It's Always Day One

Gayle Gallagher

April 13, 2021 It's Always Day One Season 1 Episode 43
It's Always Day One
Gayle Gallagher
Show Notes Transcript

An incredible breakdown of the 3-4 steps Amazon leaders take when interviewing candidates. GG has 5 years experience as an Amazonian, eventually positioning herself as a bar-raiser - essentially someone that is great at interviews. I found this chat exceptionally practical for me personally and will certainly be adopting many of the principles discussed with my recruitment going forwards.


In this episode we discuss:

  • Step 1: Why you need to build out a structure and principles for your business before hiring
  • Step 2: Consider each principle for each job, what does that particular job need
  • Step 3: The types of questions Amazon asks in order to derive data from candidates
  • Step 4: Putting your judgement hat on AFTER the interview and why that's more important than during


You can connect with GG on LinkedIn here.


[0:00:00] George Reid: Welcome to us Always Day One. My name is George Reid, a former Amazonian turned amazon consultant. Each week on the podcast you're going to hear industry experts, brand owners and amazon employees share their answers to the basic yet fundamental questions you should be asking yourself bang your amazon business now, let's jump in. Hello, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining me for another episode of the It's Always Day One podcast. Today I've got G to come speak to us about how we can look to hire top quality talent, how we can look to retain some of that talent. Um and some of the things that X Amazonian, like herself has thought about over the years when Employing individuals at Amazon G. Welcome to the show, you want to give us a quick 22nd intro that we can get tucked into some questions.

[0:00:50] Gayle Gallagher: Hey, George yeah, thank you, thank you for having me so quick 22nd intro. So as you said, I am an ex Amazonian. I was a marketing leader in amazon for many years. Since then I left, amazon have set up my own amazon interview coaching business, having become a bar raiser and a bit of an expert at amazon on interviewing, I've decided to set up my own organization so I can help people who want to get amazing jobs at amazon,

[0:01:18] George Reid: lovely. And we'll talk a little bit about what that bar raiser means for those who are unsure, but today I want to be as practical as possible. Um and I'd like to do a bit of spoon feeding for for some of the listeners, so many many individuals who are listening, I've been in the same position as me, where you're hiring for an amazon business. Um what I've recently found myself on hiring is it it can be quite challenging if you've not done it before, and Amazon obviously have a brilliant structure about going through how they would bring someone on board. What are some of the questions and things they're thinking about during that interview? Could you just speak to that a little bit kind of kick off the conversation of what structure you were going through, what you were thinking about when you were in that hiring position at amazon?

[0:02:05] Gayle Gallagher: Sure. So Amazon has a very, very structured and methodical way of approaching interviews and they have that to ensure consistency across an enormous organization, but it's equally as valuable in a small organization or if you're a one man band because if you have consistency, you're always going to be making the right choice against a standard. The reason they did that is they had some horrible hires early on in there in the early days. And I think Jeff realized that unless he had structure, he was going to end up basically shooting in the dark so to give himself structure What Amazon did is they established a set of things that they call leadership principles and those are things that they know make really good employees. So they're just broad concepts so people can go and have a look at these 14 leadership principles. But they are concepts like They're looking for people who are really good at earning trust. They're looking for people who are really good at what they call dive deep, which is digging into analysis or solving problems by finding data. And they've come up with this broad set of 14 concepts that help them understand this is the type of person we are looking for in our organization. So when they come across those types of individuals, it's possible to say, yeah, okay, they fit there really good analytics, deep tick. Oh yeah. There clearly are able to build really good relationships. Tick earns trust. They have this group of 14 across I guess for every single possible role in their organization and they're really clearly defined. They have the words and trust that they have a really detailed description. So everybody knows what does it mean to behave like a person who can earn trust and that's their map.

