How to answer the "Why do you want this job?" interview question

This question usually comes early on in the interview; it’s often used by the interviewer as an icebreaker.

It’s considered one of the easier interview questions, but there is definitely a right way to answer it.

What to include in your “Why do you want this job” answer

Although this is meant as an easy question, there are a few things you’ll need to include:

1.   Your core messages – why you’re qualified/how you can benefit the company. If you’re not sure what I mean by this, I’ll explain more below.

2.   The reason the role excites you

3.   You understand the job

4.   You want this job, not just any job at the company

5.   The way the job connects to your career plan

6.   Your intention to stay in the job for awhile

You can see that even though this isn’t meant as a complicated question, it has some elements that you might want to brainstorm about before your interview.

1.   Core messages

 As you probably know, the idea in an interview is to “sell yourself'“ to the interviewer. This is also known as talking about your strengths, and is a way to convince the interviewer you’re the best candidate.

Core messages are your strengths. Education, experience, skills, and successful projects are all possible core messages.

Here’s a basic outline for how to use core messages to answer this question.

Why do you want this job?

I want this job because it will allow me to use my skills in X, Y, and Z (your core messages).

2.   Why the role excites you

You have to show interest in the actual work.

If you want the job because the department is working on some type of cool technology that you are interested in, that’s a good thing to use as an answer.

Or maybe the role is the same thing you do now but on a larger scale – that’s also a legitimate answer you can use.

The key is that you sound interested in doing the work. Not just in getting a job, but in getting this job in particular.

3.   Show that you understand the job

You’ll need to read the job description and think about it before you go to the interview. If you tell the interviewer that you want this job because you love doing X, but X isn’t a very large part of the job, then they’ll know you don’t understand what the job is and that’s a red flag.

Or if you say that the job “sounds great” or something else general like that they’re going to wonder if you even bothered reading the job description.

4.   Yes, this is a great company, but…

You can talk about how the company is great, but you need more. You need to show interest in the job, not just the company. You’re not going to be working for the broader company in your day-to-day work, you’re going to be doing a very specific job in a specific department.

If the company is famous, like Amazon, people are excited to work there simply because it’s famous. Being excited about the company is okay, but that isn’t a reason they’ll hire you.

5.   How the job connects to your career plan

Give a sentence or two to give the listener some context for why you’re there. You don’t need to give a lengthy explanation.

You’ll need to do this especially if the job is different from roles you’ve had before – if it’s in a new field, if it’s a downward move, or if it’s a sideways move.

6.   The job isn’t just a step along the way

Show that you’re interested in the job for itself, not because it will help you get a better job afterward. Of course all jobs should help you with your career, but you don’t want to sound like you’ll leave six months after you start. Do you sound like you’ll be satisfied doing the job for at least two years before you leave? If not, that’s a negative.  

You need to add these points into your answer, or else the interviewer will probably hire someone who does.

Good sample answers for “Why do you want this job”

Alexa Technical Program Manager

"I'd like to work at Amazon because I think I can help the company open a new business opportunity in the area of home automation. Since the Alexa division is working on this, I can extend my Master's research project regarding home automation, smart meters and Big Data.”

This answer was about why he wants to work at the company, but it would also work for why he wants the job.

He can change it a little to:

"I'd like this job as an Alexa Technical Program Manager because I think I can help the company as it opens a new business opportunity in the area of home automation. I can use the knowledge I gained from my Master's research project, which was about how home automation can incorporate smart meters and Big Data. I’ve spent so much time researching this topic and I want to continue moving this technology forward.”

AWS Biz Dev Manager Gov-Cloud (DOD)

Why do you want this job?

“I’ve been working in cloud computing for years now, and I want to work for the industry leader. In joining this team, I’d be working with the best. I know I can contribute because, as great as the team at Amazon is, no one understands the complexities of operating cloud-based services in government agencies as well as I do. Navigating compliance and security regulations without prior knowledge will slow down the team significantly, and I can fix that. In addition to that, I have the necessary contacts already that would let me find new growth opportunities for the team.”

Software Developer, AWS

Why do you want this job?

What’s thrilling about the idea of working at Amazon is that I wouldn’t just be using other people’s frameworks. I’d be creating frameworks for others to use on my team. Creating frameworks is something I’ve wanted to do professionally since I began my career, but I’ve only been able to pursue that passion through open source projects. As you know, I’m the largest contributor to an open source web testing framework, which is used by some of the largest enterprise companies, and you even use it here at Amazon. That’s exciting, but I did that project on my own time, on the side, and the idea of working at a place where I could contribute to and build frameworks from scratch would help me use my talents in the best possible way while also landing my dream job.

Senior Cloud Technical Account Manager

Why do you want this job?

“After over a decade of managing large-scale distributed systems at everything from high-growth startups to companies providing SaaS enterprise solutions, I’m ready to step away from the keyboard and use my expertise to help customers directly. I want to hear about their problems, and talk to them like partners, leveraging my experience to help them navigate the array of options available to them. The job description mentions trade-offs and risk management, and both of those things are important considerations, but there’s much more to it. For example, how to scale both horizontally and vertically using microsystems requires a tremendous amount of planning, thought, and preparation, in addition to the need for broad and deep knowledge across a number of disciplines. While I know the tech is always evolving, at this point, I can say I’ve seen it all, and no one can represent the VOC like I can.”

QA Manager

Why do you want this job?

“I want this job because I know I can use my skills to make your products better. Based on what I know about the Amazon brand and its products, I know how important quality is to you, and that’s what I bring. Jeff Bezos once said that “The best customer service is none” and the best way to achieve zero customer service is impeccable quality. Your customers expect and demand quality. I spent many years in the QA trenches, working on some of the most demanding software projects in the world. I’ve had to use every trick in the QA book to make sure we were shipping products that were bug-free, performant, and useable. I’ve done everything from basic regression testing to overseeing the creation of a suite of QA automation tools. On the development side, I pride myself on 100% unit test coverage, and demand the same from my reports. On the front end, I wrote selenium tests for a massive web application that had several different user types and a distinct UI for each them. The more complex the system, the more rigorous the QA.”

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 I’m happy to say that after working with me, my clients, who range from entry level to executive level, have done well in their interviews and gotten the job they wanted at Amazon.

If you’d like to work with me to prepare for your interview, email me at jennifer@interviewgenie.com to schedule a free 15 minute consultation or a full interview prep session.

Interview Genie is an American interview prep company specializing in interviews at American companies.  

 

 

Comprehensive job interview checklist for non-native English speakers

Do you have a job interview soon? This checklist is written to help non-native English speakers interviewing in America or other English-speaking countries do well in their interview so they get the job.

Before the Interview

1. Research the position

Know the job description inside and out.

2. Research the employer

Use their website, social media accounts, LinkedIn, and Google.

If you can’t find enough information this way, go to a library and ask for help. This will make you stand out from other applicants who didn’t do research and will help you answer the potential question: What do you know about our company?

3. Research the industry

  • Competitors

  • Current trends and news

4. Research the interviewer

Use LinkedIn and Google

5. Practice answers to common interview questions

  • General questions

  • Behavioral questions

  • Field-related questions

Write your answers down and then say them aloud in front of a mirror or video camera. If you both write and speak the answers you will know better how the answers sound and you can fine-tune them.

Do a mock (practice) interview with someone.

6. Prepare a list of questions to ask the interviewer

7. Prepare for the pre-interview small talk

8. Evaluate your English

You've prepared for the questions and the small talk. How did you do? Were you able to say what you needed to say in English? If not, you may need to do a quick intensive review of your English before you go for the interview. Get out your old English textbooks and study or work with a teacher for a short-term practice session. Don't let English problems keep you from sounding professional.

9. Prepare your clothes

They should be appropriate for the job, the company, and the industry.

You may need to do research if necessary to consider the company culture

Prepare every element of the outfit, including shoes, stockings, tie, and accessories. Everything should be clean and without wrinkles

Don’t wait until the day of the interview, because your clothes will be the first thing they see.

10. Confirm interview logistics

  • Plan your route

  • Will you drive?

  • Is there parking?

  • Double check the interview time

11. Get a good night’s sleep the night before

The Day of the Interview

12. Don’t put on cologne/aftershave/perfume

Many people are sensitive to fragrances, especially in small offices.

13. Don’t smoke

Many people don’t like the smell of cigarette smoke, so avoid it.

14. Arrive about 10 minutes early, but no more

If you’re late, phone the company.

15. Greet the receptionist or assistant politely

Remember, once you walk in the building you’re making an impression

16. Turn your phone off and keep it hidden in your purse or your pocket

Don’t take it out and look at it, even while you’re waiting.

17. Wait calmly

  • Don’t fidget or look at your phone

  • Try to relax if you’re nervous. Take some deep breaths.

In the Beginning of the Interview

18. Give a proper handshake

Use a firm grip. If you are not used to shaking hands when you greet someone, practice this beforehand.

19. Give a polite greeting, while you’re shaking hands or just before or after

20. Make eye contact

21. Smile

22. Seem confident and professional

23. Sit down only after you’re offered a seat

24. Be aware of your body language

Sit upright and don’t move around.

25. Be prepared for small talk

The interview may start off with some small talk and it may not. Americans do usually do a bit of small talk before turning to business, but it depends on the personality of the interviewer.

During the Interview

You’ll be evaluated on what you say and how you say it. This means you have to think about the content of your speech but also how you look while you’re speaking.

26. Avoid negativity

Don’t say anything bad about your past jobs or colleagues.

27. Stick to safe topics

No politics, religion, personal problems, or family issues. Don’t bring up family unless you’re asked a direct question about it. Here in America, we don’t talk about our families with strangers (this definitely includes interviewers). Be aware of this, especially because it may not be the same in your country.

Obviously, if your interviewer asks you about an unusual topic, you are free to answer if you feel comfortable doing so, but don’t bring one up yourself.

28. Give short answers

30 to 45 seconds per answer is best. You should have practiced your interview questions so there shouldn’t be any surprises.

29. Keep your answers focused

Are you the kind of person who can talk and talk about something and never get to the point? Don’t do that here. Know what you want to say and say it. If they want more information, they’ll ask for it.

30. Brag about yourself

The point of an interview is so that you can tell and show that you’re the best person for the job. You show this by wearing the right clothes and having the right body language, etc., but you also have to tell.

I know for many people, especially women, it’s difficult to talk about how good you are at something.

Women are taught to be polite, and it’s not seen as polite to talk about your accomplishments.

Also, in many cultures it’s considered impolite to focus on yourself instead of the group.

American interviewers (and also ones from other English speaking countries) expect a candidate to be able to talk about their strengths and accomplishments in the interview. Think about it this way - if you don’t talk about your experience, how will they know about it?

31. Ask questions

You don’t have to wait until the end of the interview to do this. In fact, you should be asking questions as you go. If you don’t ask any questions, you’ll be showing a lack of interest. Even if the interviewer has already told you everything you want to know, you need to ask other questions. You should have prepared a list of questions before the interview, about the job, your future team, or the company.

32. Don’t ask the wrong questions

Don’t ask about salary, benefits, or vacation. Also avoid asking about the typical hours the employees work. You can discuss this if the interviewer brings it up, but if you ask about it yourself you will seem lazy.

You may be asked about your salary requirements so be prepared to answer this question.

33. Body language:

  • think about your posture – sit up straight

  • keep your gestures minimal

  • don’t cross your arms

  • don’t fidget (move around)

  • look interested

  • lean close, but not too close

  • face your shoulders toward them

  • maintain eye contact

  • smile at appropriate times

34. Pay attention to your language

  • Avoid saying um, uh, like, you know, or using other filler words.

  • Avoid slang.

At the End of the Interview

35. Ask any questions you haven’t already asked

You should have been asking them during the interview, but you should probably ask one or two now, so that you seem interested and so that it’s clear you did research.

36. Say that you are very interested in the job and ask about the next steps in the process

37. Say thank you to the interviewer and shake their hand if they offer theirs

Some people will want to shake again when saying good bye but some won’t, so follow their lead.

38. If you don’t already know their name and contact info, ask for their business card now.

After the Interview

39. Send a thank you note within 24 hours to everyone you interviewed with.

40. Relax and wait to get your job offer

I know that interviewing in English is difficult for non-native speakers, but if you prepare ahead of time you can succeed in the interview and get the job. 

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 I’m happy to say that after working with me, my clients, who range from entry level to executive level, have done well in their interviews and gotten the job they wanted.

If you’d like to work with me to prepare for your interview, email me at jennifer@interviewgenie.com to schedule a free 15 minute consultation or a full interview prep session.

Interview Genie is an American interview prep company specializing in interviews at American companies.

How to answer Amazon "Deliver Results" interview questions

The fourteenth Amazon Leadership Principle is “Deliver Results.” If you’re preparing for an interview at Amazon, you should ask yourself what the company means by delivering results and how this principle relates to the role you’re applying for.

If you don’t know about the Amazon leadership principles, consider first reading this article about interviewing at Amazon.

The “Deliver Results” principle

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.

What does the “Deliver Results” leadership principle mean?

This is the fourteenth and last Amazon leadership principle, and in many ways, it’s the most important.

Delivering results is the one thing you absolutely must do if you work at Amazon. The other thirteen principles are important, but they’re merely building blocks to this final one. In other words, if you ignore your customers but still get the results, then you’ve succeeded, even if you’ve disregarded the first principle. Common sense says that paying attention to your customers is important, but if you can figure out a way to succeed without paying attention to customers, then you’re doing the right thing.

In the words of the principle itself, if you “rise to the occasion” – meaning succeed in what you were doing – you’ve shown yourself to be a leader.

 You may be asking yourself, “What is the point of the other principles if you don’t actually have to follow them?” I can understand your confusion because you’ve been studying the other thirteen principles, and now I’m telling you that they’re not crucial. It’s not that the other principles aren’t important, because they definitely are. It’s just that you need to think of them as the building blocks, and look at “Deliver Results” as the final product. The first thirteen are intended to be the steps you need to take to get results.

