest of this article we will be loosely referring to PMs and PMTs as Product Managers or PMs given the recruiting process is very similar for both positions.

1.4 How many PMs does Amazon hire every year?

At this point you might be wondering what your chances are. The good news is that Amazon hires an increasing number of engineers and PMs every year.

Using the number of employees listed in Amazon’s annual reports, data available from LinkedIn, and industry averages, we estimate that the number of PMs at Amazon grew from about 400 to 14,000 between 2007 and 2018. At the time of writing this article, Amazon hires about 800 to 1000 new PMs per year.

Here are the steps we took to get to these estimates if you are interested in more details:

  1. Number of employees: Amazon reports their number of employees every year in their annual report.
  2. Number of engineers: At the time of writing, 17% of Amazon employees listed on LinkedIn are engineers. For each year we therefore multiplied the number of employees by 17% to get to the number of engineers.
  3. Number of PMs: The typical ratio of PMs to Engineers at tech companies is between 1 to 8 and 1 to 10. We've assumed 1 to 8 here to convert the number of engineers into a number of PMs.

Estimated number of PMs at Amazon by year

Amazon needs more and more PMs every year which might lead you to believe that getting hired isn't that hard. But this actually isn't the case. In a 1998 letter to shareholders, CEO Jeff Bezos wrote, “Setting the bar high in our approach to hiring has been, and will continue to be, the single most important element of Amazon.com’s success.” This idea is likely why they have Bar Raisers to this day, and why they have a challenging interview process overall.

The good news is that cracking PM interviews is actually really manageable once you know how to prepare. So, let's take a look at the different ways Amazon will ask you questions during interviews.

2. Example questions

The main difficulty with PM interviews at Amazon is that you'll be asked a wide range of questions. We've grouped them in three buckets and analyzed how frequently they were asked by Amazon interviewers using questions reported by former candidates on Glassdoor.com.

Amazon PM interview questions category breakdown

Here are the results of our analysis:

  1. Behavioral questions (59%)
  2. Strategy questions (27%)
  3. Other questions (14%)

Let's step through each type of question, take a look at a few examples, and briefly discuss why Amazon asks these questions.

2.1 Behavioral questions (59%)

Amazon’s Product Manager interview process heavily focuses on assessing if you live and breath the company’s 14 Leadership Principles. The main way Amazon tests this is with behavioral questions which account for 59% of all the questions you’ll be asked.

Summary of PM interview questions on Amazon leadership principles

Amazon's Leadership Principles:

  • Customer Obsession
  • Ownership
  • Bias for Action
  • Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit
  • Invent and Simplify
  • Dive Deep
  • Are Right, A Lot
  • Deliver Results
  • Think Big
  • Hire and Develop the Best
  • Frugality
  • Learn and Be Curious
  • Insist on the Highest Standards
  • Earn Trust

Below is a breakdown of each leadership principle and how you’ll be asked about them during your interview process with Amazon.

PM interviews tend to primarily focus on the first four principles we we have listed below, according to current Amazon employees on our coaching team. The other ten topics also come up but less frequently.

2.1.1 Customer obsession interview questions

“Customer Obsession — Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.”

Customer obsession is about empathy. Interviewers want to see that you understand the consequences that every decision has on customer experience. You need to know who the customer is and their underlying needs, not just the tasks they want done.

This is by far the most important leadership principle used at Amazon. Therefore, it is the most important one to prepare for.

Example customer obsession questions asked by Amazon
  • Describe a customer feedback recommendation that you implemented
  • How have you measured customer satisfaction in the past?
  • Which company has the best customer service and why?
  • Tell me about a time you worked backwards from a customer problem — how did you solve it?
  • Tell me about a time you said no to a customer request and why


Exercise: Pick one of the questions above and answer it in the comment section below without looking at other people's answers. Our team will get back to you with suggestions on how to improve your answer.


2.1.2 Ownership interview questions

“Ownership — Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say “that’s not my job.”

Interviewers at Amazon want to avoid hiring people who think, “That’s not my job!” When answering ownership questions, you’ll want to prove that you take initiative, can make tough decisions, and take responsibility for your mistakes.

Example ownership questions asked by Amazon
  • Tell me about a time you had to face a situation where you saw a bigger opportunity than what your manager requested
  • When was the last time that you sacrificed a long term value to complete a short term task?
  • Describe an instance where you had to make an important decision without approval from your boss
  • Tell me about a time you took ownership of a problem that was not the focus of your organization


Exercise: Pick one of the questions above and answer it in the comment section below without looking at other people's answers. Our team will get back to you with suggestions on how to improve your answer.


2.1.3 Bias for action interview questions

“Bias for Action — Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking.”

Since Amazon likes to ship quickly, they also prefer to learn from doing and measuring over performing user research and making projections. They want to see that you can take calculated risks and move things forward whenever possible.

