Amazon 16 Leadership Principles Guide by JobTestPrep

Amazon Leadership Principles Explained


For each of the Amazon leadership principles we will first read the original as it appears on the official Amazon website, then interpret what it means, and finally go over some tips on how to prepare for your interview. For some Amazon leadership principles (such as Bias for Action and Think Big), we will examine questions which you could encounter when interviewing at Amazon and see what they say about you.  


Customer Obsession – Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.”

In customer obsession Amazon mean putting the customer at the forefront of pretty much everything they do. It is even said that Jeff Bezos brings an empty chair into board meetings, reserved for the customer, to remind the room who they should be thinking of above all else. The reason behind Amazon’s Customer Obsession is that it is integral to the company’s continuous growth – in a nutshell, loyal Amazon customers attract others who then become loyal customers themselves, which creates a virtuous cycle Amazon grows through. Customer Obsession also means that Amazon leaders never rest and are always raising the bar, constantly thinking what they can do to satisfy the customer’s ever-growing needs.

Before your Amazon interview, spend some time thinking about your experiences with customers, both good and bad. What strategies have you used to attract customers, and then to make sure they remain satisfied? When did you fail to satisfy a customer’s needs, and how did you correct the situation? What did you learn from this? Do your best to show your interviewer that you have the customer obsession Amazon is looking for.


Amazon leadership principles interview sample question - Customer Obsession

"Tell me about an occasion when you used customer input to enhance or innovate your organization. "

Before your Amazon interview, be sure to enter the customer obsession mindset. The main thing you should always remember is that the customers are at the core of the Amazon leadership principles, as they are the engine behind the virtuous cycle Amazon relies on for its growth. Questions like the one above are an excellent opportunity for you to show your interviewer the importance you put on the customer, and the ways in which you incorporate their needs into the company’s goals.  


Ownership“Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say ‘that’s not my job.’”

Being an Amazon leader means thinking outside the confines of your official job description and daily tasks and focusing on long-term goals and on the company as a whole. Through the ownership principal Amazon is looking for employees who want more than just to get the job done – they want you take a bird’s eye view of the company and think how you can take that extra step to help out. Accountability is another important aspect of ownership, meaning that you face difficult issues head on and take responsibility for your mistakes – implementing the necessary steps to fix them.

When did you take proactive steps towards goals outside your immediate job description? Did you make short-term sacrifices toward long-term goals? Were there times where your actions benefitted other departments, and even the whole organization? When did you last make a mistake, and how did you own that mistake and work to alleviate the problem?


Invent and Simplify“Leaders expect and require innovation and invention from their teams and always find ways to simplify. They are externally aware, look for new ideas from everywhere, and are not limited by 'not invented here.' As we do new things, we accept that we may be misunderstood for long periods of time.”

Just as Amazon invented groundbreaking new ways of using the internet and simplified many day-to-day experiences that we now take for granted, the Amazon principles also dictate that leaders try to break the status quo. Part of this means being brave – changing the way things are traditionally done can often be misunderstood, and things might not always work out the way you expected. However, as a company that values innovation and efficiency, even a new idea that does not work out will reflect positively on you as a leader.

Think of times in your professional past where you disrupted the status quo, despite there already being an established, “proper” system in place. When did you find a way of simplifying a process, or made one more efficient and quicker? Can you give an example of an idea you had that didn’t work out, and what you managed to learn from it regardless?


Are Right, A Lot – Leaders are right a lot. They have strong judgment and good instincts. They seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs.

As a part of the Amazon leadership team, you are expected to have excellent decision making abilities. A big part of this, slightly counterintuitively, is to not immediately think you are right. Seek out ideas that challenge or even disconfirm your beliefs from a variety of backgrounds, and with this wider and more solid perspective, find the best way forward.

To show that you have what it takes to be part of Amazon leadership, find examples of times in which you chose a good way forward from a number of conflicting options. Was there a time where you adopted a successful idea despite it not being in line with the one you had? Reflect on how decision making is a learned skill, and think of how making tough decisions in the past has affected you and your belief in your decision making.