How to Answer Questions Related to the “Deliver Results” Leadership Principle

So how do you actually show in your answers that you’ve delivered results? You need to tell stories about successes.

You can use a phrase like this to show your investment in delivering results:

“I was able to have a lot of responsibility and decision-making ability for X project, and by doing Y tasks, I delivered results in Z number of launches.”

In this phrase you talk about the tasks you did in order to create a particular result. This will fit easily into your PAR format answer – the situation or problem is the project you were working on and the action step is the tasks you did in order to create successful results.

Interview Questions Related to the “Deliver Results” Principle

If your interviewer asks about this leadership principle, she or he might ask one of the following questions:

  • Describe a situation where you had to face a particularly challenging situation while working on a project and what you did to overcome it. (Note: The challenge could be with respect to timeline, scope, people, or a combination thereof.)

  • How you check your progress against your goals?

  • Do you set and communicate smart team goals, expectations, and priorities; help employees stay focused/help others remove barriers/roadblocks towards meeting team goals?

  • Tell me about a time when you were able to persevere through setbacks and overcome obstacles to deliver outstanding results.

  • Tell me about a time where you not only met the goal but considerably exceeded expectations. How were you able to do it?

  • What’s the most complex problem you’ve ever worked on?

  • Have you ever worked on something really hard and then failed?

Sample Answers for “Deliver Results” Interview Questions

Question: Tell me about a time you not only met your goals, but exceeded expectations.

Answer given by a Senior Technical Account Manager

“There was one time when I was working as a consultant for USAF. On one of the daily standup calls, the client (USAF Project manager) mentioned that most of his other applications do smart card authentication. He wanted to add that feature to the Oracle Application I was working on.

So, even though this wasn’t a formal request from him I ran with it. I started a conversation with Oracle on understanding the products we could leverage to get job done. I set up meetings with their product teams, got to know the product, discussed our requirements, and decided that we could come up with a solution. I implemented that solution in our development environment. I had the proof of concept done before the next sprint started in four weeks.

I just about knocked the project manager’s socks off when I showed him that POC! The feature wasn’t technically part of the project plan, and he had no idea I would try to add it. He was really pleased.”

I like this story because the account manager says a lot about himself in a succinct and relatable way. He answers the question exactly and shows he goes above and beyond when he “Drives Results.” It comes natural to him, and he takes pride in it. (And yes, he got the job!)

Question: Describe a situation where you had to face a particularly challenging situation while working on a project and what you did to overcome it.

Answer given by an Agile Coach

“Our company recently migrated from SDLC to Agile. It was a difficult transition due to the mindset of my peers. They were used to delivering projects in a waterfall methodology for such a long time it was difficult for them to completely accept Agile principles.

I had already delivered a large project with Agile using Jira as the tool while working very closely with our business partners and analysts. I could see my manager was struggling with bringing everyone completely on board. So I took the initiative of learning Rally and setting up all my peers with workspace in Rally. I also created a guide with instructions on using various functionality in Rally for them to set up their teams and how to get started with Agile ceremonies. My manager was appreciative of my efforts.

Not every organization/team was going to go Agile at the same time, so we had a large integration project this year where the team was still waterfall whereas ours was Agile. This project was an ideal candidate to form a vertical stack Agile team and collaborate throughout the year to deliver. I was able to present a case to senior management of their organization to form a cross-organizational Agile team. Today we have a cross functional and cross org Agile team that has a set cadence.”

This story is about one of the most challenging parts of any business – culture change. When choosing your own stories, try to think of challenging situations that the interviewer may have experience him or herself. To “Drive Results,” the Agile Coach took control of the situation by learning new tools and methodologies, and then introduced those concepts to his immediate team. He then used what he learned to drive change in other parts of the organization.

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 I’m happy to say that after working with me, my clients, who range from entry level to executive level, have done well in their interviews and gotten the job they wanted at Amazon.

If you’d like to work with me to prepare for your interview, email me at jennifer@interviewgenie.com to schedule a free 15 minute consultation or a full interview prep session.

Interview Genie is an American interview prep company specializing in interviews at American companies. 

How to answer Amazon "Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit" interview questions

The thirteenth Amazon Leadership Principle is “Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit.” If you’re preparing for an interview at Amazon, you should ask yourself what the company means by having backbone and how this principle relates to the role you’re applying for.

If you don’t know about the Amazon leadership principles, consider first reading this article about interviewing at Amazon.

How Amazon explains the “Have Backbone” principle:

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.

What does the “Have Backbone” principle mean?

What does the phrase “to have backbone” mean? It’s an English idiom that means to have strength, particularly in the face of adversity. If I “have backbone,” it means I will stand up for my ideas. Do you fight for your ideas or do you give up on them if someone challenges you?

What if you fight for you idea (meaning you "disagree" with someone) and don't win - what do you do then? Do you support the person who did win ("commit" to their idea) or do you try to work against them because your idea didn't win?

If you haven’t read my post on “Are Right, A Lot” you should read that, because that principle includes how you manage conflict, which is related to the “Have Backbone” principle. Both principles deal with interpersonal relationships, in particular conflicts that arise between two people (or one person and a group of people). 

How to answer the “Have Backbone” interview questions

You don’t have to stand up for your ideas unless the culture you’re in is an aggressive one. I don’t like competitiveness or aggression (especially directed at me!), so this type of culture and even the idea of having to fight for my ideas upsets me. If an aggressive type of culture intimidates you, give extra attention to your preparation for interview questions related to conflict. If you’re unable to answer the questions directly, you may come across as someone who lacks the backbone to work in a competitive environment. If you want the job, you’ll need to hide your discomfort or at least show it won’t stand in the way of your leadership. On the other hand, if you’re someone who thrives in competitive environments, be prepared to demonstrate that you can manage conflict calmly and rationally, that you can convince others with data, not by yelling or being unnecessarily aggressive.

If you’re in an Amazon interview and you’re asked how you’ve dealt with workplace conflict in the past, consider the following approach:

1.     First, summarize for the interviewer an idea that you had. Tell a story about how you were convinced that your idea was the right way forward.

2.     Next, discuss the point of contention. After you explain your idea, describe how and why someone didn’t agree with your idea. Then, discuss what tactic you used to win the other person over. A good way to impress your interviewer is to describe how you used data in making your argument.

3.     Finally, if you were unsuccessful in persuading others, explain that you “committed” regardless. It’s okay if you lost the argument, but demonstrate that you were mature enough to support the decision that the company chose. On the other hand, if you were successful in winning support for your idea, skip this step. 

In these “Backbone” stories, focus on the disagreement between you and another person (or persons). Your goal should be to demonstrate how you managed the conflict itself, so don’t fast forward over it. I won’t usually advise you to make your stories “dramatic,” but these “Backbone” stories can be inherently dramatic, and that’s okay. I’ve found that my clients sometimes want to say very little about the actual disagreement and are eager to rush to the solution, which is a mistake. Dwell more on the details of the conflict.

Interview Questions Related to the “Have Backbone” Principle

If your interviewer asks about this leadership principle, she or he might ask one of the following questions:

  • Describe a situation where other members of your team didn’t agree with your ideas. What did you do?

  • Tell me about a situation where you had a conflict with someone on your team. What was it about? What did you do? How did they react? What was the outcome?

  • Tell me about a time when you did not accept the status quo.

  • Tell me about an unpopular decision of yours.

  • Tell me about a time when you had to step up and disagree with a team member’s approach.

  • If your direct manager was instructing you to do something you disagreed with, how would you handle it?

  • Describe a situation where you thought you were right, but your peers or supervisor did not agree with you. How did you convince them that you were right? How did you react? What was the outcome?

Those are the types of questions associated with this principle, and below are some from “Are Right.” You can see how they are really the same questions. Let’s review some of the questions from the “Are Right” principle:

  • Tell me about a time you disagreed with a colleague. What is the process you used to work it out?

  • Tell me about a time that you strongly disagreed with your manager on something you deemed to be very important to the business. What was it about and how did you handle it?

  • Tell me about a time where someone openly challenged you. How did you handle this feedback?

  • Give me an example of when you took an unpopular stance in a meeting with peers and your leader and you were the outlier. What was it, why did you feel strongly about it, and what did you do?

  • When do you decide to go along with the group decision even if you disagree? Give me an example of a time you chose to acquiesce to the group even when you disagreed. Would you make the same decision now?

We see that the “Are Right” and “Have Backbone” principles are related. Show your interviewer that your approach to your work results in you being right a lot, and that you have the courage to fight for your ideas.

Sample Answers Related to the “Have Backbone” Principle

Question: Describe a situation where others you were working with on a project disagreed with your ideas. What did you do?

Answer given by an Engineering Manager

“When I was leading the engineering team at Bank of America in India, I proposed to my U.S. partner that we build architecture capabilities in India. I thought that this would save us money. He was not convinced because he felt that the architecture team needed to collocate with users for a better understanding of user needs, and so needed to be in the U.S.  

I still believed that my idea would work, so I proposed that, instead of hiring an architect, we test my idea and assign a senior developer in India to work with the U.S. architecture team. My U.S. partner was amenable to this approach as a “pilot project.”

I onboarded a senior developer, and he started working with the architecture team remotely. He was working on a migration project from Oracle to SAP. This developer, now functioning as a remote member of the architecture team, was able to offer significant contributions to the project from India. He created a proof of concept for moving data across systems, which the team ultimately used as a framework for other work. He also helped the onshore team prepare architecture diagrams.

Once the offshore architect started delivering from India, my U.S. partner’s perspective on the matter began to shift. He asked me to ramp up the architecture team with more remote team members. After building this team, overall delivery improved as offshore had become an extended capability to complement the existing onshore team.”

This story shows that the engineering manager was willing to take different approaches to get her idea across, which is great. However, the story would be stronger if it included more details about how she dealt with the conflict with her U.S. partner. When you are telling a story about how you “Have Backbone,” don’t shy away from talking about the confrontation itself, and how you behaved in that situation. Don’t just rush to the outcome.

Question: Was there a time when you were right but your senior colleagues didn’t agree with you?

Answer given by a UX Designer

“The project was helping the marketing team create campaigns. I had designed a low-fidelity wireframe option and was reviewing it with product management and engineering. Our user was supposed to click on the “Create New Campaign” button, which would then take them to “Create Mode.” After applying a set of filters, the user would then click “Save,” and the campaign page would then go into the “Read Only” mode. At that point, the filters are not accessible to the user. To access the filters again, the user had to click the “Edit Campaign” button. Product management and engineering did not like this flow because they thought that the user should always be in “Edit” mode.

I tried to convince them that my flow was a common design pattern that users would find familiar, demonstrating for example how users added contacts on their phones. They showed me an old desktop enterprise product and said that it was better. Since I was struggling to convince them, I created a flow that was in line with their suggestion and requested that they participate in a usability test of that flow. To me, this usability test was not strictly necessary because I knew from experience that users would find my proposed solution more intuitive and easier to use. I went ahead regardless to convince my colleagues.

I had a group of users try “Option A” (which was my flow) and another group of users try “Option B” (which was their flow). I performed the usability tests with my colleagues so that they could see for themselves how users interacted with each flow. The test results showed what users preferred and how they interact with interfaces of this type. We went with Option A.”

This story is interesting because the UX designer sticks to his principles in the face of adversity. Both product and engineering are aligned against him, and it would have been easier for him to just agree with them. But as a UX designer, he must put users first. That’s his role on the team. So he patiently set up the test to guide his colleagues toward a better way.

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 I’m happy to say that after working with me, my clients, who range from entry level to executive level, have done well in their interviews and gotten the job they wanted at Amazon.

If you’d like to work with me to prepare for your interview, email me at jennifer@interviewgenie.com to schedule a free 15 minute consultation or a full interview prep session.

Interview Genie is an American interview prep company specializing in interviews at American companies.

How to answer Amazon "Dive Deep" interview questions

The twelfth Amazon Leadership Principle is “Dive Deep.” If you’re preparing for an interview at Amazon, you should ask yourself what Amazon means by dive deep and how this principle applies to your role at the company.

If you don’t know about the Amazon leadership principles, consider first reading this article about interviewing at Amazon.

How Amazon explains the “Dive Deep” principle

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.

What does the “Dive Deep” principle mean?

I think of this principle as being on a continuum with the “Bias for Action” principle. When you’re doing something, it doesn’t matter what, you first need to figure out what you’re doing (research and think) and then you need to do it (act). I find it helpful to think about these two principles as a continuum because job seekers tend to get stuck on one end of it. It’s not uncommon for candidates to be great at performing research but slow to act, or on the other end of the continuum, other candidates will jump into action too quickly without making a plan.

In order to be good at something – it doesn’t really matter what – you need to be good at both making a plan and acting on it. So in an interview, you want to be able to answer the “Dive Deep” questions and also the “Bias for Action” questions well, so that you paint a picture of yourself as someone who can make a plan and act on it (I cover how to answer the “Bias to Action” questions in another article). A good “Bias” story will have a research phase and a good “Dive Deep” story will end in action.

A good “Dive Deep” should preferably include data borne of research. Telling “Dive Deep” stories like this might be easy for you if you’re a details person, as many people who have technical jobs are. It may not be easy for you if you’re a generalist or a big picture person. I personally tend to dislike talking about details, because I prefer talking about ideas or strategy. If I were going into an interview, I would need to add details about how I followed through on ideas. If you’re a big picture person, pay particular attention to your “Dive Deep” stories. On the other hand, if you’re someone who routinely digs into details, these questions are unlikely to be difficult for you because you’re always looking at data.

Ex-Amazon employee and blogger Dave Anderson summarizes the principle this way:

“Trust yet verify” is a favorite phrase at Amazon. We care deeply that leaders keep a careful eye on what they own, and know ways to audit their space. If something doesn’t make sense, our leaders need to have the ability (and interest) to dive in and figure out what’s going on.

