Jeff Bezos told Amazon execs to consider 3 questions before offering someone a job, and they’re still spot-on 20 years later

Amazon jobs came down to three questions, as outlined in a 1998 letter from Jeff Bezos.

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Amazon jobs came down to three questions, as outlined in a 1998 letter from Jeff Bezos.
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Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

  • Amazon has a specific philosophy when it comes to filling corporate job openings.
  • It’s spelled out in a 1998 letter from CEO Jeff Bezos, in which he called hiring talented people “the single most important element” of guaranteeing Amazon’s success.
  • He told employees to always consider three questions before hiring a candidate.

Amazon is always looking to fill a ton of jobs.

But before you can land a corporate role with the online retail behemoth, you have to tick three particular boxes in the minds of the hiring managers and executives vetting you.

At least, that’s the process CEO Jeff Bezos recommended to his team 20 years ago. In a 1998 letter to shareholders, customers, and employees, Bezos described his 2,100 employees as “smart, hard-working, passionate folks who put customers first” and credited “setting the bar high in our approach to hiring” for the team’s strength.

He added that hiring policies and practices would be “the single most important element” in ensuring Amazon’s continued success.

To identify standout candidates, Bezos told executives to mull over three questions before extending a job offer:


1. “Will you admire this person?”

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Sebastiaan ter Burg/Flickr

Bezos wrote that “life is definitely too short” to work with colleagues you don’t admire.

“For myself, I’ve always tried hard to work only with people I admire, and I encourage folks here to be just as demanding,” Bezos wrote.

Before founding Amazon, Bezos worked at the startup Fitel, the former banking institution Bankers Trust, and the hedge fund D.E. Shaw & Co. (Business Insider’s Shana Lebowitz reported that Bezos actually based Amazon’s hiring process on his experience at D.E. Shaw.)

In 1998, he encouraged his team to compare candidates to people they admired in their own lives.


2. “Will this person raise the average level of effectiveness of the group they’re entering?”

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Bezos didn’t want candidates who were just good enough.

“We want to fight entropy,” Bezos wrote. “The bar has to continuously go up.”

Bezos asked his employees to “visualize the company” in five years.

“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!'” he wrote.

Five years later, in 2003, the company posted its first ever full-year profit, The New York Times reported.


3. “Along what dimension might this person be a superstar?”

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WOCinTech Chat/Flickr

Bezos has a penchant for enjoying unique meals; he’s partaken in the occasional sliver of iguana and has even ordered octopus for breakfast.

In 1998, he revealed that he also likes to work with unique people, writing that it’s important to hire candidates with “unique skills, interests, and perspectives that enrich the work environment for all of us,” regardless of whether those traits are “related to their jobs.”

Bezos gave a shoutout to an unnamed Amazon employee who he said was once a National Spelling Bee champion.

He speculated that the person won the 1978 championship, but it was most likely Barrie Trinkle, who won the 1973 competition and worked for Amazon from 1996 to 2001.

“I suspect it doesn’t help her in her everyday work, but it does make working here more fun if you can occasionally snag her in the hall with a quick challenge: ‘onomatopoeia!'” Bezos wrote.

Are you a current or former Amazon employee with a story to share? Email acain@businessinsider.com.