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Amazon Project Manager
Interview Questions

25 Questions and Answers by M Cheryl Harkins

Question 1 of 25

How would your previous stakeholders and team members describe you as a leader?

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Project Manager Interview Questions

  1. 1.

    How would your previous stakeholders and team members describe you as a leader?

      This is a general leadership question, but the interviewer is looking for you to address specific aspects in your answer. Because of Amazon's size, you'll want to address is your ability to manage projects smoothly across multiple groups and locations. A successful answer will have the underlying tone that you can make decisions quickly in a high-pressure, dynamic environment.

      M's Answer

      "If you were to ask my colleagues about my leadership style, they'd say that I'm an empathetic facilitator. I try to always be sensitive to everyone's needs from project sponsors, stakeholders, and other co-workers. They would say that I do my best to get them all the resources they need to get their jobs done. I'm also the glue that keeps everyone together and keeps the morale up. They'd also say that I'm the person they'd go to first whenever a fire starts and trust me to put it out."

  2. 2.

    What was the best innovation you ever came up with in your professional life?

      Amazon is big on innovation. Answering this question is your chance to show an ability to create solutions when there seem to be none. You'll also want to show that you can execute big ideas in the simplest way. When positioning your answer, emphasize your openness to trying new things, while keeping yourself grounded with facts and data.

      M's Answer

      "My first project management role was as part of the continuous improvement team at a call center. I was tasked to optimize processes between the sales center and customer care teams. Each team was using their own system separate from each other. Customers would call the sales number, even though they already had an existing order. The sales representative would then have to transfer the call by dialing out to the care team. This resulted in longer handling time for sales, which negatively impacted their stats and commissions, and customers frustrated from having to state their problem twice.

      I had a two-part solution. The first part was to optimize the interactive voice response to pre-qualify callers and ensure they get routed to customer care if they had an existing order, and are not looking to add to or modify that order. The second part was to build a sub-team within customer care that processed these calls. As a result, the sales team's average handling time went down substantially, and we had 30% fewer complaints from customers about the transfer time."

  3. 3.

    Tell me about a time when you challenged the status quo. What did you do to change it? Were you successful?

      This question is aimed to assess your ability to effect change. In your response, show that you can present facts to support your case. The interviewer will also expect you to outline a tangible plan. When crafting your answer, keep in mind that one of the company's leadership principles in mind: bias for action.

      M's Answer

      "This has happened to me before at XYZ where they only followed the waterfall method because they need budgeting to be predictable. I was assigned to manage the in-house development of a workforce management system. Because this was going to be their first development project for the company, I thought that it would be best to keep the process agile. Even though I was hired for my experience in software development, that doesn't mean that I can predict an exact timeline. I still needed to familiarize myself with the company's specific needs. So, I mocked up an agile workflow with regular budget reviews and presented it to the team. I included projected outcomes. Fortunately, I was able to convince everyone to run agile just for this project."

  4. 4.

    What do you do to ensure your project is on or below budget?

      Amazon leaders don't get extra points for growing headcount, budget size, or fixed expense. When crafting your response, demonstrate how well you can plan and how you incorporate budget monitoring when project scoping. Mention common reasons for projects going over the budget, as well as ways that you have prevented budget overruns.

      M's Answer

      "In my experience, planning beats mitigating, when it comes to budgets. It's always best to over-project the budget at the beginning by accounting for common budget overrun culprits like longer-than-expected labor hours, or unforeseen changes. This way, I have a Plan B or Plan C when they do come up. When they end up worse than projected, I can inform stakeholders as soon as I identify the risk. At the beginning of a project, you don't know what you don't know, so the best I can do is look at similar projects and prepare a plan for the worst-case scenario."

  5. 5.

    You have been tasked to manage expansion into a completely new market. What are your first steps?

