These are the top 6 real interview questions I’ve received from Amazon, Apple, Meta, Google, Microsoft and other big tech companies. Make sure you know what they are and how to answer them.

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list of tech companies

These are the toughest tech companies to interview with, according to this survey conducted by Glassdoor of its members.

And this seems about right. As someone that has interviewed with almost every single company on this list and have worked for 3 out of these 11 companies, I can confirm that out of all the interviews I’ve had in my 18 year tech career, the ones at these companies have generally been the most difficult.

But one thing I’ve noticed, is that most of the tough interview questions I’ve faced at these companies revolve around a few key leadership concepts and principles.

So in this article, I’ll go over 6 real interview questions I’ve received from Amazon, Apple, Meta, Google, Microsoft and other big tech companies, how to answer them, and what key leadership concept or principle they were looking to highlight.

1) Describe a time where the data & the results of a project were completely different than your expectations — and how react to this? (Amazon)

This was an Amazon question, for a senior level role in Amazon Payments.

card payment machine
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It was a hard one for me to answer, because typically as a proficient business leader, you would do a lot of due diligence upfront, to ensure that you get to an accurate projection of your initiative’s performance.

And while the data will never be exactly what you expect, it shouldn’t be too far off from your forecasts — assuming, of course, that you have sufficient enough inputs to make an informed prediction.

But the underlying thought that they were looking to test with this question, was how do you react when you have an unexpected change in business performance — and what is your mental model for course correction when you need to make it?

For this one, I highlighted a past program that I’ve led, that didn’t quite meet the financial forecast and made sure to emphasize the concept of failing fast, learning from the situation and influencing my team and other cross-functional partners to pivot to a new direction.

The key to successfully answering this question is to showcase your ability to assess the situation, (meaning you can quickly recognize that something is off), adapt to the changes of the results, and lead others into a new direction of the strategy.

2) How would you take a product or service to market? (Meta)

This one was from Meta — an interview I had for their Reality Labs organization.

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This was a functional question that was searching for whether or not I had the right background and experience in my discipline — to determine if I could do the role that they were hiring for, proficiently.

For these types of questions, I always follow a methodical approach to outlining the different steps required to get to the right outcome.

For this particular example, I walked the hiring manager through my approach on building out the business case, deriving the go-to-market plan, and, of course, measuring and evaluating the KPIs set at the inception of the project.

As long as you provide enough depth and exhibit enough functional expertise in your answer, this interview question should be pretty straightforward.

3) Describe a time when you disagreed with a leader’s decision — and how did you handle it? (Apple)

This was a question I got when I was interviewing for a role in Apple’s Online Store team, and it was very fitting because Apple is a company that very much values thought leadership from every level of its organization.

And this particular question highlights a very real scenario you might have, where you have a collection of very smart and engaged team members, who might have differing perspectives on what drives success.

The way I actually answered this questions, was from the approach of something I learn from Amazon — which is the concept of disagreeing and committing.

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You see, at Amazon, one the principles you get to learn is that it’s ok to disagree with a decision made at your leadership level.

In fact, the higher you climb up the corporate ladder, it is often a requirement for you to voice your concerns, if you have a differing opinion from your leaders.

This ability and the courage to speak up in these cases, is often a touted quality, sought after in higher level roles. But the art is in how you provide and address these concerns and how you deal with the response that comes back. 

In the event that the leader still makes a decision that is different from your perspective, it’s important to know how to commit to moving forward, even if the situation is not exactly in line with your thinking.

I know this is a tough thing to learn — but it is one of the best soft skills that you can develop, to give yourself longevity in your career.

4) How do you prioritize work and communicate that prioritization across organizations? (Meta)

This was another Meta question, but the truth is, I’ve been asked a similar type of question at almost every tech company I’ve interviewed for.

A commonality within almost every high profile business role in tech, is that you will have far more work that lands on your plate, than you are physically capable of doing.

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Therefore, a disciplined practice in prioritization and decision making will be critical for your success, in both your individual contributions & cross functional team efforts as well.

The way I typically answer these types of interview questions, is to highlight my prioritization criteria, whether they be financial impact, key growth KPIs, customer life time value or some other functional priority — and show how I would adjudicate between work that comes in, that may have competing impacts across the organization.

For this one — it would help if you knew what KPIs or success metrics were important in your prospective new role, and what type of business decisions they have to make against those success metrics, on a regular basis.

5) Where have you tried to drive change and failed — and what would you have done differently? (Google)

This one I received when I was interviewing for the Google Shopping organization.

It’s a pretty common question, and it should be a fairly easy one to answer, as well.

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In these inquires, typically, the interviewer is looking for depth/meaning in what you were looking to drive change in, your methodology in driving that change to see if you’ve thought through your approach, and perspective on how you reacted to the results of the change — to gauge your adaptability and mental fortitude in a challenging scenario.

So to answer this question effectively, you’ve got to pick a example that is comprehensive enough to cover all of those points above and shows your resilience to meeting opposition head on.

And if you can find an example that illuminate a high degree of courage in your stand — perhaps the counterpoint of your change initiative was a senior leader to you or a large organization, or some other scenario where it took a great deal of courage to stand up for what you believe in — that’s all the better of an answer for this interview question.

6) Give me an example of a time where you led a large program or initiative, without direct authority? (Microsoft)

Lastly, this is an interview question I received from Microsoft’s Retail team for a senior marketing role.

Obviously, what this question is aiming gauge, is your ability to drive through an influence model, and measure how broad your span of leadership might reach.

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Here, it’s important to highlight how you first organized the right stakeholders you needed to bring onboard for your project, and how you went about building a strong bond and sense of trust within these partners to align them on the right priorities for your initiative.

This, perhaps, is the most important skill you can learn, if you want to be a strong leader in a large corporate organization.

When you work for any large tech company — you’ll quickly discover that no one person, group or leader controls all of the aspects you need to drive a large initiative, of any kind.

And especially as you become more and more senior in your position, you’ll start to see that the partnerships you build and the trust you have between your colleagues is really the only currency you have to buy the effort and the work you need to drive your objectives.

So when you answer this interview question, make sure you showcase all of the collaboration and trust building tactics and skills you’ve acquired over the years — to clearly demonstrate that you are able to form cooperative connections across different working groups, and lead them all in one unified direction.

So those are the top 6 real interview questions I’ve received in my 18 years in large tech. Hope this interview review helps in your preparations — and good luck out there!

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The content here is strictly the opinion of Daniel’s Brew and is for entertainment purposes only. It should not be considered professional financial, investment, or career advice. Investing and career decisions are personal choices that each individual must make for themselves in accordance with their situation and long term plans. Daniel’s Brew will not be held liable for any outcome as a result of anyone following the opinions provided in this content.

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