What is behavioral interviewing?
Amazon is not unique in their utilization of behavioral interviewing, but I think it’s the most effective way to evaluate prospects during the hiring process. So if you’re pursuing employment at Amazon, or any other employer that embraces behavioral interviewing practices, it’s worth your time to hone your behavioral interviewing skills.
So, what is behavioral interviewing? It is based on the premise that people are most likely to exhibit behavioral traits in the future that they have exhibited in the past. So, if a hiring manager is looking for someone who demonstrates Amazon Leadership Principles such as “Customer Obsession” and “Invent and Simplify”, then they’re best served during a 45-minute interview to ask candidates to give examples from their past work history where they’ve demonstrated those traits. And once they ask the first question, the interviewer then peels back the onion and goes deeper, to make sure the candidate has deep knowledge and ownership of the example, and can demonstrate expertise.
I’ll write future posts where I’ll dig into more details, and give a bunch of sample questions that a candidate might experience. In fact, I kept a document on my desktop that had 10+ questions for every Leadership Principle. Why, you ask? Because every interviewer is assigned at least two Leadership Principles to probe during an interview, and each candidate will interview with 5 or more Amazonians. That means that candidates need to be prepared to demonstrate how they delivered on all of those behavioral aspects in past roles.
So, if you’re a candidate, how do you prepare for an Amazon interview?
At its simplest, print off a list of the Amazon Leadership Principles and learn them. You need to have a solid understanding of what each LP means. Then, review your past work history, and detail several examples from your recent past for each LP where you knocked the ball out of the park. Ideally you will have different examples — it’s not too surprising that some unprepared candidates only talk about one or two examples across all five interviewers (who are probing for 10 different traits). When it comes to the interview debrief, that usually doesn’t bode well, as everyone wonders why the candidate didn’t talk about a broader range of experience. Basically, as an interviewee, you need to practice answering behavioral-focused questions.
What are examples of Behavioral Interview questions?
The most common format of Behavioral Interview questions are “Give me an example when you <demonstrated this leadership principle>”. Of course, the question won’t always be worded so directly, but if you’ve done your LP homework and are listening closely, you should be able to figure out which LP the interview is probing on. For example:
- Q: “Give me an example in which you went above and beyond to delight a customer.”
- obviously, the interviewer is probing for “Customer Obsession”
- Q: “Give me an example in which you had to figure out a new or better way to solve a problem; ideally a new/better way that your coworkers did not.”
- they’re looking for “Invent and Simplify”
- Q: “Give me an example in which everyone thought a problem was caused by something, but you went and did more data-gathering/analysis and figured out it was a different problem altogether.”
- this is probably looking for “Dive Deep”, “Ownership” or “Bias for Action”
Why does Behavioral Interviewing work?
You’re probably thinking to yourself, “can’t people just fool the interviewer by making up answers?” The answer is sometimes yes, of course. But when you have 5-8 different interviewers probing 10-16 leadership principles, it’s incredibly common that great candidates stand out, while the less prepared (or less behaviorally matched for Amazon) candidates underperform. It’s just not easy to fool a group of experienced interviewers following a disciplined process. And, of course, maybe this process isn’t something you’re interested in at all, and YOU opt out. That’s OK too — every interview process should really be a two-way street. The long-term relationship works best when well-matched candidates & companies meet.
I hope that gives a good basic overview of behavioral interviewing. Now that you’re a little familiar with the topic, I’m sure that Google will have plenty of deeper-dive articles into the topic. And I’m sure I’ll have podcast guests who will be able to dive into more detail on the topic.
If you have behavioral interviewing questions, please leave them in the comments below or send me a message.