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

  • 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 future 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've got to tick off three particular boxes in the minds of the hiring managers and executives vetting you.

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Jeff Bezos, Chairman and CEO of Amazon, speaks at the George W. Bush Presidential Center's Forum on Leadership in Dallas, Texas, U.S., April 20, 2018. Picture taken on April 20, 2018. REUTERS/Rex Curry
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos laughs as he talks to the media while touring the new Amazon Spheres during the grand opening at Amazon's Seattle headquarters in Seattle, Washington, U.S., January 29, 2018. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson
2018 Vanity Fair Oscar Party ? Arrivals ? Beverly Hills, California, U.S., 04/03/2018 ? Amazon CEO Jeff and wife MacKenzie Bezos. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos (L) answers a question from the media while getting a tour from Ron Gagliardo, senior manager of horticultural services for the Spheres, during the Amazon Spheres opening event at Amazon's Seattle headquarters in Seattle, Washington, U.S., January 29, 2018. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson
Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos addresses the media about the New Shepard rocket booster and Crew Capsule mockup at the 33rd Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Isaiah J. Downing
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos looks over a balcony on the top floor of the Amazon Spheres during an opening ceremony event at Amazon's headquarters in Seattle, Washington, U.S., January 29, 2018. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos gives some closing comments after opening the new Amazon Spheres with some help from Alexa during an opening event at Amazon's headquarters in Seattle, Washington, U.S., January 29, 2018. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson
Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos addresses the media about the New Shepard rocket booster and Crew Capsule mockup at the 33rd Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Isaiah J. Downing
Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin and CEO of Amazon, speaks about the future plans of Blue Origin during an address to attendees at Access Intelligence's SATELLITE 2017 conference in Washington, U.S., March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin and CEO of Amazon, speaks about the future plans of Blue Origin during an address to attendees at Access Intelligence's SATELLITE 2017 conference in Washington, U.S., March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin and CEO of Amazon, arrives to speak about the future plans of Blue Origin during an address to attendees at Access Intelligence's SATELLITE 2017 conference in Washington, U.S., March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos addresses the Economic Club of New York in New York City, U.S., October 27, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Jeff Bezos, owner of The Washington Post, delivers remarks at the grand opening of the Washington Post newsroom in Washington January 28, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
Jeff Bezos, owner of The Washington Post, delivers remarks at the grand opening of the Washington Post newsroom in Washington January 28, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
Jeff Bezos, owner of The Washington Post, delivers remarks at the grand opening of the Washington Post newsroom in Washington January 28, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, leaves the Allen and Co's annual media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho July 10, 2014. REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS)
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos talks about his company's new Fire smartphone at a news conference in Seattle, Washington June 18, 2014. Bezos unveiled a "Fire"smartphone on Wednesday equipped with a 3D-capable screen and the ability to recognize objects, music and TV shows, hoping to stand out in a crowded field dominated by Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics. REUTERS/Jason Redmond (UNITED STATES - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS TELECOMS)
Amazon CEO and Chairman Jeff Bezos receives the Citation of Merit on behalf of the Apollo F-1 Search and Recovery Team at the 110th Explorers Club Annual Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria in New York March 15, 2014. The club, which promotes the scientific exploration of land, sea, air and space featured catering by chef and exotic creator Gene Rurka. Chef Rurka prepared a variety of dishes featuring an array of insects, wildlife, animal body parts and invasive species. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS FOOD)
Amazon.com Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos speaks during a keynote speech with Amazon.com Chief Technology Officer Werner Vogels at the AWS Re:Invent conference at the Sands Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada November 29, 2012. REUTERS/Richard Brian (UNITED STATES - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS)
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (R) arrives at the annual Allen and Co. conference at the Sun Valley, Idaho Resort July 12, 2013. REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS HEADSHOT)
BERLIN, GERMANY - APRIL 24: Jeff Bezos attends the Axel Springer Award 2018 on April 24, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. Under the motto 'An Evening for' Jeff Bezos receives the Axel Springer Award 2018. (Photo by Franziska Krug/Getty Images)
Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive officer of Amazon.com Inc., tours the Spheres during opening day ceremonies at the company's campus in Seattle, Washington, U.S., on Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. The Spheres, a new gathering and working space for Amazon employees located in the heart of the downtown Seattle Amazon campus, contains hundreds of plant species from cloud rainforest environments around the globe, and maintains a tropical climate similar to Costa Rica or Indonesia. Photographer: Mike Kane/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC -DEC 14: Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com (and owner of the Washington Post) arrives at the movie premiere tonight. -The world premiere of the movie, 'The Post' took place at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. tonight. All of the major stars of the movie and director Steven Spielberg attended as well as many local politicians and business people such as Warren Buffett. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive officer of Amazon.com Inc., center, tours the Spheres during opening day ceremonies at the company's campus in Seattle, Washington, U.S., on Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. The Spheres, a new gathering and working space for Amazon employees located in the heart of the downtown Seattle Amazon campus, contains hundreds of plant species from cloud rainforest environments around the globe, and maintains a tropical climate similar to Costa Rica or Indonesia. Photographer: Mike Kane/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos arrives for the premiere of 'The Post' on December 14, 2017, in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 28: Honoree Jeff Bezos speaks at the 21st Annual HRC National Dinner at the Washington Convention Center on October 28, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 14: Jeff Bezos, chief executive officer of Amazon, listens during a meeting of technology executives and President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower, December 14, 2016 in New York City. This is the first major meeting between President-elect Trump and technology industry leaders. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 27: (L to R) Jeff Bezos, Chairman and founder of Amazon.com and owner of The Washington Post, addresses the Economic Club of New York as moderator Charlie Rose looks on, at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel, October 27, 2016 in New York City. Bezos discussed the future of Amazon, space travel, and his ownership of The Washington Post. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 20: Founder/chairman/CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, speaks onstage during 'The Prime of Mr. Jeff Bezos' at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on October 20, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)
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At least, that's the process that 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" as the reason 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 3 particular questions before extending a job offer.

Here are the 3 Bezos-recommended questions:

1. 'Will you admire this person?'

Bezos wrote that "life is definitely too short" to work with colleagues that 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 he founded Amazon, Bezos worked at the startup Fitel, the former banking institution Bankers Trust, and, finally, 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.

Back 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?'

Back in 1998, Bezos didn't want candidates who were 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 — or 2003.

"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.

In 2003, the company posted its first ever full-year profit, according to The New York Times.

 

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

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

Back in 1998, he revealed that he also likes to work with unique people. He wrote 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 said traits were "related to their jobs."

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

He speculated that the individual in question won the 1978 championship, but, according to Business Insider, the unidentified employee was 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!'" he wrote.

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