How to Ace the Financial Specialist Interview at Amazon?
Congratulations on getting an opportunity to interview for the position of Financial Specialist at Amazon. The bad news is that the interview process can be quite difficult. This blog article will list out a several tips and tricks to help you ace your upcoming interview.
1. Start by Studying the Interview Process at Amazon for the Position of Financial Specialist
Before going into your interview, it vital to understand the interview process at Amazon. This will help you plan your strategy and you won't be surprised through the interview process.
The Amazon Financial Specialist interview process is as follows:
The interview process at Amazon starts with a phone screen or an on-campus meeting with a recruiter.
Additionally, you will also be asked to take an online test. This is done to screen out candidates that do not fit the Amazon bar.
Once selected, you will be asked to do two additional in person screens or phone interviews with people from the hiring group. One of these will be with the hiring manager for the position.
Assuming these go well, you will be invited onsite for a full round of interviews. These interviews are 45 minutes each and are conducted with various members of the hiring committee. Expect to have up to 6 interviews. One of these are with a "bar raiser", the most difficult of all the interviews you will have. The "bar raiser" has veto power over every other interviewer and can say "No" to your candidacy even if everyone says "Yes".
Amazon focuses a big part of their interview on behavioral questions related to the 14 amazon principles. So, make sure to prepare them well.
As part of the interview process you will also be asked to complete a writing assignment. This is done offline (not during the full day of interviews) and will be submitted to the recruiter.
The interview committee will make a decision with 1-2 days of your onsite interview and the recruiter in charge of your account will deliver the final offer or rejection to you.
2. Study the Internet Commerce industry in detail.
Amazon operates within the Internet Commerce industry. So, it is vital to understand this industry in detail before going into the interview.
Here are industry details for the Internet Commerce industry:
Industry Name: Internet Commerce
How large is the industry and what is the projected growth rate of the industry?
In 2016, online sales of physical goods amounted to 360.3 billion US dollars and are projected to surpass 603.4 billion US dollars in 2021. Apparel and accessories retail e-commerce in the U.S. is projected to generate over 121 billion U.S. dollars in revenue by 2021. The United States rank behind several countries in terms of e-commerce sales as percentage of total retail sales - in 2016, almost a fifth of China's retail sales occurred via the internet, compared to only 8.1 percent in the United States. The UK, South Korea, and Denmark are also ahead of the U.S. in terms of retail e-commerce share.
Retail e-commerce sales in the United States from 2016 to 2022 (in million U.S. dollars)
In 2017, market leader Amazon.com, Inc. generated over 54.47 billion U.S. dollars via e-commerce sales of physical goods in the United States. Online shopping is one of the leading digital activities in the United States - in 2017, U.S. consumers spent over 409 billion U.S. dollars online, of which were spent more than 381 billion U.S. dollars in the biggest online retailers in the U.S.. In 2022, U.S. e-retail spending is projected to surpass 638 billion U.S. dollars. The most popular time to spent money online is the holiday season at the end of the year. Cyber Monday regularly ranks as the top online spending day in the United States with Cyber Monday e-commerce sales in 2016 amounting to 2.67 billion U.S. dollars on that day alone. Cyber Monday spending has surpassed 1 billion U.S. dollars in daily online sales since 2010.
Leading e-retailers in the United States in 2017, ranked by e-commerce sales (in billion U.S. dollars)
1. Ecommerce Is Growing but Only Represents 11.9% of Retail Sales
Ecommerce market share in 2018, as a percentage of all retail sales, is expected to increase to 11.9% — up from 3.5% a decade ago. But brick and mortar is still a dominant player by a landslide.
Fast growth plus relatively low market share means that there is still enormous opportunity for new players to outpace traditional industry leaders. High-growth businesses need to watch who’s emerging, track who’s loved, and research how to be successful in both business and life.
It might start on a Pinterest feed, or when someone sees their friend’s jacket. It might end after a search at the store, or at a buy button through Facebook. Most people (86%) shop around on at least two touchpoints (i.e., channels).
The good news is shoppers that do this tend to spend more. Javelin Strategy predicts that mobile commerce, accounting for $161 billion at the end of 2016, is set to jump to $319 billion by 2020.
Yet even though this discipline sounds simple enough, it brings its own challenges.
