How Amazon Hires: No Mistakes Allowed

The E-commerce site’s hiring practice takes after its intense CEO, Jeff Bezos. Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Amazon’s theory on hiring can be tied to something its CEO, Jeff Bezos, said in 1998: “I’d rather interview 50 people and not hire anyone than hire the wrong person.”

That philosophy has led to one of the most rigorous hiring processes in America, which can cumulate with Bezos himself giving a speech on why the candidate shouldn’t take the job. And not only does Amazon’s every-nook-and-cranny screening process put a toll on applicants; it puts a toll on its own workers as well.

“Setting the bar high in our approach to hiring has been, and always will continue to be, the single most important element of Amazon.com’s success,” Bezos said, according to idonethis.com.

The in-depth process continues today, despite an explosion of growth at Amazon. The company now has approximately 110,000 employees – nearly 30,000 more than it did in October of 2012,according to Business Insider.

Roughly three-quarters of Amazon’s employees are warehouse workers, and go through a more streamlined hiring process, according to the Wall Street Journal. But the remaining 25 percent – or around 27,500 people – go through several exhaustive screening interviews that last hours and involve multiple people within the company.

“There is no company that sticks to its process like Amazon does,” Valerie Frederickson said, a human resources consultant who has worked with several Silicon Valley companies, according to the Wall Street Journal. “They don’t just hire the best of what they see; they’re willing to keep looking and looking for talent.”

So What Is Amazon’s Hiring Process?

Amazon might be all about speed when it comes to shipping, but it is more-than-willing to spend hours of its workers time when it comes to screening candidates. Specifically, Amazon has a “bar raiser” program, where a select group of Amazon employees take on essentially a second, unpaid job as candidate evaluators.

Bar raisers are employees throughout the company who volunteer to be part of interview committees, according to the Wall Street Journal. These bar raisers will interview candidates for hours – adding up to 20 hours a week to bar raisers’ workweek, on top of their existing jobs – to ensure candidates have the skills and personality necessary to excel, according to the newspaper.

Five to six bar raisers are assigned to each candidate, yet they interview them on their own, either via phone or in-person. Then, the bar raisers write out an evaluation of the candidate, and get together with the other bar raisers who interviewed that person and decide if the candidate will be a good fit, according to the Wall Street Journal.

If any bar raiser has any objection to the candidate – even if the candidate is applying for a position that is not in the same department as the bar raiser – they are eliminated. And high standards are encouraged, as, after all, the idea of a bar raiser is to raise the bar.

“Every time we hire someone, he or she should raise the bar for the next hire, so that the overall talent pool is always improving,” Bezos said, according to idonethis.com.

Candidates, along with the multiple interviews with different sets of bar raisers, are occasionally given an anti-pitch on why they shouldn’t work at Amazon, according to idonethis.com. Bezos has given these himself, where he tells aspiring employees that “you can work long, hard, or smart, but at Amazon.com you can’t choose two out of three,” according to the idonethis.

That intense of a hiring practice has the possibility of burning out both candidates and employees who volunteer as bar raisers, and probably could be streamlined with the right technology. But it is hard to argue with the success of Amazon, which generated $74.45 billion in revenue in 2013.

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Tags: Amazon, Corporate Recruiting, HR, Hiring, Human Resources

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