1998 - The Relentless Hiring Bar

In Jeff’s second letter to shareholders he outlines three questions asked during hiring meetings. I’ve outlined one below that I found hard to conceptualize when I first started but now wouldn’t change and will carry with me. It’s still in use today, and in fact it is so important that the entire company has a process built around ensuring that every person coming into the company, even with the hundreds of thousands of employees we have, is better than people already in their role. The relentlessly high hiring bar can be frustrating when you can’t fill a position you desperately need to move forward on a project, but in the end, we cannot compromise on the hiring bar.

In the 1997 letter Jeff talked about investing in new ideas, some of which will be successes and others failures, but we would learn from both. With the luxury of looking back through history, Amazon Auctions Is mentioned in this letter and jumps out as a service that was ultimately a flop. We learned.

Lastly, interestingly, there were 200k copies of the this letter printed, and only 13k the year before.

Will this person raise the average level of effectiveness of the group they’re entering? We want to fight entropy. The bar has to continuously go up. I ask people to visualize the company 5 years from now. At that point, each of us should look around and say, “The standards are so high now — boy, I’m glad I got in when I did!”
— Jeff Bezos