What Amazon Seeks In An MBA Hire

Miriam Park

Miriam Park

What kinds of skills does Amazon anticipate needing in the coming years that you may not possess enough of now (Languages, Technical Skills, etc.)?

What we really look for in our talent pool to possess are analytical thinking and problem-solving abilities. We find that MBAs are particularly excellent at this. Another is language. We have openings across the world, so we’re always looking for MBAs with native language proficiencies as well as English. It’s such a wonderful combination and we always need more of that.

For example, in our AWS business, we seek technical product managers. MBA candidates for this position must be wicked smart, and also technically conversant. A technical product manager drives ideas from conception to execution, developing business models, marketing plans, success metrics and literally owns the product from end-to-end.

What advice would you give to students who have their hearts set on working for you? How can they enhance their job prospects?

Both in understanding if Amazon is a fit and in showcasing that fit, it is important to learn about Amazon, [particularly] our culture and our leadership principles. Think about how you can demonstrate those skills.

Get to know our culture and our leadership principles and translate that to your experiences and what you’d bring to the company. We’re really driven on what I call analytical thinking, which means that an employee or candidate really needs to be able to dive in and understand what is driving something or the assumptions around that.  This provides the context to give options, alternatives, and tradeoffs. Amazonians at all levels understand and stay connected to the details.

Recruiting can be a two-way street. What has Amazon done to make itself more appealing to MBA candidates? (i.e. new initiatives being rolled out)

Employee dog in the Seattle office (Hundreds of Amazon employees in Seattle bring their dogs in every day)

Employee dog in the Seattle office (Hundreds of Amazon employees in Seattle bring their dogs in every day)

First of all, we give MBA candidates a really robust experience where they can jump in and take ownership on projects that are large in scale and have a big impact.

At Amazon, we have former MBA hires at the most senior levels of the company. And the individuals who come in as MBA hires are driving things every day. They have major responsibilities and have made a huge difference to our outcomes. MBAs are quite often placed on the highest priority projects, often in the launch and rollout where there may be a very fast deadline and doing something that is very customer-related. One example involving MBA hires was our AmazonFresh program – same-day and early morning delivery for thousands of Amazon items, fresh grocery and local products. Launching AmazonFresh required a lot of critical thinking and was rolled out to hundreds of thousands of customers. For this project, an MBA graduate led the program management of expanding the operational footprint to new cities.

If an MBA was weighing an offer from Amazon and another firm, what would give you the edge?

Let me take the perspective of a prospective MBA. When we talk to MBAs, they often come wondering how much responsibility they will get from day one. Amazon operates as a company that is made up of several startups. [MBAs] are truly owning what they are responsible for. If you think about Amazon, as an MBA, the thing that you’ll learn is driving things at scale. And you’ll be working on what has never been solved anywhere before.

Could you give us an overview of your MBA recruiting and interview process? What are the steps that students should expect? How can they make a good impression and stay on your radar?

The process varies somewhat based on how we come to know a candidate, but consists of behavioral questions and case questions. Our leadership principles inform everything we do, so we also have our candidates talk about their experience in context of the leadership principles.

What types of onboarding, training and ongoing support do you provide to incoming MBAs?

One of the great things about the MBAs is that they generally come in as a cohort, so they get support and instruction from their peers.

Our MBAs go through an onboarding process. And every MBA starts with a launch plan – sitting down with colleagues to talk through their new position and relevant stakeholders.

What’s marvelous about MBAs is that they are very driven, motivated, and curious. They’re able to dive right in so they’re quick to actually use those skills to get acclimated.  The role the MBA steps into also determines their ongoing training, be it on-the-job experiential learning, or structured training modules.

When it comes to Amazon, what are some of the biggest misconceptions that students may have about your organization (and your industry)?

Amazon has so many opportunities to solve problems on behalf of our customers. With those opportunities come more than enough work. For those who are driven and passionate about accomplishing these things for our customers, they are the people who do the best in business and are most successful in our environment.

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