Power Players

Jeff Bezos looks for these 3 traits when hiring at Amazon

Bloomberg | Getty Image

With more than 750,000 employees, Amazon has become the second-largest employer in the U.S. and was in the top five companies to work for in 2019, according to LinkedIn.

To founder Jeff Bezos, hiring "has been the secret to scaling Amazon all along the way," he said at a fireside chat in India on Jan. 14, crediting his employees for the company's growth.

So when hiring, the billionaire looks for very specific traits in prospective candidates, including people that could "tutor" him.

"I have always been figuring out how to hire people who could be my tutor, people who would teach me," Bezos said at the fireside chat. "If you ever get lucky enough to be hiring people, make sure you're hiring people that not only you can teach, but make sure you're hiring people who are also going to teach you things."

When interviewing candidates, Bezos said Amazon looks for those with traits that align with the company's 14 leadership principles, including people who will be "right, a lot," he said at the 2016 Pathfinder Awards.

"Good leaders are right a lot. You're not going to be right all the time, but I think with practice, you can be right more often," he said.

Someone's ability to be right can be accessed by whether "they listen a lot" and are able to "change their mind a lot," he said in 2016.

In fact, Bezos looks for candidates who "seek to dis-confirm their most profoundly held convictions, which is very unnatural for humans," he said. "Humans mostly, as we go about life, we're very selective in the evidence we let seep into us, and we like to observe the evidence that confirms our pre-existing beliefs."

But "sometimes you get new data, and you change your mind. Sometimes you don't get new data, and you just reanalyze the situation, and you realize it's more complicated than you initially thought it was, and you change your mind," he said.

In the past, Bezos has also said that when hiring at Amazon and his space company Blue Origin, he looks for "mavericks," or people who are "a little bit radical or a bit of a rebel," he said at the Air Force Association conference in September 2018.

"Maybe they're also a little bit annoying," Bezos said. "They're not always the easiest people to get along with, but you want them at your organization" because they are "innovative" and will question the status quo, he said.

To find candidates with all these traits, Bezos has three guiding questions when interviewing, he wrote in his 1998 letter to Amazon shareholders: "Will you admire this person? Will this person raise the average level of effectiveness of the group they're entering? Along what dimension might this person be a superstar?"

"Setting the bar high in our approach to hiring has been, and will continue to be, the single most important element of Amazon.com's success," he wrote.

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