      When crafting your response, cover the budget and timeline first. Keep in mind that the company values frugality, speed, and quality. In your answer, clearly outline your expertise in project scoping. Drawing on previous experience in which you reached harmony in maintaining the budget, timeline, and quality can help make your answers more realistic.

      M's Answer

      "First, I would find out the budget for this expansion and its target launch date. Then, I will look for any precedents -- any previous projects that may have similar milestones. This will also help me make better decisions based on the project outcomes. If none, I can start from scratch by identifying and meeting with the main stakeholders and build the project scope from there. With each milestone I identify, I will aim to present estimated costs and turnaround times at the onset."

  6. 6.

    Describe a time when you incorporated customer feedback into the implementation plan or in the way the business was run.

      Customer obsession is at the top of Amazon's leadership principles. First, the interviewer will want to hear that you care about customers by recalling feedback that stood out to you in the past. Second, they will want to hear how you used that feedback in your implementation plan. When positioning your response, demonstrate empathy towards the customer, and speak about feedback in specific terms.

      M's Answer

      "During my time as a project manager at XYZ, I managed the development of the client's e-commerce website. Once the site was up, we continued to manage the back-end. The client had a very specific taste in aesthetics which did not translate well for the business. For example, they picked graphics that could confuse customers. I did a quick research about how their choices would negatively impact customer engagement and presented the facts to them. We reached a compromise for go-live, but the final product still bothered me.

      So, in the first couple of months of the site being live, I plugged in a website heat-mapping tool that would monitor at which parts of the web pages customers dropped off. Long story short, I somehow proved that customers were confused by the visuals. I proposed to run an A/B test with visuals that my creative director and I thought would be simpler, but still well-aligned with the client's brand. Our A/B test proved us right. In the end, we were able to persuade the client to change the graphics. In addition, we started implementing the same A/B process for other clients and it really helped the company establish authority in the web development space."

  7. 7.

    Tell me how you communicate with others. What kind of communicator are you?

      Because Amazon is a massive company, project managers are expected to work cross-functionally and across locations, with stakeholders at all levels. An effective answer will give the interviewer a glimpse into your communication style. Specifically, they will be looking for someone who can show leadership and vary their approach. Keep in mind the variety of people you will be communicating with, and the reasons you'll be speaking with them.

      M's Answer

      "I'd like to think that I'm a versatile communicator. Whether I'm speaking with an everyday Joe customer who just wants to be assured that they'll get their order on time, or the CEO of a company who needs a report condensed into 15 minutes, I can communicate according to people's needs. The way I'm able to effectively relate with others is by paying a lot of attention on non-verbal cues, such as their body language, tone of voice, and word choice. I'll respond in a way that I think will get both parties what they need from the conversation. I also like to follow through with communication. For example, if I've emailed someone about a deliverable, I'll be sure to follow up appropriately. Sometimes that's in person, and other times it could be a simple nudge on instant messenger or a quick call."

  8. 8.

    Tell me about a time when you made a decision that you knew your superior would oppose.

      By asking this question, the interviewer is gauging your level of ownership as a project manager. When responding to ownership questions like this, focus on proving that you can take initiative and can make difficult decisions. In addition, you will also want to show that you can be fully accountable in case your ideas fail. Cite concrete examples of ownership relevant to previous projects, and how your decisions impacted the project's success.

      M's Answer

      "Once I was working on a project with a very lean team. At a certain point, I needed an extra pair of hands to deliver a significant task. I soon found that the task would be a recurring one and my team was already struggling with their workload that I just could not afford to lose their morale. The standard procedure was to hire an intern but the task was far too complex for someone without the necessary experience. So, I filed an employee requisition form with HR. As expected, my manager stopped the hiring process for an employee when she found out and hired an intern. As a result, the intern had to be trained and their work had to be monitored carefully. All this time spent on holding the intern's hand led to the project being delayed by two months."

  9. 9.

    Are there things that you are looking forward to learning at Amazon?

