Who is an Amazon “bar raiser”?
A not-so-recent Wall Street Journal article about bar raisers created a stir and led to subsequent debate regarding Amazon’s hiring methodology. For those of you’ll who don’t know who or what a bar raiser is, here goes.
A group of Amazon employees across departments volunteer to be part of interview committees. They then interview candidates, working upto 20-30 hours extra- apart from their existing full time jobs- grill the candidate, sometimes by asking them absolutely ridiculous questions one of which includes “A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?” in order to judge a candidate’s analytical and stress management abilities.
What happens next? The bar raiser, along with the hiring manager, works to make sure everybody gets timely and deep reviews put back into the Amazon created interview management system which basically helps manage interviews and all the feedback. The bar raiser reviews all this feedback on the interviewees and decides if a debrief (among all interviewers) is needed, said John Rossman, a former Amazon executive.
How is a bar raiser different from anyone else on the hiring committee? The bar raiser has a clear veto. If everybody else says yes but the bar raiser says no, it’s a no.
“I’d rather interview 50 people and not hire anyone than hire the wrong person,” Bezos once told an Amazon.com colleague when the company was first starting up. Since its infancy, Amazon has had a screening program designed to weed out “cultural misfits”. The main responsibility of a bar raiser and the reason Amazon has stuck to such a challenging recruitment process is to ensure the candidate is raising the bar not only for the specific team, but for the whole company, while guaranteeing longevity in the e-commerce giant.
It is a relatively prestigious role but being a bar raiser comes with no extra pay although it is highly time consuming. Some employees see it as a remarkable challenge while others see it as a burden.
Cover image courtesy – Flickr user William Rottenburg
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