To Be or Not To Be(zos): Are You Recruiting Like Amazon? August 9, 2018

To Be or Not To Be(zos): Are You Recruiting Like Amazon?

Just exactly how difficult is the hiring process at Amazon? We’ll let you decide.

Over the last five years, Jeff Bezos hiring strategy has been one of the most talked about topics. With writers from Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, and Fast Company adding to the multitude of articles covering the fascinating process, we thought we would take a deeper look at (1) how Amazon uses “bar-raisers” to recruit new personnel and (2) list off the pros and cons of using this extensive recruiting process. Read more to find out if this tech-giant’s recruiting strategy is right for you. 

How Amazon’s Recruiting Process Works

Bar-Raisers

If you’ve even glanced over an article describing Amazon’s recruitment strategy, you’ve probably heard the term “bar-raiser” used many times, but what is a bar-raiser? This is the term Amazon uses to describe current full-time employees entrusted to conduct a real interview with candidates in order to – as you would imagine – raise the bar for new talent. The idea is to find and hire a candidate that is equal to or (preferably) better than the last person to hold the position being filled. Learn more about the bar-raiser experience here, as told by former Amazon bar-raiser, Gregory Rutty.

Amazon employees that are considered “bar-raisers” for the company can put in anywhere from an extra 20 to 30 hours on top of their typical duties to fulfill recruiting requirements and often come from departments outside of the one needing a position filled. These bar-raisers have complete veto power when it comes to candidate selection, meaning that at any point of the screening or interviewing process an applicant can be dropped from consideration if a bar-raiser is unimpressed. On average, the candidate could be interviewed by five to six Amazon employees, with each interview lasting from two to three hours. You can see some of the most thorough Amazon interview questions here, including questions like “how would you solve problems if you were from Mars?” and “tell the story of the last time you had to apologize to someone.”

The Anti-Pitch

As a recruiter, you understand that your candidates are interviewing you just as intently as you are interviewing them. Every hiring manager will tell you how important a good pitch is in order to sell the company and the position to the best talent – but not Jeff Bezos. Instead, he prefers to give the “anti-pitch,” describing all the reasons a prospect should not take the job. While it’s cited here that this considerably bizarre technique made it difficult to hire in the beginning, the anti-pitch had an astonishing effect on the company as a whole, which is made up of engineers who are “intense and elite.”

Full Transparency

The final element to Amazon’s internal recruiting strategy is full transparency up front. While this isn’t unique to the recruiting experience in most cases, this level of transparency is the final step to a successful hire. The company makes sure the candidate is fully aware of the process, position details, potential salary, and benefits. The HR team keeps the applicant in the loop while they await consideration, which is crucial for a recruiting process as extensive as Amazon’s.

Read more about star-level recruiting here, from our past blog “How to Make Your Average Recruiter Look Like A Superstar.”

The Pros and Cons of Recruiting Like Amazon

Now that you’ve had the rundown on Amazon’s recruiting strategy, it’s time to decide if this controversial process is the right strategy for you.  Here are some pros and cons of the bar-raiser strategy for you to consider before implementing it in your hiring process.

Pros

  • Objective Process
    • The great thing about having multiple people interviewing a candidate before selection is that you can almost guarantee a nearly bias-free selection process. Going through multiple employees from separate departments also ensures a decision that is not rushed by pressure to fill the position.
  • Thorough Candidate Evaluation
    • This point goes without explaining. Investing the time and personnel to require five to six interviews before being selected naturally makes the interview process more refined and more selective as candidates move forward.
  • Employee Moral Improved
    • These bar-raisers volunteer their services to the company, meaning that they take ownership of the success of the company as a whole. These employees will be “passionate about the mission” of finding superior talent for the good of the business.
  • It Must Be Love
    • Interviews lasting 2 to 3 hours? And having 5 to 6 before moving forward? A candidate who goes through such an extended hiring process is almost guaranteed to be in love with (a) the position, (b) the company, or ideally (c) both. It’s one thing to be talented, but to have someone who is passionate about getting the job is worth the wait.

Cons

  • Do You Have the Stamina?
    • Using such an intense screening process can wear down not only the applicants but also the employees performing the interviews on top of their other daily tasks. Most companies adopting this hiring method are implementing interview training programs for new bar-raisers.
  • Not in the Job Description
    • Another factor to consider when talking about bar-raisers is that the elite status is completely voluntary, and the responsibilities are added to the daily tasks of the bar-raiser’s position. To put this point in perspective, Petrone describes it as a secondary, “unpaid job as candidate evaluations,” in his article for Business 2 Community found here. If this type of hiring strategy isn’t already a part of your company culture, it may be difficult to find bar-raisers willing to pick up these extra responsibilities.
  • Bar-Raisers’ Main Job
    • Again, depending on bar-raisers for the screening process can be problematic because of the time it requires. As a recruiter, you understand how demanding the full hiring process can be. Asking bar-raisers to take on these extra responsibilities can potentially set productivity back for their respective departments. Understanding the full extent of the time requirements for the bar-raiser position needs to be completely clear to the employee before considering this type of hiring strategy.
  • Does Your Accountant Know Java?
    • If your accountant does know Java, that is seriously impressive and we hope they open a Skillgigs account to display this awesome range of skills. Our point here is that hiring from different departments could get tricky when it comes to technical positions that require knowledge tests before being considered. While it’s not impossible, inter-department hiring can potentially cause friction between bar-raisers from different departments that could be looking for a wide range of characteristics in its applicants. This point is more something to consider than a “con.” For more information on hiring tech personnel without having tech experience, check out our blog, “7 Ways You Can Excel At IT Recruitment Without IT Experience,” here. We also have a wide range of downloadable job descriptions for tech positions on our resources page.

The Bottom Line

Whether you choose to be or not to be like Bezos and adopt the “bar-raiser” hiring strategy, you can still agree that we have a lot to learn from Amazon’s recruiting techniques. Understanding the pros and cons of this interesting technique could allow adaptation, adopting certain aspects of the strategy over others depending on company goals and culture. Taking into consideration how a powerhouse tech company like Amazon finds its talent can provide insight into why certain strategies work or do not work for your company. Ultimately, the decision is up to you.

Let Skillgigs be Your Bar-Raiser

Every day, recruiters from top companies just like Amazon (and while we are at it, actual Amazon recruiters) signup to use Skillgigs to find top talent. Do you know what you’re missing?

With resources like interview guides, pre-screening services, AI interviewing, and 3D resumes to highlight skill proficiency in talent, Skillgigs is the perfect platform to raise the bar for your company. Schedule a demo today to speak with a Skillgigs professional about our services.