Amazon Behavioral Interview Questions (+ answers, method)

Amazon behavioral interview

If you’re interviewing for a tech role at Amazon (or AWS), be prepared to face a lot of behavioral questions.

Interviewers use behavioral questions to assess you on Amazon's leadership principles. You'll be required to give detailed, structured answers, so thorough preparation is essential.

Luckily, we're here to help.

This interview prep guide gives you everything you need to know to crack Amazon’s behavioral interview, including example questions targeting each leadership principle, how to answer them, and a practice plan to make sure you land your dream job at the company.

Here’s a brief overview of what we’ll cover.

  1. What is a behavioral interview at Amazon?
  2. 60+ Amazon behavioral interview questions
  3. How to answer Amazon behavioral interview questions
  4. How to prepare for an Amazon behavioral interview
Click here to practice 1-on-1 with ex-Amazon interviewers

1. What is a behavioral interview at Amazon?

Amazon uses behavioral interviews to assess job candidates based on their past experiences. These questions typically start with “Tell me about a time you…” and focus on soft skills articulated in the 16 leadership principles. Areas of focus usually include leadership, ambiguity, problem-solving, bias for action, etc. (we'll go into more detail on these below.)

For more information on the process for a specific role, consult one of our comprehensive interview guides below: 

Now, what will your interviewers be looking out for? Let’s take a look at those leadership principles.

1.1 What is Amazon looking for in a candidate?

As we mentioned before, learning and demonstrating your adherence to their leadership principles is key to landing your dream job at Amazon. Interviewers like the Bar Raiser are frequently assigned one or multiple leadership principles to focus on per round, meaning that you’ll encounter them at every stage. There are even reports of interviewers asking candidates to recite each principle from memory.

So it’s imperative that you prepare at least one practical example from your past that demonstrates each principle. As you may be asked more than one question on a given principle, we’d also recommend crafting a few ‘flex’ stories that you can apply to different principles. See more on answer techniques in section 3.

To help you familiarize yourself with the leadership principles, we’ve listed them below.

Amazon’s leadership principles:

  1. Customer Obsession
  2. Ownership
  3. Bias for Action
  4. Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit
  5. Invent and Simplify
  6. Dive Deep
  7. Are Right, A Lot
  8. Deliver Results
  9. Think Big
  10. Hire and Develop the Best
  11. Frugality
  12. Learn and Be Curious
  13. Insist on the Highest Standards
  14. Earn Trust
  15. Strive to be Earth's Best Employer
  16. Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility

In section 2 we’ll dig deeper into each principle and the interview questions that will test you on them.

2. 60+ Amazon behavioral interview questions

To help you prepare strategically for your job interview, we have used Glassdoor data to identify the real questions asked in different Amazon interviews. The questions we’ve chosen come from our research on five Amazon tech roles: product manager, TPM, program manager, software development engineer, and data scientist

The questions below can appear at every step of the interview process at Amazon and AWS, from the initial recruiter screen all the way through to the onsite interviews. Some could even appear as ice-breakers or transition questions during technical screens. The frequency and type of behavioral questions will vary per role, but be prepared to answer many.

Let’s get into it.

2.1 Amazon behavioral questions: Top 5

First, we wanted to highlight the most common behavioral questions that Amazon asks across every role we’ve studied. You’ll likely be asked at least one of these questions. You’ll see that regardless of the role, Amazon is curious about why you want to work for them specifically, how you face setbacks, and whether you’re willing to stand up for your ideas.

Here are the questions.

Right, let's go through more common behavioral questions at Amazon.

Each category below tests a different leadership principle, and the frequency of questions testing certain principles will vary depending on the role. For instance, interviews for managerial roles will include a higher number of questions targeting the principles “hire and develop the best” or “strive to be Earth’s best employer.”

2.2 Amazon behavioral 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.”

 

Empathy is important in all customer obsession questions. Interviewers want to see that you understand the consequences that every decision has on customer experience. You need to know who the customer is as well as their underlying needs.

Example behavioral questions asked at Amazon: Customer obsession

2.3 Amazon behavioral 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.'"

 

To work at Amazon, you can’t be a person who thinks, “That’s not my job!” when facing a task that needs to get done. When answering ownership questions, you’ll want to prove that you take initiative, can make tough decisions, and accept responsibility for your mistakes.

Example behavioral questions asked at Amazon: Ownership

2.4 Amazon behavioral questions: Bias for action

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

 

Amazon likes to learn by doing, with an eye on results over user projections and research.  This is part of what helps them act quickly and ship their products to customers as fast as they do. So your interviewer will want to see that you can take calculated risks and move things forward.