Amazon leadership principles interview sample question - Are Right A Lot

"Give me an example of a time when a member of your team pushed you to consider a problem in a fresh light. What was the outcome?"

Saying that Amazonian leaders are right a lot doesn’t mean that you should try and present yourself as someone who always knows the right answers. Talking about occasions when you were open to the ideas and suggestions of your team members will show your interviewer that you are able to draw from the knowledge of your colleagues in order to reach the right decision. When presented with a question like this one, be sure to emphasize how you value your team and their ideas, and your willingness to adjust your decisions accordingly. Show that you are right a lot not only thanks to your own skills, but also thanks to those of your team!


Learn and Be Curious – “Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.”

As a company that is constantly breaking boundaries, Amazon puts great emphasis on being open to learning new things and being in a state of constant curiosity. This fosters an atmosphere of creativity, which is essential for a company that is always striving to come up with the next big idea and lead the way in today’s relentless race forward between tech’s giants.

Show your interviewer your curiosity and passion for learning by talking about things you have recently started learning, professionally but also in your personal life, and big ideas you are curious to investigate in the future. Give them examples of new skills you learned in your previous positions, and how you implemented them. Think of times when you discovered something new and shared it with your team, introducing a new way of doing things.


Hire and Develop the Best“Leaders raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognize exceptional talent, and willingly move them throughout the organization. Leaders develop leaders and take seriously their role in coaching others. We work on behalf of our people to invent mechanisms for development like Career Choice.”

Jeff Bezos once said he prefers not to hire anyone than to hire Amazon employees who do not add value to the company. This establishes excellence as the norm, and as a candidate you will need to emphasize the value you bring to the table. Amazon leadership entails not only identifying the right people for the job, but also giving them the tools they need to fulfill their potential – so you must always be ready to share your expertise and mentor fellow Amazon employees, thus fostering growth throughout the organization.

If you have managerial experience, talk about a particularly successful employee you hired and what guided your decision. Present the development strategy you had for your team, and the challenges and lessons you learned throughout your managerial career. Give an example of an employee who you helped grow professionally. If you don’t have managerial experience, you can talk about how your supported members of your team and helped them develop.


Insist on the Highest Standards – “Leaders have relentlessly high standards — many people may think these standards are unreasonably high. Leaders are continually raising the bar and drive their teams to deliver high quality products, services, and processes. Leaders ensure that defects do not get sent down the line and that problems are fixed so they stay fixed.”

Think of this as the natural continuation of the first of the Amazon leadership principles, customer obsession. Since the working assumption is that customers are constantly demanding new and better products and services, Amazon leadership can never rest on its laurels and must always be pushing the bar higher and higher. This means that your expectations from yourself and from your team always need to be high, and that your comfort zone is never the right place to be.

Showcase your high standards by talking about the emphasis you put on detail in your work, and how you ensure that your end product is always top-notch. Give your interviewer examples of when you raised the bar to meet your customer’s requirements, and how your customer obsession helped you meet those goals. When did your high standards help push the organizations performance forward?


Think Big Thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. They think differently and look around corners for ways to serve customers.”

As a company that has been on a path of almost constant growth from day one, Amazon expects its leadership to think big. Similarly to the ownership principle, the Amazon think big principle stipulates that you are expected to look at the bigger picture and not be content with simply getting your job done. Strive to push the boundaries and find new ways to grow and take things in new directions – while inspiring your team to do the same.

Talk about how strategy guides you in your work, and how big thinking guides you even when you are busy with your smaller-resolution daily missions. Give an example of a time you thought big, what you did to pursue this idea, and how it influenced performance. If you have managerial experience, talk about the ways in which you push your team to think big, and how you make sure that they too think of the big picture in their work.


Amazon leadership principles interview sample question - Think Big

"Tell me about a time when you took a risky direction that didn't work out. What have you concluded and learnt? What would you change if you could go back in time?"

