How to answer interview questions about the Amazon leadership principle “Frugality” — Interview Genie

It isn’t surprising that getting a job at one of the big tech companies like Amazon, Google, or Facebook can present quite a challenge. The interviews for these companies have become almost as famous as the companies themselves.

One of the most significant differences between interviewing at Amazon and other FAANG companies lies in their approach to behavioral interview questions. Namely, Amazon has created the following 14 Amazon Leadership Principles.

These principles and the associated questions are designed to investigate your professional background and your ability to handle workplace situations. At Levels.fyi, we know how these may be difficult to improvise on the spot, so it is wise to prepare for them ahead of time. Read on for some of Amazon Leadership Principles questions, sample answers to them, and interview tips.

Frugality with Simon Elisha, Head of Technology and Transformation, ANZ Public Sector AWS

Amazon Leadership Principles: Questions and Interview Tips

What are the Amazon Leadership Principles?

The Amazon Leadership Principles describe 14 fundamental values that govern the conduct of the company and its employees. The company states that these values are implemented in day-to-day operations and believes in hiring people who behave by these principles.

These qualities are often tested during the hiring process. They are crucial to know if you are preparing for an interview with Amazon and want to become an excellent candidate.

“We obviously hire based on the principles. We give both positive and negative feedback, which references the principles. We are encouraged to be aware of our own successes and failures in relation to the leadership principles,” says Dave Anderson, Head of Technology at Bezos Academy and a former Director/GM at Amazon.

The good news is that you don’t have to memorize all 14 Amazon Leadership Principles to get ready for an interview. Instead, Amazon tests applicants on the qualities that are most relevant to the position.

Here are the 14 Amazon Leadership Principles and some essential details to remember:

  1. Customer Obsession – Successful leaders always start with the customer and work their way backward. They work hard to earn and maintain customer trust, and even though they pay attention to competitors, customers are always the priority.
  2. Ownership – Leaders think long-term and prioritize long-term value over short-term success. They are owners, and they act on behalf of the company, not just themselves or their own team.
  3. Invent and Simplify – Leaders always seek ways to simplify and always require invention and innovation from their teams. Their thinking has no limits, and they always search for new ideas from everywhere. And, as they try new things, they expect to be sometimes misunderstood.
  4. Are Right, a Lot – Leaders are right most of the time. They possess good instincts and strong judgment, which enables them to seek diverse perspectives.
  5. Learn and Be Curious – Leaders always seek ways to improve themselves and never stop learning. They are curious about new opportunities and aren’t afraid to explore the unknown.
  6. Hire and Develop the Best – Every hire and promotion decision made by leaders raises the performance level. Leaders recognize talent and are willing to support them in their development. They invest their time into coaching and mentoring others.
  7. Insist on the Highest Standards – Leaders are continually raising the bar of their standards and motivate their teams to deliver high-quality services, products, and processes. Leaders make sure that problems are fixed and defects never get sent down the line.
  8. Think Big – Leaders think differently and envisage a bold direction that inspires outstanding results. They also expertly partake in calculated risk-taking. They think outside of the box to serve customers and achieve a significant impact.
  9. Bias for Action – In business, speed matters. Many actions and decisions are reversible and do not require extensive study. They have a bias for action with long-term gains in mind.
  10. Frugality – Leaders find ways to accomplish more with less and maximize profit. They take constraints and turn them into self-sufficiency, resourcefulness, and invention.
  11. Earn Trust – Leaders speak candidly, listen attentively, and treat others respectfully. They aren’t afraid to be self-critical in front of others and benchmark themselves only against the best.
  12. Dive Deep – Leaders focus on the details, work at all levels, and audit frequently.
  13. Have Backbone; Disagree, and Commit – Leaders aren’t afraid to speak up and challenge decisions in a respectful way whenever they disagree. They do not compromise, even in a challenging environment. And once the team finalizes a decision, these leaders fully commit to it.
  14. Deliver Results – Leaders need to focus on the critical things in their work and deliver quality results promptly. No matter what, they overcome obstacles and never settle.

