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Arslan Ahmad

Mastering the Amazon Interview: A Comprehensive Guide to Amazon's 16 Leadership Principles

Unlock the secrets to acing your Amazon interview with our in-depth guide on Amazon's Leadership Principles. This blog provides valuable insights into each principle and offers practical tips to help you excel in the behavioral interview segment.
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In today's competitive job market, showcasing your technical skills and experience is no longer enough to secure a coveted position at a prestigious company like Amazon. The e-commerce giant, known for its relentless pursuit of innovation and excellence, places a strong emphasis on its unique set of Leadership Principles during the interview process. These 16 guiding principles serve as the backbone of Amazon's corporate culture, driving decision-making and shaping the attitudes and behaviors of its employees.

As a candidate seeking a role at Amazon, understanding these Leadership Principles is crucial to standing out in the hiring process. To help you navigate the often-challenging behavioral interview segment, this blog will delve into each of Amazon's Leadership Principles, offering insights into what they entail and how to effectively demonstrate them in your responses. By the end of this comprehensive guide, you will be better equipped to tackle behavioral interview questions with confidence, showcasing your alignment with Amazon's core values and your potential to thrive in its dynamic environment. So, let's discover how to ace your Amazon interview and get closer to becoming a valued member of their team.

Glossary

  1. LP is shorthand for Leadership Principle.
  2. SDE is shorthand for Software Development Engineer, which typically refers to back end engineers within Amazon.
  3. FEE is shorthand for Front End Engineer, which typically refers to full stack and/or dev-ops engineers within Amazon.
  4. L1, L2, and L3 are shorthand for level 1, level 2, and level 3.
    • Juniors are level 1: SDE1 and FEE1.
    • Mid-level engineers are level 2: SDE2 and FEE2.
    • Seniors are level 3: SDE3 and FEE3.

1. Customer Obsession

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.

How to remember this principle: Focus on customers' needs and work to exceed their expectations.
What this principle is evaluating: Your ability to prioritize customer needs, and develop products and solutions that address them.
What pitfalls you should avoid: Focusing on internal processes or individual preferences instead of the customer's perspective.

Sample questions:

  1. Describe a time when you went above and beyond for a customer.
  2. Tell us about a project where you had to change direction based on customer feedback.
  3. How have you used customer insights to improve a product or service?
  4. Give an example of when you had to make a trade-off between customer satisfaction and project constraints.
  5. Describe a situation where you resolved a customer complaint.

2. Ownership

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.”

How to remember this principle: Take responsibility for your work, think long-term, and act on behalf of the entire company.
What this principle is evaluating: Your ability to take initiative, be accountable, and make decisions that benefit the organization.
What pitfalls you should avoid: Shifting blame, focusing on short-term gains, or having a narrow perspective.

Sample questions:

  1. Tell us about a time when you took ownership of a project and its outcome.
  2. Describe a situation where you made a decision that had long-term benefits for your team or company.
  3. How have you acted as an owner in your previous roles?
  4. Give an example of when you took responsibility for a mistake and turned it into a learning opportunity.
  5. Tell us about a time when you proactively identified and addressed a problem that was not your responsibility.

3. 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.

How to remember this principle: Encourage innovation, look for new ideas, and simplify complex processes.
What this principle is evaluating: Your ability to think creatively, challenge the status quo, and streamline processes.
What pitfalls you should avoid: Resisting change, getting stuck in traditional ways of thinking, or complicating solutions.

Sample questions:

  1. Describe a situation where you invented a new solution to a problem.
  2. Tell us about a time when you simplified a complex process.
  3. How have you fostered innovation within your team?
  4. Give an example of when you challenged conventional wisdom and found a better solution.
  5. Describe an innovative idea you proposed and how you implemented it.

4. 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.

How to remember this principle: Make informed decisions, seek diverse perspectives, and maintain high standards.
What this principle is evaluating: Your ability to make sound judgments, learn from mistakes, and be open to feedback.
What pitfalls you should avoid: Being overly confident, inflexible, or unwilling to learn from mistakes.

Sample questions:

  1. Tell us about a time when you made a difficult decision that turned out to be correct.
  2. Describe a situation where you sought multiple perspectives before making a decision.
  3. How do you ensure your decisions are well-informed and accurate?
  4. Give an example of when you admitted to being wrong and learned from it.
  5. Tell us about a time when you had to make a decision with limited information.

