It’s hard to single out one definite reason for this trend. The companies' close proximity in the Seattle area may be the most obvious reason. Amazon’s rapid expansion and need to hire senior managers quickly — its headcount more than doubled to 577,000 employees from 2015 to 2017 — explains part of it too.
But the more practical reason may have to do with the two companies’ respective brand image, hiring experts say.
Sarikaya, for example, was in part moved by Alexa’s commercial success and wider popularity than Cortana, said one person familiar with his decision. Besides its already dominant online retail service, Amazon is also the market leader in cloud computing and is experimenting with a number of futuristic projects. That includes cashierless stores and drone delivery services — cultivating a more fast-moving, innovative image.
“Amazon is seen as more exciting, more at the edge — the creative innovator that has disrupted every market,” said Michael Useem, a management professor at the Wharton school of business. He added his MBA graduates made Amazon their top job choice at a much higher rate than even just three years ago.
Microsoft’s history of churning out talented executives may be drawing Amazon recruiters too. Just like IBM was a popular place to recruit from for many decades, and McKinsey & Co. remains a top recruiting ground in finance, Microsoft continues to have a reputation for training high-quality tech talent, said Tom Lee, a management professor at the University of Washington.
“Microsoft is a very well known place to get a pool of reliable people that you know are going to be pretty good,” Lee said.
Compensation may be another factor. In a recent company-wide survey, the number of Microsoft employees who said their compensation was competitive declined for the third straight year, as did the number of employees who said they were rewarded appropriately for their performance.
Amazon, meanwhile, seems to be offering large signing bonuses to recruit top talent. According to a survey run by anonymous workplace app Blind and published in May, Amazon had the highest number of employees that received a signing bonus, with many of them indicating their signing bonuses to be over $100,000. On top of that, Amazon’s stock price has jumped a whopping 430 percent since 2015. In February, Amazon for the first time eclipsed Microsoft’s market cap, which roughly doubled in the same time span.
“The big driver for Amazon right now as a recruiter is money — they’re willing to pay way above market,” Greg Lambert, CEO of TERRA Staffing, a Seattle area recruiting firm said. “It wouldn’t be unheard of for them to be going after Microsoft because they do seem vulnerable.”