How to Answer Amazon Leadership Principle Questions

Amazon’s bar-raiser round evaluates your responses to behavioral questions and gauges if you’re the right fit for the role. The STAR method is a widely popularized method to answer behavioral interview questions at FAANG companies. The method fundamentally aims to frame responses based on real situations and incidents. Let’s look at it in slight detail:

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. While answering leadership principle questions, make sure you address each of these areas to craft the perfect response.

  • Situation: The Situation should answer the “When,” “Why,” and “Where” of the response. When you’re asked a behavioral question, start off with the Situation before moving on to the other elements.
  • Task: The Task should throw light on what your particular role in the situation was. Highlight what your key responsibilities were and what was expected of you.
  • Action: The Action part should address what steps you took towards meeting the requirements of the task.
  • Result: The Result part should essentially answer the outcome of the task. This part should also talk about challenges encountered along the way and the actions taken to tackle them.

Behavioral Interview Questions Based on Amazon’s Leadership Principles

Amazon’s behavioral interview will have questions that pertain to one or more leadership principles. While answering these questions, make references to specific principles and associate them with your answers. That way, recruiters will know that you’ve read and understood these crucial principles and are willing to apply them at your workplace.

Here’s a list of 35 behavioral interview questions that you can use to practice for the interview:

  • Tell us about a time when you overcame a rather difficult challenge pertaining to a past project.
  • Tell us about a time when you had to halt a project halfway through as it wasn’t headed in the right direction.
  • Tell us about a time when you had to make sacrifices in your personal life to complete an arduous project.
  • Tell us about an instance when you had to make a tough decision pertaining to a project when you were under pressure.
  • Tell us about a time when you had to take a risk in a project.
  • Tell us about a time when you were asked to compromise moral values for the sake of a project.
  • Tell us about a difficult relationship you had with a superior. How did you overcome it and build trust?
  • Tell us about a time when you had a conflict at your workplace with a coworker.
  • Tell us about a time when you had to deviate from the norm to complete a project.
  • Tell us about a time when you imparted learnings from a challenging project to your team members.
  • How would you employ a certain leadership principle at work?
  • Tell us about a time when you had to persuade your manager to change the course of action based on credible insights.
  • Tell us about a time when a problem had multiple solutions. How did you go about picking the right solution?
  • What are your thoughts on maintaining the ideal work-life balance?
  • Tell us about a time when you had to acquire a new skill, dislodging you from your zone of comfort.
  • Tell us about a time when you had to take the lead in a project.
  • Have you been criticized by a superior in the past? How did you handle it?
  • Tell us about a time when your creativity helped a project take an improved turn.
  • Tell us about your ideas to motivate your team.
  • Which leadership principle do you resonate with the most?
  • Tell us about a time when a coworker was hesitant to take help. How did you deal with it?
  • Tell us about a time when you had to make a big decision with little data or information?
  • Tell us about a time when you faced criticism for your role in an important project. How did you handle it?
  • Tell us about a time when your role in a project resulted in the client being completely satisfied.
  • Have you ever missed a deadline for a project? How did it impact the relationship with the client, and how did you handle it?
  • Tell us about when you had to take the lead on a project and impart key learnings to your team members.
  • Tell us about a time when you faced a fairly difficult problem but came up with a simple solution.
  • Have you had to ask for help with a difficult project? Tell us how you went about the situation?
  • Tell us about a time when your actions impacted customer satisfaction.
  • What behavioral characteristics, according to you, will help you succeed at Amazon?
  • Tell us about a time when you made short-term compromises or sacrifices for the benefit of concrete long-term results?
  • How do you motivate members of your team as a manager?
  • Tell us about a time when a project had multiple solutions and how you adopted the most optimal one?
  • Tell us about a time when you had to make a tough decision without consulting anybody? How did you go about it?
  • Has your manager/superior asked you to do something that you disagree with in the past? How did you handle that?

How to Answer Amazon Leadership Principle Questions

Amazon’s bar-raiser round evaluates your responses to behavioral questions and gauges if you’re the right fit for the role. The STAR method is a widely popularized method to answer behavioral interview questions at FAANG companies. The method fundamentally aims to frame responses based on real situations and incidents. Let’s look at it in slight detail:

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. While answering leadership principle questions, make sure you address each of these areas to craft the perfect response.

