Repeat Amazon Interview Question and Answer?

published on 16 September 2021

Candidates regularly ask if they can expect a repeat Amazon interview question and answer different questions with the same example.

We’ll start with can you expect repeat Amazon interview question and answer different questions with the same example will come later.

Can you expect a repeat Amazon interview question?

No. Each interviewer should be assigned 2 completely unique Leadership Principles to test you. However there are 2 instances where repeats can or can seem to occur.

1) Across rounds

Leadership Principles can be repeated across rounds. This usually happens at the final round. Critical Leadership Principles for the role are normally tested in early rounds and because they are so critical, tested again at final round. Each interviewer is meant to read the notes from the prior interviews so they don’t ask exactly the same question and can gather new data. But sometimes they don’t do that.

2) Across interviews at final round

It’s virtually impossible for this to actually happen although often candidates seem to think it has happened. That’s because a couple of the Amazon Leadership Principles  are similar.

Bias For Action and Are Right A Lot each have facets of them that are similar to the other. One of the Bias For Action facets is decision making with incomplete data. Once of the facets of Are Right A Lot is decision making with no data. Questions for these two Leadership Principles can sound very similar

“Tell me about a time you had to make a decision but you didn’t have quite enough data to decide on the right course of action. What were your next steps and how did you decide what the right course of action was?- Bias For Action

“Tell me about a time when you had to make a decision extremely quickly and you had no time to gather any data to help you. How did you make the decision?- Are Right A Lot

To me they are clearly different. To someone who hasn’t lived the Leadership Principles for many years, not so much!

Can you repeat the same example for different questions?

The short answer is avoid it if you possibly can. The long answer is more nuanced and it’s all to do with the nature of the Amazon interview versus other interviews you’ll have with other employers

At most other interviews your interviewer will be asking you questions and all the while as they’re listening to your answer, their brain will be consciously or sub-consciously asking itself

“Does this candidate have the right skills for the job?”

“Will this candidate fit in with our business?”

“Is the candidate going to enjoy the work?”

“Is this candidate interested in our company for good reasons?”

And so on

They will be both listening and judging as you speak.

An Amazon interview is different it’s purpose is exclusively to gather evidence.Jeff Bezos believes and has made it an Amazon philosophy, that the best indicator of what you will do in the future, is what you have done in the past. So your Amazon interviewer is specifically looking for evidence of behaviours that are reflective of the 14 Amazon Leadership Principles.

That’s because at the end of all of the interviewing, they will need to decide if you 1) are better than 50% of the population currently at that level in Amazon and 2) if you have long term Amazon career growth potential.

So, the more evidence you can offer the more chance you have of showing that you meet these 2 criteria.

The Lawyer Analogy

A good analogy is to imagine you’re a lawyer arguing a case in court (a barrister if you’re in UK).

As a lawyer you’d bring as many different witnesses and pieces of evidence you could find, in order to make your case seem as compelling as possible. Bring the same witness back to the stand, to say more or less the same thing over and over, and no matter how compelling they are as a witness, it’s a very limited point of view.

However, if you bring many different witnesses to the stand, all providing clear and supportive testimony, it becomes a much more compelling case.

The same goes with your examples.

The more variety of evidence you have in response to the Amazon interiew questions showing how strong, repeatedly, and consistently you perform- the more compelling the case becomes.

Remember their philosophy is that this is evidence that proves how you will perform in the future. So a wide range of strong examples from the past, tells them you will deliver a wide range of strong achievements in the future.

If you offer a limited range of evidence from the past, even if they’re amazing, they may well conclude, although you have moments of glory- it’s not the consistent strong performance Amazon wants.

So, you can see why not repeating your example to the behavioural questions, you’ll be asked relating to the Amazon Leadership Principles, is a good thing.

What If You Can’t Avoid Repeating?

​It’s not always possible to avoid repeating examples because if you’ve made it all the way through to the final round, you’ll have had to answer many many questions already.

It’s genuinely difficult to come up with that many high bar answers for most people. Especially if you are only going to pull from recent history. This is especially true if you are applying for a junior position and don’t have a significant career history to pull from.

​So, if you can’t avoid repeating an example, it’s important that you don’t repeat it for the same Amazon Leadership Principle. For example if you’re asked two questions about Customer Obsession. This includes questions across different rounds.

Aim to only repeat an example, when you are answering a behavioural question, about a different Amazon Leadership Principle. And when you do, make sure you reshape the narrative so that only the fundamental “Situation” is the same.

How Many Times Can I Repeat?
There’s no fixed rule here, but when I was Bar Raising I felt:

2 repeats for an L6 and above was fine, 3 upwards started to worry me.

2-4 for L5 was fine 5 upwards started to worry me.

3-5 for L4 was fine 6 upwards started to worry me.

That’s because the more senior you are, the more career history you should be able to pull from, for strong answers.

Now you know if you can expect repeat Amazon interview question and answer different questions with the same example.

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