Roy Exum: The ‘Bar Raisers’ At Amazon

Friday, January 10, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

I’m a huge believer in Amazon, especially since hundreds of its 110,000 employees work at the huge distribution center here. When CEO Jeff Bezos recently announced the giant distribution company would one day employ drones to deliver packages, I thought it was great, although his scientists obviously know very little about the dogs that prowl in my neighborhood.

Now comes a story in the Wall Street Journal that one of Amazon’s most innovative tools in hiring people are the “bar raisers” who actually hire the upper-level employees at the vast chain of logistics, tablet manufacturing, and television production centers located in about half of our United States. A bar-raiser is an Amazon employee who, in addition to his regular job, interviews potential candidates – after the hiring process begins -- and screens out anyone who might be a misfit.

What is unbelievable is that the vetting process is all voluntary. A bar raiser does his or her job and then, for no additional pay, interviews a candidate for two to three hours in an effort to assure Amazon is getting a quality person who will fit in and become a long-term employee. “We want to be as objective and scientific in our hiring as possible,” Susan Harker, the vice president of global talent acquisition, told the reporters, and explained the bar-raisers often find out things previous interviews did not disclose.

Further, a bar-raiser can veto any candidate without question, even if the potential employee doesn’t work in their field of expertise. The “upside” is that a good bar-raiser is in a position for speedier promotions but some employees decline the role, saying time constraints and the fact there are so many applicants is too big a headache.

Last year Amazon added 30,000 new employees and has more than tripled its workforce in the last three years. While 75 percent of the workforce is warehouse jobs where the hiring process is more streamlined, the top 25 percent of its heady employees are almost all subject to bar-raisers because Amazon’s technology and development centers, for instance, require some of the best and brightest minds in America.

The story quoted John Vlasrelica, a former human resources executive who now owns his own company. “You want someone who can adapt to new roles in the company, not just someone who can fill a role that is vacant. It can be an expensive process because it takes so long, but think of how expensive it is to hire the wrong person.”

The Amazon “process” calls for the bar-raisers to not “just hire the best they see; they are willing to keep looking for the right talent.” That is why Amazon interviewed about 75,000 people to make 30,000 top-tier hires.

John Sullivan, a professor at San Francisco State, told WSJ that the rigid interview process signals Amazon is a demanding place to work with a lot of pressure. “If a job seeker feels like they want to run away from the building screaming after the interview, that’s probably a good sign they don’t belong there.”

* * *

AS EXPECTED, DENNIS Rodman apologized profusely for his idiotic tirade in an interview that took place during his “basketball diplomacy” in North Korea. He said he was sorry he “embarrassed so many people,” but the truth is the clown has been an embarrassment for most of his life. "I take full responsibility for my actions. It had been a very stressful day. Some of my teammates were leaving because of pressure from their families and business associates. My dream of basketball diplomacy was quickly falling apart. I had been drinking. It's not an excuse but by the time the interview happened I was upset. I was overwhelmed. It's not an excuse, it's just the truth.” And that is why America’s news media should totally ignore the one they call “The Worm.”

* * *

FORMER VOL CARL PICKENS, who was somewhat of a troublemaker at the University of Tennessee before he played nine years with the Cincinnati Bengals, was found hiding in his attic on Sunday when police officers arrested him on charges of domestic violence in Gwinnett County near Atlanta. He last played in 2000 with the Tennessee Titans. Pickens was released on a $2,000 bond.

* * *

A TROUBLESOME ANALYSIS on CNN says a survey of 21 colleges revealed 7 to 15 percent of athletes admitted to big-time universities cannot read at the college level when they are recruited and enter school. In records submitted by the University of Georgia, for instance, 7.5 percent of the athletes scored below 400 on the reading portions of the SAT exam, including 22 football players. At Clemson 15 percent were not “college literate” when they enrolled in school.

* * *

STATE REP. SHERRY JONES (D-Nashville) will introduce a bill in the Tennessee legislature soon that will authorize prescription sales of marijuana in the Volunteer state. Other states are allowing medicinal marijuana, too. “It is just simply a matter of being rational and compassionate,” she said, “It would apply to only the most severely debilitated people … children suffering a hundred seizures a day, people on chemotherapy, people with multiple sclerosis … people with a plethora of diseases.”

* * *             

HOW ABOUT GABRIELLE Giffords, the former Congresswoman from Arizona? To celebrate the three-year anniversary from when she was severely shot and six others were killed outside a grocery store by a madman, she went sky-diving on Thursday and told the Today show she hasn’t ruled out running for office again.

royexum@aol.com


Anthony Byrd Should Have Checked

By no means am I the sharpest knife in the drawer. However, if I was employed by the county and wanted to run for City Council, I would have checked the legalities of such a run. The fact that Mr. Byrd or anyone associated with his campaign did not is disturbing. Let's hope he shows more insight and common sense as a city councilman. Sam Taylor (click for more)

Roy Exum: Will Perdue Abide His Oath?

Sonny Perdue, a licensed veterinarian who served as the governor of Georgia for eight years, is scheduled to appear for confirmation hearings  tomorrow  as the nation’s next Secretary of Agriculture. It has been nine weeks since he was named by President Donald Trump and horse advocates have been holding their breath for exactly that long. Will Sonny remain a devoted ... (click for more)

City Council Winner Anthony Byrd Told He Cannot Continue Working At The County And Be On City Post; Resigns At Criminal Court Clerk's Office

Anthony Byrd, who upset City Council Chairman Moses Freeman in the District 8 council race, has been told that under the city charter he cannot remain on his county job and hold the city post. Mr. Byrd has worked in the Criminal Court Clerk's office for the past 22 years. Criminal Court Clerk Vince Dean said Mr. Byrd got the news of the ruling on Tuesday. He said, "No one ... (click for more)

Judges Say Judge Bales Has Not Signed Letter To Governor On Medical Disability; They Can't Find Him

General Sessions Court Judge Gary Starnes said fellow Judge David Bales apparently has not yet signed a letter to the governor saying he plans to take medical disability. Judge Starnes said, "We can't reach him. He does not answer any of our calls or texts." He added, "We are concerned about his well-being." Judge Bales last Friday, after a sit-down meeting with the other ... (click for more)

'Canes Bounce Back With 8-7 Win Versus Trojans

Soddy-Daisy one-hit East Hamilton on Monday in a 6-2 win. The Hurricanes gathered for a little chat after the game, and discussed their plight more before Tuesday’s batting practice. Apparently, a few words went a long way toward yanking the ‘Canes out of a slump starting the season. “The players and coaches talked after Monday’s game and we got some things ... (click for more)

Jones Sends Vols Through First Spring Practice Session

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. --  Tennessee took the field for the first of 15 spring practices on Tuesday , putting in two hours of work in helmets and shorts at Haslam Field. "I liked the energy. I liked our approach," said Vols coach Butch Jones after Tuesday's workout. "Everyone was trying to lead. That gets back to everyone can lead in their own way, shape and ... (click for more)