Let's prepare for your interview
NOTE: Amazon is closely following the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), and implementing processes that promote candidate and employee safety. Out of an abundance of caution, our default process for on site interviews will now be conducted virtually. Learn more about our remote interview process.
Interviewing for a software engineer role that requires at least 2 years of experience? Learn how to successfully demonstrate your skills in interviews.
Before we get into the details of your interview, take some time to learn about Amazon, get to know our business teams, and “meet” a few Amazonians.
Next, dive into our Leadership Principles. 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. It is just one of the things that makes Amazon peculiar. All candidates are evaluated based on our Leadership Principles. The best way to prepare for your interview is to consider how you’ve applied the Leadership Principles in your previous professional experience.
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.
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".
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". As we do new things, we accept that we may be misunderstood for long periods of time.
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.
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.
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.
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 driving 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.
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.
Bias for Action
Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking.
Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency and invention. There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size or fixed expense.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here are some examples of behavioral-based questions:
- 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?
Keep in mind, Amazon is a data-driven company. When you answer questions, your focus should be on the question asked, ensure your answer is well-structured and provide examples using metrics or data if applicable. Reference recent situations whenever possible.
STAR answer format
The STAR method is a structured manner of responding to a behavioral-based interview question by discussing the specific situation, task, action, and result of what you're describing. Here’s what it looks like:
Describe the situation that you were in, or the task that you needed to accomplish. Give enough detail for the interviewer to understand the complexities of the situation. This example can be from a previous job, school project, volunteer activity, or any relevant event.
What goal were you working toward?
Describe the actions you took to address the situation with an appropriate amount of detail, and keep the focus on you. What specific steps did you take? What was your particular contribution? Be careful that you don’t describe what the team or group did when talking about a project. Let us know what you actually did. Use the word “I,” not “we,” when describing actions.
Describe the outcome of your actions and don’t be shy about taking credit for your behavior. What happened? How did the event end? What did you accomplish? What did you learn? Provide examples using metrics or data if applicable.
Consider your own successes and failures in relation to the Leadership Principles. Have specific examples that showcase your expertise, and demonstrate how you’ve taken risks, succeeded, failed and grown in the process. Keep in mind, some of Amazon’s most successful programs have risen from the ashes of failed projects. Failure is a necessary part of innovation. It’s not optional. We understand that and believe in failing early and iterating until we get it right.
Tips for great answers
- Practice using the STAR method to answer the behavioral-based interview questions listed above, incorporating examples from the Amazon Leadership Principles.
- Ensure each answer has a beginning, middle, and end. Describe the situation or problem, the actions you took, and the outcome.
- Prepare short descriptions of a handful of different situations and be ready to answer follow-up questions with greater detail. Select examples that highlight your unique skills.
- Have specific examples that showcase your experience, and demonstrate that you’ve taken risks, succeeded, failed and grown in the process.
- Specifics are key; avoid generalizations. Give a detailed account of one situation for each question you answer, and use data or metrics to support your example.
- Be forthcoming and straightforward. Don't embellish or omit parts of the story.
Prep for technical interviews
- Interview preparation for tech roles (e.g. software development, machine learning) can be found here.
- Unsure if you're interviewing for a technical role? Reach out to your recruiting point of contact.
Tips before you head in
- Be prepared to explain what interests you about the role you’re interviewing for and the team (or teams) you’ll be meeting with.
- When answering questions, be concise but detailed. We realize it’s hard to gauge how much information is too much versus not enough. An effective test is pausing after your succinct response to ask if you’ve provided enough detail, or if the interviewer would like you to go into more depth.
- Follow-up if you need clarification. If you are asked a question, but are not given enough information to provide a solid answer, don’t be shy about asking for more information. If additional context is not available, focus on how you would attempt to solve the problem given limited information.
- For some roles, we may ask you to complete a writing sample. Why? At Amazon, we don’t do PowerPoint or any other slide oriented presentations. Instead we write narratively structured memos and silently read one at the beginning of each meeting in a kind of “study hall.” These papers generally range from one to six pages and articulate the project goal(s), approach to addressing it, outcome, and next steps. Given this unique aspect of our culture, and the impact these papers have on what decisions we make as a company, being able to articulate your thoughts in written format is a necessary skill.
- We aim to hire smart, thoughtful, and customer-obsessed people. Reflect on what motivated you to pursue a career with Amazon, and be prepared to share your thought process. Although “Why Amazon?” is a standard question, it’s not a formality for us. We genuinely want to understand what inspired you to explore an opportunity with us so we get a better sense of who you are.
- We try to leave a few minutes at the end of each interview to answer questions you might have, but if we don’t get to all of them, please don’t hesitate to ask your recruiting point of contact.
- Check in: Arrive 15 minutes early, and check in for your interview. Have your government-issued photo ID ready (e.g. driver’s license, passport).
- Location: Detailed instructions will be sent to you via email. Some of our offices are dog-friendly. Let us know if you need any accommodations or have allergies.
- Dress code: Comfortable and casual; while some positions in our fulfillment centers may limit certain clothing for safety reasons (such as the need to wear closed-toed shoes), most of our offices are filled with people wearing everyday clothes. We're interested in what you have to say, not what you are wearing.
- What to expect: Interviews will be a mixture of questions and discussions regarding your previous experience and challenges you've encountered. Be ready with detailed examples — concise, structured answers are ideal.
- Interviewers: Depending on the role, you will meet with anywhere from two to seven Amazonians. They will likely be a mix of managers, team members, key stakeholders from related teams, and a “Bar Raiser” (usually an objective third party from another team). All interviewers will assess potential for growth beyond the position you’re interviewing for, and focus on evaluating how well your background and skills meet core competencies, along with how they relate to Amazon’s Leadership Principles. We recommend approaching each of your interviews the same way, rather than trying to tailor answers to the interviewer’s role. Interviewers will often be taking notes on their laptops. It’s important that they have precise notes of their time with you to share with other interviewers.
- Resume or CV: Interviewers will have a copy, but feel free to bring one as well.
- Duration: Each interview session usually lasts from 45 minutes to an hour.
- Lunch: We will provide lunch if your interview is scheduled during the lunch hour. Let recruiting or your lunch buddy know if you have any dietary preferences.
- Technical roles: If you're interviewing for a technical role, be prepared to white board.
- Virtual interviews: If you've been asked to do a virtual interview, you will likely need to download Amazon Chime, our tool for video conferencing (step-by-step guide here). If you're presenting, you will need to download Chime to your desktop. The meeting ID# will be emailed to you by your recruiting point of contact. For optimal sound quality, use a headset with a microphone.
Before and after the interview
- Some teams at Amazon incorporate role-specific exercises or online assessments into the interview process. You will be notified if the role you’re interviewing for requires one of these.
- Confirm or book arrangements if your interview requires travel. Your recruiting point of contact will either set up your travel arrangements, or put you in touch with our travel agency to help you coordinate travel details and hotel stay.
- Expense reports should be submitted after your visit. Your recruiting point of contact will provide details regarding where and how to submit. Fill in your form clearly, and ensure scanned receipts are legible — this will help prevent reimbursement delays.
- If you need an accommodation, or have questions or concerns, please reach out, as we ensure reasonable accommodations for all individuals.
- After your interview, be on the lookout for a quick post-interview survey via email. It is important for us to know how we did so we can continually improve our process and we value your input.
- Expect to hear back from recruiting within five business days following your interview. If you don't, feel free to give us a nudge.
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