The interview is the most important step of the job application process. The primary purpose of an interview is for employers to get an interpersonal impression of each job applicant. The answers to interview questions can say a lot about an individual’s work experience, ethics, personality, and values. All of these factors are important to make sure open positions are filled with the right candidate, especially for an influential company like Amazon. Amazon’s interview questions exemplify this goal by being objective, relevant to the job, in line with legal requirements, and free from bias.
Objective interview questions are those in which the interviewer’s personal values, beliefs, and feelings do not interfere. One of Amazon’s questions is, "If your direct manager was instructing you to do something you disagreed with, how would you handle it?" (Moss, 2013). This is an example of an objective question. On the other hand, if the questions began, “If I was instructing you to do something you disagreed with…” the question could no longer be considered objective because the interviewer has brought his or herself into the equation. Objectivity of questions allows for honest answers and each of Amazon’s questions are equally objective. Objectivity is not the only trait of good interview questions, though.
The difficulty with making all interview questions position-relevant is that there is more to hiring someone than making sure they can do the bare minimum. Some interview questions may have more hidden relevance to the job that only the interviewer is aware of. For example, the first question on Amazon’s list is, "Do you know our CEO? How do you pronounce his name?” (Moss, 2013). While this question is not directly related to the job, it does demonstrate how much an interviewee knows about the company. In a journal article on difficult interview questions, Practice Nurse reminded its readers that “a candidate should not feel uncomfortable in politely declining to answer. The simple way to pass…these is to ask the interviewer how the question relates to the job” (“Difficult Interview Questions,” 2010). Only of nineteen questions directly related to an Amazon job, such as “Walk me through how Amazon Kindle books, read on an e-reader, would be priced." However, many of them had significance in terms of jobs skills or positive personality traits. While job relevance may be subjective to the interviewer, compliance with the law during interviews is not.
Federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws limit the kinds of questions that can be asked during interviews. These laws prevent discrimination against individuals based on race, religion, gender, age, and disability (“Federal Laws,” 2009). Any interview questions that insinuate bias against any of those traits could land a company in legal trouble. None of Amazon’s questions approach any of those areas. The only question that insinuates culture at all asks, “How would you solve problems if you were from Mars?” (Moss, 2013). Since Mars isn’t a recognized human culture, this most likely isn’t a problem.
Following laws is not all that is important. Interviewers should also form their questions so that they are free of any age, gender, or cultural biases. All of Amazon’s questions pass this criterion, but that is not the case in all interview questions. One of their broadest questions is, “What is the most difficult situation you have ever faced in your life? How did you handle it?” (Moss, 2013). This could easily become biased if the interviewer instead asked, “In your many years, what is the most difficult situation you have ever faced?” By implying that the interviewee has had “many year,” they are allowing an age bias to enter the interview.
Overall, Amazon’s questions meet the desirable standards of each category: objective questions, relevant questions, no legal issues, no biases. Although each of Amazon’s questions do not specifically relate to the job, they are all relevant to job skills, necessary employee traits, and corporate culture. Amazon’s interview questions are a good example of how all companies should conduct interviews.
Dealing with difficult interview questions. (2010). Practice Nurse, 39(11), 46.
Federal laws prohibiting job discrimination questions and answers (n.d.). In U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/qanda.html
Moss, C. (2013, October 20). If you want to work for Amazon, you'd better be able to answer these questions. Business Insider. http://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-interview-questions-2013-10?op=1