Good and bad answers to the interview question, "Why do you want to work at Amazon?"

When I'm preparing clients for their interviews I usually run them through basic interview questions first, and one of these is "Why do you want to work here?" 

Pretty standard question, right?  Yes, but you'd be surprised at how many people don't have a good answer. 

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"Tell me about yourself" is the most common question asked in interviews, and "Why do you want to work here?" is a close second.

Example answers to "Why do you want to work at Amazon?"

Here's a few answers that I've made comments on so you can see why the answers are good or bad.

A Finance Manager's Answer:

"Amazon is one of the leading global online retailing companies with 136 bn USD Net Sales and is 12th on the Fortune 500. In the past four years its doubled its sales. Such a fast growing company and a pioneer in the internet retail sector is a place I’d like to work."

Good points: 

  • Numbers: 136 billion, 12th, 4 years (numbers are good for everyone to include)
  • Money: $136 billion (good for a finance person to talk about)
  • Awareness of company's market position

Bad points: 

  • A bit short
  • Needs more specifics about why he wants to work there. For example, how could it help his career? How specifically could he contribute to this fast-growing company? And I don't want to hear "This would be a great opportunity for me" or "Amazon is such a great company if I work there it would really help me." I want specifics. 

Here's an improved version:

"Amazon is one of the leading global online retailing companies with 136 bn USD Net Sales and is 12th on the Fortune 500. In the past four years its doubled its sales. It's such a fast growing company and a pioneer in the internet retail sector, so it's a place I’d like to work because I know I'd have a chance to [do something related to your job - pick the most challenging part of your job and something that you know you will have to do in the new job and say that]." 

Tip: There is no right answer to this question, but avoid general statements like "this is a great company." If you want to say you like it, that's okay, but say why. And don't just say because it's "innovative" or "disrupting" everything. Everyone I work with uses those two words in their first attempt. Don't say the same thing as all of the other candidates. Trust me, they already know they're innovative and disruptive. 

An Engineer's Answer:

"My current job is great, but I think that I can increase a lot my skills working at Amazon by sharing ideas with other talented engineers and solving challenges in a bigger scale. Also, I always wanted to extend my Master degree research project regarding home automation, smart meters and Big Data, and I think that the Alexa Division at Amazon can give me an only opportunity to exploit these topics and even helping Amazon to open a new business opportunity."

Good points:

  • Very very specific. This answer is better at the start than the previous answer because he is so specific about the home automation thing. 
  • Sells himself. He talks about how he did this research project on a cool topic, which is a good way to use this answer to bring up something he wants the interviewer to focus on (his research experience). 

Bad points:

  • Weird English. It's not terrible, but it's a bit off and so it distracts me. 
  • It's all about him. "I think I can increase my skills" - "my research project" - "can give me an opportunity." Do you really think they care what they can give you? No. They want to know what you can give them. He does include that this can help Amazon exploit a new business opportunity, but he adds this last. 
  • How does the Alexa division relate to his research project? He needs to spell this out. It may not be obvious to a recruiter or HR manager why Alexa relates to home automation and smart data. Many technical people think that everyone understands their projects, but in general only the other technical people do, and recruiters and HR people (probably your first couple of interviewers) may not.

Improved version:

"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 [it would be better to be even more specific here and say what niche exactly in home automation it would fill]. Since the Alexa division is working on home automation, I can extend my Master's research project regarding home automation, smart meters and Big Data. [Again, it would be better to be more specific and say what idea you have in this area.]

A Sales Manager's Answer:

"Amazon is the most customer-centric and innovative company in the world and I want to be part of the movement that is Amazon."

You can use an answer this short if you have a stellar resume and a hugely charismatic personality. Otherwise, I would put a bit more effort into it. 

I would never even attempt to use this, but it worked for him (no, I'm not even kidding, he did get the job, but he had a really strong personality and could say this without it seeming like a joke).      

A Senior Product Manager's Answer:

"I want to work for Amazon for several reasons: 1. The most important reason I want to work for Amazon is for the kind of impact I can create. Amazon has disrupted every industry it has set its foot in, from the way we shop, Amazon prime, the way we buy grocery and fresh produce, Amazon fresh, to cloud computing – AWS. 2. Also, I've spent a decade in consumer goods industry working in leadership roles in sales and marketing so I can see that Amazon is in a very interesting space at the intersection of speed and reach. The possibilities are huge. 3. It was during my time in a FMCG organization that I developed passion and curiosity to learn and understand consumer behavior and creating marketing strategies to delight customers. It is really about putting yourself in the shoes of the consumer to win their trust and confidence. 4. At work I enjoy diving deep and staying connected to details. And from what I have learned Amazon is a very data driven company. 5. Versatility has been a hallmark of my career. I excel at immersing myself in new industries and applying that knowledge to deliver above average results."

Good points:

  • Good content
  • Clear structure. I love it when people have a few points and then number them. Although I hate it when they say, "First, I'd like to talk about..." but then never say "Next, I'd like to talk about...." If you have a "first" you have to have a "second" or a "next."

Bad points:

  • Too long - it took me 1 minute 15 seconds to read this, which is not necessarily too long for an answer, but it is too long for the answer to one of the basic questions like this one. If you're answering a behavioral question and have to tell a story, it's fine to go over 1 minute.
  • Not focused enough/too many ideas. I like all of these ideas individually, but when said all together they make me lose my focus. What am I supposed to focus on? 
  • If you're applying for a PM role, you need to talk about making products or selling products. Use the actual words "product" or "selling products" or "marketing strategy for products." Don't assume everyone will know that when you talk about your experience in sales it can translate to "selling products." I know this may seem like it is so obvious that you shouldn't need to say it, but interviewers like to hear words they are looking for. In a PM interview, they want to hear about "products."

Improved version:

"I want to work for Amazon for 3 reasons. 1. The most important reason I want to work for Amazon is that the possibilities for creating products that have a huge impact are great. I've spent a decade in the consumer goods industry working in leadership roles in sales and marketing so I can see that Amazon is in a very interesting space at the intersection of speed and reach and so whatever products they sell are going to have a good chance of succeeding. 2. At work I enjoy diving deep and staying connected to details, and from what I have learned Amazon is a very data driven company so I could use data if I worked there. 3. It was during my time in a FMCG organization that I developed passion and curiosity to learn and understand consumer behavior and creating marketing strategies to delight customers. It is really about putting yourself in the shoes of the consumer to win their trust and confidence and I would have a chance to do that on a broad scale at Amazon."

A VP of Product's Answer:

"Amazon is the most exciting and dynamic company in the world now in my opinion. It always puts the customer first and isn't afraid to take risks and innovate. It seems like they're really blue sky thinkers, so nothing is off limits, and I want to work in an atmosphere like that."

I like this answer. It seems like it might be too short, but it actually isn't if it comes from a great communicator who can say this confidently. The person who used this answer has a confident demeanor, a calm personality, and excellent experience and education and so doesn't need to do a lot of selling himself in his answers. 

If you'd like more ideas about how to prepare for your Amazon interview, read these:

How to answer leadership principle questions in an Amazon interview — general overview

How to use the STAR method to answer behavioral questions

How to answer Amazon behavioral questions

From senior VP to entry-level programmer candidates, my clients have nailed the interview and landed the job at Amazon. Let's work together preparing for your interview and take your career to the next level. Email me at jennifer@interviewgenie.com to schedule a consultation.

Interview Genie is an interview prep company. I specialize in coaching non-native English speakers.