Two Takeaways From How Google and Amazon Find Talent

Everyone seems fascinated by the “Four Horsemen”. Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook are the current darlings of investors, employees and consumers across the globe.

Now more than ever, people are looking to join organizations that honor them with a competitive salary and exceptional benefits. Tech companies understand that their most valuable asset is human capital. The industry landscape has become increasingly competitive, which is why ping pong tables, yoga rooms, and free beer have become Silicon Valley staples. However, Silicon Valley has grown up, and competitive benefits are really just the start. Finding the right people and putting them in the right roles have become paramount. And that process starts with the interview.

So the question is … What can we learn from the interview process from the most successful tech companies in the world?

While typically receiving hundreds of applicants for a single job opening, the interview process itself is fairly similar at most tech companies and consists of 5-6 stages.

  1. Submit an application online or to your recruiter | A recruiter will reach out via email or LinkedIn
  2. Phone Screening – Initial phone screen with a recruiter to learn more about the role you’ve applied for and what it’s like to work for that company
  3. Phone or Video Interview – This interview will often be with the hiring manager and other team members
  4. On Site Interviews – In-person interviews with the hiring team. This team consists of the potential teammates, managers and members from other cross-functional departments. At this time, due to COVID-19, many companies are conducting these interviews virtually.
  5. Hiring Team Review – A team will review and give feedback to the recruiter
  6. Offer or No Offer

To offer a little more insight into what is unique throughout this process with some companies, let’s look specifically at Google and Amazon.

Google

Google utilizes a structured interview process. This process is favored for its ability to save time, improve the candidate experience, and reduce bias. And this format has proven to be one of the strongest predictors of a candidate’s future success.

A structured interview essentially meets two specific criteria:

  1. It has a set of questions that do not vary from interview to interview – questions are determined in advance by hiring managers and different sets of questions can be used for different roles.
  2. It uses the same evaluation criteria to assess the candidate’s responses to those questions – a “scoring system” is defined in advance and can range from “poor” to “excellent” or letters from “F” to “A”.

How can your company implement a structured interview process?

  1. Create interview questions relevant to each role.
  2. Create an interview evaluation form so interviewers can evaluate candidates fairly.
  3. Create a grading system to define the criteria used in the form.
  4. Train interviewers on the structured interviewing process.

By implementing this structured process, you’re not only improving the experience for the people directly involved in hiring — you’re improving it for your entire organization. This format ensures that you hire the strongest, most suitable candidates, and that’s a win on every level.

Amazon

Written communication is a central part of Amazon’s company culture. Writing is part of every Amazon employee’s job description in at least some capacity. This is why they include a writing sample in their interview process and take the candidate’s responses seriously. 

This writing exercise consists of two written interview questions that Amazon candidates are asked to respond to before their on-site interviews. Candidates are instructed to choose one question and to submit their response via email prior to their on-site interview.

Amazon evaluates the writing sample based on two criteria:

  1. Clarity of thought and expression.
  2. Organization and structure.

If you are thinking about adding this as part of your company’s interview process, here are a examples to present to employee candidates:

  1. What is the most inventive or innovative thing you’ve done? It could be a process change, product idea, a new metric or customer facing interface – something that was your idea. What problem were you seeking to solve? Why was it important? What was the result? Why or how did it make a difference and change things?
  2. Please write about a judgment call you’ve made recently that couldn’t be analyzed. It can be a big or small one, but should focus on a business issue. What was the situation, the alternatives you considered and evaluated, and your decision making process? 

This writing exercise allows you to assess how well the candidate knows your company, how they think, and their ability to effectively communicate through writing.

Tech companies are looking for employees that understand their unique corporate culture and are a fit for the company. In some circles the term “culture fit” has gotten some bad press. Companies such as Google and Amazon will stand by their interview process and are great examples that identifying an employee that truly understands and is in-line with the company’s mission equates to a loyal, long-term employee.

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