Leadership

Amazon’s first-known job listing: Jeff Bezos sought candidates to work faster than 'most competent people think possible'

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos arrives for the premiere of 'The Post' on December 14, 2017.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos arrives for the premiere of 'The Post' on December 14, 2017.

This week in 1994, Amazon's first known job listing was posted online.

Back then, Jeff Bezos was a little-known entrepreneur who'd just quit his well-paying Wall St. job to start an e-commerce company, one described in the ad as a "well-capitalized Seattle start-up." At the time, most people didn't have computers, never mind the Internet.

Less than a year after this ad was posted, Amazon started selling books online, making the first steps toward becoming the e-commerce giant it is today, one that employs more than 566,000 people around the world.

The ad was posted on Usenet in 1994.

An Amazon spokesperson confirmed with Make It the job posting is authentic and was originally posted on Usenet, an early online public bulletin board and discussion network started in 1980.

The ad, re-surfaced by Bloomberg anchor Jon Erlichman on Twitter Wednesday morning, is an important reminder for any leader about what any great hire requires.

While every hiring decision is important, a company's first hires can transform it. The listing calls for candidates "to help pioneer commerce on the Internet."

It says, "You must have experience designing and building large and complex (yet maintainable) systems, and you should be able to do so in about one-third the time that most competent people think possible."

Candidates should "expect talented, motivated, intense and interesting co-workers," it reads.

While specific coding languages are listed, ones like C++ and Unix, soft skills are highlighted, too. "Top-notch communication skills are essential," the posting says.

The ad is flexible only on the job's education requirements, saying candidates should could have either a B.S., M.S. or Ph. D in computer science or an equivalent field.

The ad was posted from Bezos' own account. In Amazon's earliest days Bezos was known to review applications personally, telling candidates: "You can work long, hard, or smart, but at Amazon.com you can't choose two out of three."

The company still uses Bezos' 3-question test when hiring new employees.

Amazon's early days continue to shape the company. For instance, Bezos often stresses the importance of thinking like a startup. In fact, he includes a copy of his first shareholder letter with each new edition, reminding readers of the importance of thinking like a "Day 1" company and not a "Day 2" company.

The job posting's final line, a famous quote from computer scientist Alan Kay, highlights a mindset that seems to foreshadow Amazon's success: "It's easier to invent the future than to predict it."

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