[0:04:05] George Reid: The

[0:04:05] Gayle Gallagher: next thing they can do is they look at a job because it's all well and good to have this big list of kind of concepts that makes a great leader, but no one is perfect to everything. So not every job requires all of those things. So if you're in a very customer facing role, trust would be really important if you never speak to a customer ever and you're in a back office somewhere and actually don't even work with your colleagues. But you do some very solo type role then probably doesn't matter so much if you're good at earn trust. So the next step is to look at the role and break that roll down and ask themselves of this list of leadership principles that we have which are really the most important ones for this role. If I could only choose five, which ones would I say were the most important. So then they know exactly what they're looking for. So I now know I am definitely looking for someone who is amazing at making these up. Now George and trump dive deep, deliver results and customer obsession. I know exactly what those things mean because I have a very detailed description and I know that's the type of person I'm looking for the next

[0:05:21] George Reid: guy. You know, I like where you're going with this, I won't interrupt.

[0:05:25] Gayle Gallagher: It's a very, very clear kind of process flow, if you you can imagine this is a flow chart, right? It's one step and the next step. So we've just done step two, step three becomes well, what type of questions do I have to ask a person to understand if they are good at trust? And at that point it becomes a little bit more free flow because you just need to come up with the types of questions that would allow a person and amazon uses not hypothetical questions, and I think this is really important as well. Um Amazon has a philosophy that the very best uh indicator of what you're going to do in the future is evidence of what you've done in the past. So they look to the past for that evidence and to look for the past. You have to obviously avoid hypothetical questions. So they look for real evidence from a candidate's past about what they have done and the questions that they ask our behaviour based questions which I know has become very fashionable and very common in terms of inter interview strategies pretty much globally. And you're asking a person tell me about a time when and we're talking about earn trust in this case. So you could easily come up with a question and said tell me about a time when you fell out with a colleague, tell me how it happened. What did you do about it? And what was the outcome If you've clearly defined your earn trust concept and you know what you're looking for in terms of the type of person that can earn trust. Then when you asked that specific question you can then look for the evidence of those behaviors that you've defined as the types of behaviors that you want in, earns trust in their answer.

[0:07:20] George Reid: What's

[0:07:20] Gayle Gallagher: that? You got your evidence and then you start on picket.

[0:07:23] George Reid: I love that kind of three step process for everyone kind of looking or listening to go, I need to listen to something for four minutes again and again. I think those three steps of phenomenal of just a step by step of part number one creating that strict structure, creating those principles and you can obviously borrow. You see a lot of Silicon Valley, not silicone Seattle based companies now all founded by ex amazonians as well as pretty much every company founded by next Amazonian, they've got those principles floating around, haven't they? Oh

[0:07:54] Gayle Gallagher: completely. I mean if we don't want to go back to an amazon principal invent and simplify is a leadership principle for amazon, which basically is uh says uh summarize it, be happy to steal other people's work and reuse it and repurpose it for yourself because why would you reinvent the wheel? So that's exactly what all those ex amazonians have done is they've looked at something that clearly works, amazon is obviously incredibly successful and a huge part of that will be the people that they have employed and they employed them because they have this excellent interview process. So why wouldn't you just reuse that and repurpose it for your organization?

[0:08:35] George Reid: I think for for those listening to to then look at those principles, I'm pretty sure it's like principles to amazon dot com. You can go dig into them a little bit more, borrow some and think about those roles which is obviously part number two, you said there to reinforce it and then go okay, part number three, it's breaking down. What are those, what are those behavioral based questions When you when you talk about an example that you said you fell out with a colleague? So how did it happen? How do you deal? What was the outcome? Is that kind of a case of, What was the situation? How do you behave? What was the impact? Is that what you're looking to kind of tease out of them? There is someone doing that interview.