I love when I ask questions of people, and they can go four or five levels deep, and keep getting more excited because the details are actually interesting to them.

 Note the emphasis here on not just digging into the details, but getting excited about those details when you talk about them. If you are asked to speak to this principle in your interview, it’s not enough to list details – you need to use those details to demonstrate your enthusiasm for owning or contributing to a project.

Interview Questions Related to the “Dive Deep” Principle

If your interviewer asks about this leadership principle, she or he might ask one of the following questions:

  • Give me an example of when you used data to make a decision/solve a problem.

  • Tell me a time you gave insights beyond the data.

  • Have you ever leveraged data to develop strategy?

  • Tell me about a time you were trying to understand a problem on your team and you had to go down several layers to figure it out. Who did you talk with and what info proved most valuable? How did you use that info to help solve the problem?

  • Tell me about a problem you had to solve that required in-depth thought and analysis. How did you know you were focusing on the right things?

  • Walk me through a big problem in your organization that you helped to solve. How did you become aware of it? What info did you gather, what was missing, and how did you fill the gaps? Did you do a post mortem analysis and what did you learn?

  • Can you tell me about a specific metric you’ve used to identify a need for change in your department? Did you create the metric or was it readily available? How did this and other info influence the change?

How to Answer Questions Related to the “Dive Deep” Principle

Question: Tell me about a time you performed an analysis that that resulted in process improvements.

Answer given by a Systems Engineer

 “The process for monthly mobile phone bill generation was slow. The bill generation process for one hundred and thirty thousand subscribers took twelve hours. I was asked to analyze whether there were opportunities to optimize the process.

Unfortunately, we had minimal documentation available on the process. I held a session with the application support engineers to understand how we could trace this process. After that, during the next bill cycle, we traced all database calls for twelve hours. Then I consolidated over a thousand trace files in chronological order and ran an Oracle profiler called tkprof.

My analysis revealed that the process spent lots of database time in performing single block reads and multiblock reads. The total time spent in doing I/Os was six hours. Approximately half of disk I/Os were taking more time than normal. After a similar analysis in preproduction, I saw that, even with 25% more subscribers, the bill run finished in the same time as production. The difference was that the preproduction environment had a newer CPU and a newer storage system. Part of the performance improvement in preprod was also the result of less traffic going into the preproduction environment. I/O took a lot less time in preprod.

After this analysis, I presented the findings in a twenty-six page report and a brief presentation. My recommendations were as follows:

·       Move bill run data to a dedicated database

·       Cache smaller tables in memory

·      Move bill run data to faster disks

As a result of my recommendations, we started the hardware modernization project, and as expected, newer CPUs and storage helped a lot. We were able to improve the performance of bill runs by approximately 35%. We brought down the bill run time from 18 to 12 hours. A big improvement, but I know I could make more progress.”

There are a lot of details in this answer from a Systems Engineer, but note how seamlessly he weaves in technical details to his story about a business process improvement. Even more importantly, note how he turns research into action. He “dives deep” but uses the information to make concrete recommendations, showing a “Bias for Action.” People tend to forget the “R” section of these answers – the results. Yes, the point is that you are great at doing research, but you still have to connect it to some action or your research was pointless. You don’t actually have to do the action yourself, but you can’t do the research and do nothing with it.

Question: Walk me through a big problem in your organization that you helped to solve. How did you become aware of it? What info did you gather, what was missing, and how did you fill the gaps?

Answer given by a Data Scientist

“There are different kinds of spam; it relates to the season. For example, there is a different kind during Christmas, the Super Bowl, the Oscars, etc. Spammers use campaigns to insert some kind of scam in text messages.

During the political campaigns last year, I was working on an assignment to detect spam in politics-related text messages. There is nothing wrong with doing campaign by text message, although it can be annoying, but the intention was to detect malicious messages within the body of these messages.

I started to analyze the data by isolating messages related to politics and then, once I had a good sample of these messages, I used data science and machine learning techniques to identify different patterns that could be not related to certain campaigns. I started by defining a base of target words which I will look for in the body of the message, and then I clustered together the most common words surrounding this base sample. It took me a very deep dive in the data to find common words that are used in a masked way, for example, one word separated by periods, numbers substituting for some words, etc. I could only do this by analyzing a lot of data.

At the end of the research, I tuned my code to automatically perform the analysis and deliver reports or alerts whenever this kind of spam was detected. To improve my detection analysis, I continued adjusting and fine-tuning my code as new results and/or patterns were discovered.”

This Data Scientist uses machine learning techniques to surface patterns to filter spam that would otherwise be difficult to catch. Note how diving deep into the data seems to come natural to her, as she tells her story. To an interviewer at Amazon, you need to show that you’re not afraid to get into the details when the situation calls for it. I find when working with clients whose jobs revolve around data they don’t really have a problem finding stories to talk about they just have a problem giving proper context for their story, structuring the stories clearly, and remembering to connect the data to some kind of result or action.

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 I’m happy to say that after working with me, my clients, who range from entry level to executive level, have done well in their interviews and gotten the job they wanted at Amazon.

If you’d like to work with me to prepare for your interview, email me at jennifer@interviewgenie.com to schedule a free 15 minute consultation or a full interview prep session.

Interview Genie is an American interview prep company specializing in interviews at American companies.

How to answer Amazon "Earn Trust" interview questions

The eleventh Amazon Leadership Principle is “Earn Trust.” If you’re preparing for an interview at Amazon, you should ask yourself what Amazon means by “Earn Trust” and how this principle applies to your role at the company.

If you don’t know about the Amazon leadership principles, consider first reading this article about interviewing at Amazon.

How Amazon explains the “Earn Trust” principle

Leaders listen attentively, speak candidly, and treat others respectfully. They are vocally self-critical, even when doing so is awkward or embarrassing. They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best.

So let’s take a closer look at this principle.

What does the “Earn Trust” principle mean?

The first sentence of the principle is straightforward and expected in any professional environment. The interview is a great opportunity for you to “Earn Trust” by listening to your interviewer attentively and answering questions candidly.

 In the second sentence of the “Earn Trust” principle, things get more interesting. At Amazon, you’re expected to win over your colleagues (i.e., earn their trust) by being “vocally self-critical.” In other words, you’re not afraid to point out your own faults to others. To win trust, you must show that you understand best-in-class standards, and that you seek to meet or exceed them.  

How do you “Earn Trust” at Amazon?

Leaders at Amazon embody this principle by:

  • consistently making good decisions

  • keeping commitments

  • treating others and their ideas with respect

  • adhering to high ethical standards

  • admitting failures

  • listening, communicating, and delegating to help employees get the right things done

Leaders “Earn Trust” when they “take the hit.” When undesirable outcomes happen, we’re all quick to point the finger. If your team members see that you’re willing to take the blame for the good of the team, even if it’s not directly your fault, then they’ll start to let go and trust you. As leader of a team, you need to accept the responsibility for both the good and the bad.

True collaboration is only possible in an atmosphere of trust. And that atmosphere must be set by a leader who has earned his team members’ trust and who trusts them in return.

Interview Questions Related to the “Earn Trust” Leadership Principle

If your interviewer asks about this leadership principle, she or he might ask one of the following questions:

  • Tell me about a time you had to earn trust quickly.

  • Building trust can be difficult to achieve at times. Tell me about how you’ve effectively built trusting working relationships with others on your team.

  • Describe a time when you significantly contributed to improving morale and productivity on your team. What were the underlying problems and their causes? How did you prevent them from negatively impacting the team in the future?

  • Give an example of a time where you were not able to meet a commitment to a team member. What was the commitment and what prevented you from meeting it? What was the outcome and what did you learn from it?

  • Describe a time when you needed the cooperation of a peer or peers who were resistant to what you were trying to do. What did you do? What was the outcome?

  • Tell me about a piece of direct feedback you recently gave to a colleague. How did he or she respond?

  • How do you like to receive feedback from coworkers or managers?

  • Tell me about a time when someone (peer, teammate, supervisor) criticized you about a piece of work/analysis that you delivered. How did you react? What was the outcome?

  • Tell me about a time when you had to tell someone a harsh truth.

  • Tell me about a time you had to communicate a big change in direction for which you anticipated people would have a lot of concerns. How did you handle questions and/or resistance? Were you able to get people comfortable with the change? 

  • How do you convince someone who is resistant to what you’re trying to do?

How to Answer Interview Questions Related to the “Earn Trust” Leadership Principle

Question: How did you quickly earn your client’s trust?

Answer given by a Solutions Architect

“One of the largest mass entertainment companies in North America purchased licenses for product X and signed a statement of work (SOW) for Professional Services for implementing the solution.

I was the architect and hands on technical resource for doing the migration. I created detailed standard operating procedures, end user training materials, and delivered end user trainings once the solution went live in production, even though these weren’t in the scope of the services SOW.

I was engaged in building the long-term deployment roadmap, working very closely with customer’s stakeholders. By demonstrating strong technical acumen and client-facing skills, I was able to earn trust in a short period of time. I quickly became part of the customer’s inner circle.

The solution was successfully deployed, and we went live with one of their key services in production. The initial SOW was for a three-month engagement, but we stayed with the customer for about two years delivering services. We were able to successfully expand the solution capabilities during that period, assisting the customer in further enhancing their security protocols.”

In this story, notice how the solutions architect credits her “technical acumen and client-facing skills” for winning the customer over. But earlier in the story, she described how she had already demonstrated that she was willing to go above and beyond the requirements of the SOW to make the project successful. In other words, she set a higher standard for both herself and the project. This type of behavior will help you “Earn Trust” at Amazon. 

Let’s look at another answer for the same question

Answer given by an Account Executive

“One of the large full-service banks in North America had already purchased our product licenses to manage the company system permissions and user identity. Due to organizational changes, the new leadership team had decided to shop for alternative solutions, and compare/contrast all the functional/technical capabilities before finalizing a single solution. My accounts team brought me in to talk about the solution, and why it would be a good fit for this client.

As a first step, I flew to L.A. and conducted an all-day workshop with the key stakeholders to carefully listen to their concerns and reasons for the vendor solution review exercise, as well as to understand their business and the technical requirements. We had good discussions during this workshop. I told them that I agreed to some of the areas of improvements in our product and made a note of them for an internal product management team review. At the same time, I was candid in my feedback regarding some of the requirements and suggested alternative options to minimize operational overhead in the long run.

By the end of the day, the client wanted me to work with them in conducting a proof of concept (POC) in their environment. I believe listening attentively to the customer, speaking candidly and demonstrating sound technical and communication skills helped me in gaining trust in a short period of time. I was able to deliver the POC successfully and in turn signed a professional services SOW contract of about eight hundred thousand dollars.”

After reading this story, return to the section above and read the “Earn Trust” principle again. I hope you can see that the story demonstrates the principle almost perfectly. Note in the story the emphasis on attentive listening. Note also how the person telling the story is will to admit that the product has faults. It’s easy to see why this person won the customer’s trust.

Question: Tell me about a time you coached someone and provided feedback

Answer given by an Engineering Manager

“One of the senior managers complained about one of the developers on my team regarding his tone being too harsh and frank in his emails and over the phone. My manager brought it to my attention, and I told him I would take care of it.

I immediately pulled this employee in for a one-on-one and brought this to his attention. I told him it was not what he said but how he said it that makes all the difference. There are more politically correct ways to provide feedback to other teams regarding their mistakes.

He agreed that he reacted out of frustration and promised me he would be more careful going forward. It has been a year now, and he has completely turned it around. He had numerous accolades from other managers regarding his integrity, and he is now one of the rising stars on my team.”

This story highlights a theme I see again and again in working with professionals across all walks of life. As hesitant as we sometimes are to give feedback, when we set aside our fears and give honest, candid feedback, people are often extremely appreciative and grow because of it. This story demonstrates another way to “Earn Trust.”

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 I’m happy to say that after working with me, my clients, who range from entry level to executive level, have done well in their interviews and gotten the job they wanted at Amazon.

If you’d like to work with me to prepare for your interview, email me at jennifer@interviewgenie.com to schedule a free 15 minute consultation or a full interview prep session.

Interview Genie is an American interview prep company specializing in interviews at American companies.

How to answer Amazon "Frugality" interview questions

The tenth Amazon Leadership Principle is “Frugality.” If you’re preparing for an interview at Amazon, you should ask yourself what Amazon means by frugality and how this principle applies to your past roles and your future role at the company.

I’ve heard from interviewees that this principle isn’t common for interviewers to ask about, but since it is one of the leadership principles I think preparing some stories that highlight your frugality is wise.

If you don’t know about the Amazon leadership principles, consider first reading this article about interviewing at Amazon.

How Amazon explains the “Frugality” principle

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

What does the “Frugality” 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.

Interview Questions Related to the “Frugality” Leadership Principle

If your interviewer asks about this leadership principle, she or he might ask one of the following questions:

  • Tell me about a time where you thought of a new way to save money for the company.

  • Describe a time when you had to manage a budget (or manage time/money/resources/etc.). Were you able to get more out of less?

  • Here at Amazon we are frugal – how will you manage projects with no budget and no resources?

  • Tell me about a time when you had to work with limited time or resources.

How to Answer Interview Questions Related to the Frugality Leadership Principle

Answer given by a Category Marketing Manager

Question: Tell me about a time when you had to work with limited time or resources.

Note: this person managed a mileage program at a major gas company.

After I presented the scope of our new rewards program to my supervisors, they approved the strategy. However, we did not have the budget to afford all of the components of it. Therefore, I would have to modify my plan. I began to explore other ideas.

At this point, I had a partnership contract with a Brazilian company for the prizes of our giveaways. I decided to try and negotiate with them a sponsorship for the first year of the program by showing that my business plan was forecasting an increase in traffic to their marketplace, which would result in many new customers and sales. Besides that, I could communicate their program to millions of people in our gas stations and in our app.