Example bias for action questions asked by Amazon
  • Tell me about a time you broke a complex problem into simple sub-parts
  • Describe a time you struggled to meet a deadline
  • Tell me about a time you had to make a decision with incomplete information. How did you make it and what was the outcome?
  • Tell me about a time when you launched a product with known risks


Exercise: Pick one of the questions above and answer it in the comment section below without looking at other people's answers. Our team will get back to you with suggestions on how to improve your answer.


2.1.4 Have backbone; disagree and commit interview questions

“Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit — Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.”

Any group of smart leaders will disagree at some point. Amazon wants to see that you know when to challenge ideas and escalate problems to senior leadership. At the same time, they want to know you can sense the right time to move forward regardless of your disagreement.

Example have backbone; disagree and commit questions asked by Amazon
  • Tell me about a time you disagreed with your team but decided to go ahead with their proposal
  • When was the last time you were challenged in public, and how did you handle it?
  • Describe a time when you disagreed with your manager
  • Tell me about a time you gave up on a short term benefit in favor of long term benefit


Exercise: Pick one of the questions above and answer it in the comment section below without looking at other people's answers. Our team will get back to you with suggestions on how to improve your answer.


2.1.5 Invent and simplify interview questions

“Invent and Simplify — Leaders expect and require innovation and invention from their teams and always find ways to simplify. They are externally aware, look for new ideas from everywhere, and are not limited by “not invented here." Because we do new things, we accept that we may be misunderstood for long periods of time.”

Amazon relies on a culture of innovation. Answering invent and simplify questions is an opportunity to show your ability to create solutions when there is no obvious answer. You’ll also want to show that you know how to execute big ideas as simply and cheaply as possible.

Example invent and simplify questions asked by Amazon
  • Tell me about at time you re-designed a process and why
  • What is the most innovative idea you've ever had?
  • Tell me how you brought a product to market, give specific details


Exercise: Pick one of the questions above and answer it in the comment section below without looking at other people's answers. Our team will get back to you with suggestions on how to improve your answer.


2.1.6 Dive deep interview questions

“Dive Deep — Leaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit frequently, and are sceptical when metrics and anecdotes differ. No task is beneath them.”

When something isn’t working, Product Managers need to quickly find a solution. Interviewers want to see that you are excited to dive deep when problems arise.

Example dive deep questions asked by Amazon
  • Tell me about a project in which you had to deep dive into analysis
  • Describe an instance when you used a lot of data in a short period of time
  • Tell me about the most complex analysis you have worked on
  • Tell me about a time you used customer data to develop a product or business insight


Exercise: Pick one of the questions above and answer it in the comment section below without looking at other people's answers. Our team will get back to you with suggestions on how to improve your answer.


2.1.7 Are right, a lot interview questions

“Are Right, A Lot — Leaders are right a lot. They have strong judgement and good instincts. They seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs.”

Organizations expect Product Managers to produce solutions as quickly as possible and make a lot of decisions with little information. You’ll want to demonstrate skill in taking calculated risks and comfort with disproving your own beliefs before moving ahead.

Example are right, a lot questions asked by Amazon
  • Tell me about a time you applied judgment to a decision when data was not available
  • When was a time that you failed at work?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to run a project that was heavily opposed


Exercise: Pick one of the questions above and answer it in the comment section below without looking at other people's answers. Our team will get back to you with suggestions on how to improve your answer.


2.1.8 Deliver results interview questions

“Deliver Results — Leaders focus on the key inputs for their business and deliver them with the right quality and in a timely fashion. Despite setbacks, they rise to the occasion and never settle.”

Amazon values action over perfection. When answering questions related to delivering results, you’ll want to indicate that you dislike slipped deadlines and failed goals.

Example deliver results questions asked by Amazon
  • Tell me about a challenge on a project you faced, how you dealt with it, what was your role, and what was the outcome
  • How do you prioritize in your current role?
  • What do you think are the most difficult parts of software product management?


Exercise: Pick one of the questions above and answer it in the comment section below without looking at other people's answers. Our team will get back to you with suggestions on how to improve your answer.


2.1.9 Think big interview questions

“Think Big — Thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. They think differently and look around corners for ways to serve customers.”

Amazon is huge and its PMs need to build products that reach significant scale to make a difference for the business. As a result, interviewers will want to see that you can develop and articulate a bold vision.

Example think big questions asked by Amazon
  • Describe a time you proposed a non-intuitive solution to a problem and how you identified that it required a different way of thinking
  • Give a specific example where you drove adoption for your vision and explain how you knew it had been adopted by others
  • Tell me about your most significant accomplishment. Why was it significant?


Exercise: Pick one of the questions above and answer it in the comment section below without looking at other people's answers. Our team will get back to you with suggestions on how to improve your answer.


