Getting a job at Amazon is not easy. I know this because I am a career coach for technical and business professionals who want jobs at Amazon. Before they came to me for coaching, my clients worked hard preparing for technical interview questions, learning Amazon leadership principles, and networking from within. However, despite all their efforts, they still got rejected. Why? Here are 5 common pitfalls.
Making a career transition into Amazon
It’s very difficult to switch into a new role and company at the same time. Say you are a software developer at your company. You are tired of coding and looking to get out of engineering. You feel Amazon’s brand name could add prestige to your resume. You decide to apply for the Technical Program Manager (TPM) position at Amazon. But do you have any TPM experience? While you may have strong technical skills, the TPM role also requires project management, requirement writing, and interpersonal skills. Point being, if you want to move away from software development and into TPM, you need to get the experience first. The best method is to get the experience with your current employer first and then make the lateral move to a new company. This will make the transition into Amazon easier.
Having too little technical experience
One of my clients was a project manager in his current role and he had light technical skills. However, he was unsatisfied with his job because it lacked the technical growth that he was looking for. He wanted to switch jobs that required more technical work. So he applied to the Amazon Technical Project Manager (TPM) position.
Amazon requires TPMs to pass the Software Development Engineer 1 (SDE 1) bar. This means you need to be able to answer basic, college level data structure and algorithm questions. Before he came to me, my client was not prepared for this level of technical ability and he was quickly rejected from the interview process. I worked with the client on a three things:
- Custom-designed 3-month technical skill boot camp to help address the technical skill deficiency.
- Re-worked client’s overall application strategy, positioning and then identified specific Amazon job openings for him to apply.
- Conducted mock interviews to prepare clients for phone and onsite interviews.
With a much more targeted, strategic and holistic approach, this client was able to land a job at Amazon six months after his initial rejection.
The key lesson here is to make sure you have leveled-up your skills before applying to a more advanced job.
Not answering Amazon Leadership Principles questions well.
Another problem area I hear from my clients is not being able to answer questions about Amazon Leadership Principles.
Candidates assume they must “memorize” this list as if they will be quizzed on it.
However, the effective thing to do here is connect these principles into your answers about your character, leadership and communication skills.
For example, one client who came to me had failed multiple amazon interviews. I asked her a few Amazon Leadership Principles questions to assess her interview skills. For every question, she was trying to guess which leadership principles I was assessing, and she purposely included these principles in her answer. The answers sounded very mechanical and boring. We worked on her story telling and narratives. We went through her entire work history, identified compelling stories that tied well to Amazon Leadership Principles, wrote down the answers, and practiced in mock interview sessions. The result was much more compelling, coherent story telling that demonstrated her characters and leadership in the context of Amazon Leadership Principles. She is now happily working for Amazon.
Lack of structured, clear communication.
Amazon interviewers need to be able to follow your story and answers. Unfortunately, many job applicants have the “stream of consciousness” communication style. It’s a massive download of what they have in their minds. It’s really hard for anyone to follow. Candidates keep talking without pausing and reading the other person’s reaction. You need to adopt a more structured communication style. State your key points upfront and then provide examples. Use words such as “firstly, secondly, thirdly, my conclusions, what I learned, etc.” to structure your answer. If you are not used to talking in a structured way, you should consider writing down your answers and have mock-up interview practices. Your communication style can make or break your interview
Don’t understand Amazon’s products and services from an end user perspective.
Most applicants get these kinds of basic questions:
“What is your favorite Amazon feature?”
“How would you improve such Amazon feature?”
But they don’t do enough homework to answer them well. A core tenet of Amazon is to start with the customer and work backwards to a solution. Customer obsession is a critical part of amazon culture. You must demonstrate your customer focus. To answer these questions, you should really think through your own experience of using various Amazon products and services. Which one is your favorite? Why do you like it so much? What makes it different from other competing products/services in the market? You need to come up with your unique insights that demonstrate your critical thinking and customer focus. Answers like “I like Amazon search because I can find all of the products I want” is not a good answer. It’s too generic and offer little insights into your thought process.
Key takeaway: Understand the Amazon customer. Everything starts there.
To get hired by Amazon, you need to be prepared by avoiding these common 5 pitfalls.