When interviewing at Amazon, chances are you will be asked about your failures as well as your success stories. Keep in mind though that talking about failures can emphasize positive attributes just as well as success stories! This question for instance can open the door for you to talk about a variety of Amazon leadership principles, such as think big, ownership, or bias for action. For example, talking about a time when you took a bold approach where you didn’t shy away from necessary risks will emphasize your ability to think big – so that even if it didn’t work out, you are still showing you possess the correct Amazon leadership values.

Tip: don’t be afraid to take your time and really think about the question before answering – it’s better to keep your interviewer waiting for a bit than to hastily come up with an answer that misses the mark.


Bias for Action“Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking.”

The Amazon bias for action principle is what prevents stagnation and ensures that the company remains at the forefront of the tech world. As a leader you are constantly navigating uncertainty and are therefore expected to take calculated risks and make quick judgement calls. The Amazon bias for action principle is where you are expected to show your ownership and independence as a leader, since time is always of the essence and deep analysis and deliberation are not always possible.

Think of a time where you had to make a quick judgement call with limited information and no time to consult a superior. What guided your decision? What was your thought process? What did you learn, even if the results were disappointing? Remember to convey to your interviewer that you are comfortable working independently and aren’t risk-averse, and that you have the presence of mind to make important decisions even when the situation is not optimal.


Amazon leadership principles interview sample question - Bias for Action

"Tell me about an event when you employed simple and quick strategies and were able to get rid of a major hurdle that was keeping your team from moving ahead. How did you manage to break through the hindrance? What was the end result?"

This may sound obvious, but when interviewing at Amazon, you won’t be told what it is that your interviewer is trying to learn about you or which Amazon leadership principles the question aims to examine. So, your first step is to analyze the question and look at its key components. For example, in this question we can see the words “quick” “moving ahead” and “break through”, which should point you towards bias for action. Now that you have recognized the Amazon bias for action principle, you know to emphasize qualities such as independence and effectiveness.


Frugality“Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, and invention. There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size, or fixed expense.”

As the saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention,” and Amazon believe that many times limited resources produce the most creative ideas. This Amazon principle is part of the reason Jeff Bezos was once quoted saying that Amazon is “still a startup.” Unlike many other companies of similar stature, Amazon does not believe in endless spending, but rather emphasizes self sufficiency and clever problem solving using limited resources.

Your interviewer might ask you about times where you had to make a limited budget last, so think of occasions where you were self sufficient and exercised frugality in your professional past – maximizing results with minimal expenditure and HR. When asked about ways in which you would address issues, avoid taking Amazon’s extensive resources for granted and instead try to adopt a frugal startup mindset.


Earn Trust“Leaders listen attentively, speak candidly, and treat others respectfully. They are vocally self-critical, even when doing so is awkward or embarrassing. Leaders do not believe their or their team’s body odor smells of perfume. They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best.”

Honesty, trust, and respect are the keywords for this Amazon principle. It reminds leaders to be humble and admit when they are wrong or don’t know enough, and always be open to hearing the views of others no matter their level or background. You are expected to treat those around you ethically and respectfully, keep your promises, and never allow yourself to look down upon others. In times of success, value and acknowledge the effort your team invested, and remain modest.

Think of a time in which you made a significant mistake, and how you handled it in front of your team. Talk about the ways in which you ensure that your team feels they are being listened to and respected. What are the ways in which you earn the trust of your colleagues?


Dive Deep“Leaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit frequently, and are skeptical when metrics and anecdote differ. No task is beneath them.”

Think of this as the flipside of the Amazon Think Big principle – it emphasizes attention to detail and the ability to really enter the finest resolutions of your project as well as those of your team. Although you are expected to think strategically, you are also expected to willingly dive into the nitty-gritty and exhibit excellent problem solving through metrics and data.

Prepare a story of a time where you solved a complex issue through meticulous work and attention to the smallest details. You want to show not only your capacity for accurate and technical work, but also that even as future Amazon leader, doing this kind of work which some find menial or boring is not beneath you. Don’t worry about boring your interviewer, really cover every detail!