Fortunately, they ended up sponsoring the first year of the program, and I was able to launch it in that same quarter. This program turned out to be very good for the partnership because 70 percent of our customers were redeeming their points for miles (not discounts), which was the goal of the project. Additionally, every month, we sent thousands of new customers to Smiles’ Marketplace, as was forecast in the business plan. My plan increased the number of transactions on their website from 100,000 to 330,00 per month.

In this answer, the Marketing Manager describes how she found a creative way to resource against an approved strategy by leveraging an existing partnership. Note in her answer that she accepts but is undeterred by the business constrains of a limited budget. Her resourcefulness and creative problem-solving skills demonstrate a “Frugality” mindset.

Answer given by a DevOps Engineer

Question: Tell me about a time where you thought of a new way to save money for the company.

My company wanted to speed up and have improved monitoring for software deployments to our production environment. The management team was convinced that we should use a third-party tool, and we started to explore options. I attended a number of demos with the team, and we all agreed on the best third-party tool. I thought that the tool was good, but it was costly, and even though it was a management decision, I couldn’t shake the feeling that we should explore the option of building the tooling in-house for long-term cost savings.

I analyzed the level of effort it would take me and the team to build the same core functionality of the third-party tools, and I included maintenance cost over time. I compared that cost to the cost of the third-party license, and added the additional cost that we would incur integrating these third-party tools into our systems. I presented my findings to the management team. Based on my analysis, we changed course, and saved significant costs, especially over the long-term.

In this answer, the DevOps Engineer demonstrates a “Frugality” mindset around a decision that wasn’t even his to make. The easier way forward for the engineer would have been to just go along with the plan and be done with it, but leaders know that waste hurts the team and the company. If you have a “Frugality” mindset, the financial health of the company is always factored into your decision making.

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 I’m happy to say that after working with me, my clients, who range from entry level to executive level, have done well in their interviews and gotten the job they wanted at Amazon.

If you’d like to work with me to prepare for your interview, email me at jennifer@interviewgenie.com to schedule a free 15 minute consultation or a full interview prep session.

Interview Genie is an American interview prep company specializing in interviews at American companies.

How to answer Amazon "Bias for Action" interview questions

The ninth Amazon leadership principle is “Bias for Action.” If you’re preparing for an interview at Amazon, you should ask yourself what Amazon means by “Bias for Action” and how this principle applies to your past experience and to your future role at the company.

If you don’t know about the Amazon leadership principles, consider first reading this article about interviewing at Amazon.

How Amazon explains the “Bias for Action” principle

Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking.

What does the bias for action principle mean?

Having a bias for action means you’re not afraid to make decisions and take action, even when (especially when) you face uncertainty. Maybe you’ve worked with someone or a team who didn’t have a bias for action. In the face of uncertainty, these individuals freeze and can’t make a decision. They’re afraid of getting it wrong and being held accountable for making a poor decision.

This sort of “analysis paralysis” isn’t tolerated at Amazon. They want leaders who are willing to put themselves out there and take a risk. These leaders are no different than anyone else in their fear of failure. What makes them stand out is that they accept risk and make calculated decisions that unblock them and the people they work with. Yes, Amazon wants you to look at data and make sense of it and use it to form your plan, but they don’t want you to get stuck looking at the data. They want you to move past research and analysis into action.

Here are the characteristics of someone having a “Bias for Action”:

  • When faced with a tough decision that will help you and your team move forward, you don’t avoid that decision. You’re not afraid to step up and make the call.

  • You encourage this same behavior in your direct reports. You let them know you’ll stand behind them if they take a risk that doesn’t work out.

  • If you’re missing some key piece of information, you try to get it as quickly as possible. If you can’t, you’re not afraid to move ahead without it.

  • You foster an environment of action bias by responding promptly to colleagues looking for information, and always deliver on your promises.

  • You roll up your sleeves and remove obstacles, even when it’s “not your job.”

  • Still stuck? You ask for help. You don’t let yourself or your team be stuck for days at a time. 

Interview Questions Related to the “Bias for Action” Principle

If your interviewer asks about this leadership principle, she or he might ask one of the following questions:

  • Tell me about a time you took a risk. What kind of risk was it?

  • Give me an example of a calculated risk that you have taken where speed was critical. What was the situation and how did you handle it? What steps did you take to mitigate the risk? What was the outcome?

  • Tell me about a time you had to make a decision with incomplete information. How did you make it and what was the outcome?

  • Describe a time you had to make an important decision on the spot to close a sale.

  • Describe a situation where you made an important business decision without consulting your manager. What was the situation and how did it turn out?

  • Tell me about a time when you had to analyze facts quickly, define key issues, and respond immediately to a situation. What was the outcome?

  • Tell me about a time when you have worked against tight deadlines and didn't have the time to consider all options before making a decision. How much time did you have? What approach did you take?

  • Give an example of when you had to make an important decision and had to decide between moving forward or gathering more information. What did you do? What information is necessary for you to have before acting?

  • Describe a time when you saw some problem and took the initiative to correct it rather than waiting for someone else to do it.

  • Tell me about a time you needed to get information from someone who wasn’t very responsive. What did you do?

  • Tell me about a time where you felt your team was not moving to action quickly enough. What did you do? (Manager)

  • Tell me about a time when you were able to remove a serious roadblock/barrier preventing your team from making progress? How were you able to remove the barrier? What was the outcome? (Manager)

How to Answer Questions Related to the “Bias for Action” Principle

Answer given by a Senior Backup Engineer

Question: Tell me about a time you had to make a decision quickly.

We had to expand the storage capacity of a Commvault server to accommodate new machines that were coming online. We planned to double the capacity of the server from 32 to 64 terabytes. For this upgrade, the server had to be converted to MediaAgent, a procedure that was documented and tested. We followed the documentation closely, but in production, the Windows batch file that was supposed to convert the server to MediaAgent accidentally deleted some important files on the server, effectively rendering the existing Commvault server useless. All backups from applications/DB started failing.

While experts from Commvault HQ were engaged to find the root cause, the customer was informed about this problem. In an hour, I determined that the problem was not easily fixable. I wanted to use a new server, but the Commvault license was linked to a particular IP address. Instead of waiting to hear back from Commvault HQ and our purchasing department on getting another license, I simply copied the XML license to a new machine, changed the IP, and updated the existing license. At that point, the team could move forward.

How does this answer show a “Bias for Action”? With the backup server rendered inoperable, the engineer in this story was faced with a big problem. The more time she wasted, the more backup data would be lost. But she didn’t wait for others to solve her problem. She quickly diagnosed the problem and identified a workaround that would get the team back on its feet. That’s a “Bias for Action.”

Answer given by a Solutions Architect

Question: Tell me about a time you had to make a decision quickly.

One of the largest insurance providers in North America has been a long-standing customer. They have been using a different vendor’s solution for UNIX bridging capability. Once they learned that we also offer a UNIX bridging solution, they wanted to conduct a proof of concept. As I had been working with that customer as a trusted advisor, they requested me to do the POC.

Before starting the POC, I had a working session with the customer’s technical team to review the use cases currently being implemented. Upon reviewing the use cases, I found out that one of their key use cases is not supported out of the box by our solution. Supporting that use case would require an enhancement to the existing product functionality. Given the importance of the POC, I reached out internally for an approval to engage the engineering team immediately and worked with the team in adding that capability to the product. I didn’t want to wait to do this.

The engineering team provided a patch in a short time, and I was able to successfully deliver the POC addressing all the use cases.

In this story, the solutions architect could have told the customer that the product doesn’t support the use case. Instead, he coordinated with his team a quick product update (a “patch”) that would accommodate the use case, leading to a successful POC. This answer shows a “Bias for Action” and true “Customer Obsession”!

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I’m happy to say that after working with me, my clients, who range from entry level to executive level, have done well in their interviews and gotten the job they wanted at Amazon.

If you’d like to work with me to prepare for your interview, email me at jennifer@interviewgenie.com to schedule a free 15 minute consultation or a full interview prep session.

Interview Genie is an American interview prep company specializing in interviews with American companies.

How to answer Amazon "Think Big" interview questions

The eighth Amazon Leadership Principle is “Think Big.” If you’re preparing for an interview at Amazon, you should ask yourself what Amazon means by “think big” and how this principle applies to your role at the company.

If you don’t know about the Amazon leadership principles, consider first reading this article about interviewing at Amazon. 

How Amazon explains the “Think Big” principle

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.

What does the “Think Big” principle mean?  

The term “to think big” means to be ambitious or to set no limits on your thinking and goals. Other expressions you might have heard that mean the same thing are “to go large” or “to reach for the stars.”

If you think big you will:

  • See problems as challenges and opportunities

  • Be positive

  • Think of things you can do, not things you can’t

  • Plan what is possible, not worry about what is impossible

  • Be fearless

  • Be creative

  • Be able to dream and visualize what you want

Thinking big means:

  • Taking a radical approach and risks when necessary, always questioning traditional assumptions in pursuit of the best idea.

  • Creating a gutsy mission that employees can be inspired by and get behind. Providing direction for how to get there and explaining how everything fits into the long-term plan.

  • Continually communicating the big picture and mission to the team in a manner that gets employees excited.

  • Actively exploring new ideas from team members, encouraging risk taking when appropriate.

Interview Questions Related to the Think Big Leadership Principle

If your interviewer asks about this leadership principle, she or he might ask one of the following questions:

  • Tell me about a time you took a calculated risk in order to achieve a professional goal. What were the tradeoffs? What was the outcome?

  • Tell me about a time you took a big risk and it failed. What did you learn? What would you do differently?

  • Tell me about a time you went way beyond the scope of the project and delivered.

  • Tell me about your proudest professional achievement.

  • Give me an example of a radical approach to a problem you proposed. What was the problem and why did you feel it required a completely different way of thinking about it? Was your approach successful?

  • How do you drive adoption for your vision/ideas? How do you know how well your idea or vision has been adopted by other teams or partners? Give a specific example highlighting one of your ideas.

  • Tell me about time you were working on an initiative or goal and saw an opportunity to do something much bigger than the initial focus.

  • Tell me about a time you looked at a key process that was working well and questioned whether it was still the right one. What assumptions were you questioning and why? Did you end up making a change to the process?

How to Answer Questions Related to the Think Big Principle

Question: Give an example of a time you took a calculated risk.

Answer given by a Data Architect who specializes in building and maintaining disaster recovery systems.

On a yearly basis, Huawei works together with its customers to perform disaster recovery drills. In this drill, we switch over all our services from one data center to another in a controlled fashion. A few months ago, while we were preparing for the drill, we met an issue that could have blocked the whole activity. A colleague was performing a regular check on hardware resources when we found that the number of CPUs on a database machine disaster recovery site was not matching the number of CPUs on the production site.

He requested a change window, brought the machine down, and changed the number of CPUs to match the production site, but then the machine was not able to start up. After a few calls with KVM experts at HQ, we understood that the HQ experts couldn’t find the root cause and the solution was to rebuild the disaster recovery machine. To our surprise, we weren’t able to reuse resources allocated to that dead virtual machine to a new virtual machine. Fortunately, we had another environment hosted in VMware, and we had resources available to host a new machine. I suggested that we host the failed disaster recovery database in this new platform, which was considered risky because none of the other disaster recovery machines were running in VMware.

The customer was worried that hosting the failed machine in the VMware environment would mean a machine on production and the disaster recovery databases would be hosted in a different hypervisor environment. Their apprehension was understandable, since no customer/vendor would host machines in such a way. However, I explained to them that Oracle is agnostic about which hypervisor it is running on. As long as the OS version, OS type, and DB version are the same, Oracle would work without a problem.

Therefore, going against the normal way of doing things, I rebuilt the 6.5TB database in a VMware environment in 20 hours. A day later we successfully performed disaster recovery switchover and switchback operation.

This candidate used his technical expertise for “thinking big,” i.e., a willingness to solve a problem in an unconventional way. His confidence in his own expertise mitigated what others would have perceived as a “risky” technical maneuver.   

Question: Give an example of how you set goals.

Answer given by a VP of Digital Product Development at Merrill Lynch.

I tend to set very ambitious goals for my team and also myself professionally. An example of this is that, as soon as I joined my current company, I knew I wanted to lead an organization. I set small goals to achieve that ultimate goal.

I needed to be the best individual contributor on my team, and I did that by delivering the Merrill Lynch mobile application platform for financial analysts.  I was recognized for this and was promoted within a year and a half of joining. I then set my sights on the next milestone, which was to lead multiple teams and manage multiple apps on multiple platforms. This is when I hired someone really strong to delegate some of the mobile platform work under me, so that I could oversee the creation of the desktop platform for financial analysts.

I led the design and implementation of the Client 360 app, which was our internal flagship app. The work required that I coordinate across seven different teams, each one building components in isolation before eventually integrating them into one single-page app.

I was recognized for my leadership quality during this effort and was promoted again in two years. Since that time, I have managed to deliver multiple applications, such as Client Profile, Relationship Tree, and Sub house holding on the desktop platform, while continuing to grow the mobile app customer base.

I am the youngest of all my peers, and they all had a VP title before me. But because of my hard work, dedication, and relentless pursuit of perfection, I am being considered for my next promotion this year before all my peers.

The candidate’s ambition really shines through in this answer. Note how she “thinks big” and tackles the most ambitious projects, but is always looking ahead to the next challenge.

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I’m happy to say that after working with me, my clients, who range from entry level to executive level, have done well in their interviews and gotten the job they wanted at Amazon.

If you’d like to work with me to prepare for your interview, email me at jennifer@interviewgenie.com to schedule a free 15 minute consultation or a full interview prep session.

Interview Genie is an American interview prep company specializing in interviews with American companies.

How to answer Amazon "Insist on the Highest Standards" interview questions

The seventh Amazon Leadership Principle is “Insist on the Highest Standards.” If you’re preparing for an interview at Amazon, you should ask yourself what Amazon means by “highest standards” and how this principle applies to your role at the company.

