Amazon's "bar raiser" hiring system, highlighted recently in the Wall Street Journal, sounds novel for a company of Amazon's size.

To put things in very abridged terms, it works a little something like this: During the hiring process, Amazon calls in one of its high-performing employees with interviewing experience, called "bar raisers," from another department who grills the candidate. The bar raiser has veto power over any potential hire, and will sometimes ask particularly tough questions that might not apply to the position the candidate is interviewing for in order to gauge their analytical and stress management abilities.

What's so innovative about that?

For small business owners, where teams are more likely to number in the tens than the tens of thousands, this probably doesn't sound all that novel. You probably already consult other department heads or team leaders before making a hire.

So what's noteworthy about Amazon's practice of exposing candidates to other departments (and vise versa) is specifically because doing so is a large company problem. As a company grows and grows, its departments become all the more insular, and it becomes all the more challenging to introduce new talent to a the broader company.

With that in mind, Amazon's bar raiser program actually offers two lessons to keep in mind as your company expands.

1. Find ways to spread your culture. The Journal sites a previous interview with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in suggesting that the use of interdepartmental bar raisers ensures that, in a company so large, corporate cultural values are consistent across all divisions. While different teams and departments are sure to take on their own character in any organization, Amazon's system is an example of one way to make sure they all share some central values.

2. Keep your employees' time in mind. Amazon is having some trouble maintaining the program, the Journal notes, as the company's hiring processes continue to move at light speed. The company hires so many people that serving as a bar raiser becomes a major time burden. This is probably more pronounced because employees volunteer as bar raisers, with little tangible benefit in return. As your organization grows more complex, bear in mind that your employees might need a little added incentive for voluntary tasks as their time becomes more valuable.

Published on: Jan 8, 2014