I Hire New Grads At Amazon—Here Are 4 Qualities That Can Help You Stand Out

The head of Amazon’s university recruiting program explains how to show off “soft skills” on job interviews and resumes.

I Hire New Grads At Amazon—Here Are 4 Qualities That Can Help You Stand Out
[Photo: David Ryder/Getty Images]

As a job candidate, having the right “hard skills” is a critical prerequisite for any role at just about any company. But especially for recent grads, technical expertise alone isn’t what’s going to help you stand out in a job market where so many of your peers are talking up the same exact credentials. You’ll need at least two other things in order to gain an edge: first, those “soft skills” you keep hearing about–like communication, problem-solving, and collaboration–and second, a few clear signs that you’re a fit for the specific work culture of the company you want to hire you.


Admittedly, it’s a lot harder to demonstrate these things in writing or in conversation, but it can be done. As Amazon’s director of University Recruiting, these are a few things I like to look for that candidates don’t always know to add to their resumes, mention during job interviews, or even write about on hiring assessments.

1. Signs That You’re Curious

We want to hire people who don’t rest on their laurels when it comes to personal and professional development–they constantly forge ahead, building new skills by asking new questions about whatever piques their curiosity. So we scour candidates’ resumes and listen during interviews for signs of curiosity, not just accomplishments.

New grads in particular tend to struggle to showcase what they’ve done–which can be hard to do when your work experience is limited to a handful of internships and on-campus activities. While the traditional career advice–focus on outcomes and results–isn’t necessarily bad, at Amazon we try to go beyond just that.

Related: Facebook’s Head Of People Shares What She’s Looking For Right Now

When you’re thinking about framing your experience, tell us not just what resulted from your efforts, but why you were excited to make those efforts in the first place and what you learned along the way. If you took a class to improve your knowledge base in a new subject area, took on responsibilities outside of your internship’s role, or solved a customer problem that was difficult to manage, let us know!

The fact that you wanted to stretch yourself is sometimes more important than what actually came of it on your first try.


2. A Big Risk You Took

Amazon’s most loved products have been the brainchildren of calculated risk-takers–employees who have looked at an opportunity, understood the risks, and been bold enough to push forward. So we know that no big wins come without the potential for failure, and the key is to know what the risk is and that the upside is worth it.

When you’re highlighting specific accomplishments on your resume, make absolutely certain that you flag the risks involved in achieving the ones you’re most proud of–don’t assume that we’ll know. In fact, devote a separate bullet-point here and there to explaining exactly how you assessed a certain risk before taking action. And when a recruiter at Amazon asks you to talk about a big win you’re really proud of, do the same when you recount that story. Again, demonstrating impact is important, but so is the getting-there.

3. Something You Thought Up Yourself

Being able to complete tasks and projects effectively and on time is important–that’s a given. But so is bringing new ideas, products, and solutions to the table. So while you do want to tout your time-management and organizational chops, you should also emphasize any projects and ideas that you’ve thought up, launched, or scaled.

Give these pride of place on your resume, and line up an anecdote or two for the interview process where you can get into specifics: Did you propose a new program in the organization you volunteered with on campus? How did it go? Did you make a small change to an existing product that made a surprising impact in your first job after graduating?

Creative problem-solving is a crucial soft skill that’s often in short supply. Do don’t just tell us how you’ve executed other people’s instructions; tell us about the original you’ve ideas had and how they’ve made an impact.

Related: I Hire Engineers At Google–This Is What I Look For (And Why)


4. A Time You Put The Customer First

(You knew this one was coming, didn’t you?) Amazon is famously focused on being the world’s most customer-centric company, so every decision we make starts with the customer and works backward from there. While you might position yourself for a role at another company by showing how you can help them beat their competitors, that won’t take you as far here. We worry first and foremost about what our customers want–and we look for candidates with the same mind-set.

Use your resume, candidate assessments, and the interview process to tell us about experiences interacting with customers and end-users. Maybe a company where you interned got a bad customer review, or perhaps a customer request led to the development of a new service or change in approach. How did that come about? What did you learn? And how can you replicate that same responsiveness to customers’ needs when you join us?

These four skills will all help you fit in and thrive at Amazon, but keep in mind, too, that fitting in (to any work culture, not just ours) doesn’t mean not being yourself. We hire based on experience and passion, but individuality counts as well. Some candidates run too far in the opposite direction, especially when they’re trying to impress–touting their technical skills so much that they sound like a Coursera syllabus, not an actual person. A little personality also goes a long way.

Miriam Park is director of University Programs at Amazon.