If you don’t know about the Amazon leadership principles, consider first reading this article about interviewing at Amazon.

How Amazon explains the “Highest Standards” principle

The seventh leadership principle is “Insist on the Highest Standards” - this is how Amazon explains the principle:

Leaders have relentlessly high standards – many people may think these standards are unreasonably high. Leaders are continually raising the bar and driving 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.

What does the “Highest Standards” principle mean?

Having high standards means you make exceptionally high demands of yourself and the products and services you work on. At Amazon, standards are set through service level agreements (SLAs). An SLA is a set of agreed upon standards at which any service or product will perform. In an Amazon SLA, even the worst outcome will outpace industry standards.

Nearly everything at Amazon has an SLA, and as such, nearly everything is measured to ensure the SLA standards are met. In your current job, have you taken the time to instrument your processes and services? Have you set clear expectations of success that you can measure via that instrumentation? If so, in your interview, be ready to tell your story.

If you want to show your interviewer that you insist on the highest standards, you should demonstrate that you:

  • Set SLAs for everything, and don’t take shortcuts on instrumentation.

  • Continually self-critique your work to make sure the quality is the best it can be.

  • Accept and seek coaching and feedback from your manager and others about improving the quality of your work.

  • Demand that your team delivers high-quality products, services, and solutions.

  • Coach employees about setting their own high standards and exceeding customer expectations.

Interview questions related to “Highest Standards”

If your interviewer asks about this leadership principle, she or he might ask one of the following questions:

  • Tell me about a time when you’ve been unsatisfied with the status quo. What did you do to change it? Were you successful?

  • Tell me about a time you wouldn’t compromise on achieving a great outcome when others felt something was already good enough. What was the situation?

  • What measures have you personally put in place to ensure performance improvement targets and standards are achieved?

  • Describe the most significant, continuous improvement project that you’ve led. What was the catalyst for this change and how did you go about it?

  • Give me an example of a goal you’ve had where you wish you had done better. What was the goal and how could you have improved on it?

  • 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 more improvement?

  • Give an example where you refused to compromise your standards around quality/customer service, etc. Why did you feel so strongly about the situation? What were the consequences? The result?

    How to answer interview questions related to the “Highest Standards” leadership principle

    Sample Answers for this principle

    Answer given by an E-Commerce Manager

    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 more improvement?

    When I took over the e-commerce part of the website I learned that the experience related to returning merchandise was one of the worst experiences on the site. It was difficult to navigate, and when I asked why it was so bad the answer I got from senior management alarmed me. They didn’t want the experience to be easy because they didn’t want people to return things. This felt intuitively wrong to me but I knew I needed the numbers to prove it. I began collecting data relating to return customers and how the return had an impact on how how likely they were to return. After a lot of digging we learned that if a customer had a good return experience they were more likely to buy from us in the future. We set off to create the most frictionless return experience possible and then we measured the impact of the customer to return and what they were likely to purchase. As we made changes to the return experience, we carefully measured the impact.

Note that, in this answer, the candidate could have simply followed along with the established protocol, but he sought to hold himself and his company to a higher standard, demonstrating real leadership and delivering results.

Answer given by a Solutions Architect

What measures have you personally put in place to ensure performance improvement targets and standards are achieved?

In my last job, when I joined the solutions architect team, my main goal was to ensure that our enterprise clients integrated seamlessly with the solutions we were providing. I became obsessed with the onboarding with these customers, and one metric in particular, which was the time the client signed contract to the time they first used the services. To me this was the metric that mattered the most, but we weren’t paying much attention to it. I knew that if we showed the value that our service provided sooner, they would be more likely to stay with us over the long term. We measured and then optimized processes based on what we found. For a good while in that role, nearly every measurement of success I created for myself and my team rolled up onto the larger onboarding metric. We had a set of metrics that we aspired to improve that ultimately rolled up to the onboarding one. As a result of these efforts over the course of a year, and ruthlessly optimizing our processes, we cut the average time of onboarding down by 50%.

As in the previous answer, this candidate demonstrates that she absolutely will not settle for the status quo, and so she sets a higher standard for her and her team. Leaders don’t need someone else to set the bar high, because they set it high for themselves.

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I’m happy to say that after working with me, my clients, who range from entry level to executive level, have done well in their interviews and gotten the job they wanted at Amazon.

If you’d like to work with me to prepare for your interview, email me at jennifer@interviewgenie.com to schedule a free 15 minute consultation or a full interview prep session.

Interview Genie is an American interview prep company specializing in interviews with American companies.

How to answer Amazon "Hire and develop the best" interview questions

The sixth Amazon leadership principle is “Hire and Develop the Best.” If you’re preparing for an interview at Amazon, you should practice answering questions based on this principle.

If you don’t know about the Amazon leadership principles, you should read this article about interviewing at Amazon first.

How Amazon explains the “Hire and Develop” principle

The sixth Amazon Leadership Principle is “Hire and Develop the Best.” Let’s look at how Amazon explains the principle:

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. 

What does the “Hire and develop the best” leadership principle mean?

It means that hiring the right people, ones who can do the job exceptionally well but who’re also interested in growing, and then helping them learn, is a huge aspect of a managerial or leadership role at Amazon. 

Interview questions related to “Hire and develop”

If your interviewer asks about this leadership principle, he or she might ask one of the following questions:

  • What is your experience with hiring people?

  • How do you ensure you hire the best people?

  • Give me an example of one of the best hires of your career. How did this person grow throughout their career? What did you identify during the hiring process that drove her success?

  • How do you help your employees grow?

  • Tell me how you help your team members develop their careers. Can you give me two to three examples of a specific person in whom you invested and how you helped them develop their careers, including one who wasn’t being successful but in whom you saw potential and chose to invest?

  • Give me an example of a time you provided feedback to develop and leverage the strengths of someone on your team. Were you able to positively impact that person’s performance? What were your most effective methods?

  • How do you manage your top performers differently?

  • Give me an example of someone who was promoted one or two levels up in the organization, not just because they were a star who would naturally rise, but due to your coaching efforts.

  • What is the composition of your current team, and how is your team organized?

    How to answer interview questions related to the “Hire and develop” leadership principle

    The key to answering these questions is to demonstrate certain skills in your answers. You’ll want to show that:

    You know how to hire excellent people

    You take the interviewing process seriously. You understand the job and identify the right job description and candidate profile to attract the best candidates. You focus on hiring people who will raise the high performance bar.

    You recognize strong performers and mentor them

    At some companies, good performers are left alone – because they are already doing a good job – and bad performers get all the attention – in order to improve their performance. Amazon is what is called a “high-performance management culture,” which means that the company believes that top performers need attention and guidance to ensure that they have the opportunity to provide their best at Amazon.

    So if you currently work at a company where the attention goes to low performers, you should reorient yourself before you think of your answers to this. Since Amazon believes that spending time on top performers is one of the best uses of a leader’s time, don’t say that you spend an equal amount of time mentoring all of your employees, whether they’re top performers or not.

    You try to help your people grow. You make it a priority to coach and teach employees. You provide regular feedback.

    Of course you want to keep the best performers on your team, because you want good workers, but as a leader and manager, you need to care about their careers as well as your team performance. If you can help an employee learn, they will at least be likely to stay with the company as they grow, even if not on your team.

    Show that you know what each employee wants and that you are trying to help them achieve that goal. You help employees drive their own development and learning by regularly discussing career goals, strengths, and areas for development. Show that you identify development activities and moves for all employees.

    You value people who are not like you

    Diversity is a strength and will help you stand out.

    Do you hire people you feel comfortable with or do you hire the best person for the job?

    Tech has a diversity problem, and if you are a white man (which many of my clients are), you are probably not very aware of diversity. If you’ve created a team that isn’t all white men, consider it an accomplishment and be prepared to speak to it. How did you make diversity a priority? This is a strength you can talk about.

    Sample answers for the “Hire and develop” principle

    Question: What is your experience with hiring people?

    Answer by a VP of Sales: 

    “When I took over the sales team, the CEO told me that my number one priority needed to be hiring. We didn’t have enough people to meet our goals for the year. Focusing on hiring was hard for me because I knew there were a lot of processes that we needed to work on as a team besides hiring, but I agreed to focus my efforts there because I knew that the best thing I could do in the long term for the team was to make it more resilient.

    It was true that most members of the team had been around for a while and we really needed some new faces help execute against the new strategy. My approach first and foremost was to tap into my own network, which is pretty deep, to look for the people who were the best I’d ever worked with. I specifically went after people who I was a little intimated by because of their deep skills, because I knew it wasn’t about me but about making the team stronger. The second thing I did was to tap into my team’s network. I told a key number of them that hiring needed to be one of our top priorities, and we came up with a process for screening and interviewing candidates. This approach worked and became self-perpetuating because, as new people came on board, and became excited about what we were doing as a company they recruited from their own network.”

    Why is this answer good?

    This answer is good because it shows that this VP understands the idea of hiring excellent people, in particular how to focus on hiring people who will raise the performance bar. She doesn’t let her ego get in the way of hiring smart people, maybe people who are even smarter than she is.

    You can probably use a version of this answer yourself, no matter what job you’re in, because this is a common situation, although of course you’ll need to customize it to your own experience.

    Question: Tell me about the best hire of your career

    “The best hire I ever had was also my toughest hire. I knew the candidate was strong, but she continued to hold out and ask a lot of questions. She wanted to talk to other members of the team, and she wanted to know everything about the company. The process went on for so long I started to question whether it was worth it. I was pretty frustrated and wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but a colleague gave me some great advice, convincing me that the candidate who asks the best questions usually turns out to be the best person for the job. I decided to remain patient with her and when she (finally) came aboard, she hit the ground running and soon became one of the star performers in the company. I learned a lot about what talent really looks like from the experience.”

    Why is this answer good?

    This answer is good because it emphasizes the quality of the person being hired. The manager was willing to wait and put up with aggravation in order to get someone excellent.

    Question: Give me an example of a time you provided feedback to develop and leverage the strengths of someone on your team. Were you able to positively impact that person’s performance? What were your most effective methods?

    “As I got to be a more senior manager and started hiring managers, I was hiring people who were further into their career. I started to see that they didn’t need as much guidance as I had been used to giving. I realized that what they really needed was someone to help them clear the path so that they could succeed. I changed the way I dealt with those type of employees; now I make it a priority to meet with them one-on-one and let them set the agenda. I tell them that at our meeting we will have nothing to talk about unless they bring something to talk about. They tend to bring things up that are blocking them. We talk about that and either I intervene directly or I give them advice on how to clear the roadblocks.

    On the other hand, if I that someone is on the wrong path, I let them know right away. In the past, I would sometimes give my team the benefit of the doubt and not share my feedback. I learned that not helping them see what I see was really a disservice to them. Now I give feedback early and often, and if someone is on the wrong path, I help them see it. Feedback is ongoing and built into the culture of the team, not something that happens quarterly.”

    Why is this answer good?

    This answer is good because he’s focused on developing his strong performers, rather than spending his time on the weak ones. Note how he emphasizes that he’s learned from his past experience and how he’s capitalizing on that experience for the good of his team and the company. This is the type of person that Amazon wants to hire.

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 I’m happy to say that after working with me, my clients, who range from entry level to executive level, have done well in their interviews and gotten the job they wanted at Amazon.

If you’d like to work with me to prepare for your interview, email me at jennifer@interviewgenie.com to schedule a free 15 minute consultation or a full interview prep session.

Interview Genie is an American interview prep company specializing in interviews at American companies.

How to answer Amazon "Learn and be curious" interview questions

The fifth Amazon leadership principle is “Learn and be Curious.” If you’re preparing for an interview there, you should practice answering questions based on this principle.

If you don’t know about the Amazon leadership principles, you should read this article about interviewing at Amazon first.

How Amazon explains the “Learn and be curious” leadership principle

Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.

What does “Learn and be curious” mean exactly?

I think this is an easy principle to understand, right? It’s asking you if you are the kind of person who is always learning and improving. How do you keep up with the trends and new developments in your field? Do you try to do things a new way even if there’s no “need” for it? Are you open to learning new things?

Some typical interview questions for the “Learn and Be Curious” principle

  • How do you stay inspired, acquire new knowledge, or innovate in your work?

  • What can you teach me in 5 minutes that I don’t already know?

  • Tell me about a time when you influenced change by only asking questions.

  • Tell me about a time when you solved a problem through just superior knowledge or observation.

  • Tell me about a time you hired someone smarter than you.

  • Tell me something interesting you've learned recently.

Good answers for two “Learn and be curious” interview questions

Question: “How do you stay inspired, acquire new knowledge, or innovate in your work?”

Answer: “For my job, I need to understand business trends, and I’m also personally interested in what’s going on in the world. I read many newspapers every day, including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. I also read magazines, including the Economist and the New Yorker. In addition, I spend quite a bit of time reading news on Twitter and other places online. As a VP of Product for an EdTech company, I oversee a team that produces videos and courses on tech subjects, so I absorb a lot of the newest information there too.”

Why is this answer good? This answer is good because it demonstrates that the interviewee prioritizes learning in his daily habits, and he ties the learning directly back to his job. Ultimately, the interview is about knowing whether you can do the job, so your answers should relate to the job duties.

Answer this question by being honest about how you keep up with new technology and new trends in your field. What do you do? You probably read blogs, newspapers, and/or books, or maybe you listen to podcasts or watch YouTube videos. There are probably other things you do too – do you take classes at a local school or online, somewhere like Coursera or EdX? Are you enrolled in some kind of certification program? Did you just finish a degree? I’ve also had clients successfully answer questions about this principle by describing a lecture series that they attended at lunch in their offices or a conference where they met industry leaders.

Show your interest or passion when you talk about whatever it is you do.

Don’t tell the interviewer you don’t have the time to do any of these things because you have a family and a job — I hear this answer a lot from clients, and I warn them that it’s a mistake. The interviewer will think you’re a bad candidate if you don’t have a list of ways you’re keeping up with new developments.