AWS Leadership Principles

As a subsidiary of Amazon, AWS (Amazon Web Services) has the same leadership principles at the core of its operations, and its hiring process. To become an AWS team member, learning the AWS leadership principles on this page inside and out and preparing for the unique AWS assessment test are two vital steps.

Click here to learn more about the AWS assessment test, and how the AWS Leadership Principles play a crucial part in passing it.


Have a Backbone; Disagree and Commit - Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.”

Although Amazon leaders need to be open to other views, they are also expected to challenge decisions that they disagree with or stand behind their decisions despite resistance – so long as it is done with solid reasoning and respect. Avoiding conflict to maintain a comfortable social atmosphere is not a desirable attribute in an Amazon employee.

Think of times where you disagreed with a superior or your team on a significant issue. How did you present your case and try to convince them to go your way? If the decision didn’t end up going your way, how did you handle it? Remember that while you are indeed expected to “have a backbone,” you do not want to come across as stubborn or confrontational.


Deliver Results Leaders focus on the key inputs for their business and deliver them with the right quality and in a timely fashion. Despite setbacks, they rise to the occasion and never settle.”

As one of the world's leading tech empires that has exhibited astounding growth for close to thirty years, Amazon clearly puts an emphasis on the bottom line. Therefore, every Amazonian leader is expected to deliver high-quality results on time, under pressing deadlines.

How did you deliver results in your past workplaces? Were there times where you delivered results despite significant challenges such as limited resources (remember the frugality principle!) or time? How did you overcome these challenges? Talk about the impact you made in the past, revenue you managed to increase, and the biggest results you managed to achieve.


Strive to be Earth’s Best Employer Leaders work every day to create a safer, more productive, higher performing, more diverse, and more just work environment. They lead with empathy, have fun at work, and make it easy for others to have fun. Leaders ask themselves: Are my fellow employees growing? Are they empowered? Are they ready for what's next? Leaders have a vision for and commitment to their employees' personal success, whether that be at Amazon or elsewhere.”

This is the first of the two new principles of Amazon's leadership principles focuses on Amazon employees' well-being, and your place as a leader in fostering the right environment for it. You are expected to always have your team’s interest at heart, thinking of their professional growth, but also their personal well-being in the workplace – understanding that the two are intricately connected.

What steps have you taken in the past to improve the well-being of your team? How do you empower your team and help them grow and fulfill their potential? Have you ever faced an issue in this respect, and if so, how did you solve it?


Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility – “We started in a garage, but we're not there anymore. We are big, we impact the world, and we are far from perfect. We must be humble and thoughtful about even the secondary effects of our actions. Our local communities, planet, and future generations need us to be better every day. We must begin each day with a determination to make better, do better, and be better for our customers, our employees, our partners, and the world at large. And we must end every day knowing we can do even more tomorrow. Leaders create more than they consume and always leave things better than how they found them.”

The last of the Amazon 16 leadership principles acknowledges the company’s incredibly significant influence on the world, and the great responsibility that comes with it. As a part of Amazon leadership, you are expected to be mindful of this, and think of your actions and how they affect things outside the scope of your work as well. This is the bigger big picture and emphasizes Amazon’s responsibility to be a force for good in the world.

To show your connection with this Amazon principle, talk about volunteer work you do, measures you take to help others and/or the environment, and the morals and values you hold dear. Think of ways in which you helped previous workplaces make a positive impact on the world, or conversely how you helped diminish its negative impact.


Now that we have reviewed the Amazon leadership principles, it’s time for you to reflect on what they mean to you and how you can best express your best attributes in the interview. What are the best examples you can find of the customer obsession Amazon value so much? How are you going to show the interviewer that you have the Amazon bias for action? Go over each of the Amazon 16 leadership principles, until you really feel you have a deep understanding.

JobTestPrep offers a variety of preparation packs for any Amazon assessment test that will help you ace your upcoming test, internalize the Amazon 16 leadership principles, and prepare for every aspect of the Amazon hiring process. Leading Amazon pages include Amazon MBA Online Assessment Amazon SDE Online Assessment.

You can rely on JobTestPrep’s extensive experience and expertise to guide you all the way to a rewarding career at Amazon.  


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