Managing multiple channels can be confusing unless it’s all consolidated into one system. That doesn’t come easy … nearly a third of retailers lack “the inventory visibility across stores, vendors, and warehouses in order to accurately promise multi-channel fulfillment.”
Attempting multi-channel without properly setting up and maintaining inventory management systems is futile.
If your business had a secret to save time, lower costs, and sell more, would you tell anyone?
A decade ago, that secret was marketing automation. Enterprises like Amazon, Walmart, and Costco — with the resources for large-scale research and development — built empires on its back.
Today, a new secret for the future of ecommerce is emerging: automation.
In the last two years, you’ve probably seen your mobile traffic outpace or at least come close to your desktop traffic. Over 2017 Black Friday and Cyber Monday, according to data from Adobe, while 46% of all BFCM traffic came through mobile devices, only 30% of sales closed there.
People browse on mobile, but they still buy on desktop.
Despite the rising prevalence of mobile, retailers are still trying to figure it all out. For one, consumers aren’t just browsing content on mobile: they’re making purchases. In the U.K., for instance, mobile spending tripled in the first half of 2017. Some people are window shopping and others are comfortable enough with their phones to make purchases.
By the time you read this, Instagram will have over a billion monthly active users. According to Flurry, the average digital adult spends 5 hours per day on their devices and “50% of time-spent is in social, messaging, media and entertainment applications.”
And a good slice of them are buying — 18.2% of respondents to this September 2016 survey have purchased products directly via social media. Even more will buy in the coming years, as these early adopters vet and validate the experience.
According to McKinsey, 1.4 billion people will join the global middle class by 2020, and 85% will be in the Asia Pacific region. CPG and retailers who enter this space early will have a competitive advantage in meeting market demand.
Data and image via The Enterprise Guide to Global Ecommerce
Nonetheless, many enterprise leaders will struggle to capitalize on the future of ecommerce’s international opportunities.
The reason. Each country introduces a new set of constraints, market preferences, and security challenges. Consider a country like Nigeria, for instance, where demand for U.S. ecommerce products may be strong but risky to fulfill.
7. Micro-Moments Are the New Battleground for Optimization
Marketing is becoming more granular. One-size-fits-all advertising messages are already obsolete in ecommerce, and now, companies’ competitive advantages are coming from optimizing micro-moments.
What are micro-moments? According to Think with Google, these include:
- In-the-moment purchase decisions
- Decisions to solve problems right away
- The pursuit of big goals during downtime
- Decisions to try new things in routine moments
Now more than ever before, shoppers can make more out of their brain breaks and downtime. In addition to creating content, promotional offers, and targeted ads on social media, ecommerce marketers should optimize every last detail—including transactional emails like shipping notifications, purchase confirmations, and status updates.
Triggered by buying behaviors, these messages can help generate repeat sales and deepen customer engagement. According to research from Experian, the revenue per email from transactional messages dwarf bulk emails. Open and transaction rates for messages are also higher since shoppers want to know when their orders will arrive.
Great content is educational, helpful, and entertaining. As a marketing strategy, it’s also cost-effective and impactful to ROI. That’s why 78% of CMOs see custom content as the future of marketing. Not to mention, brands that rely on content save over $14 on each new customer acquired.
In theory, content is something that companies can create as soon as tomorrow. It takes minimal resources to launch a blog or create a product guide. But you need to be thoughtful and strategic about your approach: consumer attention spans are spread thin, and audiences have high-quality standards for what they’re reading, watching, and interacting with.
A good strategy pays off:
- Interesting content is one of the main reasons why people follow brands on social media.
- 64% of people say that customer experience is more important than price point in their choice of a brand.
- Marketers who prioritize blogging are 13x more likely to generate a positive ROI.
- Content can help double website conversion rates from 6% to 12%, says HubSpot.
As powerful as content is, it’s also tough to do right.
9. B2B Ecommerce Is Dwarfing B2C Ecommerce by Over $5 Trillion
In 2017, according to Statista, “the gross merchandise volume of business-to-business e-commerce transactions is projected to amount to 7.66 trillion U.S. dollars, up from 5.83 trillion U.S. dollars in 2013.”
That difference in growth almost matches the entire amount of projected transactions in B2C ecommerce, at $2.143 trillion in 2017.