      This question shows that the company is looking for someone who is excited to learn new things. A successful answer shows that you are someone who constantly seeks to improve yourself and that you are curious about new possibilities. Further, let the interviewer know that you have done your research on the company's culture and that you look forward to being part of it.

      M's Answer

      "I thrive in an environment that allows me to improve my skills and learn new ones. Aside from mastering operational excellence on the job, I'd really like to get some formal training. So, I look forward to upskilling opportunities at Amazon and plan on building an upward career path within the company. I know that there's a workforce upskilling program, and I'm very excited to find out more about it."

  10. 10.

    Recall a time when you received difficult feedback as a project manager. How did you handle it?

      At Amazon, being able to earn your team's trust is paramount in being an effective leader. When positioning your answer, expound on the actions you took after receiving the feedback, rather than being consumed by the details of the feedback. Think about how you were able to grow from the experience, and hold yourself and your team to the highest of standards.

      M's Answer

      "I've been told by colleagues that I can appear to be overly rigid during project meetings. For instance, I'd strictly follow the agenda down to the number of minutes spent on each item. Unfortunately, this didn't give everyone the chance to express their ideas and they would leave the meeting feeling unheard. After receiving the feedback, I realized that my job wasn't to enforce deadlines; it was to facilitate a smooth workflow for everyone and ultimately get the best results out of every task. I learned to be more flexible in meetings. Instead of getting fixated on getting a lot done, I focused on getting clear, actionable steps and corresponding task commitments from the team."

  11. 11.

    What common risks have you encountered in previous projects and how do you handle them?

      By asking this question, the interviewer is assessing your competence in identifying events that may negatively impact the project in the future. Talk to the interviewer about specific risks that you are confident you were able to mitigate or plan against. Further, demonstrate that you were able to successfully follow through on your mitigation plan.

      M's Answer

      "The most common risk that I always keep my eye on is going over budget. For example, I was managing the implementation of a new service offering. The project was already pre-defined and it came with a budget breakdown and activation schedule for every sales area. These numbers were based on five-year-old census data. As soon as I saw this information, I immediately brought up the risk that these outdated numbers could pose. In my experience, census numbers have always been lower than actual. This could mean that if we actually had more prospective customers than expected, we would need to hire, train and manage more salespeople, produce more marketing and sales collaterals, among other things. Fortunately, we had some time to run it by our CFO and we increased the budget by 20%. When we ran the numbers after the first month of sales, we found out that it would've cost us at least 50% more if we didn't plan accordingly."

  12. 12.

    How have you used project management methodology to improve the project success?

      With a quick browser search, you will find that Amazon mostly follows agile, specifically scrum methodology, in its projects. Instead of getting lost on the details of agile or scrum, the interviewer will want to learn that you are able to evaluate success and iterate based on your evaluations throughout the project's lifecycle. Cite an example of a time when you were able to continually improve the process while undergoing it. An effective answer will draw on specific metrics.

      M's Answer

      "In my years as a project manager, I have always taken the time to regularly evaluate project success at every turn. The best example I can draw from is when I managed the development of a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) software for the entire company. Individual modules for all five departments were to be developed, and the employee lifecycle of all 1300 workers would need to be managed through the ERP.

      We started development with a recruitment sub-module. Once a functionality was ready for testing, we assigned one recruiter to use it for applicant processing. They used a checklist that gauged the quantitative and qualitative effectiveness of the functionality at hand. Before we moved on to the next sub-module, I organized a post-mortem meeting to go over our learnings and used those learnings to improve the development process moving forward."

  13. 13.

    Tell me about your favorite manager (anyone you directly reported to). What qualities did they have that really stood out to you?

      By asking this question, the interviewer is looking at how your leadership style is influenced by others. This question also determines your attitude towards leaders, as well as the type of personalities you work well with. When positioning your response, keep in mind the type of working environment Amazon has, and address the expectations outlined in the job description.

