Amazon raises the hiring bar by giving best employees extra work

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At Amazon, high-performing staff across various departments are offered an unusual accolade: the opportunity to become a “bar raiser”.

Bar raisers are charged with assisting HR in hiring, acting as consultants even for roles the bar raiser knows nothing about. The idea is to facilitate consistency in company culture, and ensure candidates are broadly skilled in areas that can relate to roles other than the one for which they’re applying. These individuals must be experienced in conducting interviews, and have skills in identifying strong potential candidates.

Bar raisers "help bring a consistency of the types of skill sets and perspectives that we're looking for," Dave Clark, vice president of worldwide operations at Amazon, said. However, it is only used for professional employees in the office, not warehouse employees, who constitute three-quarters of their workforce.

Because bar raising isn’t their main role, it can add a huge burden to employees’ workloads, especially given Amazon’s explosive growth rate in recent years. The company has expanded from 31,200 employees in 2010 to 109,800 in 2013. For each candidate, a bar raiser spends two or three hours in assessment, and bar raisers may assess up to 10 candidates a week.

It’s clear that time efficiency isn’t a recruitment focus for Amazon – candidates have commented online that the hiring process can take up to four months at the company. On-site interviews for professional roles often take up an entire day, and can involve half a dozen Amazon staff, including the bar raiser.

The resource-heavy approach appears, however,  to be paying off for Seattle’s second largest technology company, which employs more people than Google, eBay and Facebook combined.

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