5. 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.

How to remember this principle: Continuously learn, seek new knowledge, and be open to new ideas.
What this principle is evaluating: Your commitment to personal and professional growth, curiosity, and adaptability.
What pitfalls you should avoid: Becoming complacent, stagnant, or resistant to learning new things.

Sample questions:

  1. Describe a time when you learned a new skill or technology to solve a problem.
  2. Tell us about a situation where your curiosity led to a positive outcome.
  3. How do you stay up-to-date with industry trends and emerging technologies?
  4. Give an example of when you had to adapt to a significant change in your work environment.
  5. Describe a project where you had to learn something new quickly to meet a deadline.

6. 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.

How to remember this principle: Recruit top talent, mentor team members, and foster a culture of growth.
What this principle is evaluating: Your ability to identify, hire, and develop high-performing individuals.
What pitfalls you should avoid: Settling for average performers or neglecting team development.

Sample questions:

  1. Tell us about a time when you hired a high-performing employee and how you identified their potential.
  2. Describe a situation where you mentored or coached a team member to improve their performance.
  3. How do you foster a culture of growth and development within your team?
  4. Give an example of when you had to let go of an underperforming team member.
  5. Tell us about a time when you helped a team member advance their career.

7. 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 drive 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.

How to remember this principle: Set high expectations, drive quality, and continuously raise the bar.
What this principle is evaluating: Your ability to maintain high standards, identify areas for improvement, and push for excellence.
What pitfalls you should avoid: Accepting mediocrity or failing to challenge yourself and others.

Sample questions:

  1. Describe a time when you set high standards for a project and how it impacted the outcome.
  2. Tell us about a situation where you identified a quality issue and took steps to correct it.
  3. How do you ensure your team maintains high standards?
  4. Give an example of when you had to push for excellence in the face of obstacles.
  5. Describe a time when you raised the bar for your team or organization.

8. Think Big

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.

How to remember this principle: Embrace bold ideas, create long-term visions, and focus on high-impact projects.
What this principle is evaluating: Your ability to envision the future, take calculated risks, and drive ambitious projects.
What pitfalls you should avoid: Focusing on short-term wins or small-scale improvements.

Sample questions:

  1. Tell us about a time when you pursued a bold idea that led to significant success.
  2. Describe a long-term vision you developed and how it influenced your team's direction.
  3. How do you prioritize high-impact projects and initiatives?
  4. Give an example of when you took a calculated risk that paid off.
  5. Describe a situation where you had to convince others to think big and embrace a bold vision.

9. Bias for Action

Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking. How to remember this principle: Make timely decisions, take calculated risks, and avoid analysis paralysis.
What this principle is evaluating: Your ability to act decisively, prioritize effectively, and manage uncertainty.
What pitfalls you should avoid: Procrastination, indecision, or being overly cautious.

Sample questions:

  1. Describe a time when you had to make a quick decision with limited information.
  2. Tell us about a situation where you took action to resolve a problem before it escalated.
  3. How do you balance speed and thoroughness when making decisions?
  4. Give an example of when you took a calculated risk to achieve a goal.
  5. Describe a time when you had to prioritize tasks to meet tight deadlines.

10. Frugality

Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, and invention. There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size, or fixed expense.

How to remember this principle: Accomplish more with less, optimize resources, and find creative ways to save money.
What this principle is evaluating: Your ability to maximize resources, identify cost-saving opportunities, and maintain financial discipline.
What pitfalls you should avoid: Wasteful spending, over-reliance on costly solutions, or failing to prioritize resource optimization.

Sample questions:

  1. Describe a time when you found a cost-effective solution to a problem.
  2. Tell us about a situation where you optimized resources to achieve better results.
  3. How do you ensure your team operates efficiently and within budget?
  4. Give an example of when you identified a cost-saving opportunity and implemented it.
  5. Describe a project where you had to accomplish more with less.

11. Earn Trust

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.

How to remember this principle: Build strong relationships, communicate openly, and demonstrate integrity.
What this principle is evaluating: Your ability to gain trust, collaborate effectively, and show respect for others.
What pitfalls you should avoid: Dishonesty, lack of transparency, or failing to treat others with respect.

