Amazon Lowered the Hiring Bar and Some Employees Don't Like It – Business Insider

In its quest to expand as quickly as possible, Amazon dropped its renowned “bar raiser” process for some job interviews, effectively lowering its hiring bar in the lead up to the recent layoffs, Insider has learned. 
Bar raisers have been a unique component of Amazon’s rigorous hiring process since its early years. These people interview job candidates for corporate roles — while holding full-time positions in other parts of the company — and have the ability to veto any hiring decision. Their goal is to serve as “objective third-party advisers” during interviews and evaluate the cultural fit of individuals.
But last January, Amazon began removing bar raisers from interviews for entry-level software engineer applicants out of college, according to an internal message seen by Insider. Some of the other non-engineering, entry-level positions also got rid of bar raisers from their interview loops in recent years, according to three people familiar with the move, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they’re not authorized to speak to the press. Bar raisers still give advice on the entry level hiring decisions, and interview the more senior positions, these people said.
The change was in part due to Amazon’s rapid expansion, which saw its workforce nearly double since the end of 2019 to over 1.54 million employees. Bar raisers, who are usually top performers and have to go through a stringent training procedure, didn’t grow at the same pace as Amazon’s overall employee-base, making it a burden to fulfill the position’s interview load, one of the people said.
By abandoning the bar raiser for some mostly entry-level positions, Amazon shortened the hiring process and was able to hire more aggressively. That, in turn, dropped the quality of talent in these positions, three employees involved in recent hiring processes said.
Amazon’s CEO Andy Jassy alluded to the hiring problem last week, when he announced 18,000 job cuts, the largest in company history.
“This year’s review has been more difficult given the uncertain economy and that we’ve hired rapidly over the last several years,” Jassy wrote in a letter to employees.
In an email to Insider, Amazon disputed that role reductions were related to the Bar Raiser program but refused to confirm whether the company had removed the bar raiser process for certain positions. The spokesperson said that the Bar Raiser program is still used in the “vast majority” of hiring processes.
Bar raisers are usually chosen from the company’s top-performers and considered a badge-of-honor, but is a voluntary position that doesn’t come with any additional income. Only about 1% of Amazon’s total corporate workforce earn the designation, people familiar with the program told Insider. 
But in recent years, as Amazon went on a major hiring spree, the bar raisers have come under intense pressure to conduct more job interviews. Since these people still have a day job in various roles, like sales or engineering, the strains of being a bar raiser only intensified, leading to a shortage of bar raisers, according to the people.
To address the problem, Amazon in recent years loosened the requirements to become a bar raiser, one of the people said. Still, the bar raiser population didn’t grow as quickly as the overall workforce. Many started to become inactive or take a hiatus from the role since there’s no requirements for maintaining the position.
This has been a contentious issue since at least 3 years ago, according to an internal email thread seen by Insider. In January 2021, for example, a group of bar raisers complained about the small number of bar raisers relative to the total employee base, and the lack of engagement from many of them.
Internal data at the time, pulled by one of the bar raisers, showed that only 6% of the bar raisers were reaching the targeted two-per-week interviews, with the remaining 94% doing only 1 or less interview per week on average. Back then, Amazon had 5,001 bar raisers out of its total 1.2 million employees (which includes its warehouse workers). That ratio has largely remained consistent until last year, one of the people said.
“Yes, we do need to increase the overall number of BRs as a percentage of Amazonians,” one of the people wrote in the email thread, referring to bar raisers. 
Others expressed concerns about overwhelmed or disengaged bar raisers causing a potential drop in talent at Amazon. One person in the 2021 email thread said “Amazon’s hiring bar was at stake” if the bar raisers failed to live up to company standards.
“We might double/triple the BRs in next 6 months but the quality needs to stand out which I doubt given the passion, time and effort one can devote for hiring,” that person said.
Some blamed the bar raisers’ inactivity on Amazon not giving them more credit for their work. Bar raising is considered “volunteer” work and doesn’t count as “real work” during performance reviews, they argued.
“Bar Raisers tend to live a double life of managing job performance while treating Bar Raising as a side hustle that we need to make time for. BR contributions should be part of our overall contribution to Amazon as a company, without borders between the two worlds,” one of the people wrote.
The pandemic tech boom pushed many tech companies to go on a hiring spree. That naturally made it more difficult to recruit talented employees. For Amazon, the second largest private employer in the US, it only became harder to raise the hiring bar.
In fact, an Amazon employee asked about this problem in a 2019 internal all-hands meeting, reviewed by Insider. The employee asked if Amazon would ever have to change its expectation of hiring someone better than 50% of those in similar positions if it grows too big. Amazon’s HR chief Beth Galetti said Amazon’s hiring bar “keeps getting higher and higher” and that “keeps all of us growing and evolving every day.”
Perhaps the bigger implication of removing bar raiser interviews, even for some positions, is that Amazon is increasingly moving away from the foundational pieces that made it so successful.
Some employees are calling it the arrival of “Day 2,” in reference to founder Jeff Bezos’s mantra that Amazon should always embrace a fresh, risk-taking “Day 1” mindset, as Insider previously reported.
“As a whole, Amazon’s excellence and its level of expertise has dropped,” one of the people who spoke to Insider said.
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Contact the reporter Eugene Kim via the encrypted messaging apps Signal or Telegram (+1-650-942-3061) or email (
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