  • Situation: The Situation should answer the “When,” “Why,” and “Where” of the response. When you’re asked a behavioral question, start off with the Situation before moving on to the other elements.
  • Task: The Task should throw light on what your particular role in the situation was. Highlight what your key responsibilities were and what was expected of you.
  • Action: The Action part should address what steps you took towards meeting the requirements of the task.
  • Result: The Result part should essentially answer the outcome of the task. This part should also talk about challenges encountered along the way and the actions taken to tackle them.

What does the “Frugality” leadership principle mean?

If you’re frugal, you try to save money. You’ll want to show you can do the job without spending more and that having not enough time or resources is fine. Resource constraints are not a huge problem that will stop you from succeeding; it’s something you can deal with.

However, you can be “frugal” with more things than money. You can also save time or other resources, including person hours.

It’s not that Amazon is cheap. In fact, the “Frugality” principle is not necessarily about saving money at all. The logic behind this principle is that Amazon uses frugality as a forcing function – meaning that the company believes that constraints can help drive creativity and innovation. After all, if you don’t have money to spend, you’ll have to find ways to do things more cheaply or efficiently.

How many stories do I need to prepare for this leadership principle?

Most people say that you should have two examples for each principle. That’s a good benchmark, but what if you get asked four Frugality questions? Will you have enough stories to answer them all? In the onsite interview the interviewers will divide the principles up and each take two or three, so in one interview you may have more than two questions about a principle. What will you do if that happens? I suggest that you practice using some questions you’ve developed for other principles to answer the Frugality questions. I think it’s a better idea to think of having a group of answers you can tailor for the different principles depending on what you get asked that thinking of preparing two answers for each principle. However, like I mentioned before, this is not the most popular principle to answer questions about and it actually doesn’t apply to some jobs, those that don’t control resources in any way. I generally advise putting this question down at number 13 on the list in terms of what to spend your prep time on (unless of course budgeting is your job).

Amazon Leadership Culture

There are quite a few articles out there about what Amazon’s leadership is like, how our leaders act, and what it’s like to work at Amazon. There are mentions of continual innovation, cut-throat competition, and fast paced projects.

As an Amazonian, what I always tell candidates is that there is not much about working at Amazon which is consistent across groups. We don’t do much the “Amazon way”, because very little is centralized. We have the leadership principles which guide how we act. Otherwise, every group acts like a little startup. They establish their own processes and best practices. They build an organization and way of doing things uniquely their own, while still following our leadership principles.

Considering how little we have centralized, we use the bar raiser group as a type of glue across organizations. We select bar raisers from the pool of experienced folk at Amazon, not just those who can interview well, but more importantly — those who deeply understand our leadership principles. As bar raisers, we then try to hire people who can understand and act on our principles. Finally, we set them loose into the chaos which is Amazon, with an assumption and belief that hiring people who follow our leadership principles will lead to long term success.

Understanding the Leadership Principles

When I have friends or relatives (or friends of friends, or friends of friends of relatives) ask how to prepare for an interview, I always suggest they read the description of the Amazon Leadership Principles, and think hard about each of them. More than any company I’ve worked with or heard about, we use those principles on a daily basis.

We obviously hire based on the principles. We give both positive and negative feedback which reference the principles. We are encouraged to be aware of our own successes and failures in relation to the leadership principles. I know I’ve certainly referenced a leadership principle or two while talking about parenting techniques.

I’ve read many thousands of interview transcripts, and it’s often glaringly obvious which candidates have really read and grokked what the leadership principles mean, and those who either neglected to prepare for their interview, or simply didn’t understand.

Note for the below sections. The quotes I’m putting in are actual snippets of interviews I’ve had, with close to literal quotes. Yes, they’re extreme examples. I’m using a blunt instrument to make certain you know what I’m talking about.

