How Amazon Involves Current Employees In The Hiring Process

Amazon's hiring program is a gauntlet for bar-raising employees and candidates.

Imagine you're the hiring manager of a large company, charged with wading through tens of thousands of applications to staff a company larger than the population of Burbank, Calif. You need to ensure the new hires are the right fit for the job and mesh well with the corporate culture. Oh, and that company you work for? Rhymes with Glamazon. How do you do it?

Greg Bensinger of the Wall Street Journal recently examined Amazon's "bar raiser" program, which uses a select group of current employees to interview and recommend outstanding candidates for corporate positions. He interviewed former and current Amazon employees to find out how the process works, and what sets Amazon's process apart from other companies' hiring processes. Here's how Amazon does it:

1. Devote time to the process.

Amazon "bar raisers" assist in the hiring process in addition to working their full-time job. They spend several hours interviewing candidates by phone and in person, and evaluate each candidate, sometimes up to ten a week, plus handle the attendant paperwork and meetings. "[Amazon doesn't] just hire the best of what they see; they're willing to keep looking and looking for the right talent," said Valerie Frederickson of Valerie Frederickson & Co., a California-based human resources firm.

2. Be prepared to spend a little more.

A time-consuming process means more money spent. After all, time spent evaluating applicants is time taken away from the employee's full-time duties. "It can be an expensive process because it takes longer, but think of how expensive it is to hire the wrong person," said John Vlastelica, a former Amazon employee.

3. Reduce hiring mistakes.

Amazon's approach requires "bar raiser" employees to spend time with and approve the candidates, creating a more complete vetting process, allowing for a better chance for potential issues with candidates to be identified, Bensinger notes. The process goes beyond a typical interview scenario, and allows the employer to gauge how candidates adapt and react in various situations.

4. Bring consistency to a large company.

In the year ending September 2013, Amazon hired nearly 30,000 employees from a pool of 75,000 interviews, and reportedly has 110,000 employees, Bensinger notes. Having "bar raiser" employees "help[s] bring a consistency of the types of skill sets and perspectives" Amazon looks for, said Dave Clark, vice president of Amazon's worldwide operations.

Hat tip: Wall Street Journal

[Image: Flickr user Robert S. Donovan]

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2 Comments

  • I was quoted above, as a former Amazon employee. As a consultant and trainer to top companies, my team and I see companies struggle to define the bar, get everyone aligned on the bar, and then scale up their recruiting and interviewing capabilities. Amazon's bar raiser program is one of several programs we see companies use to engage employees and hire great people. Google has its hiring committees. Yahoo! - which was a client of ours - has a hiring committee model, too. Facebook has its centralized, pipeline interviewing model. Microsoft has had its as-appropriate interviewers for years (longer than bar raisers).

    Tech companies and high growth companies are working hard to prevent their bar from going down over time. We help companies define their bar, their hiring philosophy, their interviewing process, and then train up their hiring managers. I'd love to hear how other companies are solving for this.

    John Vlastelica Managing Director, Recruitingtoolbox.com