Bezos believed each employee played a key role, so the quality of new hires was as crucial to the success of the business as the products it sold. As a result, Bezos was not only obsessed with creating an outstanding customer experience. He was also tenacious about hiring the strongest employees possible.
To impress Jeff Bezos in an interview, you needed to prove you had this trait.
Given Jeff Bezos’s high standards for himself and his company, it shouldn’t surprise us that, in the interviews he conducted, he grilled candidates to see how accountable they were for their own actions. He sought people who, by their nature, would always strive to meet and exceed the expectations set for them.
“One of his mottos was that every time we hired someone, he or she should raise the bar for the next hire, so that the overall talent pool was always improving,” says Nicholas Lovejoy, Amazon’s fifth employee.
This is harder than it sounds. You can’t just say, “I’m accountable!” For CEOs like Bezos, the secret to proving you have the traits they’re looking for lies in the way you answer what’s called “behavioral questions.” In fact, one of the most common mistakes people make in interviews is failing to answer these properly.
It’s not the trait that matters, it’s how you acquired and used it.
Behavioral interviewing is a technique used by interviewers to get inside your head. Specifically, they want to understand how you developed (and hopefully, mastered) a skill, ability, or character trait. A carefully crafted open-ended question is asked that requires you to give a detailed answer. For example, Bezos might ask you, “Tell me about a time when you knew some work you did wasn’t the best it could be. What did you do?” Or, he might ask,”Imagine you were given an intense task with an unreasonable deadline. What would you do?” Your answers to these questions help the interviewer understand whether you have the personality, aptitude, and experience to succeed in their company. The tricky part? Each company and its leaders are different. Thus, the right answers to those questions could be different for each one. Therefore, it’s up to you, the interviewee, to research the company on sites like Glassdoor, to determine what they’re looking for in the interview.
Even if you don’t want a job with Amazon, you should still improve your behavioral interviewing skills. Here’s why.
Today, every job is temporary. The chances are high you will need to interview multiple times in your lifetime. Moreover, behavioral interviewing is a widespread technique used by thousands of recruiters and hiring managers. Knowing how to respond to behavioral questions will improve the chances you make a good impression and beat out the competition for the job you want. Waiting until the night before an interview to prepare is like cramming for the final exam — it can end badly. Besides, getting the interview is even more challenging these days; do you really want to blow it because you failed to learn to tell interviewers what they need to hear to hire you?