Before we dive into specific interview questions, it’s important to understand what the Amazon Leadership Principles are and what they mean for Amazon employees and team members.
Below we list the 16 Leadership Principles developed by Jeff Bezos and give a brief overview of each. We’ll also tell you how that value impacts the work environment and share some Leadership Principles questions which could probe for each LP. You’ll notice some of the questions seem irrelevant to the LP they’re listed under; that’s because some Amazonians intentionally design tricky questions. Don’t use these as a way to guess which LP a question is aimed at. For now, use them to start building a model in your head of what these interviews actually look like.
1. Customer Obsession
Customer obsession is about giving the customer what they want before they know they want it. It’s a business-driver; engineers who are obsessed with delighting customers will churn out new features faster. Since Amazonians are encouraged to find ways to delight the customer before they know they’d like to be delighted, this promotes repeat business, effectiveness, and innovation.
Example “Customer Obsession” questions:
- Tell me about a time when you strongly disagreed with your manager or peer on something you considered very important to the business.
- To try to meet the high expectations of our customers, we sometimes promise more than we can deliver. Tell me about a time when you overcommitted yourself or your company.
2. Invent and Simplify
Amazon rewards risk-taking. They push the bounds of what’s possible from cloud to e-commerce. They want big ideaters with business savvy; engineers at Amazon are encouraged to innovate as well as cut costs. As big as they grow, they still keep it simple: AWS is the biggest cloud provider in the world, yet Amazon.com strives to be their number one client. That’s an example of a simple solution to a complex problem, which is what this Leadership principle is all about.
Example “Invent and Simplify” questions:
- Tell me about a time when you didn’t meet customer’s needs.
- Give me an example of a complex problem you solved with a simple solution.
3. Learn and Be Curious
Virtually every tech company’s marketing about their culture will include something like this. Curiosity drives learning. Amazon wants smart people who are never satisfied; they want you to always be learning. They promote taking big swings even if you end up missing. You can’t learn from your mistakes without curiosity.
Example “Learn and Be Curious” questions:
- Give me an example of a mission or goal you didn’t think was achievable. We all have things about ourselves we'd like to improve on at work. Give me an example of something that you've worked on to improve your overall work effectiveness.
4. Insist on the Highest Standards
Over the years, Jeff Bezos has repeated the mantra “Every day is day one.” He wants employees who approach every day as if they haven’t accomplished anything yet. That is a very high standard. Another reflection of Amazon’s high standards is how challenging and rewarding it is to become one of their most trusted interviewers, which is called a “Bar Raiser”. A good portion of those who apply don’t make the cut and if you make it your promotion packet gets a big boost. A Bar Raiser can veto the votes of all other interviewers in an onsite round. Those are high standards.
Example “Insist on the Highest Standards” questions:
- Tell me about a time when you had to work with a difficult customer or user.
- Tell me about a time when you used external trends to improve your own company's products or services.
5. Deliver Results
Amazon aims for market domination. This is a company which values the “what” over the “why” and the “how”; they don’t care about how you get there or why you get there as much as they care about you getting there. You get there. In their interviews, they expect candidates to move quickly and without any hints, and they have coding questions on the easier side because they want to get to the optimal outcome as soon as possible.
Example “Deliver Results” questions:
- Could you tell me about a time where you were working on a project where you were working with another person. Over time, that person lessened their involvement in the project and you had to take on more responsibility.
- Tell me about a strategic decision you had to make without clear data or benchmarks.
6. Strive to be the Earth's Best Employer
If you’re a software engineer, you won’t get asked about this.
7. Dive Deep
Like most tech companies, Amazon wants decisions to be made based on data; to implement an idea, you’ll need to show data. Where Amazon is different is this gritty mentality of “get the fricking job done”. Diving deep is essentially pulling yourself up by the bootstraps and making it happen. It’s also about developing a cultural attitude of people who are willing to get their hands dirty in order to win.
Example “Dive Deep” questions:
- Tell me about a time when you had to communicate a change in direction that you anticipated people would have concerns with.
- Tell me about a time where you were thrown into a project where you had no experience in.
8. Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit
This is the most misunderstood Leadership Principle. What it doesn’t mean is “I’ll stand up for myself. Then do it my way regardless of what you say.” What it actually means is “I verbalize the things I disagree on. Then I commit to taking action. Whether it was the action you or I proposed doesn’t matter: I’ll commit to following through on something.” This is also probably the most infamous LP, and it seems to be part of the reason for Amazonian interviewers' higher than normal level of intensity.
Example “Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit” questions:
- Often, we must make decisions as a group. Give me an example of a time you committed to a group decision even though you disagreed.
- Tell me about a time where you disagreed with a coworker or PM or manager because you believed the decision they wanted to make was wrong for the customer.
9. Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility
Usually only eng managers get asked about this one, so we’ll skip it.
Take accountability. Do all of, if not more than, what the job requires. The intention is to stimulate taking risks, having pride, and sacrificing for the business. Amazon wants folks who take big bets, hold themself to high expectations, and put in the hard work. This is one of the reasons they place a higher value on focusing on their individual contribution when answering Leadership Principles questions.
Example “Ownership” questions:
- Describe a time when you took on work outside of your comfort area.
- Describe a situation where you made an important business decision without consulting your manager.
11. Are Right, A Lot
This is another value that adds to the energy of a Leadership Principles interview: this is about competition. You have to know your stuff if you’re right, a lot. You also have to be willing to assert your point and back it up with all that data you dove deep for. This LP doesn’t mean Amazonians can’t mess up. They openly encourage candidates to describe times they were wrong, especially when they were wrong on a big gamble. Their ethical decision tree would look something like: Step 1: Dominate. Step 2: Did you dominate? If yes, proceed to success. If not, you better have risked enough to learn if and how domination is possible.
Example “Are Right, A Lot” questions:
- Tell me about a time when you did not effectively manage your projects and something did not get completed on time.
- Tell me about a time you wouldn’t compromise on achieving a great outcome when others felt something was good enough.
12. Hire and Develop the Best
Domination requires finding great players and weeding out the subpar players. They’re the only FAANG company that has a formal title for their “best” interviewers: Bar Raisers. Not only does Amazon compete against other tech companies to find the “best” talent but they also compete with themselves
. You can interview with multiple teams simultaneously; it’s a dog-eat-dog world at Amazon and that includes dogs in the same pack.
Example “Hire and Develop the Best” questions:
- Tell me about a time when you received negative feedback.
- Describe a time when you improved morale and productivity on your team.
13. Think Big
Amazon has a proven track record with huge ambition, large bets, and rapid expansion to new markets. Going to the moon, for one. Knowing your destination is one thing. It’s another level for your destination to be in the clouds (not an AWS joke, we swear). It’s about having a grand vision of the future so they can achieve those high standards.
Example “Think Big” questions:
- Give an example of a creative idea you had that proved really difficult to implement.
- Tell me about a time when you encouraged a team member or organization to take a big risk.
14. Bias for Action
You can’t take over the world if you don’t act. You might have the best idea to refactor the codebase in your head, but if it never moves towards implementation, it’s worthless. A straightforward way to make employees more productive is to openly encourage them to produce. Amazon’s bias against inaction affects their interview style: they’re looking for candidates who move fast without hints, who seek market domination, and who deliver results.
Example “Bias for Action” questions:
- Give me an example of a calculated risk that you have taken where speed was critical.
- Tell me about a time where you were the first one to take action on something.
Amazon is one of the rare companies who openly flaunts being frugal. Since when is “cutting costs” sexy? When it’s said by a group of the terminators who want to dominate the world, that’s when. Amazon wants you to not only figure out how to go to the moon, they want you to cut costs while you do it. One way to impress Amazon in the interview is to talk about the decisions you made in the past which saved the company money. You can learn how to do that in a later section of this guide called “How to practice for Leadership Principles
Example “Frugality” questions:
- Tell me about a time you pushed back on a deadline.
- Give me an example of how you have helped save costs or eliminate waste within your role or organization.
16. Earn Trust
This is one of the rare Leadership Principles which is not about competition. It’s about cooperation. If you want to demonstrate cooperation, focus on how you understood the other person’s perspective. A difference of opinion is natural and healthy. This LP is about showing you know how to repair: either reactively after or proactively before a difference of opinion.
Example “Earn Trust” questions:
- Tell me about a time when you had a disagreement with a colleague or manager.
- Describe a time when you needed to influence a peer who had a differing opinion about a shared goal.
You can read more about how Amazon defines these LPs here
Amazon's interview process
involves a) behavioral interview rounds
and b) technical interview rounds
with a few behavioral questions thrown in. The behavioral questions will all focus on your work history. Importantly, Amazon will decide whether or not to hire you and how much responsibility to give you based partly on how well you demonstrate their Leadership Principles
when you discuss your work history.What
Amazon assesses is consistent between interviewers. Each interviewer will be assigned 1-3 LPs to look for when interviewing you. They're searching for signals on whether you: meet the bar, raise the bar, or are below the bar (for their assigned LPs).
Amazon conducts the behavioral round varies widely. Our research has shown that if you were to observe sessions of 10 different LP interviewers, you would discover that each interviewer has their own way of determining a candidate's fit. One interviewer might ask more questions on fewer topics, while another interviewer may do the opposite. Complicating matters, upon observing the same behavior, different interviewers will likely perceive different signals. Notably, there is no consensus on what makes a good answer good