Amazon Interview Tips for Non-technical Candidates

Nick Dimitrov

Nick Dimitrov

16 December, 2020

 

There's a misconception that if you're not a technical candidate, you don't stand a chance with Amazon. Not true.

Hi, there. My name is Nick Dimitrov, and I am the founder of Amazon Bound: a service, which helps prepare talented job-seekers to interview effectively with Amazon and other companies that practice behavioral interview techniques.

What I'd like to do in the next few minutes is answer a question we've been getting frequently, which is 'how should non-technical candidates prepare for interviewing with Amazon?' There are a lot of misconceptions out there that Amazon only interviews technical people. Or, if you are non-technical candidate, you don't have a chance to be hired by Amazon.

That is not correct. It is true that the lion's share of candidates that Amazon interviews are technical in nature. Amazon interviews a lot of Software Development Engineers (SDEs), or Solution Architects (SAs), or Technical Product Managers (TPMs), so on and so forth. But they also interview a fair number of non-technical positions, primarily in Finance, Marketing, Business Development, non-technical Program Management, so on and so forth.

So, if you are one of those non-technical folks, how should you prepare for your Amazon interview. The good news is that Amazon uses the same mental framework, the same approach, to interview a technical and a non-technical person. The lion's share of the interview questions are going to be behavioral interview questions, that would focus on how you compare to the Amazon Leadership Principles.

You would be contacted by the recruiter for the position, before the interview. And they would help you, at a high level, prepare for the behavioral interview questions by asking you to brush through your career and think of accomplishments and failures professionally, and describe those in the STAR (situation-task-action-result) or SOAR (situation-obstacle-action-result), as we call it framework. And if you take care of preparing for the behavioral/Leadership-Principle questions for the interview, that should be sufficient for the lion's share of the questions that you will hear.

The second type of questions that Amazon would ask you are functional questions or scenario/role-playing questions that are going to be focused on your subject-matter expertise, whatever that subject-matter expertise happens to be.

So, for example to give you an illustration with specific functional questions, let's take Finance functional questions, for example. Recently, we have helped a number of Finance candidates be hired successfully by Amazon. So, if you are a Finance person, you can expect to hear specific role-playing, functional questions, such as: 'How would you assess the viability of building a brand-new fulfillment center of Amazon in a new state, in the United States, where we currently don't have a fulfillment center, or a brand-new country where we don't have a fulfillment center?' So, that could be one type of question. A different type of question could be, 'How would you evaluate a financial model?' That would be a build-vs-buy financial model or some sort of a rental agreement or some sort of a business development contract that needs financial support. How would you provide specific models and support to those individuals?

A different type of question could be: 'You have X number of dollars in year 1. In several years, a certain number of years down the line, you have Y number of dollars, and Y is larger than X. How would you evaluate the return of this investment, vis-a-vis everything else we could be doing here at Amazon?

On and on, you can have a lot of other similar questions. You can find sample functional questions, financial or otherwise on sites like quora.com, glassdoor.com. You can Google search for them, so on and so forth. The bottom line being, you have to be ready to answer functional, role-playing questions which you might not have prepared for necessarily, ahead of time. Because unlike the behavioral questions, where you could think about your performance in your career, you can try to practice and prepare responses ahead of time, what your momentous accomplishments are professionally, and what some of your bigger professional failures are, and practice these ahead of time. On the functional side, there is really no way to do so. But, what you can do is look through prior sample questions for your subject-matter expertise and your field of work and practice. Make sure that you have a very short amount of time with which to think about an answer, because that would simulate the experience of the interview. Don't think about an answer to a question for hours upon hours because that's not going to be a reliable representation of the experience that you're going to get during your interview day at Amazon. Think of an answer to a question relatively quickly: maybe 2-3 minutes at most. Think of an answer during that amount of time. Provide an answer as best as you can. Practice, practice, practice. That should do the trick.

Again, to take a step back, if you are non-technical person, Amazon is going to use the same approach as they use to interview a technical candidate. The number one and the most voluminous part of the interview is going to be occupied by Leadership Principles / behavioral questions, which you can prepare and practice answering in the STAR/SOAR format. And then, secondly, you will have to find relevant functional/role-playing questions in your particular subject-matter expertise field and practice answering unknown questions that you see for the very first time as much as you can.

If you take care of those two parts in preparing for the Amazon interview, you will increase the likelihood to do well. Best of luck. Please, stay in touch. Let us know if you have any questions, and knock-em dead!


Koalanda LLC d/b/a Amazon Bound and any products or services offered by Amazon Bound and its affiliates do not belong to, and are not affiliated with, Amazon.com, Inc. or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates (collectively "Amazon") in any way. Amazon does not endorse Amazon Bound or our products or services in any way.