How to answer interview questions about Amazon leadership principle “Bias for Action” — Interview Genie

How to Answer Questions Related to the “Bias for Action” Principle

Question: Tell me about a time you had to make a decision quickly.

Answer given by a Senior Backup Engineer

We had to expand the storage capacity of a Commvault server to accommodate new machines that were coming online. We planned to double the capacity of the server from 32 to 64 terabytes. For this upgrade, the server had to be converted to MediaAgent, a procedure that was documented and tested. We followed the documentation closely, but in production, the Windows batch file that was supposed to convert the server to MediaAgent accidentally deleted some important files on the server, effectively rendering the existing Commvault server useless. All backups from applications/DB started failing.

While experts from Commvault HQ were engaged to find the root cause, the customer was informed about this problem. In an hour, I determined that the problem was not easily fixable. I wanted to use a new server, but the Commvault license was linked to a particular IP address. Instead of waiting to hear back from Commvault HQ and our purchasing department on getting another license, I simply copied the XML license to a new machine, changed the IP, and updated the existing license. At that point, the team could move forward.

How does this answer show a “Bias for Action”? With the backup server rendered inoperable, the engineer in this story was faced with a big problem. The more time she wasted, the more backup data would be lost. But she didn’t wait for others to solve her problem. She quickly diagnosed the problem and identified a workaround that would get the team back on its feet. That’s a “Bias for Action.”

Question: Tell me about a time you had to make a decision quickly.

Answer given by a Solutions Architect

One of the largest insurance providers in North America has been a long-standing customer. They have been using a different vendor’s solution for UNIX bridging capability. Once they learned that we also offer a UNIX bridging solution, they wanted to conduct a proof of concept. As I had been working with that customer as a trusted advisor, they requested me to do the POC.

Before starting the POC, I had a working session with the customer’s technical team to review the use cases currently being implemented. Upon reviewing the use cases, I found out that one of their key use cases is not supported out of the box by our solution. Supporting that use case would require an enhancement to the existing product functionality. Given the importance of the POC, I reached out internally for an approval to engage the engineering team immediately and worked with the team in adding that capability to the product. I didn’t want to wait to do this.

The engineering team provided a patch in a short time, and I was able to successfully deliver the POC addressing all the use cases.

In this story, the Solutions Architect could have told the customer that the product doesn’t support the use case. Instead, he coordinated with his team a quick product update (a “patch”) that would accommodate the use case, leading to a successful POC. This answer shows a “Bias for Action” and true “Customer Obsession”

How to answer BIAS FOR ACTION interview questions | Amazon Leadership Principles

Why is this principle important?

Bias for Action is critical because it’s about acting quickly and thinking of great ideas. This helps Amazon be more creative in what they do, which can help them discover new things that will benefit their customers. It is about acting quickly to discover new customer-centric opportunities. This allows Amazon to become more innovative in what they do, which benefits customers in the long run.

Interview questions related to the Amazon “Bias for Action” leadership principle

If your interviewer asks about this leadership principle, she or he might ask one of the following questions:

  • Tell me about a time you took a risk. What kind of risk was it?
  • Give me an example of a calculated risk that you have taken where speed was critical. What was the situation and how did you handle it? What steps did you take to mitigate the risk? What was the outcome?
  • Tell me about a time you had to make a decision with incomplete information. How did you make it and what was the outcome?
  • Describe a time you had to make an important decision on the spot to close a sale.
  • Describe a situation where you made an important business decision without consulting your manager. What was the situation and how did it turn out?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to analyze facts quickly, define key issues, and respond immediately to a situation. What was the outcome?
  • Tell me about a time when you have worked against tight deadlines and didnt have the time to consider all options before making a decision. How much time did you have? What approach did you take?
  • Give an example of when you had to make an important decision and had to decide between moving forward or gathering more information. What did you do? What information is necessary for you to have before acting?
  • Describe a time when you saw some problem and took the initiative to correct it rather than waiting for someone else to do it.
  • Tell me about a time you needed to get information from someone who wasn’t very responsive. What did you do?
  • Tell me about a time where you felt your team was not moving to action quickly enough. What did you do? (Manager)
  • Tell me about a time when you were able to remove a serious roadblock/barrier preventing your team from making progress? How were you able to remove the barrier? What was the outcome? (Manager)

What are they looking for?

Amazon is looking to interview and hire employees who take the initiative and who aren’t afraid to try something new. It’s all about thinking outside the box, even if things might not always work out perfectly.

The principle, in Amazon’s words

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

What does this principle mean?

This means that Amazon is a place where employees are expected to take action, not just sit around. The idea of being so customer-centric is for customers to have an easy shopping experience, which definitely wouldn’t happen if the employees were hesitant.

Managers are also expected to practice this principle. Instead of waiting for a perfect plan, managers should try out different things and see which one works best.

One example of where Bias for Action is applied is during the holiday rush. Jeff Bezos wants his managers to take risks quickly, even if it might seem like the riskiest thing ever.

Another example is when Amazon introduced its Dash buttons, which allow consumers to order products with just one click. While this seems like an easy way for people to buy more than they need, it has actually worked. This shows that Amazon managers are willing to take risks, even if sometimes they can backfire.

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