In addition, the average conversion rate of B2B survey respondents was 10% — over three times higher than the 3% average reported by B2C ecommerce executives.
Naturally, the opportunity comes with its own challenges. Every B2B ecommerce buyer is also likely a B2C ecommerce shopper. Having shopped at Amazon, they’ll also be conditioned to want a similar experience — fast, direct, streamlined operations with no resistance between search and checkout. They want to buy at the website, not through a sales rep.
10. Fragmentation Is the Future of Ecommerce’s Biggest Challenge
Thanks to the accessibility of digital, consumers have access to more buying opportunities than ever before. Our phones give us immediate access to more retailers than we can count.
For big-ticket items, in particular, this means an exponential increase in touchpoints.
Image via Think with Google
While lower-cost products rarely take three months of research, nearly all online buyers now follow a similar, meandering path.
If you’re a large company, you may be scared because niche boutiques are well-positioned to gain market share. If you’re a small company, you may be excited about the lower barriers to market entry and growth. No matter where you sit on the fence between startup and dominant industry player, there’s an opportunity to win and an opportunity to lose.
3. Study Amazon in detail.
Next you must ensure you understand Amazon in detail. You will be asked tons of questions regarding Amazon, so it's best to be prepared. Here are company details for Amazon that you must prepare for:
If you have ever interviewed before, you should know that questions regarding the company are common throughout the process.
You want to show throughout the process that you have done your research about the company, know where the company is going and why you’re excited about the same.
This chapter will give you a list of areas that you need to prepare for, specifically about Amazon.
When studying information about a company, it’s important for us to have a framework in place.
Here is a good framework to use when studying Amazon or any company for that matter.
- Company’s Vision and Mission
- Company’s Culture and Values
- Products and Services
- Management Team
- Future Plans and Threats
Amazon’s vision statement is “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.” This vision statement underscores the organization’s main aim of becoming the best e-commerce company in the world. The following components or characteristics are emphasized in Amazon’s vision statement:
a. Global reach
b. Customer prioritization
c. Widest selection of products
Amazon’s mission statement is as follows: “We strive to offer our customers the lowest possible prices, the best available selection, and the utmost convenience.” This mission statement promises an attractive e-commerce service to satisfy customers’ needs. The following components or features are identifiable in Amazon’s mission statement:
a. Lowest prices
b. Best selection
c. Utmost convenience
The diagram summarizes Amazon’s way of operating very well. Note that there are no “Take Profits” here. It’s a closed loop.
We have already covered in this great detail earlier in this class. You can either refer to that section of read more about Amazon’s principles of leadership here.
These are some of Amazon’s key businesses:
You can find these by going to the link below on Amazon’s job website.
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You can further drill down into some key businesses to understand the various teams that operate it. You can further drill down into some key businesses to understand the various teams that operate it. These will be important to understand as you go through your interviews.
This section should be answered specific to the group/product/category that you are considering. Amazon has tons of businesses and each business caters to a specific customer demographic, so it’s impossible to summarize them all here.
Big picture you should collect demographic information for the customer that the group you are trying to get a job with is going after.
Examples of what data you should collect:
a. Age bracket
b. Household Income (HHI)
c. Male/Female Ratio
d. Average Spend per Year
Amazon has tons of different customers, each different for the different products it offers.
Here is a chart from Business Insider
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The article says that amazon customers consist of upper and middle class social groups who have an inclination towards using e-commerce portals and are comfortable with online shopping.
Amazon has tons of different competitors for the various businesses that it operates in, but we look at its e-commerce business, here is a short list:
So what competitive advantage that Amazon have over these competitors? The following article describes it in greater detail:
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The highlights clearly show that one the advantages that Amazon has is that it has massive customer retention. Its customers consistently come back and buy from the site. The massive number of credit cards it has on file and the trust its customers have with the company give Amazon an edge.
Here are few other strengths of the company.
- Strong Background and Deep Pockets – Built on its early success with books, Amazon now has product categories that include electronics, toys, games, home and kitchen, white goods, brown goods and much more. Amazon has evolved to be a global e-commerce giant in the last 2 decades.
