January 6th, 2017 by lewis
This article describes what interview questions to expect at the Amazon vendor manager interview including sample questions. You’ll find the corresponding sample answers in my new book: Case Interview Questions for Tech Companies.
Introduction to the Amazon Vendor Manager Interview
There are nine different categories of questions at the Amazon vendor manager interview:
- Inventory management
- Demand forecasting
- Strategy / new market entry
- Vendor management
- Phone screen
There are also may be Amazon product line specific questions, especially if you’re interviewing as a vendor manager for Amazon Fresh, Prime, or Prime Now.
The questions below are equally likely at the onsite interview along with phone interviews, especially if the phone interview is with the hiring manager or a member of the team (not a recruiter).
Inventory management interview questions
As a vendor manager, careful inventory management is a critical responsibility. Have too much cash tied up in inventory means you can’t reallocate that cash to profit-generating activities. Have the wrong inventory means customer satisfaction issues and not fulfilling the promise of being the world’s largest store on Earth.
Expect interviewers to ask you a variety of inventory management interview questions to demonstrate your ability to manage a lean, optimal inventory operation to maximize profits.
- Amazon’s pick and pack operation has the following throughput. Pick: 7 orders per 10 minutes. Pack: 11 orders per 10 minutes. What’s the utilization of the pack station? Sample answer on 172.
- During the holiday season, Amazon customers shipped 200 orders per second. Amazon’s data science team discovered that the average number of orders waiting to be shipped was 20,650. How long did the average Amazon order wait to be shipped? Sample answer on 173.
- You have two options to receive and stow a product: option A and B. After I give you the details, which one would you choose and why? Would you answer change if you had a different target goal? Why? How about if I told you we needed to produce the maximum number of units possible? Sample answer on 174.
- Something breaks in the project at the last minute, and it is from a supplier. How will you solve it? Sample answer on 176.
- How would you solve supply constraints and expand the supplier base in the face of an imminent product release? Sample answer on 178.
- I’ll give you revenue, COGS, and inventory information. What are the annual inventory turns? And what is the average inventory? Sample answer on 230.
Pricing interview questions
As the vendor manager, you’re responsible for reporting and consequently managing your business. During those dreaded Wednesday weekly reporting meetings, Amazon execs will ask ask what you can do to increase profitability of your business. Pricing is one of the most important levers for profitability.
Hence, expect interviewers to ask you questions about pricing existing products and new products. They expect you to make pricing recommendations by maniupating data and in the face of uncertainty.
- How would you reprice Amazon Prime if your goal was to increase profitability? Sample answer on page 50.
Forecasting interview questions
Good vendor managers accurately forecast demand. Inaccurate forecasts from bad vendor managers have consequences. Insufficient inventory & shipping capacity means Amazon loses profit with stockouts. Excess inventory & shipping capacity leads to the same result, Amazon profit loss, but for different reasons: profit loss is due to unnecessary salvage waste, warehousing costs, and opportunity costs.
- How many lotion bottles are produced in the US each year? Sample answer on page 33.
- How many printers are sold each year? Sample answer on 37.
Strategy and new market entry interview questions
Vendor managers own the P&L. As a P&L business owner, they need to think strategically. Strategic issues include competitive moves, new markets, and geographic expansion. A good strategic answer appeals to Amazon’s leadership principles of:
- Thinking big
- Have a backbone
- Dive deep
- Are Right, A Lot
- Tell me about a competitor’s move in the past six months. What do you think about it? Sample answer on 129.
- If you could start a company with $1,000,000 right now, what would it be? Why? Sample answer on 134.
- If you could open an Amazon store anywhere, where would it be and why? Similar question and sample answer on 140.
- What markets or categories should Amazon launch and why? Similar question and sample answer on 141.
- What would you do to bring product X to the global marketplace? Sample answer on 205.
Hypothetical interview questions
A variation on behavioral interview questions, Amazonians like to also ask hypothetical interview questions, especially as they relate to their Amazon Leadership Principles.
Interview tip: answer the hypothetical question with an answer that describes your hypothetical approach. From there, back it up with a real-life example of when you used the hypothetical approach. To create satisfying stories, use my Amazon stories template for Amazon leadership principles interview questions.
