When Jeff Bezos founded Amazon back in 1994, it started as an online marketplace for books. But today, Amazon has changed the landscape of retail, allowing customers to have nearly anything, from shampoo to refrigerators, delivered to their doorsteps within days.
Amazon also propelled its founder to immense success: Bezos is worth an estimated $196.2 billion and is currently the richest person in the world, according to Forbes. And soon, Bezos will take on a new role. He announced Tuesday that he will step down as CEO of the company later this year and transition to executive chairman of Amazon's board.
In Amazon's early days, each employee played a key role, so the quality of new hires was as crucial to the success of the company as the products it put out. In that time Bezos was not only hyper-focused on creating an outstanding customer experience, but he was fastidious about hiring the strongest employees possible, Wired reported in a 1999 profile on Bezos.
Bezos personally spoke with every single interviewee throughout Amazon's early years, even going so far as to meticulously analyze each's qualifications. "In endless hiring meetings, Bezos, after interviewing the candidate himself, would grill every other interviewer, occasionally constructing elaborate charts on a whiteboard detailing the job seeker's qualifications," Wired reports.
Bezos had high standards for himself and his company — and he held every employee to those as well, no matter how new they were.
"One of his mottos was that every time we hired someone, he or she should raise the bar for the next hire, so that the overall talent pool was always improving," Nicholas Lovejoy, Amazon's fifth employee, says in Wired.
The lengths Bezos went to in order to hire the best people paid off: It laid the foundation for a company that now has a market cap of $1.7 trillion.
Bezos isn't the only executive who has taken a personal interest in finding the creme de la creme of the hiring pool.
Chieh Huang, CEO of Boxed, an e-commerce startup that brings in more than $100 million in revenue each year, interviews every job candidate personally in order to understand their work ethic, searching for the determination and drive he learned from growing up in poverty.
That degree of determination shows Huang how willing a candidate is to give the job their all. "I try to elicit how hungry this person is and how much endurance they have," he says, "because building a company is not easy."
Other entrepreneurs have taken more unusual approaches to figuring out if candidates will be a good fit. Barstool sports CEO Erika Nardini texts candidates on Sunday mornings to see how fast they'll respond and Mike O'Neill, the CEO of BMI, takes job candidates out to eat and has them pick the restaurant so he can glimpse into their reasoning behind their choice.
While intense hiring practices and off-the-wall tactics might seem extreme — and daunting to those in the hot seat — entrepreneurs know that compiling the best team possible is imperative to building a prosperous business.
After all, "no one does it alone," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in 2016. "When you look at most big things that get done in the world, they're not done by one person, so you're going to need to build a team."
This story has been updated to reflect the news that Jeff Bezos announced plans to step down as Amazon's CEO and transition to executive chairman of Amazon's board.
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