Implementing the Amazon Bar Raiser. Step by Step.
If you haven’t read our introduction to Amazon Bar Raisers, you’ll definitely want to visit here first!
So how do you implement Bar Raisers? You have the option of doing this with external consultants, or training up in-house Bar Raisers. Many organisations start with externals, so they can build up a process and train their in-house teams at the same time.
We can support you through that whole process, so get in touch if you want to discuss how it can all work.
As a simple layout of a process to build your Bar Raisers and the process that supports it, here’s what you need to know:
As with all business transformations, this needs a strong business case.
You will need buy-in from leaders to change the hiring process and have someone external to the department hiring, making the decision on who to hire. The investment in training will be significant and then these Bar Raisers will be called on to step into interview processes, possibly sometimes at very short notice. How will the business feel about having some great people investing significant amounts of time in leading hiring processes, rather than doing their day jobs?
Based on just how much buy-in you get, you may be looking at a partial Bar Raiser approach. For example, you might choose to have these expert interviewers come in for an hour of another department’s hiring process, but that’s all. You don’t include the Bar Raiser in shaping the interview process upfront, or facilitating the interviewers’ feedback and decision-making, or making the overall decision. That will reduce the amount of time a Bar Raiser is needed to step out of their day job, and it significantly reduces the amount of training needed.
Whilst the Amazon Bar Raiser approach is world class, there’s a reason that not every company follows every example of best practice. They tend to be expensive, hard to gain buy-in for and need business-wide transformation to implement.
So, come up with your strategy. Maybe you start with external interviewers, or maybe you train internal Bar Raisers as interviewers. You could see how well the use of those Bar Raisers is received by the business, then experiment with expanding the role of the Bar Raiser.
Who will your Bar Raisers be? People with a passion for hiring the best talent are a good starting point. Maybe they have a lot of interviewing experience, or maybe they have shown interest in supporting on other people projects. A passion for getting the right person in the right job can sometimes outweigh interview experience, because with experience there often comes bad habits.
Amazon’s Bar Raiser programme is restricted to people with a wealth of interview experience, but we would advise on ensuring they are not coming with the attitude of “I just know a good hire when I meet one.” That will not fit this approach at all, and in fairness, they wouldn’t make it through Amazon’s programme either!
Openness to learning and a willingness to reflect on previous experiences and say, “how could I have done that even better?” is therefore a key requirement. Plus, on the practical side, availability is likely to come into this. Calling on your busiest, least available role models is likely to lead to frustration that they can’t help. Unless of course there is such business buy-in as to release that person for this priority work.
At the very least, you need your Bar Raisers to be outstanding interviewers. A 2-hour or one-day competency-based interviewing workshop is not going to cut it. We would recommend a series of one-day workshops where interviewers are observed, given feedback, then re-running the interview to improve their craft. The training also needs to cover the debrief, even if the Bar Raiser is not facilitating it, they need to know how to communicate their observations and judgements effectively.
As you expand the role of the Bar Raiser, they will need training on setting up a good interview process, engaging stakeholders in their roles and challenging non-compliance to the approach. For example, if you had a senior stakeholder desperate to ask their “if you could be a kitchen utensil..?” question, how would you manage them?
If you’re hiring for a technical role where you’re not the expert, and a wide range of near-impossible scenarios have been laid out for the candidate to solve, how would you influence the hiring manager to explore the value-add of those questions?
Finally, the facilitation of the debrief meeting and overall decision-making can be most challenging of all. This requires incredible listening skills, the ability to keep cool under pressure and ask questions that both give you information and help people open up their thinking. Pulling all of the information gained from that to make a decision, is a skill that relies on having a super clear job description to refer to, bringing us full circle to how the Bar Raiser might be involved at the start of the process.
And once you are ready to go, you will need a process of finding a Bar Raiser when they are needed, knowing they will be able to support the process in the timescales set, monitoring the process and delivering a decision. How will they be released from their day job or manage both at the same time when involved in hiring? How will any required travel arrangements be handled? How will paperwork be managed and stored in line with GDPR?
There is a lot to consider, and once again the buy-in will need to have been there from the start to introduce this.
There is no question that the Amazon Bar Raiser approach to hiring is world class, and there are countless stories of the transformational effect it has had on hiring in departments across the business. It is not perfect of course, as no human is, and the process is run by humans. The key is in the constant reflection and learning from experience, to always get better.
Given the massive investment needed to get this started, many organisations start with something smaller, like external interviewers, or training some expert in-house interviewers to support the process.
As you explore what option could work best in your business, give us a call, we’ll happily chat with you about options and help you get started.