2.1.10 Hire and develop the best interview questions

“Hire and Develop the Best — Leaders raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognize exceptional talent, and willingly move them throughout the organization. Leaders develop leaders and take seriously their role in coaching others. We work on behalf of our people to invent mechanisms for development like Career Choice.”

As mentioned above, Amazon wants new hires to, “raise the bar.” Interviewers will want to see that you are not afraid of working with and hiring people smarter than you. You should also show you enjoy coaching younger colleagues and know how to get the most out of top performers. You’ll notice the examples listed here are general interview questions, but they provide a perfect opportunity for you to address this principle.

This leadership principle is typically discussed in interviews for very senior product positions that involve people management or building a team (e.g. Senior Manager for Product Management, Director, etc.).

Example hire and develop the best questions asked by Amazon
  • Tell me about a time you hired or worked with people smarter than you are
  • Why do you want to work at Amazon?
  • Demonstrate how you align with the Amazon leadership philosophy


Exercise: Pick one of the questions above and answer it in the comment section below without looking at other people's answers. Our team will get back to you with suggestions on how to improve your answer.


2.1.11 Frugality interview questions

“Frugality — Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, and invention. There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size, or fixed expense.”

At every touchpoint, Amazon tries to provide customers with as much value for as little cost as possible. Interviewers will be looking for how you can support this idea while maintaining a constant drive for innovation.

Example frugality questions asked by Amazon
  • Tell me about a time you successfully delivered a project without a budget or resources
  • Describe the last time you figured out a way to save on expenses
  • When managing a budget, what are some ways you get more out of less?


Exercise: Pick one of the questions above and answer it in the comment section below without looking at other people's answers. Our team will get back to you with suggestions on how to improve your answer.


2.1.12 Learn and be curious interview questions

“Learn and Be Curious — Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.”

Amazon demands constant improvement in every part of their business. You’ll want to show that you are interested in learning new things and exploring new ideas. Some examples listed here are general interview questions, but they provide a perfect opportunity for you to address this principle.

Example learn and be curious questions asked by Amazon
  • Explain something interesting you’ve learned recently
  • Tell me about a time you taught yourself a skill
  • Why Product Management?


Exercise: Pick one of the questions above and answer it in the comment section below without looking at other people's answers. Our team will get back to you with suggestions on how to improve your answer.


2.1.13 Insist on the highest standards interview questions

“Insist on the Highest Standards — Leaders have relentlessly high standards — many people may think these standards are unreasonably high. Leaders are continually raising the bar and drive their teams to deliver high quality products, services, and processes. Leaders ensure that defects do not get sent down the line and that problems are fixed so they stay fixed.”

Amazon takes the view that nothing is ever “good enough.” They’d like to see that you push for standards that are difficult to meet.

Example insist on the highest standards questions asked by Amazon
  • Describe a project that you wish you had done better and how you would do it differently today
  • Tell me about the most successful project you've done
  • How do you ensure standards are met when delivering projects?


Exercise: Pick one of the questions above and answer it in the comment section below without looking at other people's answers. Our team will get back to you with suggestions on how to improve your answer.


2.1.14 Earn trust interview questions

“Earn Trust — Leaders listen attentively, speak candidly, and treat others respectfully. They are vocally self-critical, even when doing so is awkward or embarrassing. Leaders do not believe their or their team’s body odour smells of perfume. They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best.”

The key part of that principle candidates often miss is the “vocally self-critical.” Amazon wants PMs who focus on fixing mistakes instead of figuring out who to blame. You’ll want to show that you take action when something is wrong and acknowledge your own faults before blaming other people and teams.

Example earn trust questions asked by Amazon
  • How do you earn trust with a team?
  • Tell me a piece of difficult feedback you received and how you handled it
  • A co-worker constantly arrives late to a recurring meeting. What would you do?


Exercise: Pick one of the questions above and answer it in the comment section below without looking at other people's answers. Our team will get back to you with suggestions on how to improve your answer.


2.2 Strategy questions (27%)

PMs are responsible for setting the product vision and roadmap to deliver it. In other words, they're in charge of product strategy. In your interviews you'll therefore be given strategic questions to discuss with your interviewer.

These questions assess if you're comfortable thinking about the wide range of aspects good PMs need to take into account when making product decisions. This includes competition, pricing, marketing, time to market, etc.

Thinking through all these aspects requires creativity and a structured approach. For more information, check out our article on how to answer strategy interview questions.

Example strategy questions asked by Amazon
  • Should Amazon start selling contact lenses? Explain your thinking in detail.
  • What is the Amazon business model?
  • What is the biggest opportunity for Amazon?
  • What do you know about us, this market, and how to succeed in it?
  • Take 15 minutes to come up with a new business idea that is unique and potentially profitable for Amazon
  • How would you sell live plants at Amazon?
  • Amazon is considering starting Amazon.com in Italy. What considerations would you make to determine if it's a good idea? How would you start?
  • How would you price Amazon Prime and why?
  • Amazon wants to launch into Singapore — how will you decide which products to sell there?
  • Imagine Amazon wants to launch Prime Now (2-hr delivery) in New York City — how will you determine the right products to offer via the Prime Now service?
  • Amazon recently announced 1 day shipping. Why do you think Amazon did that?


