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We created a free email series with 10+ Examples of Amazon Behavioral Questions.

It is the second article of our guide to preparing for a Software Development Engineer (SDE) interview with Amazon.

In this post, we will go over a few tips to nail the Amazon behavioral interview. This is based on my experience of interviewing dozens of candidates at Amazon and on mocki.co. I strongly recommend you to check-out how to prepare for the behavioral questions.

A typical intreview round at Amazon starts with 10 to 20 minutes of behavioral questions. Needless to say that acing the coding doesn’t guarantee success. Let’s get into it.

Prepare your answers upfront

You have to come prepared for your interview. We explain in our other post how to prepare for Amazon behavioral questions

Practice and rehearse often

Ask a friend to randomly pickup up a question or Leadership Principle. Try to adapt and model your stories for different Leadership Principles. Tick a Leadership Principle once practiced to make sure you go over all of them. Rehearse regularly.

Be specific

Some candidates give high-level answers.

“When I work on a bug, I usually do this and this.”
“When I have a different opinion from the other team members, I do this and this.”

I asked the candidate to describe the virus scanning feature that he had designed and implemented. His description mostly stuck at a high level. I sense that he probably design very little if any of the system and that he was mostly plumbing together existing interfaces to a network proxy/filter and an anti-virus scanner.

This previous example was impressive at the surface but had low value once scratched. It results in less time for the rest of the interview (like coding). The interviewer needs a concrete example, a story based on your own experience that you can elaborate on in detail.

Don’t rely on your notes during the interview

First, ask your recruiter if you will be allowed to bring your notes during the on-site interview.

An interview is not a knowledge test. I’ve seen candidates bringing notes. I don’t mind, but I discourage bringing notes for interviews. Why?

I interviewed a candidate who had brought her notes at the interview. She was notably nervous. She couldn’t find the page/note she was looking for. She started panicking. She started reading her notes out loud as she couldn’t seem to remember anything.

Better be safe than sorry: don’t rely on your notes. Practice without any notes or cheat sheets. The conversation will be more fluid, and your interviewer will be more engaged. Remember, if anything, it’s a discussion.

Clarifying questions

When you practice for your behavioral interview questions at Amazon, ask your mock interviewer to ask clarifying questions while giving your answers. And not only afterward as follow up questions.

Our mock interviewers at mocki.co have different styles and will naturally test you on this.

I candidate I interviewed online via mocki.co confessed after the mock interview: “I didn’t expect you to ask questions before I had given you my full answer. It disrupted my flow.”

Your interviewer may or may not do the same thing. As an interviewer, I ask questions when something is not clear to me. I then ask probing questions to get into more details. I don’t wait until a candidate is done elaborating. Time is of the essence.

Remain positive

How do you react when you are frustrated? How do you respond to someone that doesn’t seem to understand what you are trying to convey?

I remember this one candidate: I asked that candidate to explain a c++ concept he just had mentioned (glibc). I asked him to repeat, as I did not hear him properly. He took offence and started patronizing me while giving his explanation. Increasing the tone of his voice and laughing. I seized this opportunity to test him further. The candidate became more and more impatient, to the point he became nearly rude. I stopped the conversation, thanked him for his explanation and moved on.

Remain in a positive mindset. Be personable, Earn the Trust of your interviewers.

Engage your interviewer

As a candidate, it is hard to gauge the interviewer’s technical level in front of you. Mainly during a phone screen. Engage your interviewer. If you suspect that your explanation confuses your interviewer, ask him. If you come up with acronyms and concepts, explain them briefly.

“I” is the distinction of “We.”

Use “I” and not “we” when answering a behavioral question. Don’t always talk as “we.” Advocate for yourself, don’t let your team take credit for what you did.

What’s with this title?

I happened to have seen a similar sentence in a satellite location of the Vancouver Art Gallery. I liked how it sounded and figured it would be catchy enough to remember it.

Summarize the Behavioral Question out loud

Repeat the behavioral question that was asked from you out loud. It is the best way to ensure that you understood the question correctly, and the interviewer should tell you otherwise.

Wrap-up

Preparing for the behavioral interview questions at Amazon requires preparation. If you want to read examples of Amazon behavioral questions and answers, register for our free email series. Practice makes perfect. If you want to receive truthful feedback before a real interview, have a mock interview on Mocki.co.

We have more articles to help you prepare for your Amazon phone screen or onsite interview.

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