Preparing for an Interview at Amazon Series: Phone Screen

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.

Phone Screen

Assuming you’ve gone through the online application and have been sought after by a recruiter, phone screening is your entry into the interview loop, your first (and possibly only) opportunity to impress.

At Amazon, our interviews are rooted in behavioral-based questions which ask about past situations or challenges you’ve faced and how you handled them, using Leadership Principles to guide the discussion. We avoid brain teasers (e.g., “How many windows are in Manhattan?”) as part of the interview process. We’ve researched this approach and have found that those types of questions are unreliable when it comes to predicting a candidate’s success at Amazon.

(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.

Structure

Your phone interview will consist of behavioral-based questions where you will demonstrate how you resolved past situations, whilst highlighting leadership principle qualities, along the way.

Questions you may face include(source: Amazon):

  • Tell me about a time when you were faced with a problem that had a number of possible solutions. What was the problem and how did you determine the course of action? What was the outcome of that choice?
  • When did you take a risk, make a mistake, or fail? How did you respond, and how did you grow from that experience?
  • Describe a time you took the lead on a project. What did you do when you needed to motivate a group of individuals or promote collaboration on a particular project?
  • How have you leveraged data to develop a strategy?

Preparing

The first thing you will need to do is build your own experience artifact, by creating an outline using the S.T.A.R method, and use the LPs as your guide for the questions. Then come up with about two or three examples tor each type of LP, variants.

It is critical your set of examples are diverse, don’t use the same example more than once.

Amazon is a data-driven company, so have your answers in S.T.A.R, making sure you are concise and answering the question at hand, along with metrics or data to back up your decision, it will surely help validate your train of thought.

A technique I like to use is to always repeat the question back, to help you ensure you are answering the question correctly, and give you time to provide a balanced structured response.

Finally, be relaxed, let your answers come naturally and not overly manufactured, and be prepared to dive deeper into your responses.


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.

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.