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.

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.

 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 interview prep company.

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 interview prep company.

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 senior VP 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 interview prep company.

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 senior VP 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 consultation or an interview prep session.

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

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?

Interview thank you template.png

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.

I’m happy to say that my clients, who range from senior VP level to entry level, have done well in their interviews and gotten the job they wanted. If you’d like to work together on your interview prep, email me at jennifer@interviewgenie.com to schedule a free consultation or a paid interview prep session.

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

 

 

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.

Questions to ask in interviews.png

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?

From senior VP to entry-level candidates, my clients have nailed the interview and landed the job. Let's work together preparing for your interview and improve your career. 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.