Example behavioral questions asked at Amazon: Bias for action

2.5 Amazon behavioral 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. Your interviewer will want to see that you know when to challenge ideas and escalate problems to senior leadership if necessary. At the same time, they want to know that you can sense the right time to move forward regardless of your disagreement. Show that you’re capable of striking that balance.

Example behavioral questions asked at Amazon: Have backbone; disagree and commit

2.6 Amazon behavioral 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.”

 

In everything it does, Amazon aims to foster 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 as cheaply as possible.

Example behavioral questions asked at Amazon: Invent and simplify

2.7 Amazon behavioral questions: 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.”

 

When something isn’t working, Amazon employees need to be able to find solutions quickly. Interviewers want to see that you are excited to dive deep and work out a durable response when problems arise.

Example behavioral questions asked at Amazon: Dive deep

2.8 Amazon behavioral questions: Are right, a lot

"Leaders are right a lot. They have strong judgment and good instincts. They seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs.”

 

Amazon expects its employees to produce solutions as quickly as possible and to be capable of making decisions with little information. Show that you know how to take calculated risks and that you're comfortable disproving your own opinions before moving ahead. When describing past failures, show what you’ve learned. 

Example behavioral questions asked at Amazon: Are right, a lot

  • Tell me how you deal with ambiguity
  • Tell me about a time when you were faced with a problem that had a number of possible solutions.
  • Tell me about a time you applied judgment to a decision when data was not available

2.9 Amazon behavioral 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 work to avoid slipped deadlines and failed goals. If you have missed deadlines and goals in the past, explain the methods you’ve put in place to avoid this in the future.

Example behavioral questions asked at Amazon: Deliver results

2.10 Amazon behavioral 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 an enormous company, and its employees need to build products and structures that reach a 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 behavioral questions asked at Amazon: Think big

  • Tell me about your most significant accomplishment. Why was it significant?
  • Tell me about a time you proposed a non-intuitive solution to a problem and how you identified that it required a different way of thinking
  • What was the largest project you've executed?

2.11 Amazon behavioral 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.”

 

Amazon wants every new hire to “raise the bar.” Interviewers will want to see that you seek to hire people smarter than you. You should also show you enjoy coaching younger colleagues and know how to get the most out of top performers. This leadership principle is typically discussed in interviews for very senior engineering positions that involve people management or building a team.

Example behavioral questions asked at Amazon: Hire and develop the best

2.12 Amazon behavioral 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.”

 

Amazon strives 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 behavioral questions asked at Amazon: Frugality

2.13 Amazon behavioral 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 its business. You’ll want to show that you are interested in learning new things and exploring new ideas that can be applied to the job. Some examples listed here are general interview questions, but they provide a perfect opportunity for you to address this principle.

Example behavioral questions asked by Amazon: Learn and be curious

2.14 Amazon behavioral 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.”

 

At Amazon, rarely is anything deemed “good enough.” They’d like to see how you have pushed yourself to reach standards that were difficult to meet, and how you will continue to do so in the future.

Example behavioral questions asked by Amazon: Insist on the highest standards

  • Tell me about the most successful project you've done
  • Tell me about a project that you wish you had done better and how you would do it differently today
  • Tell me a time that a goal was hard to achieve. What did you learn from that?
  • How would you improve this [project on your resume] if you had more time?

2.15 Amazon behavioral 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 odor smells of perfume. They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best.”

 

The key part of this principle that candidates often miss is the “vocally self-critical” detail. Amazon wants its employees to 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 resorting to blaming others.

Example behavioral questions asked by Amazon: Earn trust

  • 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?

2.16 Amazon behavioral questions: 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.”

 

Like the principle “hire and develop the best,” this is more likely to come up in interviews for senior and/or managerial positions. In this case, you’ll want to show that you’ll not only boost your team, but also create a safe, diverse, and just work environment. Essentially, if “hire and develop the best” means picking and training a top team, being “Earth’s best employer” means keeping that team safe, enriched, and engaged once you’ve got them.

Example behavioral questions asked by Amazon: Strive to be Earth’s best employer

  • How do you manage a low performer in the team?
  • Tell me about a time that you went above and beyond for an employee
  • Tell me about a time you saw an issue that would negatively impact your team. How did you deal with it?
  • How do you identify a good performer in the team and help in their career growth?

2.17 Amazon behavioral questions: 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.”

 

Amazon wants its employees to understand the responsibility of working for a vast, impactful company. Show how you measure the impact of your decisions, both in your workspace and in the world around you (e.g. sustainability, justice, etc.). 

