Preparing for an Interview at Amazon Series: Assessments

I’ve been at Amazon for just under a year, at the time of writing, and as I approach my first anniversary, I reflect on how I got on this crazy, exciting merry-go-ride, they call Prime Video. I wanted to put down my thoughts on screen as to how I prepared for the interviews, what the interview process was like, and provide some tips for you, if you do get the privilege of going through the interview loop. Mind you, I am giving you just my mere perspective, as a Senior Technical Program Manager, and other roles would certainly have their caveats and domains of expertise.

Assessments

Assuming you’ve gone through the online application and have been sought after by a recruiter, and made it through the phone screening, ahead of your formal on-site interview, you will be tasked with completing a written assessment.

At Amazon, one of our highest priorities is hiring and developing the best, and we work hard to raise the performance bar with every hire. Amazon uses online assessments as one way to help us get to know you better, and we design them to measure key characteristics required for success in a role. Assessments also allow us to assess applicants consistently and equitably, as every individual is provided with the same experience and information needed to complete the assessment. Depending on the position, we may ask you to take an assessment during the application process or send it to you separately after you’ve applied. The type and number of assessments will depend on the role you apply for and in some cases, must be completed within a certain timeframe. The two common types of assessments are work style assessments and work sample simulations.

(Source: Amazon)

As a TPM, I had to produce a kind of essay, demonstrating my work style in my previous companies, and of course aligning those with Amazon’s Leadership Principles(LPs), something you should certainly read back to front. Check out some of my other blog posts that dive into some of the leadership principles.

Taking these LPs, your assessor will give you two questions to choose from, for you to dive deep into.

Structure

The first thing you will notice in your assessment instructions section, is that you will need to craft your writing in narrative form, no more than four pages.

Communications is quintessential to being at Amazon, the culture of being able to write well-structured narratives, regardless of whether you are a TPM, engineer, or product manager.

So, it is already clear that you will have to respond in a narrative form that does not contain bullet points, for the same reasons Amazon doesn’t like PowerPoint presentations. So do some research into what narrative form is, look at some best practice articles such as https://writers-house.com/blog/write-narrative-form/ as guidance. Ensure you write in active tense (no passive tense) and remove jargon.

Next, you should ensure every paragraph, every sentence, every word has a purpose. Be concise, write the minimum, and refrain from using weasel words.

A weasel word, or anonymous authority, is an informal term for words and phrases aimed at creating an impression that something specific and meaningful has been said, when in fact only a vague or ambiguous claim has been communicated.

Did each paragraph explain your thought with clarity of expression, and flows on to the next paragraph? Think back to college, and how you structured your essays. Present facts in the body, hypotheses at the top, and a methodology that will narrate the reader from your question to your answers.

For arguments, you present, also think about counter-arguments one might present, or in scientific term, I like to group my thoughts into hypotheses, null and alternative hypotheses.

Proofread

The assessor expects you to submit your assessment in Microsoft Word, and that is good because Microsoft Word allows you to do some nifty proof-reading. You can download macros such as Grammarly to help you not only spell-check, but ensure your document conforms to the right grammar, for a technical document, along with the other elements such as active voice.

Ask my anything

If you have any questions, please comment below, and I will do my best to answer them!

We are Hiring

Come work with me at Prime Video | Amazon. We are looking for technical program and product managers. Learn about all our cool live and streaming innovations. Based in Seattle or LA. No remote work.

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