Guide to the Amazon PM Interview

Product Managers are geniuses who determine what to build, how to build it, how to market it, and eventually how to sell it. Needless to say, the role of a Product Manager is at the core of the development team for any company, especially tech companies. Accounting for today’s 49% of US e-commerce, Amazon is without a doubt a dream company for product managers. It offers the ultimate brand recognition, worldwide reach and one of the best learning curves in the industry. Keeping up with its exuberance, Amazon hires approximately 800 to 1000 PMs across various offices each year. If you’re an aspiring Product Manager, preparing for an interview at Amazon is one of the most thrilling and challenging things you’ll ever experience!

Amazon’s Approach

Any aspiring product manager must be thorough with two of Amazon’s unique approaches – Customer Obsession and Working Backwards

Customer Obsession

Amazon’s success can be credited to a variety of factors. But Jeff Bezos insists that Customer Obsession tops the list. He says ‘To be Earth’s most customer-centric company is Amazon’s purpose’. Customer obsession goes much beyond competitor obsession and requires you to provide great experiences every day. It demands you to be pioneers. In order to be customer-centric in each aspect, all the departments of the company must be customer-obsessed and in Amazon, the ripple flows from the top down. To sum it up, customer engagement and employee engagement are two priorities of any customer-obsessed brand.

Working Backwards

Another aspect that sets Amazon apart from the others is its ‘Working Backwards’ approach. Before building any product/feature, the product manager writes an internal press release announcing a finished product. The press release is written keeping in mind the end customer, highlighting the current problems and how the new solutions address them. Jeff Bezos believes that a mock press release of this nature is a litmus test that provides utmost clarity on whether or not something is worth building. If enough people don’t find it exciting, the press release is revised or the product is strategized altogether.

The Interview Process

Amazon hires Product Managers in two different roles – Product Managers (PMs) and Product Managers-Technical. PMTs come from technical backgrounds like computer science or engineering and work on the AWS services whereas PMs work across several verticals and have a diverse working experience. Besides a few technical questions, the hiring process for both roles are the same with four primary steps:

  • Screening:  In this stage, a recruiter might get in touch with you for a basic straightforward conversation on your background and previous experience. This step is essentially arranged to figure out whether you’re a good fit for the role or not. 
  • Telephonic Interview: This is an hour long conversation with either the hiring manager or an existing product manager. Do an in-depth research on the role as you might be asked to elaborate your understanding of the same in this round. In the second half of the call, you’ll be asked questions on Amazon’s 14 leadership principles. Make sure you’re ready to answer them.
  • Face-to-Face Interview: During the on-site round, you’ll be interviewing with multiple Amazon employees including product managers, technical program managers, software development managers, etc. There will be a total of 5 rounds, each lasting an hour and holding equal value. A typical schedule looks somewhat like – 

10 AM to 12 PM – Two interviews

12 PM to 1 PM – Lunch 

1 PM to 4 PM – Three interviews

  • Offer: The hard part is over. If your interview went well, you’ll receive a call within 24 hours of your on-site interview for a discussion on compensation. Amazon’s packages usually contain a mix of base salary, joining bonus, as well as stocks.

Questions to Prepare for

PM interviews at Amazon involve a wide variety of questions ranging from behavioral questions to strategy among others. The behavioral questions mostly revolve around their leadership principles, barring a few basic ones. A few examples:

  • Why Amazon? Why become a PM?
  • Tell me about a time when you declined a customer requirement.
  • Tell me about a time when you developed something for a customer that they did not ask for.
  • Tell me about a time when you worked on a project outside of your scope.
  • Tell me about a time when you gave a simple solution to a complex problem.
  • Tell me about a time where you made a decision without having complete information.
  • Tell me about a time when one of your team members had difficulty doing a project. What did you do?
  • Tell me about a time when you raised the bar
  • Tell me about a skill you recently learned. How did you learn it?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to make a bold and difficult decision

It is fairly evident that all of their questions are based on their leadership principles and are focused on initiative, innovation and going the extra mile. It’s a reflection of what they stand for.

Each interviewer is allotted two principles on which they evaluate you. The major part of the hiring decision is based on your answers on the leadership principles. After your on-site interview, all of your interviewers debrief together and discuss their takeaways. All of the leadership principles are equally important. 

If you’re new at this, start with understanding what is product management and what is the pathway to break into the field. After completing these elementary steps, you can begin your prep for being the next Amazon PM! 

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