How should I prepare for the Amazon Program Management interview?

Nick Dimitrov

Nick Dimitrov

15 Oct, 2021


You should have a grasp of the foundational principles of what a Program Manager does: line up dependencies and make sure they cross the finish line without surprises, and on schedule.

Hello, I'm Nick, a former Amazon Bar Raiser, and today I'd like to discuss the Program Management Amazon interview, what you should expect and how you should prepare for it.

Taking a step back, the interview will comprise of two portions, most likely: a behavioral part and a functional/subject matter expertise part. The behavioral part of the Program Management Amazon interview loops is likely going to take 60%, 70%, or 80% of your interview time. That would be, by far, the most important portion of your interview experience. I highly suggest that you look through a lot of the preparatory materials that we have on our site. Make sure that you think of answers that would illustrate Amazon's Leadership Principles, through your prior accomplishments professionally. Make sure that you unpack those answers in the STAR/SOAR format. And if you do that, if you prepare a sufficient number of your professional accomplishments and professional failures ahead of time in the STAR format, make sure that they illustrate the 16 Amazon Leadership Principles. You should be in a good position to perform well during the behavioral part of the Amazon Program Management interview.

The rest of the interview is going to be comprised of functional or subject matter expertise questions. Those are going to be questions that are going to test your ability as a Program Manager. Those experiences tend to be well defined, they tend to be very granular, and there tends to be a large number of them. The Program Manager, on the other hand, is the person who works with the various Product Managers who are building services and products that are interdependent on each other in order to ship a larger experience, such as an AWS new release, or a Fire Tablet new release, or a Fire TV new release, whatnot. And the Program Manager makes sure that all of these racing horses are marching towards the finish line on time, on schedule, and on budget. Therefore, Product Managers tend to focus more on quality and customer experience, while Program Managers tend to focus more on expedience, time, and budget.

So as a Program Manager, you would be expected to write a lot of documents, to hold a large number of meetings, and keep these various teams accountable to ship rather complex interrelated experiences on time. The way Amazon is going to likely intuit and try to find out about those skills, functionally in the interview, is by asking you System Design questions: how would you design these complex systems. Also they would ask you production questions. Questions along the lines of: how would you make sure that you influence these teams, without having direct authority over them. How would you keep track of the progress of a certain deliverable? What is the right cadence, what is the right methodology that you would use in order to deliver something on time? How would you report it up to management? How would you escalate issues? Those are going to be questions that are going to test your bread-and-butter expertise in running these large teams and complex interdependencies, without having direct control and authority over the various stakeholders.

So make sure that you describe very methodically and specifically how you have handled such issues in the past. And if you hear a question, a functional question on a topic which you don't have experience with, let's say you are being asked to unpack an Alexa Program Management issue, and you don't have hands-on experience with Alexa, let that not deter you. You don't need to know the product where you going to be answering a Program Management interview question for.

You need to have a grasp, you need to have solid understanding of the foundational principles, of what a Program Manager does. And, how they line up, again, the different dependencies and make sure that they finish the cross-line, without surprises, on schedule, escalating frequently, so on and so forth. Those are going to be likely a large portion of the functional questions of the Amazon Program Management interview.

I hope this helps. Please, stay in touch. Ask questions, if you have any. And best of luck with your Amazon Program Management interview. You got this. Bye.

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