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Cover image for Interview Question: Tell me when you decided to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains.
Alex (The Engineering Bolt) ⚡
Alex (The Engineering Bolt) ⚡

Posted on • Originally published at

Interview Question: Tell me when you decided to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains.

Big tech companies like Amazon and Meta often ask questions like this to assess candidates’ fit with their Leadership Principles. These companies have a rigorous interview process that focuses not only on technical skills but also on behavioural competencies and cultural fit. Understanding and being able to demonstrate these competencies is key to succeeding in their interviews.

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Answering Interview Question

When answering the question, “Tell me about a time you had to decide to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains,” it’s crucial to not only demonstrate your ability to think strategically and make decisions that align with overarching business goals but also to emphasize the significant role you played in these decisions. Highlight your problem-solving skills, decision-making process, and the long-term vision you aimed to achieve. Show how you managed stakeholders, communicated the benefits, and executed the plan effectively. Specific examples showcasing your leadership, customer obsession, and alignment with core principles will illustrate your ability to navigate complex situations for sustainable success.

Focus Areas

  1. Problem-Solving Skills a. Understanding of the Problem: Did the candidate articulate the problem or challenge that necessitated the decision? b. Context and Complexity: How complex was the situation? Did the candidate explain the context and constraints effectively?
  2. Decision-Making Process a. Analytical Approach: Did the candidate demonstrate a systematic approach to analyzing the situation and weighing the short-term sacrifices against the long-term benefits? b. Criteria for Decision: What factors did the candidate consider necessary in making the decision? Were these factors relevant and aligned with the company's goals or the project's objectives?
  3. Strategic Thinking a. Long-Term Vision: How well did the candidate articulate the long-term gains? Did they show a clear understanding of the potential future benefits? b. Alignment with Business Goals: Did the candidate align their decision with broader business goals or strategic objectives?
  4. Leadership and Influence a. Stakeholder Management: How did the candidate manage the stakeholders involved? Did they communicate the short-term sacrifices and long-term benefits effectively to their team or other stakeholders? b. Influence and Persuasion: Did the candidate have to persuade others to agree with their decision? How did they handle any resistance?
  5. Execution and Follow-Through a. Implementation: How did the candidate implement the decision? What steps did they take to mitigate the impact of the short-term sacrifices? b. Outcome and Reflection: What was the result of the decision? Did the long-term gains materialize as expected? What did the candidate learn from the experience?
  6. Examples of Short-Term Sacrifices a. Resource Allocation: Did the candidate mention reallocating resources, such as time, budget, or personnel, from immediate tasks to more strategic initiatives? b. Feature Prioritization: Did they delay the release of features or products in favour of more sustainable solutions or foundational improvements? c. Technical Debt: Did the candidate address technical debt by prioritizing long-term code quality and maintainability over quick fixes?
  7. Behavioural Competencies a. Bias for Action: Did the candidate demonstrate a bias for action, showing they are fearless in making tough decisions quickly when necessary? b. Customer Obsession: Was there an element of customer obsession in their decision, considering the long-term benefits to the end-user? c. Ownership: Did the candidate take ownership of the decision and its good and bad consequences?
  8. Cultural Fit a. Amazon Leadership Principles: How well did the candidate's approach align with Amazon's leadership principles, such as "Think Big," "Dive Deep," "Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit," and "Deliver Results"?

Read an example of a strong answer here: Example of a Strong Answer


Mastering the art of making short-term sacrifices for long-term gains is not just a skill but a mindset that is crucial for any successful software engineer, especially in a dynamic and fast-paced environment like Amazon. When answering questions about such decisions, it’s essential to highlight your strategic thinking, data-driven approach, and ability to align with broader company goals. Demonstrating how you effectively communicate, collaborate, and lead through change showcases your leadership potential and cultural fit. By focusing on these areas, you not only convey your capacity to navigate complex challenges and drive sustainable success but also inspire confidence in your potential for continuous growth and learning, making a compelling case for your candidacy.

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Top comments (3)

sneakssnaps profile image
Sneaks & Snaps

What are some of the other Amazon Leadership Principles? I have an upcoming interview so want to prepare on how to answer behavioral questions. I know it's should be relatively easy round for a L4 role but you never knwo.

jobclout profile image

How was you coding round, or do youhave any tips for preparation?

solarisregulus profile image
Solaris Regulus

There are many resources online I have used @alexr blog to prepare for Meta rounds but for Amazon I recommend this article