- Customer Centric: Company’s robust CRM has created customer centric processes in order to carefully record data on customer’s buying behavior. This enables them to offer individual items, related items or bundle them as an offer, based upon preferences demonstrated through purchases or items visited. Also, the company claims that 55% of their customers are repeat buyers resulting in low cost of acquisition of new buyers.
- Cost Leadership: In order to differentiate itself, the company has created several strategic alliances with other companies to offer superior customer service. The most important strategic tie ups are with logistics providers who control costs. Through economies of scale, Amazon is able to lower the inventory replenishment time.
- Efficient Delivery Network: With its strategic partners and due to its fulfilment centers, Amazon has created a deep and structured network in order to make the product available even at remote locations. It also has free of cost delivery charges in certain geographies.
- GLOCAL Strategy: By using the strategy of “Go global and act local”, Amazon is able to fight with domestic c-commerce companies either by absorbing or by forming or partnering with other supply chain companies. They brand too for the local taste. For example - In India, Amazon is currently using the “Aur Dikhao” campaign to encourage users to browse more of their products.
- Acquisitions: Acquiring companies like Zappos.com, Junglee.com, IMBD.com, woot.com etc. Has proven to be a successful and revenue generating for Amazon.
Here are a few examples of some of the weaknesses of Amazon as a company.
- Shrinking margins: Due to its extensive delivery network and price wars Amazon’s margins are shrinking, which resulting in losses.
- Tax Avoidance issue: Amazon has attracted negative publicity on account of tax avoidance in countries like U.S & UK. Most of its revenue is generated from these well established markets.
- High Debt: In many developing nations Amazon is still struggling to make the business profitable and so has to continue to take on debt.
- Product flops – Amazon launched the Fire Phone in the US which was a big flop. At the same time, Amazon Kindle Fire did not pick up as strongly as Kindle did.
One thing to note is that this is not a comprehensive list, but simply a few items that you can take to your interviews. At the end of the day, do your research and go prepared. But if you’re running short of time, this is a good list to go with.
The key man behind Amazon is Jeff Bezos. I recommend you read a brief bio on him - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Bezos. He runs a tight ship at Amazon, so you’ll need to familiar with his style of operating if you’d like to work there.
Here are a few financial metrics of Amazon. I recommend memorizing them before your interview (or read about these latest metrics a day or so before your interview).
As of this writing, it’s clear that Amazon is running at a loss, but its top line continues to grow very strongly.
Additionally, we can also look at some customer metrics at Amazon. A few examples:
The image shows that Amazon has a total of approximately 250MM active customers.
You can get more statistics on Amazon from the following link:
The following is not a comprehensive list, but only a sample of a few opportunities and threats that you can take with you to your interview. I recommend doing your own research as you start preparing.
- Backward Integration: Amazon can come up with its in-house brands in different product categories. They can also differentiate their offering. This will help them make profits in highly competitive E-commerce market.
- Global Expansion: Expansion mainly in Asian & developing economies will help Amazon because those are the markets with low competition in E-commerce industries & are not saturated like developed economies.
- Acquisitions: By acquiring E-commerce companies it can decrease the competition level & also can use the specialized capacity of the other company.
- Opening physical stores outside U.S: By doing this Amazon can help the customers to engage with the brand, resulting in increase in repeat purchases & increase in loyal customer base.
- Low entry barriers of the industry: Low entry barriers affect current players as more companies means tougher competition, price wars, shrinking margins and losses.
- Government regulations: Not having clarity on the issues related to FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) in multi brand retail has been a big hurdle in the success of e-commerce players in many developing nations.
- Local competition – India has SnapDeal and Flipkart who are local e-commerce retailers and are taking away majority of the market share. Similarly, there are many local players who take bites from the market share thereby making it hard for a big player like Amazon to make profits.
For this section, I recommend pulling open the newspaper the morning of the interview and see what’s going on with Amazon. Is there news of an acquisition? Maybe there’s news about its earnings or growth or new offices its opening. Maybe there is a scoop that someone published. Whatever the case, be ready the day of the interview, so that you are not caught off-guard with any questions. At the same time, you’ll be able to showcase your preparedness to the interviewer.
Before your interview, I highly recommend this read, which is a case study on Amazon. It’s long, but definitely worth it as you are doing your research on Amazon before your interview.