When clients can’t think of anything at all that they do to keep learning — and you’d be surprised at how often I hear it — I know they’re never going to get a job at Amazon.

Question: “What can you teach me in 5 minutes that I don’t already know?”

Answer: “I’m going to teach you how to make tea the right way. The most important part is the water. What kind should you use? Purified and spring are the best, because they’re free from pollutants and other harmful substances. Start with cold water and then boil gently. Don’t boil for very long, because this can remove flavor from the water….”

(No, I’m not going to write the whole answer. Hopefully, you get the point.)

What does this question have to do with learning? Actually, it’s a test of your communication skills — can you explain something simple in a clear way using good English? It’s also a test of your speed of processing — you probably weren’t prepared for this, so can you think quickly enough to find a good topic? It’s a personality test — do you get nervous and act uncomfortable or do you handle the situation calmly? It’s also an intelligence test — do you choose something simple like how to open a bag of cookies or something more complicated and relevant to your job like how to write a good SQL query? Not that my tea example was bad. If you explain how to make tea and you do it well, the answer will be good enough.

But this isn’t a trick question. Don’t obsess about picking the perfect example. Just pick something interesting and start talking.

General advice for these answers

If you’re a driven Type A person you aren’t going to struggle with these answers. However, you may not be able to come up with an example of influencing change or solving a problem in a particular way if you haven’t prepped for it.

Don’t worry if you’ve never hired someone, because you probably won’t get that question if so, and if you do you can be honest and say you’ve never hired anyone.

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 I’m happy to say that after working with me, my clients, who range from entry level to executive level, have done well in their interviews and gotten the job they wanted at Amazon.

If you’d like to work with me to prepare for your interview, email me at jennifer@interviewgenie.com to schedule a free 15 minute consultation or a full interview prep session.

Interview Genie is an American interview prep company specializing in interviews at American companies.

Tips for answering Amazon "Are Right, A Lot" leadership principle interview questions

The fourth Amazon leadership principle is “Are Right, A Lot.” If you’re preparing for an interview there, you should practice answering questions based on this principle.

If you don’t know about the Amazon leadership principles, you should read this article about interviewing at Amazon first.

How Amazon describes the “Are Right, A Lot” principle

Leaders are right a lot. They have strong judgment and good instincts. They seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs.

What does “Are Right, A Lot” mean exactly?

I usually get questions from my clients about what this principle means because it’s a hard one to understand.

Here’s an excerpt of The Amazon Way by John Rossman, a book you should read if you want to know more about Amazon. He can explain the thinking behind this principle better than I can. This should help you understand what the principle means:

Leaders at Amazon are right—not always, but a lot. They have strong business judgment, and they spread that strong judgment to others through the clarity with which they define their goals and the metrics they use to measure success.

There is a high degree of tolerance for failure at Amazon. But Jeff Bezos cannot tolerate someone making the same mistake over and over. Therefore, leaders at Amazon are expected to be right far more often than they are wrong. And when they are wrong—which of course will happen when a company continually pushes the envelope—they are expected to learn from their mistakes, develop specific insights into the reasons for those mistakes, and share those insights with the rest of the company.

Three common interview questions for “Are Right, A Lot” and tips for answering them

This principle has several different components so there is no single typical question for this principle. (Just another reason people have trouble with it.)

Let’s look at some ways in which an interviewer might ask about this principle:

Tell me about a time you made a mistake.

The interviewer might use different words, such as “failure” or “error in judgement” or “bad decision” or “regret.” You can use the same example as your answer no matter how the question was asked.

How to answer

Yes, it’s okay to admit you made a mistake. Everyone makes them. Don’t say that you’ve never made a mistake. That shows you don’t tell the truth or don’t realize when you make mistakes.

But don’t talk about making a mistake with something that’s absolutely crucial to your job. If the job you’re trying to get is Manager of X and, in your example, you talk about how you did a bad job with X yesterday… this is not a good way to answer the question. You should try another approach so that you don’t throw doubt on your skills – you can see how saying you’re not good at or weren’t good at X is a bad idea if you’ll need that in the job. Ideally, you want to choose a story that talks about a skill a bit more removed from your potential duties at Amazon, or something that happened a long time ago.

Try to end on a positive note, by showing what you learned from the mistake. The interviewer will be looking for this. If you have a good statement about what you learned it’s okay if you say you made a mistake with a skill crucial for the job.

Tell me about a time you disagreed with a colleague (or a boss). What is the process you used to work it out?

How to answer

In answering this question you want to show you’re (1) a nice person but (2) you can be firm if your opinions are challenged and you can get your program/idea implemented if it’s the best choice. A good answer will show both (1) and (2). Unfortunately, a lot of people focus only on (2), showing how they met their goal, but not showing how they were easy to work with. In fact people frequently show that they were actually difficult to work with (they usually don’t know they’re doing this).

Is being nice really necessary? Do interpersonal relationships really matter? Isn’t being good at your job more important than being likable? Well, Amazon fosters a culture of assertiveness (some call it “sharp elbows”). In a culture like this it can be hard to meet your goals while also maintaining good relationships, but if you destroy your relationships you will probably ultimately not be able to achieve your goals because your goals often involve working with other people. This is really the reason you need to show you can “get along with” others, because someone who can’t maintain relationships will ultimately not be successful at Amazon because no one will want to help them. There are exceptions, of course, but for most people being good at interpersonal relationships is a real plus at work.

A good way to show that you’re nice is to show that you can be calm and have rational discussions if you’re challenged. Talk about how you had a discussion with the person you disagreed with and showed them data (calmly) about your idea. Say something that shows you respected the person you were talking to.

Besides showing you’re nice, you also have to show that you’re capable of achieving your goal. You don’t want to be so nice that you agree with the other person just to be nice. If you have an opinion on something but someone doesn’t agree, do you agree with them to end the conflict? Some people (many people) do. Or do you discuss the issue until you can convince them you are right (if you are)?

There are ways to convince people that your idea is correct that are also respectful. For instance, you can show that you can use data to prove that your opinion is the right one. Showing data is not hostile or confrontational and is always a good way to make your point.

Give me an example of making an important decision in the absence of good data. What was the situation and how did you arrive at your decision? Did the decision turn out to be the correct one?

How to answer

They want to know if you have good intuition, and how you put that intuition to work.

You need to be able to describe the process you used to do something. Explain it step by step. You probably looked for as much data as you could, then used your past experiences to guide you as well (this is where intuition comes from). Talk about the exact ways you collected data and also the past experiences you used as a guide. They are looking for details.

Remember the first leadership principle, “Customer Obsession”? One way to approach this question is to describe how you were seeking a solution that would benefit customers. Maybe you didn’t have all the data, but if you’ve ever developed an intuition for what works for customers and you’ve relied on that intuition for a solution, shape that experience into a story.

These are three questions that can be used to ask about this principle, but there are also others.

Other possible interview questions for “Are Right, A Lot”

  • Describe a situation where you thought you were right, but your peers or supervisor didn’t agree with you. How did you convince them you were right? How did you react? What was the outcome?

  • Tell me about a time when you observed two business opportunities to improve ROI, and how you determined they were connected.

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 I’m happy to say that after working with me, my clients, who range from entry level to executive level, have done well in their interviews and gotten the job they wanted at Amazon.

If you’d like to work with me to prepare for your interview, email me at jennifer@interviewgenie.com to schedule a free 15 minute consultation or a full interview prep session.

Interview Genie is an American interview prep company specializing in interviews at American companies.

How to answer Amazon "Invent and Simplify" interview questions

The third Amazon leadership principle is “Invent and Simplify.” If you’re preparing for an interview there, you should practice answering questions based on this principle.

If you don’t know about the Amazon leadership principles, you should read this article about interviewing at Amazon first.

How Amazon explains the “Invent and Simplify” leadership principle

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.

What does “invent and simplify” mean exactly?

The “invent” part of this principle is that Amazon frequently does new things, whether “new” means new scale, new products, new platforms, or something else new.

The “simplify” part of this principle is the idea that everyone, no matter what type of job they have, has the opportunity to simplify something, usually a process. Making something simpler is desirable because simpler usually equals greater efficiency, i.e., quicker or cheaper, and what company wouldn’t like that?

Does the invent and simplify leadership principle apply to me?

My clients sometimes worry that, if they’re not inventing new products or new technologies as part of their job, they won’t be able to answer questions about the Invent and Simplify principle. But that’s not true. You definitely don’t have to be “inventing” things to do well on this principle. Anyone in any type of role can have an impact on a process, and improving a process is also a way of simplifying.

What do you need to show in your answer?

So besides wanting to know if you’ve invented or simplified, what is your interviewer looking for when she asks you to speak to this principle?

Amazon wants people who are curious and well informed and can be creative in thinking of solutions. They want people who can easily generate multiple ideas for problem solving. They want people who know how to find answers by looking into how other departments or other industries do things. Above all, they want people who will try to improve things, not just accept the status quo blindly.

Top five Amazon interview questions for “Invent and Simplify”

There are different questions your interviewer can use to ask about your “invent and simplify” skills. Based on my experience with clients, here are the top five questions:

• Tell me about a time when you invented something.

• What improvements have you made at your current company?

• Tell me about a time when you gave a simple solution to a complex problem.

• Tell me about a time you had to think outside the box (think creatively) to close a sale or sell your product.

• What is the most innovative project you’ve worked on?

Sample answers for invent and simplify questions

Good answer for “What improvements have you made at your current company?”

Here’s an answer that I helped a client develop, based on that client’s experience:

We were using an Enterprise Service Bus in our project for SOA, and one of the functions we use it for is to record the time when a web service request arrives at our platform and when the response leaves the platform. Logging this information helps us measure response-time performance analysis for each web service. The response-time data were stored in a database which has grown very big as the platform has expanded over the years.

We needed to keep the growth of the database in check. Per project requirements, it was also necessary to keep data available for three months online and one year in an offline storage.

I developed a tool that met and automated the requirements. Once the user configures the tool, it automatically finds the table partitions in scope, backs up those partitions, zips up the backup, and then moves the backup to tapes. As the final step, it generates SQL script files to clean up the partitions that it had backed up.

As a result of this automation, we saved at least one to two days of effort per month. We are also using this tool to clean up the logs for provisioning history from customer records.

Why is this answer good?

I like this answer because, through his story, the interviewee reveals that he takes an “invent and simplify” approach to his work. An example of automating something is usually a good fit for the invent and simplify questions since developing a tool is a good example of inventing something and the tool usually improves the process, as it clearly does in this case.

Good answer for “Tell me about a time you had to think outside the box.”

If your interviewer asks you this question, you need to provide evidence that you question assumptions, even when the answer seems “obvious” to everyone else.

Here’s a story from a recent client that does a nice job of thinking “outside of the box”:

We had a SAAS product [note: SAAS is “software as a service”] that needed to integrate with our clients’ human resources platforms. We had two target markets – healthcare and academic. Both markets offered large opportunities, but, to me, the TAM [note: TAM is “total addressable market”] of the healthcare customers was much more attractive.

The problem was that healthcare customers tended to use one type of HR platform, and academic customers used all sorts of different types. The technical team struggled with an integration solution that would work in all situations. It became apparent that we would need to build several disparate solutions, not one as we had hoped, to service both markets.

The business owner of our unit was dismissive of these technical hurdles, but I spent time with the teams, and I knew this complexity was going to add months to the project, and even threatened the feasibility of the project. So I ran the numbers and put together a presentation, demonstrating to the business owner and several senior stakeholders that we should focus on the healthcare market and revisit the academic market in the following years. I had to do a lot of convincing because, as I said, the academic opportunity was large. Eventually I convinced the business that we needed to simplify our approach and focus on the larger market and build a solution that would work for those customers.

Why is this answer good?

This interviewee questions assumptions, digs into the details, and is willing to stand up for the best solution for the business, even when his seniors thought otherwise. The solution presented wasn’t a small improvement to the existing business model; it was an entirely new idea for the company and one that wasn’t conventional wisdom of trying to make all customers happy so you don’t lose any of them.

This story impressed the interviewer.

What else is your interviewer looking for?

So besides wanting to know if you’ve invented or simplified, what is your interviewer looking for when she asks you to speak to this principle?

Amazon wants people who are curious and well informed and can be creative in thinking of solutions. They want people who can easily generate multiple ideas for problem solving. They want people who know how to find answers by looking into how other departments or other industries do things. Above all, they want people who will try to improve things, not just accept the status quo blindly.

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 I’m happy to say that after working with me, my clients, who range from entry level to executive level, have done well in their interviews and gotten the job they wanted at Amazon.

If you’d like to work with me to prepare for your interview, email me at jennifer@interviewgenie.com to schedule a free 15 minute consultation or a full interview prep session.

Interview Genie is an American interview prep company specializing in interviews at American companies.

Post-interview thank you note template

If your interview’s over, you’re probably thinking, “Now that my interview’s over, do I need to do anything else?”

Yes, actually, you do need to do one more thing. What one thing is that?

Send a thank you note after your interview

After you finish your interview, it’s important to thank the interviewer. I don’t mean while you’re still talking to them, although you should do this too, I mean afterward.

 A quick thank you within 24 hours is expected by most interviewers.

 You won’t get the job only because you sent a thank you, but you’ll be noticed if you don’t send one.

Format for your thank you note

Email is the best way to send a thank you.

In some industries written thank you notes are still common, but in other industries like tech sending a written note doesn’t fit the culture. If you use email you will be fine in all cases.

I advise against written notes because they take so long to arrive; you want to get yours in there before days and days have elapsed.

When should you send the thank you note?

Within 24 hours. If you can send it the same day, do that.

The reason you’re sending the note is because you want to give the interviewer one more reason to think positively of you. If you send it after they’ve already made up their mind about whom to hire, what’s the point? You want to send it quickly so you have a chance to influence them.

