Raising the bar: How to hire like Jeff Bezos

Find out about the simple three questions he asks to ensure quality new hires.

When it comes to cutting-edge business thinking, you have to hand it to Jeff Bezos. This retail entrepreneur has changed the way people shop and along the way made himself one of the richest men in the world. So how did he manage to create such a successful juggernaut like Amazon? One of the answers lies in his hiring practices. This can be gleaned from his letters to shareholders spanning all the way to 1997. Jeff has always focussed on hiring extraordinary people so as to consistently raise the bar. This becomes especially important as the company scales up. In a 1998 letter to shareholders, Jeff outlines his hiring plan, which is based on three critical questions that serve as measures. His advice is relevant even 19 years later.

1. Will you admire this person?
The idea is to bring in solid people who have their own notable qualities worth admiring. If instead you hire people who admire you, then you’ll be left with a group of sycophants who won’t contribute much to the growth of the organisation. A healthy working environment needs debate and a variety of opinions. Also if you hire someone you can admire, they’ll serve as a good example to others and there’s a good chance they’ll aid you in your personal growth as well. Think of the people you’ve admired during your life and you’ll realise you’ve learnt much from them.

2. Will this person raise the average level of effectiveness of the group they’re entering?
At the end of the day, the new hire should bring value to the company, help it grow and push it in new directions. Employees shouldn’t become complacent and apathetic as the company grows. If they do then there will be a definite drop in innovation, productivity, and efficiency. None of which are good news for and the company. So always set the bar high when hiring and encourage others to do the same.

3. Along what dimension might this person be a superstar?
Interesting colleagues make for an interesting workplace. The idea is to bring together people with various unique skills, assets, perspectives, and interests. Tapping into this increases the richness of the office culture as well as creates a fun work environment for all. These skills, perspectives, and interests don’t have to be work-related. We all have interests outside the office that teach us new skills, provide meaning, and help us lead a well balanced life. 

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