It is a long case study on Amazon that should give you enough research before your interview.
4. Study the Job Description for the Position of Financial Specialist at Amazon.
The job description is a vital piece of the interview process at Amazon. The job description can be used as the language of the company. Here is what we recommend.
1. Print out the job description.
2. Highlight the key responsibilities within the job description.
3. Think about times in your career or personal life where you've shown or performed those responsibilities.
It is almost guaranteed that you will get questions related to these responsibilities, so why not prepare for them in advance.
You can practice with the job description below:
Example: This is an example Amazon Financial Specialist position. Please get the JD for the appropriate position you are interviewing for and conduct this exercise.
Are you looking for the next big Finance opportunity? Looking for a business partnering role with P&L responsibility? Want to directly influence the future of some of the most successful products in cloud computing?
Join us at Amazon Web Services Finance and be part of the Storage finance team!
Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a pioneer in blazing the new trails of cloud computing. AWS is a high-growth, fast-moving group within Amazon with a start-up mentality where new and diverse challenges arise every day, but a group that operates with the full backing of one of the world’s most successful web companies.
AWS Finance seeks a world class Financial Analyst to be a key member of the Storage finance team. This position will work closely with finance management as well as key business partners across the AWS organization, including Product Managers and Engineers, to drive thoughtful analysis and controllership in the AWS Storage businesses.
· Managing the AWS Storage Business P&L and influencing business decisions that drive revenue and/or capital expenditures
· Design and develop recurring and ad hoc business reporting (financials, headcount, opex) to provide business partners with insightful data to make key decisions.
· Lead process improvement projects through model automation and data mining as Business Intelligence (BI) Lead for storage team.
· Taking the lead in financial planning and analysis; building complex financial models and analytical tools to measure overall financial performance
· Developing short and long range financial/operational forecasts
· Developing and standardizing financial reports
· Working on ad hoc financial analyses and projects
The successful candidate will implement and deliver the core financial processes for the business including Annual Operating Plans, Service P&L, Monthly/Quarterly Business Reviews, identify and quantify financial/operational Risks and Opportunities (R&O) to the business, and drive ad hoc business projects. Additional responsibilities include helping refine the capacity planning process and modeling improvements to help drive positive Free Cash Flow.
This role requires a self-starter with a strong financial modeling background, problem solving skills, a keen attention to detail, ability to work in a fast-paced environment with ambiguous situations, and solid skills in project management. This role has regular interaction with various business units across Amazon and requires strong people skills
· 3+ years of relevant experience
· BA/BS degree required
· Advanced financial modeling skills.
· An MBA or MS in Finance or a related field
· Exceptional financial modeling skills, including proficiency in SQL
· Advanced knowledge of Excel/ financial modeling
· Advanced analytical skills
· 5+ years of financial experience
· An ability to develop new ideas and creative solutions
· An ability to meet tight deadlines and prioritize workload
· Knowledge of computing industry
· An ability to work independently and self-motivate in a fast-paced and rapidly-changing environment
· A work ethic based on a desire to exceed expectations
· Collaborative interpersonal skills — including written and oral communication skills
· Experience in a technology company or high-tech environment
Amazon is an Equal Opportunity-Affirmative Action Employer – Minority / Female / Disability / Veteran / Gender Identity / Sexual Orientation
5. Practice the Top Questions and Answers consistently asked.
Finally, you must practice the top questions that have been consistently asked as part of the Financial Specialist interview at Amazon. Here is a list that you should be prepared for:
What are Financial Statements of a company and what do they tell about a company?
Explain Cash Flow Statement in detail
Explain three sources of short-term Finance used by a company
Define Working Capital
A company buys an asset; walk me through the impact on the 3 financial statements
What is EPS and how is it calculated?
Different types of EPS
What is a difference between Futures Contract and Forwards Contract?
What are the different types of Bonds?
What is a securitized Bond?
What is Deferred Tax Liability and why it might be created?
What is Financial Modeling in Corporate Finance?
What are the most common multiples used in valuation?
Describe WACC and its components
Describe P/E Ratio
What are Stock Options?
What is DCF method?
What is a Stock Split and Stock Dividend?
What is Rights Issue?
What is a clean and dirty price of a bond?
Hope this helps.
Till next time,
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