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Check Out Amazon’s Process of Screening New Hires

Interview screening processAmazon made headlines recently with talk about drones swinging by your house and even taking telepathic steps to get you your package before you even decide that you want it. (WHAT?!) It’s less likely you’ve heard about “bar raisers,” members of the online retailer’s stringent process of vetting new hires — but it’s almost as fascinating.

As we all know, cultural fit can sometimes be just as important as a candidate’s skills when determining if he or she will make a good match. Some of today’s leading companies are looking for a little bit of personality in their people, which is why candidates may have encountered crazy creative questions such as “What kitchen utensil would you be?” and “A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?”

Interestingly, an exec from Google, one of the leading tech giants that embedded similar brainteaser questions into its interviewing process, went on the record to say there wasn’t really much value to asking these types of questions — at least in terms of gauging if the candidate is qualified for the job. (Unless, of course, the job involves being in a sequel to March of the Penguins.)

You may be interested to read: Cultural Fit Versus Skills: What’s More Important When Recruiting Candidates?

Introducing ‘Bar Raisers’

Since its infancy, Amazon has had a screening program in place designed to weed out high-level candidates who wouldn’t be a good cultural fit at the online retail giant. A group of Amazon employees, called “bar raisers,” volunteers to sign off on potential hires — though not for the money (they don’t make any extra) or the hours (they can be expected to work up to 30 extra hours a week on this alone in addition to their day jobs).

Bar raisers typically have a long history of interviewing potential hires as well as a track record of selecting people who have gone on to do great things at the retailer. For this reason, they are in great demand. The idea is that a team of bar raisers becomes involved in signing off on a candidate, as opposed to an individual decision, so the risk of making a bad hire is greatly reduced.

In a Wall Street Journal article published earlier this month, Amazon’s vice president of global talent acquisition says: “We want to be as objective and scientific in our hiring as possible. The point is to optimize our chances of having long-term employees.”

Weigh in: Do you think such a vetting process is beneficial for employees and thereby the company? Or does it seem like too much of a burden that doesn’t yield much fruit? Tell us in the comments below or tweet at us @CBforEmployers.

And if YOU don’t have time to dig through a stack of resumes, see how CareerBuilder’s Source & Screen Management experts can round up the best candidates for your open position, pre-screen them and deliver their resumes right to your inbox.

Deanna Hartley

About Deanna Hartley

Deanna Hartley is a senior copywriter and community manager on the creative services team at CareerBuilder, where she writes about issues that are top of mind for employers and recruiters – including talent acquisition, employee engagement and retention. An avid social media user, Deanna is the face behind @CBforEmployers on Twitter as well as CBforEmployers’ Facebook and Instagram pages, so it’s easy to stay connected with her. Prior to joining CareerBuilder, Deanna was a senior editor for the Human Capital Media Group, publishers of Talent Management, Chief Learning Officer, Diversity Executive and Workforce Management magazines. Deanna holds a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She loves caffeine, social media, pop culture and dogs – though not necessarily in that order.
4 comments
DeannaHartley
DeannaHartley

Tiffany Kuehl Haha! Thanks for sharing your reaction, Tiffany - it's interesting because it started off as a way to see if candidates could think on their feet and outside the box, but now some are questioning how effective these questions really are (apart from making "the interviewer feel smart," as one Google exec said).

Tiffany Kuehl
Tiffany Kuehl

IMO - Too much of a burden that doesn't bear much fruit. Not sure how knowing what type of kitchen utensil one would be, or what one thinks a sombrero wearing penguin would say, helps a hiring team determine whether or not someone is capable of doing a job. Who determines what the best answer is, and is it legally defensible if a candidate claims they were discriminated against as a result of being allergic to penguins?


There are better, more reliable ways to interview and assess candidates.

Tiffany Kuehl
Tiffany Kuehl

IMO - Too much of a burden that doesn't bear much fruit. Not sure how knowing what type of kitchen utensil one would be, or what one thinks a sombrero wearing penguin would say, helps a hiring team determine whether or not someone is capable of doing a job. Who determines what the best answer is, and is it legally defensible if a candidate claims they were discriminated against as a result of being allergic to penguins? There are better, more reliable ways to interview and assess candidates.

DeannaHartley
DeannaHartley

@Tiffany Kuehl Haha! Thanks for sharing your reaction, Tiffany - it's interesting because it started off as a way to see if candidates could think on their feet and outside the box, but now some are questioning how effective these questions really are (apart from making "the interviewer feel smart," as one Google exec said).

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