5 steps to beat the Amazon Bar Raiser interview (with questions)

How to beat the Amazon Bar Raiser interview

The Amazon Bar Raiser’s role is to interview candidates and oversee the hiring process, so that every new hire is “raising the bar” at Amazon. As you can imagine, they are tough to impress.

We’re here to help. We work with 40+ ex-Amazon interviewers on our coaching platform (including 8 Bar Raisers), who have helped thousands of candidates navigate the Amazon interview process.

And we’ve got good news for you: while Bar Raisers can unilaterally reject a candidate, they almost never do.

Here are the five steps you can take to beat the Bar Raiser interview:

  1. Learn what the Amazon Bar Raiser is
  2. Study the job description
  3. Learn Amazon’s 16 leadership principles
  4. Practice interview questions
  5. Do mock interviews
Click here to practice 1-on-1 with ex-Amazon interviewers

1. Learn what the Amazon Bar Raiser is

The first thing you need to do in order to ace your Bar Raiser interview is to understand what this interview is all about and what role the Bar Raiser plays in the process.

Let’s get into it.

1.1 Who is the Amazon Bar Raiser?

The Amazon Bar Raiser is an interviewer who has been trained to serve as an objective third-party advisor to the overall hiring process. Their role is to ensure that every new hire aligns with Amazon’s 16 leadership principles and is better than the average Amazon employee in the same position.

They are nominated and accepted to join the Bar Raiser program, and they do this work on top of the daily tasks that their full-time job requires. 

All candidates for corporate jobs at Amazon will have one interview round with a Bar Raiser during the final onsite loop. This round typically lasts 45-60 minutes, and you may or may not be informed ahead of time on which round is the Bar Raiser interview.

If you have not been informed ahead of time on which is the Bar Raiser round, the main clue that you can look for is that the Bar Raiser will not be a member of the team you are applying to join. They are always a third-party participant, in an effort to remain unbiased.

There are some reports that the Bar Raiser round focuses solely on behavioral questions, or that they are always the most difficult round. However, the types of questions asked as well as their difficulty level vary widely by role, so these can be misleading indicators.

Ultimately, if you have not been informed ahead of time as to which round is the Bar Raiser round, we do not recommend that you focus on identifying the Bar Raiser. In many cases, this only adds stress and distracts you from answering questions well. 

1.2 What does the Bar Raiser do?

According to Amazon, the Bar Raiser serves three main roles during the interview process:

  1. They “assess candidates for the specific role and for long-term success at Amazon.”
  2. They “make sure there is an open, accurate, and fair assessment of the candidate with every member of the interview loop participating in the discussion.”
  3. They are “responsible for helping hiring managers and others prepare for interviews, ask questions related to the Leadership Principles and the competencies that are needed for the position, assess the candidate, and provide written feedback.”

This means that, in addition to running one of the onsite interview rounds, the Bar Raiser guides the other interviewers and oversees the Hiring Committee decision. 

While the Bar Raiser will have their own thoughts about the candidate from having interviewed them, they are trained to collect data from each interviewer and guide the discussion accordingly.

At the end of the discussion, the hiring manager and Bar Raiser will come to an agreement on whether or not to hire a candidate.

1.3 Can the Bar Raiser reject a candidate?

Bar Raisers do have veto power over a hiring committee’s decision. They can either reject a candidate that the committee is in favor of, or they can hire a candidate that the committee is not in favor of. However, this is extremely rare. In the vast majority of cases, the Bar Raiser and the hiring manager drive consensus and make a collaborative decision.

As one Amazon Bar Raiser reported, “I have done more than 700 interviews here and I have never ever vetoed a hiring manager.” Other Bar Raisers have referred to it as a “nuclear option” that is hardly ever used.

In fact, it is reportedly more often the case that the Bar Raiser’s initial impression of a candidate is swayed by the feedback of the other interviewers, rather than the other way around.

So, when preparing for your Amazon interviews, it’s best not to focus solely on the Bar Raiser interview round, and instead aim to perform your best at every step of the overall Amazon interview process.

2. Study the job description

Now that you’ve got an idea of who the Bar Raiser is and what they do, let’s get into the concrete steps that you can take to make a good impression.

As one of the Bar Raiser’s responsibilities is to ensure that every new hire is better than the average Amazon employee for that same role, it’s best to start by concentrating on the role itself.

Take some time to study the job description. Go over the qualifications for the role, as well as its key objectives. Consider examples from your past that highlight your competency in those areas, which you’ll be able to use as answers in your interview.

Put yourself in the shoes of an employee who is already working in this position. How will you handle the challenges that are likely to arise in this job? What skills will you need to demonstrate to an interviewer in order to prove that you are raising the bar for this kind of role?

Once you’ve thought of examples from your past experience that demonstrate how well you would perform in this position, write them down and work on using them to answer interview questions (more on that in step 4).

If you’re looking for more in-depth information on the Amazon interview process for specific roles, take a look at one of our comprehensive interview guides:

3. Learn Amazon’s 16 leadership principles

Alongside determining whether or not you will raise the bar when it comes to the specific competencies necessary for the role, the Bar Raiser will also be assessing how well you align with Amazon’s 16 leadership principles.

