Raising the Bar…?

We’re looking to add a few more folks to our small team and again I’m thinking through not just the process but also the psychology of hiring great and talented folks.

Like any organization, we want every person that we add to our team to be a force-multiplier, someone who not just incrementally makes our organization better but naturally propels us forward exponentially.

I was reminded of Amazon’s practice this weekend as I was reading through different materials:

“One of our hiring principles is that anyone we bring in should raise the bar on our internal performance,” Williams told Business Insider. “Which means that we’re looking for someone who’s better than half of the people that currently working here at that level.”

via Business Insider

And apparently each interviewer in the Amazon hiring process asks these three questions:

  1. Will you admire this person?
  2. Will this person raise the average level of effectiveness of the group they’re entering?
  3. Along what dimension will this person be a superstar?

I’ll admit that, at face-value, these feel good and feel useful to even appropriate for our own needs, but, I think this indexes a little too high on the impossible task of guessing whether or not a person will “raise the bar” for the organization in a non-linear way.

I mean, seriously… what in the fuck did I just write in that last paragraph? I have no idea.

Early-stage companies, like mine, are built after their founders and the first group of folks who sign-up and say “Yes” to the team and mission. Any bias that we may collectively have is something we should acknowledge and own – it is what it is.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t room for optimization or growth or even fundamental changes to how we hire and what we look for, but, instead of fighting the natural flow and current it’s much better to just leverage what exists and, in the best and most thought-out way, hire for the things that matter (and that the organization needs the most).

“Raising the Bar” is impossible to know in the short-term especially before and just as much after the initial hire and start date – consequently, it’s vastly better to index high on things that you know are uncompromisable parts of your hiring criteria.

For instance, I’ve decided that my ability to trust the person is more important than everything else in the hiring decision matrix. Building an organization based on trust is already really hard but it’s much, much easier when you already trust the person(s) being considered.


Besides, most of the work that needs to be done early-stage is generalist in nature, so, lane-specific hires or subject-matter expertise is very low on the totem pole. And if I can’t trust the person, then, all of those other “qualities,” regardless of measure, do not really matter in the end.

“Scaling Trust” is a better internal guide and metric, even though it might be just as nebulous as a construct and idea as “Raising the Bar” – at least it focuses on what matters the most.