Exercise: Pick one of the questions above and answer it in the comment section below without looking at other people's answers. Our team will get back to you with suggestions on how to improve your answer.


2.3 Other questions (14%)

Good PMs are critical thinkers and can make confident and swift decisions. Making these decisions often requires analytical, technical, and design skills which Amazon will test you on in the recruiting process.

  • Estimation questions: In estimation questions, interviewers don't care so much about whether you get to the right answer or not. What they are really interested in is how you think through the problem and how comfortable you are making assumptions and simple calculations.
  • Analysis questions: These questions test how well you work with available data. A good PM can identify the correct KPIs for a product and use them to deliver results.
  • Design questions: A core task for PMs is to help design new product features and improve existing ones. It's therefore not surprising that design questions are a part of Amazon PM interviews. These questions assess your customer empathy, creativity, and ability to use a structured approach to design products.
  • Technical questions: These questions apply more to TPM roles where Amazon expects a fair amount of technical knowledge from its candidates. As mentioned earlier, you won’t get coding questions but you’ll have to explain some technical concepts in depth.

For more information on how to answer these questions, check our articles on how to answer estimation questions, technical questions, metric questions, product design questions, product improvement questions and the favorite product question in PM interviews.

Example other questions asked by Amazon
Estimation questions:
  • How many people would be watching youtube in India right now?
  • What is the cost of production for a Kindle device?
Analysis questions:
  • What metrics would you use to measure success for the Amazon Echo Dot?
  • If you're in charge of buying decision for varying products, what data would you need?
Design questions:
  • Design a fridge for the blind
  • Considering how to improve the user experience of Amazon.com, draw out a new UI/UX
Technical questions:
  • Explain ACID transactions
  • Describe how to implement a scalable web service architecture, like Amazon.com
  • For AWS roles: What is virtualization?


Exercise: Pick one of the questions above and answer it in the comment section below without looking at other people's answers. Our team will get back to you with suggestions on how to improve your answer.


3. Preparation tips

Now that you know what questions to expect, let's focus on how to prepare. Here are the five most important things you can do to get an offer as an Amazon Product Manager.

3.1 Deep dive into the product / organization

As you've probably figured out from the example questions listed above, you can't become a PM at Amazon without being familiar with the company's products and its organization. You'll therefore need to do some homework before your interviews.

Here are some resources to help you get started with this:

3.2 Brush up on product fundamentals

If you're already an experienced PM then this step doesn't apply to you, but if you're more junior or if you're trying to break into product management then it's worth spending some time refreshing your memory about basic product management concepts.

Here is a list of free resources to give you a starting point:

3.3 Learn a consistent method for answering PM interview questions

As mentioned previously, Amazon will ask you questions that fall into certain categories: design, strategy, estimation, behavioral, technical, and data analysis. Approaching each question with a predefined method will enable you to build strong interview habits.

Then, when it comes time for your interviews, these habits will reduce your stress and help you to make a great impression. Here is a list of our free guides on different types of PM interview questions to help you prepare: 


BUT, having a method for solving PM interview questions isn’t enough by itself. You also need to be able to communicate your answers clearly, under the pressure of interview conditions. That’s where practice comes into play. 

3.4 Practice by yourself or with peers

In our experience, practicing by yourself is a great way to prepare for PM interviews. You can ask and answer questions out loud, to help you get a feel for the different types of PM interview questions. Practicing by yourself will help you perfect your step-by-step approach for each question type. It also gives you time to correct your early mistakes. 

If you have friends or peers who can do mock interviews with you, that's a great option too. This can be especially helpful if your friend has experience with PM interviews, or is at least familiar with the process. You can also find peers to practice with on websites like Pramp.

3.5 Practice with experienced PM interviewers

Finally, you should also try to practice with experienced PM interviewers as they’ll be able to give you much more accurate feedback than friends and peers. If you know a Product Manager who can help you, that's fantastic! But for most of us, it's tough to find the right connections to make this happen. And it might also be difficult to practice multiple hours with that person unless you know them really well.

Here's the good news. We've already made the connections for you. We’ve created a coaching service where you can practice 1-on-1 with ex-interviewers from leading tech companies like Amazon. Learn more and start scheduling sessions today

 

PM Interview Coaching

Any other questions about Amazon Product Manager interviews?

If you have any questions about Amazon PM interviews, do not hesitate to ask them below and we will be more than happy to answer them. All questions are good questions, so go ahead!

Keep reading: product manager interview articles