Example behavioral questions asked by Amazon: Success and scale bring broad responsibility

  • Tell me about a time when you made a decision which impacted the team or the company
  • Tell me about a decision that you made about your work and you regret now
  • Tell me about a time when you failed to do the right thing

3. How to answer Amazon behavioral interview questions

Now that you’ve seen some of Amazon’s top questions, let’s work on a technique for answering them.

3.1 Technique

When answering behavioral questions, you should focus on your most relevant achievements and communicate them clearly. An easy way to achieve this is to use a step-by-step method to tell your stories. 

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.

3.1.1 IGotAnOffer 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.

You should practice using whatever method you’re the most comfortable with. If you’d like to start practicing right away, jump back to the full list of questions here

Otherwise, to get a better idea of how our method works, work through the example below.

3.2 Example answer: Tell me about a time you failed at work. What did you learn from it?

Now that you know how to approach answering behavioral questions, let's look at a full example. We’ll use one of Amazon’s most frequently asked questions. You’ll see that it can be tailored to match a few different leadership principles, such as Ownership, Learn and Be Curious, and Deliver Results.

Try answering the question below following your preferred method. Play both the role of the interviewer and the candidate. Write down your answer, then practice saying it out loud before going through our example response. Once you’ve finished, compare your response to our example to fill in any gaps in your story.

Try this question:
Tell me about a time you failed at work. What did you learn from it?
Answer:

We’ll use the IGotAnOffer method described above and answer as if interviewing for a product manager job at Amazon. You will find our proposed answer to the question below. 

Note that this question isn’t necessarily about a specific role and allows you to describe a variety of situations. We’ll use a generic example, but you should of course use an example from your own work experience.

1. Situation

You could start by saying something like, “In my last position, I was the product manager for a key feature of a new product we were about to launch. My team had been able to roll through research and development ahead of schedule, so I was excited to beat our deadline. In an update with our chief product officer, I told her that we were working quickly and would likely finish a week before the deadline. She was pleased to hear this and rearranged launch dates accordingly.”

Without giving too much detail, this gives a quick sense of the setting you were in. Now we’ll get into the problem.

2. Problem

Once you outline the situation, you can explain the problem by saying something like, “However, I had allowed myself to get swept up in our previous progress and moved up our deadline without fully considering all the factors at play. As we continued work on the launch, it quickly became clear that the final details would take longer than anticipated, and we would not be meeting the earlier deadline.”

Here, you don’t spend too much time describing the situation and problem, but your answer so far has given the interviewer a clear sense of the setting and issue that arose.

3. Solution

When describing the solution you came up with to solve the problem, it’s important to step through your thinking. And it’s especially important to focus on YOUR contribution. 

Of course, this will look a little different for a question asking about a failure, as it would mean you may not have solved the initial problem. However, you can underline the steps you took to address the failure once you realized it.

You could say something such as, “As it was my mistake to move up the deadline, and not my team’s, I took it upon myself to speed up the process. First, we discussed our progress, and I added some of their workload to my plate to accomplish everything faster. I worked overtime to take care of the loose ends, then booked a new meeting with the chief product officer. 

I explained to her that I had spoken too hastily and that we would not meet the new deadline that I had imposed. We reworked the launch plan and returned to the original timeline.

Ultimately, we were able to complete our preparations a couple of days before the original launch date, though not a full week ahead like I'd anticipated.”

Let’s take a step back and look at what you’ve shown with this answer. While you are putting on display a big mistake, your work to resolve it shows personal accountability. Instead of blaming the mistake on others, you accept blame and act to fix it. This is a key aspect of Amazon’s Ownership leadership principle.

Also, you went out of your way to speed up the process, working overtime to arrive closer to the due date. This shows that you can Deliver Results, another leadership principle. 

4. Impact

After explaining the actions you took, it’s a good idea to quantify both the impact of the failure itself and how you mitigated it. 

You could say something like, “Clearly, the deadline mixup had some negative repercussions, as the launch date was pushed forward and then moved back again. Thankfully, since it was only the earlier deadline I failed to meet, the product was still able to be launched on the original launch date one week later.”

5. Lessons

Finally, wrap up your answer by describing any lessons you might have learned. This is the most important step for a question about a past mistake or failure, as Amazon wants to be sure you know how to avoid that mistake again. Also, constantly learning aligns with the principle Learn and Be Curious.

You could say, “The failure to meet that deadline reminded me to make decisions based on data and observation, not excitement. Also, the final details of a project are extremely important and shouldn’t be rushed. These were both things I had been aware of before, but I had forgotten them in the excitement over how quickly we were progressing in other areas. Thankfully, since this mistake, I’ve always been meticulous about deadlines, only setting or changing them after I’ve discussed them with the team and considered the repercussions. Thanks to that, I haven’t missed a deadline since. ”

3.3 Example answer: mock interview

It's time to see what the SPSIL framework looks like when it's used in a real interview situation. Watch Jason (ex Product Manager at Amazon) answer some tough leadership principle questions.

