In order to empathize with the user in question, I define a good mix of user personas in the beginning and then describe their demographics, values, and characteristics. I think of people I already know while outlining the personas. Several resources on building user personas are available online. I particularly like the IDEO ones.
The personas need to be complemented with unique and creative ideas. I read technology blogs like Stratechery, subscribe to newsletters like Springwise and listen to podcasts like Exponent to help me with that. Being aware of market trends and competing products in the market made the task of coming up with good ideas easier. I also practiced wire-framing solutions with designer friends of mine. This makes it easier to explain to the interviewer what the solution looks like and ensure that both of you have the same idea in mind.
Products You Like/Dislike Questions
I picked five products I liked and five I didn’t. For each product, I brainstormed the user personas, what utility it serves, its shortcomings and how it can be improved. Before interviewing with a particular company, focus on its products along with a few others.
I applied this process to different classes of products: apps (such as LinkedIn and Google Trips), services (such as supermarket checkout) and physical products (such as wearables).
After identifying qualities that the company cares about, I prepared a spreadsheet with those qualities along the rows and past experiences along the columns. I referred to the company’s website and Amazon leadership principles to fill the rows. Then, I filled the cells with a few stories from my past experiences highlighting those qualities, in the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) format.