- How do you deal with defeat? Sample answer on 135.
- Could you deal with complex problems? Sample answer on 137.
- Let’s say you don’t have all the information you need. What would you make a decision? Sample answer on 182.
Off-the-wall interview questions
Jeff Bezos is a quirky guy, but that’s not why Amazonians ask off-the-wall interview questions like “What is your superpower?” Instead, Amazon interviewers ask off-the-wall questions because they want to see how you deal with ambiguity. And those feared bar raisers in your interview loop, some believe off-the-wall questions are a great way to see if you exceed the bar. Their reasoning: most candidates don’t prepare for off-the-wall questions.
Be warned: the punishment may be self-inflicted! Amazonians have been known spot, on a candidate’s resume, a foreign or programming language skill. From there, the interviewer then tests your Java programming skills or Chinese language skills. Java and Chinese might not be related to your job, but in their mind, it’s a great interview question to see how you react to ambiguity!
- What is your superpower? Sample answer on 133.
KPI interview questions
As the P&L owner, Amazon vendor managers must track key performance indicators or KPIs. While it may seem like the more metrics the better, more often than not, too many metrics can be overwhelming.
- What top metrics would you track for the Amazon Seller Marketplace? Sample answer on 110.
Vendor management interview questions
This one shouldn’t be unexpected. As a vendor manager, you’ve got to work with suppliers. Also known as vendors, these suppliers might not always easy to work with or align to Amazon’s goals. These questions test how you would influence or convince vendors to do what you want.
- A lighting company CEO has a long tradition of working with showrooms and physical distributors, what do we say about their perception that Amazon poses a threat to their business? Sample answer on 139.
- Let’s say a supplier does not answer your calls or reply to your emails. What will you do? Sample answer on 180.
- How would you convince a vendor to sell on Amazon? Similar question and answer on 195.
- What would you do to increase vendors who sell on Amazon to expand selection? Similar question and answer on 199.
- If operating margin decreased from a year before, name some reasons why this could be happening. Sample answer on 227.
- What would you say to a vendor who does not want to sell on Amazon anymore? Similar question and sample answer on 232.
Amazon Fresh interview questions for vendor manager
Product design questions might seem appropriate only for product managers.
However, vendor managers, as P&L owners, should have a point of view on all aspects on the business. After all, the product experience can affect sales. Refer to CIRCLES Method™ Product Design Framework to provide a complete and satisfying response.
- What features would you suggest for a grocery app? Sample answer on 68.
Interview questions for vendor manager on Amazon Prime or Prime Now
Similarly, certain businesses may have to think more deeply about customer acquisition. In your mind, when you think of customer acquisition, you should immediately think of the Big Picture marketing framework covered in Rise Above the Noise.
- The sales team’s goal is to achieve $5M in new revenue each quarter. What’s the one metric we should focus on? Sample answer on 114.
- How would you advertise to entice Amazon members to upgrade to Prime? Sample answer on 197.
Phone screen interview questions
These interview questions are more likely during the phone screen rounds, especially with the interviewer is the recruiter. They’re less specific to the business and product domain. Here, the recruiter is trying to assess cultural fit. That is, what are your internal motivations and passions? Do you align with Amazon’s 14 Leadership Principles? Are you likely to stay with Amazon for the long-term?
These phone screen interview questions may seem easy, but you’ll be surprised how many candidates have trouble crisply answering these questions. To get crisp, use my template for Amazon behavioral interview questions.
- You have 5 minutes to tell me why I should hire you over the other candidates. Sample answer on 248.
- Why do you want to join the company? Sample answer on 251.
- What is an example of a time you failed? Sample answer on 257.
- Tell me about a time when you used data to solve a complex problem. Sample answer on 259.
- Tell me about the last time you used data to inform your decision making. How did you acquire the data? If you had to make that decision again, what would you do differently? What data would you like instead? Sample answer on 261.
- Tell me about a time when you made all the decisions for a project or task. Sample answer on 266.
- Tell me a time when you demonstrated a bias for action. Sample answer on 268.