If you are applying for a job at Amazon, there is a high chance you will encounter an Amazon Bar Raiser.
You might have heard of these guys already and might think they sound pretty intimidating!
Here, we’ll describe what the Bar-Raiser is, why Amazon uses them and how this all relates to you in trying to land a job at the firm. You shouldn’t be afraid of Bar-Raisers, but you do need to take interviews with them especially seriously and be properly prepared to answer their questions.
Of course, if you are prepping for an interview at Amazon, you will need to do much more than just read this article – you will also need to do a lot of specific preparation for the role you are applying for. For instance, if you are getting hoping to land an Amazon PM job, you can check this guide for more information.
Depending on the specific role and location you apply to, the recruitment process for Amazon might differ. Generally, though, there will be quite a few stages to get through before you encounter a Bar-Raiser and most applicants will not make it that far. Thus, before you get any in-person interviews at all, you will often have to do both telephone screening interviews with HR and/or senior team members and a take-home exercise like a short essay on your suitability for the role or perhaps answering some questions.
If you make it through to in-person interviews, you will often have multiple interviews on the same day. For Amazon product managers, for example, in-person interviews will usually be one day with six or seven one-hour sessions. Most of these will be with members of the team you are applying to work with and potentially the HR team. Some of the staff interviewing you will be prospective peers you would be working alongside at the same level, whilst some will be quite a bit more senior. Different interviewers will focus on different things – some might ask mostly technical questions, whilst others might focus on leadership and/or culture fit.
However, at least one session will be with the Bar-Raiser.
The Bar-Raiser interview will be one of the last you have before heading home and waiting to hear whether or not you have will get a job offer. You can think of it as something like a second-round interview at a more conventional firm, where you get grilled by a very senior staff member.
Amazon recently surpassed Boeing to become the largest employer in the US and is also a major employer in other countries around the world. The company has grown to a huge size since it started as a relatively simple online bookshop not so many years ago.
Now that they hire hundreds or even thousands of each kind of employee each year, with those already-high numbers climbing rapidly, you might think that it will be easier to land a job with Amazon now than it would have been when the company was smaller and hiring far fewer staff per year.
Indeed, this would be a reasonable assumption to make for a lot of large firms – often it really will be easier to get a job in a newly-opened regional office than when a company started in New York, London, or San Francisco. However, Amazon has always attributed a lot of its success to hiring the very best talent and they are very wary of letting standards slip as they expand for fear that the company will lose its dynamism and innovative edge.
The need for rapid international growth in staff numbers whilst maintaining consistent, centrally-determined quality levels is the reason for the invention of the “Bar Raisers”.
What Does Bar-Raisers Do?
Bar-Raisers are Amazon staff specializing in recruitment. When a team is hiring, they will be sent in to oversee the hiring process and make sure that Amazon’s standards are adhered to, rather than the team simply applying their own, potentially less demanding, criteria.
This is one reason why you should panic a little less about Bar-Raiser interviews – they aren’t just there to grill you. Just as much, they are there to check on the recruiting standards of the team you are applying to as they are any of the applicants.
Why the name?
In this context, the “Bar Raiser” name might seem confusing. If Bar-Raisers are all about maintaining standards, then doesn’t the metaphorical bar stay at the same level rather than being raised? Actually no – the term “Bar-Raiser” is not a misnomer. Amazon explicitly does not want only to maintain recruitment standards over time, but also to actively increase them. Thus, the bar is supposed to be raised!
The criterion which the Bar-Raisers are supposed to apply is that each new staff member should be at least as good as 50% of Amazon employees currently doing the same role. In principle, then, this means that if you want to work as a software engineer for Amazon, you need to better than half the software engineers they currently employ. When they hire again in the future, the next guy must be even better to surpass the new median point. As such, the bar is raised ever higher over time. Pretty daunting stuff!
What Questions Will They Ask?
The Bar-Raisers might ask you anything, from technical questions to brainteasers, so you should be ready for whatever they might throw at you. However, the bar raisers are particularly supposed to enforce Amazon’s 14 Leadership Principles and make sure any new staff embodies those – especially those going into managerial roles, where they will be leading others.
If you are getting ready for a Bar-Raiser interview you should check out these leadership principles on the Amazon site and make sure you both understand them and can talk about how you manifest them. However, your other standard interviews will almost certainly question you on the same 14 principles, so this is something you should be preparing for anyway!
For you the applicant, then, the main thing is simply to understand who the Bar-Raisers are and what their objectives will be in your interview. As long as you have prepared properly for your other interviews, you should have already prepared for the culture fit questions, brainteasers, and technical and leadership questions they might ask you. Just expect the Bar-Raiser interview to be more demanding!