Let’s take a look at what each of these principles are, and how you can apply them to your answers in an interview.

3.1 What are Amazon’s 16 leadership principles?

Amazon’s leadership principles are the core values that guide Amazon as a company. As Amazon says, “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.”

As the leadership principles are key to every decision made at Amazon, interviewers work hard to make sure that every new candidate aligns with them. The Bar Raiser in particular is considered the steward of these principles, so you’ll need to take the time to learn and apply them to your answers.

If you're not already familiar with Amazon's leadership principles, here is the full list:

  1. 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.”
  2. 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.’”
  3. 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.”
  4. 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.”
  5. Learn and Be Curiouss - "Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.”
  6. 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.”
  7. 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.”
  8. 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.”
  9. Bias for Action - "Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking.”
  10. 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.”
  11. 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 odor smells of perfume. They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best.”
  12. Dive Deep - "Leaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit frequently, and are skeptical when metrics and anecdote differ. No task is beneath them.”
  13. 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.”
  14. 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.”
  15. Strive to be Earth’s Best Employer - “Leaders work every day to create a safer, more productive, higher performing, more diverse, and more just work environment. They lead with empathy, have fun at work, and make it easy for others to have fun. Leaders ask themselves: Are my fellow employees growing? Are they empowered? Are they ready for what's next? Leaders have a vision for and commitment to their employees' personal success, whether that be at Amazon or elsewhere.”
  16. Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility - “We started in a garage, but we're not there anymore. We are big, we impact the world, and we are far from perfect. We must be humble and thoughtful about even the secondary effects of our actions. Our local communities, planet, and future generations need us to be better every day. We must begin each day with a determination to make better, do better, and be better for our customers, our employees, our partners, and the world at large. And we must end every day knowing we can do even more tomorrow. Leaders create more than they consume and always leave things better than how they found them.”

Of course, it is difficult to remember all 16 of these principles under the stress of interview conditions. That’s why we recommend that you prepare answers that align with these principles ahead of time, which you can apply to different questions that may come up during the interview.

So take some time to list examples from your past that could exemplify each of these principles. Aim to have 1-2 stories per principle, as well as a handful of flexible stories that could be used to illustrate multiple principles.

Once you have your list of stories, you’ll need to format them in a way that can be used as an interview answer.

Let’s take a look at how this works.

3.2 How do you answer Amazon leadership principle questions?

Most of the time, Bar Raisers will test your alignment with the leadership principles using behavioral interview questions (e.g. “tell me about a time when you failed”).

It can be hard to think of examples from your past experience on the spot for questions like these, and once you do think of an example, it can be difficult to tell it in a succinct way.

That’s where an answer framework comes in.

The STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) is a popular approach for answering behavioral questions because it’s easy to remember. You may have already heard of it. However, we’ve found that candidates often find it difficult to distinguish the difference between steps two and three, or task and action. Some also forget to include lessons learned in the results step, which is especially crucial when discussing past failures.

So we’ve developed the IGotAnOffer method to correct some of the pitfalls we’ve observed when using the STAR method.

Let’s step through our suggested five-step approach:

  1. Situation: Start by giving the necessary context of the situation you were in. Describe your role, the team, the organization, the market, etc. You should only give the minimum context needed to understand the problem and the solution in your story. Nothing more.
  2. Problem: Outline the problem you and your team were facing.
  3. Solution: Explain the solution you came up with to solve the problem. Step through how you went about implementing your solution, and focus on your contribution over what the team / larger organization did.
  4. Impact: Summarize the positive results you achieved for your team, department, and organization. As much as possible, quantify the impact.
  5. Lessons: Conclude with any lessons you might have learned in the process.

You’ll notice that this method covers very similar themes to the STAR method. We like it because a lot of the candidates we work with find this framework easier to use, as there’s no overlap between any of the steps in your story.

Use this method to structure the stories in the list you came up with in our previous step. Take the time to write the stories out and edit them down to the most salient points. 

Then say them out loud and work on memorizing the key points of each story, so that you’ll be able to tell them on the spot without forgetting details or sounding too mechanical.

If you’d like an example of a full interview answer using this framework, take a look here for an answer to “tell me about a time you failed.”

4. Practice interview questions

To recap, we’ve learned what the Bar Raiser is, studied the job description, and found examples from our past experience that align with Amazon’s 16 leadership principles.

Now, it’s time to apply all of this to real interview questions, to practice how you would answer them in an interview setting.

Let’s get started.

4.1 Practice behavioral questions

We’ll start with a list of behavioral questions that have been reported on Glassdoor by real Amazon candidates for roles like product manager, software development engineer, etc. Practice answering these questions using the example answers you’ve prepared in the previous step.

As these are questions we have gathered from Glassdoor, candidates don’t always confirm whether the question they’ve reported is specifically from the Bar Raiser round. Therefore, the questions below are likely a mix of Bar Raiser questions and questions from other interviewers. 

