The Pillars of Amazon's Hiring Process

Former VP, Amazon Logistics Europe

Why is this interview interesting?

  • How Amazon uses multiple interviews to test for specific competences
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Executive Bio

Philippe Hemard

Former VP, Amazon Logistics Europe

Philippe has spent over 25 years developing end-to-end logistics systems from vendors to customers, including 18 years at Amazon.com. He joined Amazon in France in 2000 as Distribution Centre General Manager, moving to Amazon.co.uk (Scotland) in 2004, to support business growth within the UK. Philippe then took up several senior leadership positions in European Operations at Amazon EU Headquarters in Luxembourg, culminating in the role of VP Amazon Logistics Europe from 2015-18. Before joining Amazon, Philippe worked for Danzas (now DHL) in France. Throughout his career he has worked on network modelling, procurement and buying processes, inventory management, fulfillment management, and transportation network management. Since March 2018 Philippe has run his own consultancy business, holds several board positions and teaches Supply Chain Management and Global Logistics Strategy at university. Read more

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Interview Transcript

The last one is the hiring process. As I said earlier, hiring is not magic. You have people who you have a good feeling when you speak to them and they have good interview techniques, that’s true. But those techniques could be taught. Have a structured process for interviewing and going through an interviewing process and selecting people. Amazon has a very solid one. You will never be hired at Amazon after one interview, for example. There is not a single person taking a decision at Amazon, for hiring, at whatever level. There are always several people and the higher you go, there are even more people, with a structured way to do it. Each of the people has a role which helps to make a good decision in hiring.

Is that where the person takes a role in testing for a specific competence?

Correct. Even inside, there are different roles. If I take, for example, in Amazon, you want to hire a director. What are you going to try? You are the hiring manager and they will be one of your direct reports. What you usually do is, most likely, take some of his peers, meaning you are going to make this person interview with one or two of your directs, potentially. You are going to interview him and you are going to ask one or two of your peers, who are the same level as you, to help you to interview. What you could do, as well, is having someone from anywhere else in the business, who may not normally know your business.

The first ones know the business that you’ve been managing, very well. They are peers, they are your team. But for this one, you are going to call it a bar raiser. It’s going to be someone who has been trained, specifically, to do that, for the interview techniques and they are going to come into your process, to interview your person, as well. But they have equal power as you have, as hiring manager. He can even veto your hiring, if he wants. This means that if he doesn’t want this person to be hired, with a very strong reason, he could prevent you from hiring the person. Because this process has not evolved, where if you have three out of six or four out of six for, it’s a hire. But if you have four out of six against, it’s not a hire. This is a discussion process. You have a vote but, ultimately, even if two people are in agreement, you could hire the person, if you put the right argument and you do it for the right reasons.

It’s a very structured way where you do preparation before. In that case, exactly what you said about the leadership skills are going to be split, because you try to make it an overall decision. It’s the reason why there is nobody who has more importance than the other. For example, you’re not going to ask the person the same question, which means you will be the only one investigating deeply into one of the leadership principles. If the hiring manager considers that this is key for the role, this leadership principle you are looking at – because you don’t interview on the 14 – absolutely key for the role and you, as an interviewer, you come and say, this guy is never going to work on this principle; it’s not the way he works. He’s not someone who is biased for action. This guy, every example he gave me, he took ages. He’s not going to be agile enough, he’s not going to be quick enough. Even if all the other four say, we want to hire him, your feedback could make the hiring manager think, all right, I don’t want to hire this guy. You’ve convinced me, as an interviewer, that this person is not going to fit. I didn’t see it, because I didn’t discuss those specific things, but I trust you.

It’s the reason why there is not a vote where everyone looks at the same person and asks the same thing. Everybody asks different things which means, ultimately, one could turn the vote, positively or negatively. Unfortunately, it’s more negative when you turn the vote, rather than positive, because if five people are against and only one is for, it’s rare that you will hire the person. As a hiring manager, you will have a lot of doubt and you would prefer passing than hiring the person.

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