What to say in your post-interview thank you note

A note that says simply “thank you for meeting with me” is nice, but what does it show? That you have manners? Manners are good, but they probably already know you have manners (I hope you showed them you have manners during your interview.)

 There are several things you can say in your note:

  •  You should say “thank you for meeting with me.”

  • You can promote yourself more by reminding them of your skills or experience.

  •  You can refer to something you said in your interview if you want to underline it.

  •  If there’s something you forgot to say, say it.

  •  Tell them one reason you’re excited to have the job.

 Thank you email template

You can use this template for the basic idea and customize it with your own ideas.

Hi [Interviewer Name],

Thank you for meeting with me today. I enjoyed learning more about the job, and I’m excited about the opportunity to join [company name] and [do whatever you would be doing].

[Additional info if you wish.]

I look forward to hearing from you about the next steps in the hiring process.  Don’t hesitate to contact me if I can provide additional information.

Best regards,

[Your Name]

Example of a thank you email

Dear X,

I would like to take the time to thank you and the hiring team for your willingness to speak to me on Friday about the X position. I’m excited by the prospect of working for X and adding my expertise to your team.

My skills seem to be an ideal fit for the X role, and to reiterate, I feel that I could be a great asset as I am able to think and act globally in the area of X.

I enjoyed our interview and look forward to speaking with you again about the role.

Sincerely,

X

Send a LinkedIn connection request

After you send your thank you email, you can also send a LinkedIn connection request. This is one more chance to communicate with your interviewer and make a good impression.

LinkedIn connection request template

It was a pleasure meeting you and learning more about [company] and the [name of position]. I’m very interested in joining your team. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions. In the meantime, I’d like to add you to my LinkedIn network.

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 I’m happy to say that after working with me, my clients have done well in their interviews and gotten the job they wanted or gotten into the school of their choice.

If you’d like to work with me to prepare for your interview, email me at jennifer@interviewgenie.com to schedule a free 15 minute consultation or a full interview prep session.

Interview Genie is an American interview prep company specializing in interviews at American companies and schools.

Questions to ask your interviewer in a job interview

You might think that all you have to do in your interview is answer questions, but answering questions is only part of the equation. You need to ask questions too.

When you ask questions, you’re showing you care about doing the job well and about deciding if the job's a good fit for you.

If you don’t ask questions you’ll seem like you’re not interested enough to want to know more and no one wants to give a job to someone who seems like they're not that interested in it.

How many questions should you ask during your interview?

I recommend asking a total of 10 questions during and after the interview.

Isn’t that a lot of questions? Yes, but if you’re talking to someone for an hour 10 questions isn't really that many. Plus, some of them can be short and simple.

Still, 10 seems like a lot.

Okay, yes, 10 is a lot but the key is to ask some during the interview, because that turns the interview into a conversation and shows your interest. If you ask a question here and there during the interview, you’ll only need to ask a few at the end.

And if you prepare 10, some of them will probably be answered as you talk to the interviewer. You don’t want to ask about the team culture if she’s already talked about the team culture at length, for example, so you’ll have to cross it off your list.

Questions you can ask during your interview, divided by topic

You can use these questions for ideas, but if there’s something you’re interested in learning you should definitely use your own idea instead, because it will sound more personalized to you.

The Position

What is a typical day like for the person in this job?

Can you tell me more about the day-to-day responsibilities for this job?

Can you give me some examples of projects I’d be working on?

Do you expect the main responsibilities for this position to change in the next 6 months to a year?

Is this a new role that’s been created?

What are the 3 most important leadership principles for this job?

How do you define success for this position? What metrics will you use to measure my accomplishments?

Do you have any concerns about my qualifications for this job?

Training and Development

How will I be trained?

Where is the last person who held this role moving on to?

What is the typical career path for someone in this role?

Review Process

What is the performance review process like here? Can you walk me through a typical one?

What would your expectation for me be for the first 90 days?

The Interviewer

These questions are personal so you don’t want to ask them if your interviewer seems like they might have a problem with personal questions. They’re not too personal though so you can definitely ask them if it seems like a good time to do so.

How long have you been working here?

Why did you choose this company?

What’s your favorite part about working here?

The Team

How would you describe the team culture?

Can you tell me about the members of the team?

What are the team’s strengths and weaknesses?

What have been the biggest challenges for the team this year?

Whom will I report to directly?

Which other departments work closely with this one?

Do you expect the department/team to grow?

The Company

How does this service or product fit into the larger picture?

How do you measure customer service?

What important initiatives are you working on for the next 6-12 months?

How does this role contribute to larger company goals?

What do you like the most about working here?

Can you tell me a little bit about the company culture?

Where do you think the company is headed in the next 5 years?

Whom do you consider your top competitor and why?

What are the biggest opportunities facing the company right now?

Next steps

Is there anything else I can provide you with that would be helpful?

Can I answer any final questions for you?

What are the next steps in the interview process?

Topics to avoid during your interview

If you ask about these you'll seem selfish and impatient and like you don’t care about the job. These are questions you should save for the recruiter or HR manager after they offer you the job.

Salary

Benefits

Working hours/your schedule

Vacation time

Did I get the job?

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 I’m happy to say that after working with me, my clients, who range from entry level to executive level, have done well in their interviews and gotten the job they wanted.

If you’d like to work with me to prepare for your interview, email me at jennifer@interviewgenie.com to schedule a free 15 minute consultation or a full interview prep session.

Interview Genie is an American interview prep company specializing in interviews at American companies.

Use PAR, not STAR, for answering behavioral interview questions

This article is for those of you who know the STAR method but find it confusing because the “S” and the “T” steps seem so similar.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about you can skip this and keep using STAR to answer your behavioral interview questions. 

Why I don’t like the STAR method

So, the “situation” and “task” steps in STAR, they seem kind of similar, right? Yeah, they do. I’ve never been able to figure out the difference between them and I’ve had many clients ask me to explain the difference to them, which I can’t do because it doesn’t make any sense to me.

What I recommend instead of STAR

To save everyone (including myself) from confusion, I’ve started teaching my clients to use “PAR” instead. PAR is the same as STAR but combines the S and the T steps.

Why “P” instead of “S”? S and P mean the same – situation, problem, issue – it doesn’t really matter what you call it, it’s the same thing.

You may have heard the term “PAR” used when talking about resumes, and it's a common way of formatting resume bullet points, but we can also use it for answering behavioral questions and it is so much clearer than STAR.

Here is the PAR format:

P = problem/situation/issue

A = action (what did you do?)

R = result

Now use the letters as a structure to tell your story (you need to use a story to answer your behavioral interview question). 

Will I have a problem if I don’t use STAR?

Will your interviewer notice that you’re not using STAR? No. I promise you they will have no idea. A good S section will always explain the T as well, meaning it will explain what the issue is you’re working on and what you yourself specifically are doing, so no one will even know you’ve combined S and T.

Amazon recruiters send out interview instructions telling candidates to use STAR, but like I said, no one will notice if you use PAR instead, including at Amazon. They will notice if your answer is unclear or lacking the proper information.

If you're one of the people who finds STAR confusing and annoying like I do, start using PAR instead. 

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How to structure your answers to basic interview questions

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 I’m happy to say that after working with me, my clients, who range from entry level to executive level, have done well in their interviews and gotten the job they wanted.

If you’d like to work with me to prepare for your interview, email me at jennifer@interviewgenie.com to schedule a free 15 minute consultation or a full interview prep session.

Interview Genie is an American interview prep company specializing in interviews at American companies.

How to sell yourself in interviews

Interviews in the United States or in American companies require that you talk about your strengths, which is also called selling yourself or self-promotion.

What does "sell yourself" mean?

Selling yourself” in an interview is the process of talking openly, clearly, and directly about your strengths – your skills, experience, and personal qualities - and explicitly stating how these strengths can help the company.

It’s a form of marketing, but the product you’re marketing is you.

Why is self-promotion hard for some people?

In your daily life you don’t usually get asked about your strengths or what your greatest achievement was, right?

Probably not. That’s not something that happens to us normally, except in interviews.  

So self-promotion is a skill that most of us just don’t use very often.

Can you improve your self-promotion skills?

 “But I don’t know how to sell myself!” is something that I hear often in my interview coaching work.

I love hearing this because I know I can help. It’s easy for me, because my clients are usually smart and successful in their work, but they don’t know how to express this. I can teach them how – and it isn’t very hard.

Interviews are a type of communication that isn’t like anything else. They’re like a game you have to learn to play. If you’ve never played the game before, you won’t know how, but if you learn the rules and practice, you’ll be able to play.

Why do I need to sell myself in my interview?

You’ve probably heard that you need to sell yourself in interviews but you might not understand exactly why.

Here's why: an interview is a very short time frame. The interviewer needs to make a decision about you quickly. They’ll know more about your skills and experience if you tell them.

Can’t they just read your resume? Yes, your resume is a document you use for self-promotion. In your interview you need to assume the interviewer hasn’t read your resume (because sometimes this is true) so you will need to tell them your selling points. Even if they have read your resume, they’ll remember things better if they read it and hear it from you.

I’m sure you’ve known someone who got a job that you didn’t think they were qualified for. You may have even seen someone in your office get promoted before someone else who was better for the role. Why does this happen? Sometimes it happens because the person was a good interviewer.

If you don’t sell yourself well, you might lose the job to someone who does, even if you would be better at the job.

Selling yourself isn’t being fake

I’m not saying that you need to go into the interview and do an “elevator pitch” or a sales pitch.

These pitches have a bad reputation because they’re what’s known as the “hard sell,” or being very aggressive with marketing.

That’s not what I mean by marketing yourself. That kind of marketing yourself can be a mistake because you aren’t telling the interviewer what they need to know, just what you think they should know.

That type of marketing is too aggressive for an interview because it’s one way – it’s you talking (and talking). An interview should be two people talking, like in a conversation.

I think it’s possible to market yourself in a natural way. I’ll try to teach you to figure out what your strengths are and communicate them. That’s what I think selling yourself is.

Sell yourself in your interview by focusing on your core messages

You don’t want to go into an interview and tell them everything about yourself. Your interviewer doesn’t need to know every detail.

They don’t need to know about every major deal you’ve closed, every job you’ve had, every certification you have, or every single programming language you know.

In your interview you need to focus.

This is a huge problem for people.

When I ask my clients, “Tell me about your background,” which is an alternative way to ask the common question “Tell me about yourself,” some of them go on and on. I’ve heard answers to this question that were over five minutes long. This is much too long.

No one can listen for this long.

I know you’re thinking that you need to give a lot of info here so the interviewer knows your skills, but the interviewer has a limited attention span.

Stick to giving shorter answers that focus on a few core messages.

Plan your core messages

Core messages are your strengths. They are also known as your key selling points.

They can be your skills, your education or training, your experience, your key accomplishments, soft skills, or your personality traits.

How many core messages should you have?

I think three to five core messages is the best number. If you use more, it may get hard for you to remember and you may confuse your interviewer.

Your core messages should be on your resume already

If you’re not sure what to list as your strengths, look at your resume. If you’ve done your resume correctly, everything you want to list in the interview as your selling points should already be listed there.

If you aren't finding your core messages on your resume, do a brainstorming session. Write down everything you can think of that is one of your strong points and then narrow down the list to the most important.

Check your core messages against the job description

Before you finalize your list, look at the job description right now and see if your core messages, or something related to them, are on the job description. If not, you need to rethink your messages. There is no reason to try to sell your interviewer on your skills if the skills don’t relate to the JD.

But understand the job description first.

Sometimes job descriptions aren’t written very clearly. Have you ever read one that was a page long and realized that it was the same thing written in different ways?

In some cases you might need to translate the JD into simple English before you start building your core messages around it.

I was helping a client with one recently that we both had a hard time understanding. The job was Associate Director of Sales and Operations for the Global Sales and Operations Planning and Optimization product team at Wayfair. He asked me if I could help him go over the JD to make sure he understood it before we started practicing for his interview. And it was so hard to understand I couldn’t believe it (no offence Wayfair, but you need to work on your JDs). In the end the job boiled down to being a liaison between the people who tracked customer demand and the logistics people. But it absolutely did not say that in words that were easy to understand.

Before we could even start practicing answers to questions we had to make sure we understood what the job was so he could target the right things with his core messages.

Examples of core messages

In case you aren’t sure what I mean by core messages, here are some examples I’ve taken from client resumes. I’ve divided them by role.

Digital marketing:

  • Grew community from 2 million to 4.5 million, grew influencer advocate program from zero to 3,000, and drove 100,000+ webinar registrations in 2017

  • Own $4+ million paid advertising budget with Krux DMP segmentation reducing CPA 31% & increasing conversion 54%

  • Transformed conversion rates by 845% in trial software downloads; reduced 2300+ landing pages into 1 dynamic page

Private equity and tech investing:

  • Quadrilingual: fluent in English, French, Polish, and Russian

  • Responsible for 300M€ spread between LP stakes in venture funds, direct equity stakes and a GP, spanning across the US, Europe, Israel and China

  • Wrote blueprint for a pan-European impact investing fund in the tech area

Solutions Architect:

  • Expertise in Cloud and Hybrid technologies

  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect Professional

  • Implementation, support and evolution of the external website for the regional airport authority hosted in Microsoft Azure leveraging IaaS and PaaS technologies

  • Proficient in designing and implementing integration solutions for legacy, Cloud-based and on-premise applications using different integration patterns.

Business Development:

  • At Siemens I led the cross-divisional Smart City initiative, engaging at the CXO level with Smart Dubai and major stakeholders in the Dubai infrastructure space.

  • Business development and key account management of strategic enterprise customers

  • Work with teams to create a strategic plan to grow existing customers or acquire new ones. Formulating pursuit strategies around customer needs and Aricent’s unique propositions.

  • Building and leading cross functional teams that won large transformational deals.