However, as the Bar Raiser is trained to uphold the leadership principles, and to consider data from every stage of the interview, it would still be beneficial for you to practice each question.

To help you target certain leadership principles, we’ve flagged which principle each question could apply to. Note that we have edited some of the questions for grammar or clarity.

Amazon interview questions: behavioral

  • Customer obsession - Tell me about one of your projects where you put the customer first.
  • Ownership - Tell me about a time when you went over and above your job responsibility in order to help the company.
  • Bias for action - Tell me about a time you had to make an urgent decision without data. What was the impact and would you do anything differently?
  • Have backbone; disagree and commit - Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a coworker or manager and how you approached it.
  • Invent and simplify  - Tell me about a time you re-designed a process and why.
  • Dive deep - Tell me about a project in which you had to deep dive into analysis.
  • Are right, a lot - Tell me how you deal with ambiguity.
  • Deliver results - Tell me about a time when you had two deadlines at the same time. How did you manage the situation?
  • Think big - Tell me about your most significant accomplishment. Why was it significant?
  • Hire and develop the best - Tell me about a time you hired or worked with people smarter than you are.
  • Frugality - Tell me about the last time you figured out a way to keep an approach simple or to save on expenses.
  • Learn and be curious - Tell me about something you learned that made you better at your job.
  • Insist on the highest standards - Tell me about a project that you wish you had done better and how you would do it differently today.
  • Earn trust - Tell me a piece of difficult feedback you received and how you handled it.
  • Strive to be Earth’s Best Employer - Tell me about a time that you went above and beyond for an employee.
  • Success and scale bring broad responsibility - Tell me about a time when you made a decision which impacted the team or the company.
As you answer the questions above, play the part of the interviewer and the candidate, asking yourself questions and answering them out loud. This will help you hone your answer and spot early mistakes.

4.2 Practice role-specific questions

Of course, Bar Raisers don’t always ask behavioral interview questions. For many roles, Bar Raisers will also ask questions that test your skills that relate to the role itself.

So let’s get into a few role-specific interview questions that have been asked at Amazon, according to data from Glassdoor. As was the case with the behavioral interview questions, we can’t confirm with 100% certainty that the questions below were asked specifically in the Bar Raiser round.

However, as Bar Raisers take into account the feedback from each of the candidate’s interviews, you must prepare for every step of the interview process in order to impress them.

So let’s get to some practice questions. For an extensive list of sample questions per role, as well as frameworks on how to answer them, take a look at the full company guides that are linked for each category. Note that some of the questions have been edited for grammar or clarity.

Amazon interview questions: role-specific

Product manager

  • What is the biggest opportunity for Amazon?
  • How many people would be watching YouTube in India right now?
  • Considering how to improve the user experience of Amazon.com, draw out a new UI/UX.

Technical program manager

  • Design Amazon.com.
  • What is the computational complexity of hash tables?
  • You're working on a program where part of the features were completed with errors. The team that's responsible has moved on to another project and has no time to fix the errors. What do you do?

Software development engineer

  • How would you design Amazon.com so it can handle 10x more traffic than today?
  • How would you design a real time ranking system for Fortnite?
  • Convert a non-negative integer to its english words representation. Given input is guaranteed to be less than 231 - 1.

Software development manager

  • How would you design a system that reads book reviews from other sources and displays them on your online bookstore?
  • How would you build the software behind an Amazon pick up location with lockers?

Data scientist

  • Given a bar plot, calculate the maximum amount of water that the bar graph could hold, if you were to pour water in from the top. (example)
  • Estimate the disease probability in one city, given the probability is very low nationwide. You’ve randomly asked 1000 people in this city if they have the disease, with the response NO for each.

Data engineer

  • Design a data model in order to track product from the vendor to the Amazon warehouse to delivery to the customer.
  • How would you build a data pipeline around an AWS product, which is able to handle increasing data volume?

Machine learning engineer

  • Design a system that recommends in-flight movies from a database, such that the total time matches directly with the flight time.
  • Design autocomplete and/or spell check on a mobile device.

5. Do mock interviews

While practicing answers to interview questions is a key step to interview preparation, it won’t prepare you for follow-up questions or unexpected topics that are bound to come up on the interview day.

So the final step that you should take to set yourself apart in the Bar Raiser interview is to do mock interviews.

5.1 Mock interviews with peers

You can start by doing mock interviews with peers or family members, to practice answering questions in simulated interview conditions. This is a good way to get initial feedback about your answers, body language, follow-ups, etc.

It is particularly helpful if you have peers that are familiar with interviews in the field you work in, and especially at Amazon.

5.2 Mock interviews with ex-interviewers

You should also try to practice Amazon mock interviews with expert ex-interviewers from Amazon. They will be best suited to tell you what to work on, and what areas the Bar Raiser is most likely to test you on.

Of course, not everybody is fortunate enough to have a connection at Amazon who is available for multiple mock interview sessions. 

The good news is that we’ve created an interview platform where you can practice one-on-one with ex-interviewers from Amazon. Learn more and start scheduling sessions today.