Another quick note before getting into specifics. We interviewers are spending our time talking to you — the candidate — in hopes that you’ll be hired. It’s a big investment of our time, we don’t want you to fail. When we say something like “Well, that’s a good start, what else?”, it’s very rare that the right answer is “Um.. nope, that’s it”. Please listen carefully to what your interviewer is saying. Again, we’re here to help 🙂

Have a Backbone; Disagree and Commit

  • Tell me about a time when you strongly disagreed with your manager or peer on something you considered very important to the business. What was it and how did you handle it? Knowing what you know now, would you do anything differently?
  • Describe a time when you took an unpopular stance in a meeting with peers and your leader. What was it? Why did you feel strongly about it? What did you do? What was the outcome?
  • 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. What factors led you to commit to the decision? Would you make the same decision now?
  • Tell me about a time when you helped one of your team members develop their career. How did you help that team member? What was the result?
  • Tell me about a time when you invested in an employee’s development. What did you invest in and why? What was the outcome? Can you share an example where investing in an employee’s development didn’t work out?
  • Give me an example of a time you provided feedback to develop the strengths of someone on your team. Were you able to positively impact their performance?
  • Describe a time when you refused to compromise your standards around quality/customer service, etc. Who was your customer? What was the result?
  • Tell me about a time when you were unsatisfied with the status quo. What did you do to change it? What was the impact? Would you do anything differently in the future?
  • Tell me about a time when you worked to improve the quality of a product / service / solution that was already getting good customer feedback. Why did you think it needed improvement? How did customers react?
  • Give me an example of a complex problem you solved with a simple solution. What made the problem complex? How do you know your solution addressed the problem?
  • Describe the most innovative thing you’ve done and why you thought it was innovative. Ask for one or two more examples to see if it’s a pattern of innovative thinking. What was the problem it was solving? What was innovative about it?
  • Tell me about a time when you were able to make something simpler for customers. What drove you to implement this change? What was the impact?
  • Tell me about a time when you realized you needed a deeper level of subject matter expertise to do your job well. What ****did you do about it? What was the outcome? Is there anything you would have done differently?
  • Describe a time when you took on work outside of your comfort area. How did you identify what you needed to learn to be successful? How did you go about building expertise to meet your goal? Did you meet your goal?
  • Tell me about a time when you didn’t know what to do next or how to solve a challenging problem. How do you learn what you don’t know? What were the options you considered? How did you decide the best path forward? What was the outcome?
  • Tell me about a time when you took on something significant outside your area of responsibility. Why was it important? What was the outcome? Describe a time when you didn’t think you were going to meet a commitment you promised. How did you identify the risk and communicate it to stakeholders? Is there anything you would do differently?Give me an example of an initiative you undertook because you saw that it could benefit the whole company or your customers, but wasn’t within any group’s individual responsibility so nothing was being done.
  • Tell me about time when you were working on an initiative or goal and saw an opportunity to do something much bigger or better than the initial focus. Did you take that opportunity? Why or why not? What was the outcome?
  • Give me an example of how you have changed the direction or view of a specific function/department and helped them embrace a new way of thinking. Why was a change needed? What was the outcome?
  • Give me an example of a time you proposed a novel approach to a problem. What was the problem and why did it require a novel approach? Was your approach successful?

FAQ

How do you answer Amazon frugality interview questions?

If you’re frugal, you try to save money. You’ll want to show you can do the job without spending more and that having not enough time or resources is fine. Resource constraints are not a huge problem that will stop you from succeeding; it’s something you can deal with.

What are the questions asked in Amazon online interview?

Behavioral questions
  • Share about a time when you had a conflict with someone at work. …
  • Tell me about a time you used innovation to solve a problem.
  • Tell me about a time when you took a calculated risk. …
  • Tell me about a time you had to handle a crisis.
  • Tell me about a time when a team member wasn’t pulling their weight.

Is Amazon a frugal company?

For Amazon, savings are more than a competitive matter. Indeed, the company holds “frugality” up as one of 14 leadership principles. (It “breeds resourcefulness, self-sufficiency and invention,” the company says on its corporate site.)

What should I say in an Amazon interview?

Values/Mission: If you are a big fan of Amazon’s mission or leadership principles (which we discuss below), mention that you align closely with them. You could give examples of times where these values shined in your past job experiences. This also shows that you’ve done your research.

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