Amazon is growing at such a rapid pace that many engineers spend a big chunk of their time on the hiring process, CTO Werner Vogels said at a panel held by ff Venture Capital at mega-conference SXSW last weekend.
“Our hiring process is extremely intensive and we’re still growing at such a rapid pace that many of our engineers are spending 30 to 40% of their time on hiring,” he said.
Vogels was moderating a panel about scaling a startup with a bunch of startup execs, Jordan Kretchmer, the CEO of Livefyre. When Vogels dropped that percentage, Kretchmer was especially shocked.
“That’s crazy!” he interjected. “That’s a lot of time!”
“It is crazy,” Vogels replied.
But Amazon’s philosophy is that a bad hire would take up even more time. Every candidate gets interviewed twice on the phone before they’re even brought into the office. If they pass the phone portion, then they come to Amazon to interview in-person with eight employees.
The next day, those eight people get together and have to agree 100% on hiring the candidate, or else that person doesn’t get the job. Vogels describes it as a “very high-touch process,” but says that it has made the number of hiring mistakes Amazon makes very low, which makes the company more efficient.
“But if those engineers weren’t doing the hiring, wouldn’t those people would be 30 to 40% more efficient?” Kretchmer asked.
“This is the ultimate kind of conundrum,” Vogels admitted. “If you don’t hire, you can’t grow your business and you’ll be dead in ‘X’ months time. If you don’t hire, your teams won’t be able to get to the things they want to work on, because they won’t have the people to do it.”
Vogels didn’t specifically say where within Amazon all this hiring is taking place. However, he did spend the majority of his time talking about Amazon’s cloud enterprise business, AWS.
AWS is one of the company’s most important focuses right now, as new products from Microsoft, Google, and other players continue to make the space that Amazon has traditionally dominated increasingly competitive. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has said in the past that he expects AWS to become an even bigger business than the company’s retail offerings someday.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.