      M's Answer

      "My favorite manager was my team leader at a call center. I was working the phones, which was a very stressful job. Whenever I had a difficult call, he pulled me off once the call was done, and he let me vent. When we hit above our target metrics, he made sure to give us kudos. And, whenever we got bad reviews, he would do one-on-one coaching. After a while, I got consistently high marks. My team leader started letting me coach other teammates while he observed. Eventually, he recommended me for promotion. He really proved that a great leader is someone who produces other great leaders. I try to follow his the same style as a leader."

  14. 14.

    Recall a time when you had to leverage data to make or influence a decision.

      Demonstrate your ability to deep dive. As a leader, you are expected to have your finger on the pulse when it comes to data and details. Cite an example of a time when you investigated a problem and used metrics to solidify a decision. It may help to present your answer in a structured format, for example, that of a case study: an executive summary, analysis, proposed solutions, conclusion, and implementation.

      M's Answer

      "Once, I managed the revamp of a client's website. Ultimately, the goal was to increase the rate of converting site visitors into buyers. We were at a standstill because of creative differences between the client and our content strategist on the brand messaging. The client was married to the messaging that they'd had since the business started. The content strategist thought the messaging was outdated, and that it did not give the audience an accurate or engaging impression about the brand.

      I proposed to run a marketing survey. The goal was to present the target audience with both messaging options. Then, they would rate both on different qualities, including their likeliness to purchase. The results were astoundingly in favor of our content strategist's message. In the end, the client relented and admitted that pushing their old messaging was really more of a sentimental thing. To be certain, we ran an A/B test on both options and proved that the new message was more effective in converting visitors."

  15. 15.

    Tell me about a time you disagreed with your superior. How did you handle it?

      At Amazon, leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. The interviewer will want to hear how you showed conviction in your decision. They will also want to hear that you were determined to commit wholly to that decision.

      M's Answer

      "One time at X Consultancy, we were reviewing options for the project management tool. The tool we were using at the time was very affordable, but it also had very limited capabilities. For example, we still had to collaborate with clients and task owners through email, chat, and through the shared drive.

      Our operations director proposed an alternative. After going through the features of the tool, I still found it lacking. In my experience, giving task owners the ability to do 90% of task management within the PM tool really helped expedite the workflow. For instance, if a deliverable needs to be reviewed by the task owner's superior, then the PM tool should have the functionality to attach files and add comments. So, I did my research and found two better options. I pitched both and supported my proposal with testimonials from users which highlighted how the tool helped their team's productivity. I also ran it by the production team, and they loved my picks. The operations director wasn't happy, but I was able to convince leadership to go with one of my picks. The reason was that I would be one of the everyday users of the tool, and I should be more attuned with the ins and outs of the tool's functionalities. At the end of the first year using the tool, our productivity went up by 12%."

  16. 16.

    Describe a time when you were able to remove a serious roadblock preventing your team from making progress.

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  17. 17.

    How do you measure your own success as a project manager? What key performance indicators are most important to you?

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  18. 18.

    Your project is slated to have three phases over three years. Each phase will have the same milestones, just different locations. Stakeholders are likely to change. How will you ensure consistency across three phases?

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  19. 19.

    Tell me about the most notable risk you have identified in a project?

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  20. 20.

    A team member has just told you that they are not 100% satisfied with their deliverable and will need another week to complete. How would you handle this situation?

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  21. 21.

    Your team is starting to lose confidence. How do you show them that you have their back?

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  22. 22.

    Two project team members are not seeing eye to eye on a decision point. How will you handle the conflict to keep the project on track?

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  23. 23.

    After a few project meetings, you're finding that there aren't any concrete steps from stakeholders, just a lot of ideas. How will you manage execution?

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  24. 24.

    You're given a chance to pick a failed project and do it over. Walk me through your plan for success.

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  25. 25.

    Where do you see your career going in the next five years?

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