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Jeff Bezos’ three-question test for new Amazon hires

If you want to get hired at Amazon, you need to fulfil these three criteria. Images: Getty

A year after America’s richest-man, Jeff Bezos, took Amazon public in 1997, he sent out a letter to shareholders outlining his hopes for the company.

The 1998 letter contained details of the year that was - including opening in the UK and Germany - and his plans to make Amazon the “world’s most customer-centric company”.

“There is no rest for the weary. I constantly remind our employees to be afraid, to wake up every morning terrified. Not of our competition, but of our customers,” Bezos wrote.

“Our customers have made our business what it is, they are the ones with whom we have a relationship, and they are the ones to whom we owe a great obligation.”

In order to fulfil that obligation, Bezos set Amazon recruiters three questions that they had to consider before hiring someone new.

  1. Will you admire this person?

“If you think about the people you’ve admired in your life, they are probably people you’ve been able to learn from or take an example from,” Bezos said.

“For myself, I’ve always tried hard to work only with people I admire, and I encourage folks here to be just as demanding. Life is definitely too short to do otherwise.”

  1. Will this person raise the average level of effectiveness of the group they’re entering?

Bezos said the bar at Amazon “has to continuously go up”.

“I ask people to visualise the company five years from now. At that point, each of us should look around and say, “The standards are so high now -- boy, I’m glad I got in when I did!”

  1. Along what dimension might this person be a superstar?

“Many people have unique skills, interests, and perspectives that enrich the work environment for all of us. It’s often something that’s not even related to their jobs,” Bezos said.

“One person here is a National Spelling Bee champion (1978, I believe). I suspect it doesn’t help her in her everyday work, but it does make working here more fun if you can occasionally snag her in the hall with a quick challenge: “onomatopoeia!””

While these rules were written more than 20 years ago, Amazon has confirmed that they’re still an essential part of the company’s hiring framework.

Despite parting with US$46 billion over the year after paying out the largest divorce settlement in history, Bezos remains America’s richest person with a fortune of US$114 billion, according to Forbes’ annual ranking, released this week.

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