SEE ALSO: How to Ace the Amazon Product Manager Interview
What to Expect
Interviewers will probe for the following areas:
- Negotiation & ability to influence others. Amazon PMs can take a position, convince others, and drive team action. All Amazon employees challenge others and themselves, even when it may feel awkward. During the interview, the interview may intentionally take the opposite side (aka devil’s advocate) to test your reaction. Expect questions like:
- Amazon recently launched display advertisements on its web page. It was a very controversial decision within Amazon. Pick either the pro or con side of the argument and explain your position of including ads on the site.
- Assume you are the new Product Manager in our Amazon Prime business and are in charge of new Feature Development. What data would you look at to develop to new features? What new features would they be?
- Dive deep, are right a lot, and think big. Amazon PMs have superior business instincts. PMs can (and love) getting into the details. They can paint a compelling vision and articulate clearly how to achieve it. Sample questions include:
- How would you price the Kindle Fire HD?
- Assume you are the new Product Manager in our Amazon Prime business and are in charge of Pricing. The VP would like to lower the price from $79.99 per year to $69.99 per year. Making your own assumptions, develop the financial projections of this decision.
- Start a new category, division, or international market for Amazon. Which one did you choose and why?
- Deliver results. Amazon PMs focus on the right issues. No obstacle is too large for PMs to hurdle. PMs always deliver. Expect behavioral interview questions such as Give me an example of a situation where you had to overcome major obstacles to achieve your objectives.
- Innovate & simplify. Amazon PMs are resolute in improving products and processes. They are highly aware of new trends & new opportunities. Expect questions such as Tell me about the last time you had an idea to improve the way things work. Was this idea implemented? Why or why not?
- Cultural fit. Amazon PMs (and employees) are known for focusing on the customer, taking initiative, and having a backbone. Having a backbone means having courage to stand up for what’s right and your personal point of view. Anticipate cultural fit questions such as:
- Choose a company that you believe provides a world-class customer experience. What do they do well?
- Explain to me a time where you disagreed with the decision of a manager or higher ranked individual, how did this play out, and what was the final decision?
- Communication. Amazon PMs can communicate issues concisely and crisply, while influencing others to their point of view. Amazon has a strong writing culture: Jeff Bezos believes that when people write complete sentences and paragraphs it forces clarity. Amazon staff meetings usually do not have Powerpoint slides. Instead, the meeting owner is asked to prepare a memo that attendees read in silence at the beginning of the meeting. Don’t be surprised if you are asked to provide a writing sample as part of the interview process. Expect interview questions such as Describe a situation in which you communicated a very complicated situation to a group of people that were completely unfamiliar with the topic. What approach did you take?
There are two more things that distinguish the Amazon interview from other companies.
First, the interview loop will include a “bar raiser.” This person is easy to spot during the interview loop; they come from a group that's completely unrelated to the job position you’re interviewing for. Their role is to “raise the bar” at Amazon. That is, weed out candidates that are below average, when compared to an average Amazon employee in the same role. If they identify a candidate that is below average, they can veto a candidate’s hiring, even when the hiring manager likes the candidate.
Second, Amazon interviewers probe deeply. At other companies, if you say, “I improved product performance by 25%” they rarely question it. At Amazon, the interviewer responds by thinking that perhaps the person was just a participant and understands very little about the topic. To test their hypothesis, the Amazon interviewer will dig for more details: who was involved, what was your role, what did you do, how did you do it, and why did you do it? The interviewer will distinguish whether you were the leader vs. participant, demonstrate good vs. great performance, and whether you were involved in the entire project or just a portion of it. For many candidates, it feels uncomfortable to receive such detailed follow-up questions because it involves recalling details that the candidate may have forgotten.
What Not To Expect at the Interview
Amazon PM interviewers almost never ask programming interview questions, so focus your interview preparation efforts elsewhere.
To Prepare For The Interview
To prepare for the interview, spend an hour on warm up questions such as Why Amazon? and Tell Me About Yourself. Spend about 4-6 hours developing stories for the drill down questions they’d ask about your previous work experience. Lastly, spend 10-12 hours preparing for hypothetical questions. This may include specific business problems that Amazon is encountering including pricing, supplier relationships, new market entry, and customer UX.
For more details on the Amazon PM interview, check out How to Ace the Amazon Product Manager Interview.
11/10!! Your blog is such a complete read. I like your approach with Amazon Product Manager Interview: What to Expect and How to Prepare. Clearly, you wrote it to make learning a cake walk for me.
We’re currently in an infinite loop between sales and support, neither of whom seem to be able to understand a basic issue.
We want to purchase some sizeable reserved instances but are told that the only way to pay is all at once with a credit card. No split payments, AWS Training ,no offer to pay by check, no offer to pay by ACH, no offer to pay by wire.
Can someone explain to me how AWS serves enterprises if they only accept consumer methods of payment?
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Ben Daredonthat •
Hi. I have been through the process twice, and not been hired for the position. Interestingly, I have been in leadership roles in 5 successful start-ups and could have hired 10 people by now that would have filled the position and done and outstanding job.
I also find it strange that they are losing market share in the technology I applied for, and not been innovative and delivering. These are two components I found critical when I hired professionals, and they did not have to go through the grueling weeks long process at Amazon. This may be where eBay, Google, Rakuten and others take over their markets. They have the opportunity and ability to be in the drivers seat, but may take to long to get drivers.
Lewis C. Lin •
AMR, good point! This blog post does excerpt content from my newest book on product management interviews, Secrets of the Product Manager Interview: https://interviewsteps.com/products/secrets-of-the-product-manager-interview-second-edition
You should have mentioned that the article is quoted from Decode and Conquer book!