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


Standing Behind The Armored Truck Lane

I just wanted to say that I stand behind the city's implementation of an armored truck lane.  I do my banking downtown and see those armored truck lanes used quite extensively.  The armored truck lane provides a safe, close location for the transfer of money to and from the banks.  I do have a few complaints about the armored truck lanes, however.  They need ... (click for more)

Hamilton County School Board Should Learn From Cleveland

Wow!  Hamilton Country School Board take a lesson from little ol' Cleveland.   Flat out fired their director of schools.  I would hope it would be primarily for his flat out stupidity as much as the lies and other indiscretions.    How many others have fallen doing such things? Mike Lawrence Chattanooga (click for more)

Cleveland School Board Votes 5-2 To Terminate School Director Ringstaff Over Twitter Messages

The Cleveland School Board on Friday fired Dr. Martin Ringstaff, director of schools, for sending sexually explicit messages to an anonymous woman a year ago.  His termination is effective immediately and does not include severance pay.  The school board called an emergency meeting after Dr. Ringstaff, who is married, admitted to sending explicit messages to ... (click for more)

History Center Not Giving Out Any More Information On Past Spending Details, Current Status, At This Time

The president of the Chattanooga History Center, which has halted plans for a world class history museum near the Aquarium after raising over $10 million, said no other information will be provided at this time. Chattanoogan.com had sought details about prior spending and the salary of former executive director Daryl Black as well as the center's current status. Jo Coke said, ... (click for more)

Second-Ranked Oak Hill Smashes McCallie, 89-59, In Classic

National prep power Oak Hill Academy lived up to its billing Friday night in the inaugural McCallie Classic. Senior Braxton Key, who plans to play college basketball at Alabama, scored 11 of his 19 points in the first quarter, junior Lindell Wigginton put up 16 of his game-high 22 in the second half and the second-ranked Warriors shellacked the host Blue Tornado, 89-59, at McCallie’s ... (click for more)

Red Bank Advances To Finals In A-AA State Duals

FRANKLIN, Tenn. – The Red Bank Lions are in the finals of the Class A-AA State Duals while the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will be battling for a little self respect here at the Williamson County Agricultural Expo on Saturday.   Friday was a short one for Notre Dame as they had to wrestle Red Bank in its first match.   Needless to say, it wasn’t a very positive ... (click for more)