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Psst!
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!

Psst!
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.