Product Management:

  • Hands-on product management executive with a passion to build products that delight people

  • Big Data platforms, Cloud, analytics, databases, middleware, integration, NoSQL and UI

  • Lead product vision, strategy, and building of next-generation cloud hosting using containers, AWS and Google Cloud

  • PM for large-scale text processing built on custom NoSQL with GraphDB and Lucene indexing with NLP and ML for SNA apps

These are some examples of core messages/selling points that you could use in an interview. They're all good ones, as long as the job description is calling for these qualities.

If you say that you are an expert in “Big Data platforms, Cloud, analytics, databases, middleware, integration, NoSQL and UI” that’s fine as long as the job description mentions at least some of these technologies OR you know that the job requires them.

You absolutely need to target the job description or your knowledge of what the role requires. It can be easy to list your strengths because you’re proud of having certain skills, but maybe the job doesn’t require most of them.

I was just working with a client named Rajan. He was having a problem focusing his core messages. He had a lot of experience, and it ranged across sales, operations, and digital marketing roles, but he was applying for a senior level product management role. He did actually have the right experience, but he had so much other experience that it was hard to understand that he was right for the job. In his case we had to remove a lot of things he wanted to say and really focus the things he should say into a few key points.

Rank your selling points in order of most important to least important

Okay, so remember the example I just gave of some of these technologies?

  • Big Data platforms, Cloud, analytics, databases, middleware, integration, NoSQL and UI

This is a great selling point (as long as you need these in the job), but should you list them first when you’re talking about why they should hire you?

Well, probably yes if the job requires you to be working directly with one or all of these every day. But probably not if you’re applying to be the VP of Product. In the VP role you will need to understand the technology, but it isn’t the most important thing you need for the role. It might not even make your list of top five selling points.

Say the most relevant selling point first in your interview.

Make up general statements or examples for your core messages

You need a general statement and an example for each message.

If your core message is that you’re an expert in Java, that’s your general statement, so you need an example to back it up. Also, show that you are able to use that expertise to deliver results.

You can say “I’m an expert in Java. At my current job, I've written tens of thousands of lines of code for projects that reached a large, enterprise user base. As a result of my expertise, I was asked to lead the Android development team, and we shipped the company's first mobile app in under four months. The app currently has a 4.8-star rating in the Google Play Store, and has helped our company gain marketshare."

If your core message is that you are a “Hands-on product management executive with a passion to build products that delight people” that’s your general statement and you need an example to back it up. Again, try to focus on results. Use numbers to bolster your case.

You can say “We just rolled out a new video player that has five thousand daily active users just two weeks after launch, up from just a few hundred users last month.”

How do you use these selling points?

Once you know your core messages, you need to say them at certain points during the interview. The key is to bring in your core messages as part of your answers to the interview questions.

Which questions can you use your core messages in?

Tell me about yourself.

Tell me about your background.

Walk me through your resume.

What are your strengths?

Why should we hire you?

Why do you want to work at Amazon?

Why do you want this job?

What are the responsibilities of your current job?

And last but not least, in the stories you use to answer behavioral questions

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 I’m happy to say that after working with me, my clients, who range from entry level to executive level, have done well in their interviews and gotten the job they wanted.

If you’d like to work with me to prepare for your interview, email me at jennifer@interviewgenie.com to schedule a free 15 minute consultation or a full interview prep session.

Interview Genie is an American interview prep company specializing in interviews at American companies.

 

How to sound natural in English in your interview

Many clients tell me that they worry about sounding natural in interviews.

It’s common for non-native English speakers to worry about their English — including their grammar, their sentence structure, and also whether they sound comfortable and natural when they speak.

If you’re going to an interview in English, you probably have an intermediate English level or above, but you might still worry about how you’ll sound. 

You might be comfortable with your English in most situations but be more worried about your interview because, as you know, interviews are special situations that require good conversational English.

How to improve your conversational English so you sound natural

Learning English isn’t something you can do over night. Sounding natural in English also takes time.

If you have a solid intermediate level in English, you can begin to work on sounding like native speakers, in other words, sounding “natural.”

Long-term way to sound more natural in English

Work with an English teacher

The best way to learn to sound natural is with an English teacher, because to improve your conversation skills you need to have conversations with someone, preferably someone who can point out your mistakes.

If you’d like to know a good English teacher who specializes in sounding natural and conversational English, let me know and I’ll give you the name of someone I trust.

BUT, if you have an interview soon, you probably don’t have time to work with a teacher.

Short-term tips for sounding more natural in interviews

I assume you’re reading this because you do have an interview soon, so I’m going to give you some tips that you can use in the short term. You can add them to your interview prep.

Don't read your answers in phone interviews

If you have a phone interview, you’re probably excited because you think it will be easier.

You probably made a list of possible questions and wrote answers to them so you can read them aloud.

After all, they can't see you, so why not?

NO!!!

Do not do this. If you read your answers, you'll sound like a robot.

Sounding natural is your goal (actually you need to sound natural, smart, and professional).

So what should you do?

Practice your answers enough so that you don't need to read them. You can use notes, but don't read word for word.

Your interviewer will know when you're reading.

Reading makes your interviewer believe you can’t think on your feet. It makes them think you can’t have a normal conversation without notes.

Don’t memorize your answers

Preparing your answers is good, but sometimes people prepare so much they memorize their answers. This gives the same effect as reading them ­— a robotic tone.

Have you prepared too much?

If you’ve prepared a lot, you may have prepared too much.

Are you Chinese? Are you Asian? Are you Indian?

Over-preparers tend to be Chinese or Indian.

If you’re Chinese or Indian (or Asian), ask someone to listen to your answers so they can give you feedback on whether you sound natural.

In my experience, people who’ve practiced so much they’ve memorized their answers don’t know that they’ve done this.

Ask for feedback, preferably from a native speaker.

Use a conversational tone

When you’re talking to your interviewer you want to sound like you're talking to a friend, not reading out loud — not like a robot.

You will be able to sound more conversational if you don’t read your notes, if you prepare without memorizing your answers, and if you speak conversationally.

What do I mean by speaking conversationally?

Here's an example of the beginning of a response to the question, "Tell me about yourself.”

"I’m from Xiamen, which is in the west of China. I’m a senior at Xiamen University, one of the best engineering schools in China. I’m majoring in Chemical Engineering.”

Okay, now try reading this aloud.

Did you read it with the same emphasis on each word? Most people do.

The problem with that is that all words sound the same. This is called monotone, which means “same tone.”

Listen to yourself when you talk to a friend. You emphasize different words in the sentence, meaning you say some words in a louder voice.

When we’re having a casual conversation we naturally stress some words more.

You either need to learn to read so that you sound natural (for phone interviews), or you need to stop reading and just speak normally, without notes. 

Pretend you’re talking to a friend.

If you’re speaking normally, like you would in a conversation with a friend, you’ll probably emphasize these words:

"I’m from Xiamen, which is in the west of China. I’m a senior at Xiamen University, one of the best engineering schools in China. I’m majoring in Chemical Engineering."

This example sounds natural since some words are emphasized more than others.

Many people who speak in a monotone don’t know they’re doing this.

Ask for feedback from a native speaker.

Copy your interviewer

Listen to how your interviewer is speaking and copy them.

If your interviewer speaks loudly and your voice is quiet, you need to be louder than normal.

If your interviewer speaks very softly and your natural voice is loud, speak more quietly.

If your interviewer speaks slowly and you talk quickly, you need to slow down.

Matching their speed and volume will make them feel more comfortable with you.

Don't talk too much

Some people worry about not having anything to say in an interview. Yes, that can be a problem, but I think a bigger one is talking too much.

Your answers should be about 1 to 2 minutes. Any more and you are boring the interviewer.

If you structure your answer correctly, you can deliver enough information quickly.

I talk more about this in the interview question section.

If you are in sales or a sales-adjacent position, like biz dev, you probably have a tendency to talk more than necessary. I’m not saying this to be rude, I’m saying it to warn you that talking a lot is okay in real life but not so great in interviews.

Don't raise your voice at the end of a sentence

It's common for people to raise their voice at the end of a sentence.

This is normal if you're asking a question.

"Are you hungry?" If you say this correctly the end of "hungry" is in a higher tone than the beginning. This is how we indicate something is a question in English.

However, if you're not asking a question, you don't want to sound like you are.

Imagine this:

"Do you know how to lead a project?"  

"Yes, I've led several projects?"

If you raise your voice on the last word it makes the sentence sound like a question. You don't want to ask a question, you want to make a statement.

This is a common thing with younger people, but I also notice people who are not young doing it as well.

Be positive

I know you might be nervous at an interview and so you might not feel like you're happy or comfortable. However, you have to try to smile, be friendly, show that you're interested in the job, and use positive words when you answer questions.

This applies to phone interviews as well. 

  • Smile

  • Be friendly

  • Be polite

  • Show interest – You know you want the job, but have you told them?

  • Don't be negative – People want to work with or go to school with happy, friendly people, not ones who say negative things about their colleagues and bosses.

Some of these tips only apply to non-native English speakers, but most can help you even if English is your native language. 

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 I’m happy to say that after working with me, my clients, who range from entry level to executive level, have done well in their interviews and gotten the job they wanted.

If you’d like to work with me to prepare for your interview, email me at jennifer@interviewgenie.com to schedule a free 15 minute consultation or a full interview prep session.

Interview Genie is an American interview prep company specializing in interviews at American companies.

Is your polite English good enough for interviews?

There are two different levels of English, informal and formal. Another name for formal English is “polite” English.

How is the topic of polite English related to interviews?

Why you need to use polite language in interviews

Your goal in an interview is to show that you’re the best person for the job.

Using polite language shows your interviewer that you: 

  • Are well educated

  • Have good manners

These two things make your interviewer think that you can:

  • Communicate

  • Negotiate

  • Build relationships with colleagues, partners, and customers

These are what are called “soft skills.”

Sometimes technical people think that they don’t need soft skills. The truth is, even if your job is technical you’ll still need to be able to communicate with your supervisor or colleagues.

Using polite English shows your interviewer that you have good soft skills. 

Test your polite English skills

Here’s an exercise that I use with clients to assess how polite their language is.

Polite English Exercise

The language in these sentences is direct and clear but not very polite/formal. Revise them so that the meaning is the same but the tone of the message is more polite.

1.    “Last month we sent you a form asking if you were interested in our services, but we haven’t heard back from you.”

Write down your politer answer.

Have you written down your answer? Write it down before you go on to the next paragraph.

Did your answer sound like this?

“We have been waiting to receive your response on whether you are interested in our services.”

The tone of this answer is actually more direct than the one in the example. Because it’s more direct, it’s actually less polite.

Here is a politer form of this example:

“We would like to follow up with you regarding our correspondence dated June 25th. We would truly appreciate receiving your reply regarding your interest in our services.

This is definitely politer than the original.

Your answer should sound something like this, although it doesn’t have to use those exact words. There are many ways to get the right level of politeness of English.

I'm not going to teach you polite English here because that's a complex topic, but if you need to learn or improve your polite English there are many resources.

Here are more example questions to test yourself:

2.    “I couldn’t complete your order because you failed to mention which size shirt you wanted.”

Write down a politer version.

This one has the same tone:

“Can you mention which size shirt you want so I can complete your order?”

In order to be polite it needs softening language.

This one is politer:

“I’m afraid I was not able to complete your order due to the lack of information regarding the size shirt.”

But it still isn’t very polite.

Here’s a good answer:

“I’m afraid I couldn’t complete your order. Could you please tell me which size shirt you’d like? Once I get that information, I’ll transmit the order right away. Thank you very much.”

3.    “Because there were more qualified candidates we didn’t keep your application.”

This statement is too honest.

This one uses different words but has the same tone:

“We could not consider your application as we had many qualified candidates.”

The next answer is better:

“Thank you for applying. I’m afraid that at this time we aren’t able to interview you, but we’ll keep you in mind for the future.”

This doesn’t actually say they rejected the application, although it implies it. If you don't say the bad news directly, it's more polite.

4.    “We’re sorry that we have no more rooms available for Labor Day weekend.”

This version is much politer:

“We regret to inform you that we are fully booked for the Labor Day weekend and we cannot accommodate you during this time frame. We apologize for the inconvenience caused and hope to see you soon.”

5.    “The only reason you don’t do well at your job is because you don’t work hard enough.”

Ouch, too direct!

This is also too direct:

“You need to put more effort in and bring out your A game!”

This is also too direct:

If you work hard enough, you will do well in your job.

Remember, we’re trying to use formal English, which means you’re talking to someone who is not your friend but more likely a colleague or an employee.

This is better:

“I’m sorry you’re not doing well at your job. Do you have any idea why? Do you think you might not be working hard enough?”

This is still a difficult subject to talk about. The most polite thing to do is to not discuss it at all, but you may need to discuss something like this at work. If you need to have the discussion this is a better way to phrase it.

6.    “It’s a very important meeting. I want to make a good impression with the client. Try not to say anything wrong like you did at the last meeting.”

Too direct! Being this direct makes you sound mean and insulting.

This is better:

“The upcoming meeting is going to be very important for us and we need to make a positive impression with the client. We should review our talking points before the meeting to make sure we’re all on the same page.”

7.    “Your department is doing a terrible job with sales. Can’t you get more customers?”

This statement is too direct. It needs to be softened.

This one is better:

“The sales results from your department weren’t good last quarter, as I’m sure you’re aware. Have you given any thought to ways you can get more customers?“

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This was a short test to see how polite your English is. If you're going to an interview, you need to make sure you can use the polite version of the language.  

If you failed the test, you should review your polite English. If you aren't sure how you did, can email me your answers and I can let you know. 

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Let's work together preparing for your interview so you get the job of your choice.

 I’m happy to say that after working with me, my clients, who range from entry level to executive level, have done well in their interviews and gotten the job they wanted.

If you’d like to work with me to prepare for your interview, email me at jennifer@interviewgenie.com to schedule a free 15 minute consultation or a full interview prep session.

Interview Genie is an American interview prep company specializing in interviews at American companies.