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

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

A typical Amazon interview includes 10 to 20 minutes of behavioral questions. Preparing for the Amazon behavioral interview questions may seem intimidating and overwhelming at first.

Behavioral questions, what does it even mean? Where should you start? How to cover a variety of questions? In this article, we will go over a simple technic to facilitate the behavioral questions’ preparation.

When you are ready, you can request a mock interview led by one of our Software Engineers on mocki.co.

Amazon behavioral questions

A Googler I recently interviewed through mocki.co took offense at the Behavioral Questions I asked. Arguing that it wasn’t how he had interviewed in the past. That it was too long and left too little time for the coding question itself.

The idea behind behavioral questions’ success is that a candidate’s past performance is a good indicator of his or her future performance. Amazonians don’t skim over those questions.

Amazon’s Leadership Principles

Amazon has publicly published its Leadership Principles. It’s an excellent opportunity for you as a candidate to get prepared for your interviews. Let’s understand how.

What are the Leadership Principles?

Leadership Principles (LP) are values or common traits that you can find in people working at Amazon (Amazonians). As a candidate, you have to demonstrate those Leadership Principles, LPs.

How to prepare for the Amazon behavioral questions?

Try to develop a list of stories where you demonstrated those Leadership Principles. Then dress a list of possible follow-up questions an interviewer may ask. Be prepared to talk about a story in detail (technically or not).

STAR

Follow the STAR approach. The STAR approach helps you to structure your answer. It helps give the context (Situation) and identify what was asked from you (Task), what you end up doing (Action) and what the outcome was (Result).

Organize everything in stories.

Assuming we are working on the following Leadership Principle: Customer Obsession.

Come up with a good story where you demonstrated that you were customer-obsessed? Where you went above and beyond for customers? What did you do? What was the result? Did you receive feedback from your customers? How?

Prepare 10-15 good stories total, across the Leadership Principles. You will be able to reuse some stories for multiple LPs.

Stories that can easily be reused for multiple Leadership Principles include:

  • An interesting technical problem you solved.
  • An interpersonal conflict you overcame.
  • A time where you demonstrated leadership or ownership.
  • A situation where you should have done differently in a past project.
  • Do you fix things that aren’t quite right, even if you don’t have to?
  • Be creative!
  • A time you acted on a piece of feedback you received.

You can organize everything in rows and columns. The nugget is just a very brief description of the story.

# Project Nugget S/T A R Note LP
1
2

Example of story

Nugget:

  • SaaS Silverlight application for fortune 500 companies.
  • I reduced the size of the application (XAP file) by 35%.

Situation / Task:

  • Customers Worldwide
  • Lots of complaints that the app was extremely slow to load. Up to 5 minutes to load (from India, for instance).
  • We had one single datacenter in Europe.
  • No CDN.

Action:

  • I built a script to remove duplicated dependencies from the final package. I integrated the script into our pipeline for automation.
  • POC to improve our dependency management and dependency graph.

Result:

  • Reduced the size of the application by 35%.
  • Better UX. Lighter and faster to load.
  • Fewer complaints from customers.

LPs: Customer Obsession, Think Big, Ownership, Invent and Simplify, Learn and Be Curious and Insist on the Highest Standards.

Not too many stories

A candidate I interviewed on mocki.co shared with me the stories he had prepared for Amazon’s behavioral questions. A long-winded document including several distinct stories per Leadership Principle. While answering the behavior question during the mock interview, he struggled to remember the stories. This is because he had prepared too many stories.

As recommended in this best seller book, organize your stories with nuggets. As stated earlier, a nugget is just a very brief description of the story, easy to trigger through visual memory of your notes.

Wrap-up

If you want to read examples of Amazon behavioral questions and answers, register for our free email series.

Also, check out this other article with Amazon Behavioral Interview Questions tips.

If you want to have a dry-run at an Amazon behavioral interview, take a mock interview at mocki.co.

Good luck!

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