My Summer Internship at Amazon (and how you can do it too!)

This summer I did my internship at Amazon Madrid. It was an intense but very rewarding experience. I chose Amazon because I was seeking a challenging work experience that pushed me to my limits. Prior to the MBA, I had 5 years of experience in sales operations, account management, and performance/acquisition marketing in the advertising and healthcare tech fields. Before starting the internship, I was actually a bit afraid and unsure if I could be successful, but when I got to Amazon I saw that I had a lot of support from my manager, my assigned “buddy” that guided me through my internship, an MBA liason (an IESE alumni), and the team I worked on. Amazon tries its best to place you in a role that is aligned to your background. I was placed in vendor management (essentially key account management) working with the largest companies that sell on Amazon and have dedicated account support from Amazon employees. I learned a lot about Amazon retail, but more importantly, the Amazon style of working, which can be applied to any company you work for.

The most important takeaways of working style I got were:

1. Work backwards. Think about the end goal you have in mind first, then work backwards to see how you will get there.

2. Focus on actionable insights & recommendations. All the analysis in the world is useless if you can’t extract insights and actions from that data. At the beginning of my internship I was very focused on “diving deep,” one of Amazon’s core leadership principles, but I missed the principle of “thinking big.” My manager and mentors coached me on how to lead with recommendations and almost let the data speak for itself.

3. Networking is important. Not just for the sake of it, but it can make your internship experience much more pleasant, the more you know people in the office and gain some allies. The most important people for me were my fellow interns – 2 others from IESE, one from ESADE, one from INSEAD, and one from MIT. We became really close friends but also helped each other out with our work – my friend from MIT showed me how to do vlookups in Excel in the first days of the internship, and I used them constantly the rest of the internship! I often used the Amazon internal employee directory to find IESE alumni working in interesting roles and reached out to them to have coffee or lunch, I also had calls with people from other offices.

Finding some time to enjoy the summer sun with the fellow interns.

How to ace your Amazon interview

Amazon interviews are very unique and unlike any other interviews I’ve experienced. They are 100% behavioral interviews, a.k.a. “Tell me about a time you…solved a problem by diving deep.” The interviewers will be testing you on the 14 Amazon leadership principles – https://www.aboutamazon.com/working-at-amazon/our-leadership-principles

The first round of interviews is 1 hour long. There are 2 interviewers for 30 mins each. They will each ask you about 2-3 behavioral questions. If you make it to the second (final) round, it will be the same, 1 hour with 2 interviewers.

So that’s a total of 8-12 behavioral questions. Some will say you need at least 8-12 unique stories. I would disagree, it’s better to have 5 great stories that you can spin to fit multiple leadership principles.

Although there are 14 leadership principles, it’s more common to be asked about just some of them. I would focus on these:

– customer obsession (the most important principle)
– dive deep
– ownership
– invent & simplify
– learn & be curious
– are right, a lot
– think big
– Bias for action
– insist on the highest standards
– earn trust
– have backbone, disagree and commit
– deliver results

Reflect on your past work experience and when you’ve demonstrated these principles. Examples of working in a team in the MBA are OK, but work experience is better. You can also have examples of your personal experiences or entrepreneurship (I think I mentioned I am President of the Yoga club at IESE at some point).

Some example questions are:

– tell me about a time you used data analysis (macros, vlookups) to solve a problem.
– how did you deal with a difficult colleague or customer?
– when did you make a mistake at work and how did you fix it?
– If your direct manager was instructing you to do something you disagreed with, how would you handle it?

This is a good article with sample questions – https://www.inc.com/business-insider/best-amazon-interview-questions.html

Another note, if they ask about a weakness or a mistake, make sure it’s a real one. “I’m too much of a perfectionist” is not a real weakness.

Make sure you do a lot of mock interviews as it takes time to perfect your stories. With other students is OK, with former Amazon interns or current employees (IESE alumni) is even better.

Make sure you have a clear structure to your answer. Most common is to repeat the question with the main point of your story, e.g. “A time I used data to solve a problem is when I convinced a client to double their budget with my company.” Amazon loves data and numbers so make sure you have concrete data points for your examples, e.g. “the client doubled their budget from 100k per month to 200k per month.” Use the STAR method – Situation, Task, Action, Result. This is a good article about this – https://www.themuse.com/advice/star-interview-method

You may get a case study question. The most common is, “how would you convince Nike to sell on Amazon?” Note that Amazon does not share its internal data with people outside of Amazon, even potential customers/vendors like Nike.

Good luck on your Amazon interview!

Enjoying some paella with my teammates.

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