 

 

3.4 Tips to impress your interviewer

Finally, before we move on to some interview prep resources, we'd like to give you five helpful tips to keep in mind.

5 tips to impress your interviewer
  1. Get used to setting up the situation in 30 seconds or less: Use a timer while you practice to ensure you provide only necessary information. Spending too much time on the Situation step is one of the most common mistakes candidates make.
  2. Stay focused on essential details: Interviewers hear a lot of behavioral stories a day. If you go into unnecessary details you are likely to lose their attention. Share your stories with a few different people before your interview and ask them what details they would suggest cutting.
  3. Be proud and talk about YOU: This is not the time to be shy about your accomplishments. Concentrate on your impact, not what “the team” did. Not talking about YOU enough is another common mistake we see with a lot of candidates.
  4. Adapt to follow-up questions: Don’t be alarmed if your interviewer asks follow-up questions; this is perfectly normal. Listen carefully to the way your interviewer is asking these questions, as there will often be a subtle clue about the specific skills they’re looking to assess from the next part of your answer.
  5. Explain how failure made you better: When talking about failure, don’t try to hide your mistakes or frame a weakness as a strength. Instead, show what you learned and how you grew from the failure.

 

4. How to prepare for an Amazon behavioral interview

Right, now that we’ve been through all the questions and the techniques you can use to answer them, we’d like to offer some resources to help you prepare. Here are three steps that you can take to help you prepare for your Amazon or Amazon Web Services behavioral interview.

4.1 Learn about Amazon's culture

Most candidates fail to do this. But before investing tens of hours preparing for an interview at Amazon, you should take some time to make sure it's actually the right company for you.

Amazon is prestigious and it's tempting to assume that you should apply, without considering things more carefully. But it's important to remember that the prestige of a job alone won't make you happy in your day-to-day work. It's the type of work and the people you work with that will.

If you know people who work at Amazon or used to work there, talk to them to understand what the culture is like. The leadership principles we discussed above can give you a sense of what to expect, but there's no replacement for a conversation with an insider. Finally, we would also recommend reading the following resources:

4.2 Practice by yourself

Acing a behavioral question is much harder than it looks. You’ll stand out if you put in the required work to craft concise and direct answers.

First, take a look at this video by Amazon aimed to help software development engineers prepare for behavioral interviews.

 

4.2.1 Write down your stories

Now that you've seen an example of a behavioral question at Amazon, work out which of your stories you’d like to tell. As mentioned in the video, make a list of key moments in your career (e.g. accomplishments, failures, team situations, leadership situations, etc.) that you can use to answer one or multiple questions. We’d recommend you come prepared with at least one story per leadership principle, as well as a few ‘flex’ stories that you could apply to multiple. 

After you’ve finished your list, write out a story for each key moment in your career using the structure we've laid out in section 3. Be sure to emphasize your impact in each of these examples, quantify the results of your actions, and explain the lessons you learned from the experience. 

Once you have a bank of stories, go through the questions in section 2 and make sure you’d be able to answer all of them either by using one of the stories you’ve written directly or by adapting it on the fly. If you identify any gaps, add stories to your bank until you’re comfortable you can cover all the questions listed in this article.

Click here to practice with more common behavioral questions and see example answers

4.2.2 Practice your stories out loud

After you've written everything down, a great way to practice your answers is to interview yourself out loud. This may sound strange, but it will significantly improve the way you communicate during an interview. 

You should be able to tell each story naturally, neither missing key details nor memorizing them word-for-word.

Play the role of both the candidate and the interviewer, asking questions and answering them, just like two people would in an interview. Trust us, it works.

4.3 Do mock interviews

Practicing by yourself will only take you so far. One of the main challenges of behavioral interviews is communicating your different answers succinctly and clearly.

4.3.1 Mock interviews with peers

As a result, we strongly recommend practicing with a peer interviewing you. If possible, a great place to start is to practice with friends. This can be especially helpful if your friend has experience with behavioral interviews, or is at least familiar with the process. 

4.3.2 Mock interviews with real Amazon ex-interviewers

Finally, you should also try to practice Amazon mock interviews with Amazon ex-interviewers, as they’ll be able to give you much more accurate feedback than friends and peers.

If you know someone who has experience running interviews at Amazon or another big tech company, then that's fantastic. But for most of us, it's tough to find the right connections to make this happen. 

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 Amazon and other top tech companies. Learn more and start scheduling sessions today.