How to Prepare for the Amazon Product Manager Interview
September 6th, 2013 by lewisTweet
If you have an upcoming Amazon product manager (PM) interview, this post discusses the interview process and how you can best prepare. We also have an Amazon PM interview class video that reviews actual Amazon PM questions and provide sample answers.
What to Expect
Interviewers will probe for the following areas:
- Negotiation & ability to influence others. Amazon PMs can take a position, convince others, and drive team action. All Amazon employees challenge others and themselves, even when it may feel awkward. During the interview, the interview may intentionally take the opposite side (aka devil’s advocate) to test your reaction. Expect questions like:
- Amazon recently launched Display Advertisements on its web page, and it was a highly controversial decision within Amazon. Pick either the pro or con side of the argument and explain your position of including ads on the site.
- Assume you are the new Product Manager in our Amazon Prime business and are in charge of new Feature Development. What data would you look at to develop to new features? What new features would they be?
- Dive deep, are right a lot, and think big. Amazon PMs have superior business instincts. PMs can (and love) getting into the details. They can paint a compelling vision and articulate clearly how to achieve it. Sample questions include:
- How would you price the Kindle Fire HD?
- Assume you are the new Product Manager in our Amazon Prime business and are in charge of Pricing. The VP would like to lower the price from $79.99 per year to $69.99 per year. Making your own assumptions, develop the financial projections of this decision.
- Start a new category, division, or international market for Amazon. Which one did you choose and why?
- Deliver results. Amazon PMs focus on the right issues. No obstacle is too large for PMs to hurdle. PMs always deliver. Expect behavioral interview questions such as Give me an example of a situation where you had to overcome major obstacles to achieve your objectives.
- Innovate & simplify. Amazon PMs are resolute in improving products and processes. They are highly aware of new trends & new opportunities. Expect questions such as Tell me about the last time you had an idea to improve the way things work. Was this idea implemented? Why or why not?
- Cultural fit. Amazon PMs (and employees) are known for focusing on the customer, taking initiative, and having a backbone. Having a backbone means having courage to stand up for what’s right and your personal point of view. Anticipate cultural fit questions such as:
- Choose a company that you believe provides a world-class customer experience. What do they do well?
- Explain to me a time where you disagreed with the decision of a manager or higher ranked individual, how did this play out, and what was the final decision?
- Communication. Amazon PMs can communicate issues concisely and crisply, while influencing others to their point of view. Amazon has a strong writing culture: Jeff Bezos believes that when people write complete sentences and paragraphs it forces clarity. Amazon staff meetings usually do not have Powerpoint slides. Instead, the meeting owner is asked to prepare a memo that everyone reads in silence at the beginning of the meeting. Don’t be surprised if you are asked to provide a writing sample as part of the interview process. Expect interview questions such as Describe a situation in which you communicated a very complicated situation to a group of people that were completely unfamiliar with the topic. What approach did you take?
There are two more things that distinguish the Amazon interview from other companies.
First, your interview loop will have a “bar raiser.” Bar raisers are easy to spot during your interview loop; they are completely unrelated to the job position you’re interviewing for. Their role is to “raise the bar” at Amazon. That is, weed out interview candidates that are below average, when compared to a comparable Amazon employee. If they identify a candidate that is below average, they can veto a candidate’s hiring, even when the hiring manager likes the candidate.
Second, Amazon interviewers probe deeply. At most interviews, if you say, “I improved product performance by 25%” they won’t question it. At Amazon, the interviewer responds by thinking: perhaps the person was just a participant and understands very little about the topic. To test their hypothesis, the Amazon interviewer will dig for more details: who was involved, what was your role, what did you do, how did you do it, and why did you do it? The interviewer will distinguish whether you were the leader vs. participant, good vs. great performance, and whether you were involved in the entire project or just a portion of it. For many candidates, it feels uncomfortable to receive such detailed follow-up questions because it involves recalling details that the candidate may have forgotten.
What Not To Expect at the Interview
Unlike Google PM interviews, Amazon PM interviews are less likely to focus on product design. But you shouldn’t be surprised if you get a question such as How would you improve the Amazon website? or How would you drive more people to write Amazon reviews?
Amazon PM interviews almost never ask programming interview questions, so no need to prepare for those.
To Prepare For The Interview
To prepare for the interview, spend an hour on warm up questions such as Why Amazon? and Tell Me About Yourself. Spend about 4-6 hours developing stories for the drill down questions they’d ask about your previous work experience. Lastly, spend 10-12 hours preparing for hypothetical questions. This may include specific business problems that Amazon is encountering including pricing, supplier relationships, new market entry, and online customer experience.
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