The formula has reportedly worked for the ecommerce giant for more than two decades
Every new employee at Amazon “should raise the bar for the next hire,” says Nicholas Lovejoy, one of the earliest team members of the ecommerce group.
How does a behemoth – which continues to see exponential growth two decades on – manage to maintain this culture of excellence across the organisation?
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos believes “the secret to scaling Amazon all along the way” is the company’s recruitment process, something that the boss himself helped engineer in the early days.
Back then, Bezos would sit down with every candidate to interview them face to face.
“Setting the bar high in our approach to hiring has been, and will continue to be, the single most important element of Amazon.com’s success,” the CEO wrote in the company’s very first annual shareholder letter in 1998 – and the message has resonated with the team ever since.
But recruiting amid a global crisis can be daunting for employers regardless of size or industry: on one hand, there’s the challenge of finding talent who can help scale the business.
On the other, there’s the challenge for organisations to stay true to their corporate vision and values even in a volatile and uncertain environment.
The key, Bezos says, is to fight entropy – a condition in which an organisation is dragged down by its own weight as it continues to grow in size and value.
To cultivate company culture in periods of hypergrowth, hiring decision-makers at Amazon must ask the following questions as they assess a candidate:
1) Will I admire this person?
Bezos reminds recruiters that the people they admire in life are often the ones they learn or “take an example from”. The CEO says he prides himself with working only with the people he emulates.
2) Will this person raise the average level of effectiveness of the group they’re entering?
Leaders who value long-term and meaningful growth will look for a person who won’t just excel in their individual capacity but also improve the standards of the whole team in the long run. “The bar has to continuously go up,” Bezos advises.
3) Along what dimension might this person be a superstar?
Mavericks are “not always the easiest to get along with,” according to Bezos, but he hires people who are “a little bit radical or a bit of a rebel” because they often spark innovative ideas.
Fast forward to 2020 and Bezos still holds onto these principles for recruiting top talent.
“If you ever get lucky enough to be hiring people, make sure you’re hiring people that not only you can teach, but make sure you’re hiring people who are also going to teach you things,” Bezos shared in a fireside chat earlier this year.
The right talent will “listen a lot” and welcome diverse perspectives, he said.
Recruiters should thus go for candidates who are willing to question and “seek to dis-confirm their most profoundly held convictions” to find the best solutions.