Sample questions:

  1. Describe a time when you earned the trust of a colleague or team member.
  2. Tell us about a situation where you had to repair a damaged professional relationship.
  3. How do you ensure open and honest communication within your team?
  4. Give an example of when you demonstrated integrity in a difficult situation.
  5. Describe a time when you showed empathy and understanding towards a colleague.

12. Dive Deep

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.

How to remember this principle: Understand the details, ask probing questions, and maintain a hands-on approach.
What this principle is evaluating: Your ability to analyze complex issues, identify root causes, and stay connected to the details.
What pitfalls you should avoid: Overlooking important details, superficial analysis, or being detached from the work.

Sample questions:

  1. Describe a time when you conducted a deep dive analysis to solve a problem.
  2. Tell us about a situation where your attention to detail led to a positive outcome.
  3. How do you ensure you stay connected to the details while managing a team?
  4. Give an example of when you identified the root cause of a complex issue.
  5. Describe a project where you had to balance diving deep with delegating tasks.

13. 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.

How to remember this principle: Voice your opinion, challenge decisions, but commit to the team's decision once it's made.
What this principle is evaluating: Your ability to assert your viewpoint, accept disagreement, and support team decisions.
What pitfalls you should avoid: Being overly passive, confrontational, or failing to commit after a decision is made.

Sample questions:

  1. Describe a time when you disagreed with a decision and voiced your concerns.
  2. Tell us about a situation where you had to commit to a decision you initially disagreed with.
  3. How do you handle disagreements within your team?
  4. Give an example of when you constructively challenged a colleague's idea.
  5. Describe a time when you had to balance advocating for your ideas with supporting the team's consensus.

14. Deliver Results

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.

How to remember this principle: Focus on outcomes, overcome obstacles, and drive projects to completion.
What this principle is evaluating: Your ability to set goals, execute effectively, and deliver high-quality results.
What pitfalls you should avoid: Focusing on activities rather than outcomes or failing to meet commitments.

Sample questions:

  1. Describe a time when you delivered a significant result under challenging circumstances.
  2. Tell us about a project where you successfully managed multiple priorities to meet deadlines.
  3. How do you ensure your team stays focused on delivering results?
  4. Give an example of when you overcame obstacles to achieve a project goal.
  5. Describe a time when you had to adjust your approach to deliver results on time and within budget.

15. 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.

How to remember this principle: Create an inclusive and diverse work environment, invest in employee development, and prioritize employee well-being.
What this principle is evaluating: Your ability to foster a supportive, inclusive, and high-performing work culture.
What pitfalls you should avoid: Neglecting employee development, failing to promote diversity and inclusion, or overlooking employee well-being.

Sample questions:

  1. Describe a time when you took action to promote diversity and inclusion within your team.
  2. Tell us about a situation where you prioritized employee well-being.
  3. How do you create a supportive and inclusive work environment for your team?
  4. Give an example of when you invested in the development of a team member.
  5. Describe a time when you had to balance team performance with employee well-being.

16. 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.

How to remember this principle: Be responsible for the impact of your actions, consider long-term consequences, and work towards a sustainable future. What this principle is evaluating: Your ability to consider the wider implications of your work and make responsible decisions. What pitfalls you should avoid: Ignoring the broader impact of your actions or prioritizing short-term gains over long-term responsibility.

Sample questions:

  1. Describe a time when you made a decision that took into account the broader implications for your company or industry.
  2. Tell us about a situation where you considered the long-term consequences of a project or decision.
  3. How do you ensure your team's actions align with the company's broader responsibilities?
  4. Give an example of when you advocated for a sustainable solution or practice.
  5. Describe a time when you had to balance immediate success with long-term responsibility.

Conclusion

As you prepare for your Amazon SDE interview, remember to provide specific examples from your experience that demonstrate each of the Leadership Principles. Use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to structure your responses and avoid pitfalls by focusing on how your actions positively impacted your team, company, and customers.

Take a look at Grokking Modern Behavioral Interview if you are preparing for behavioral interviews.

More on Amazon Interviews:

  1. 14 Most Popular Amazon Coding Interview Questions
  2. Top LeetCode Patterns for FAANG Coding Interviews
Amazon
Behavioral Interview
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