[0:09:14] Gayle Gallagher: So what you're trying to tease out is the actual the way they behaved. So I'm gonna talk extremes here. It's a bit comical. But you'll get the point when I illustrate it. You could either interview someone who's answering that question and they might say I was working with this guy bob, he was a real moron and he kept taking ownership of work that really he wasn't capable of doing But he insisted on doing it despite the fact that he wasn't skilled. I was really concerned about the impact on this of our business. So I went and spoke to him and explained to him that he really shouldn't be doing this because he was utterly incompetent. Well, he took it totally personally. I don't know why he was taken that personally and he then complained to my manager. I couldn't believe he would complain to my manager. What a moron. Okay. So that's what

[0:10:08] George Reid: on the other

[0:10:08] Gayle Gallagher: extreme there was I was working with a colleague and he was clearly really out of his depth. He was really enthusiastic and I knew he was really, really trying to do the right thing. But unfortunately he just didn't have the right skill set. I did. So I decided that I needed to take him aside and tell him very gently that I really thought that he was doing a great job, but he needed to develop some core skills in order to be able to deliver the product properly because the consequences otherwise weren't good for us and weren't good for him. So I agreed that we would meet weekly and I would help him skill himself up so on and so forth. He took it a little bit personally and I stepped away from it and I realized that perhaps I hadn't phrased it properly. So I met him the next day and I apologized about how I had presented the information to him, tried to get him to understand that I really was only trying to help and serve his best um, interest as well as the companies. He then said to me, he realized he overreacted and he apologized. The two of us got on the same page and then this is what we did. Those are two possible responses to that question. Now if I'm looking for someone who can earn trust. The things I don't want to hear is someone was a moron. I couldn't understand how they behaved and I thought it was unreasonable. I didn't reflect on my own behaviors and realized that what I had done was probably not the right approach. I want the other person who's empathetic whose vocally self critical who's taking responsibility. So that's what you're looking for in the answers to the questions. What is a good thing to do when you're helping candidates? A lot of the I'm gonna I'm gonna make a very bold statement here George and it's really, really unpopular with a lot of people and probably very popular with another group of people. Which is I suspect a large number of candidates fail interviews, not because of their lack of interviewing skill, but because the lack of interviewing skill of the person that is interviewing them, the vast majority of people do not do as many interviews as I did in a week. Or even the average Amazonian does in a week. The average Amazonian is probably doing 12 interviews a week. In the majority of businesses. Most people will only interview, I'm gonna make a number slightly once a month, maybe even once a quarter because the hiring and relief for their own team as opposed to being involved in the entire organizations hiring strategy, which is how amazon does it. So you're not experienced and you're not expert and if you as an interviewer don't know how to get the best data and evidence from your candidate, then God bless your candidate. So one of the things that amazon uses method illogically and it's everybody uses it. In fact I think it's huge now is these concepts of interview answer kind of models. Um So Star is the one that amazon likes, but there's other ones, I'll give you a million acronyms, there's like pa there's car there's these different concepts like they sound very similar but basically it's a structure that says candidate. If you're going to answer questions, like tell me about a time when you fell out with someone and what you did with it start with the situation and just set up very lightly what happened then tell me about the task. Well what did you have to do as a response of what happened? Now tell me about that action. Now tell me exactly what action you did. Who did you speak to? Where did you what meetings did you set up? How did you speak to them? What emails did you said? How how long did you leave in between one meeting and another etcetera. Now tell me the result. What was the outcome and it's really the onus is on the candidate to make sure that they answer your question in that structure. But as an interviewer, your responsibility is also to help them tell the story. Well, so a lot of the training that interviewers do in amazon is how do I help a candidate create a very clear narrative? So they are always on the lookout for. Has the candidate clearly set up the situation for me? Do I understand what I'm about to go into and if you're listening to a candidate and your mind is boggled by even understanding the context in which they are about to tell you an example, it's your job as an interview and they, hang on, hang on. Can we stop for a second? Can just clarify for me. X. X. X. And I think that's the other thing George about being a really good interviewer is taking responsibility for helping your candidate do a great interview. I think too many people go into interviewing kind of thinking it's some kind of battle of wits

[0:15:27] George Reid: and

[0:15:28] Gayle Gallagher: whose when you're going to be outwitted by your candidate or your candidate going out with you, it can't be that it has to have a goal of gathering the best evidence and the interview is as responsible for making that happen as the candidate is making that happen. Does that make sense?

[0:15:46] George Reid: I'm massively agree with. And it's certainly something I hadn't thought of before. Like I said I've listened to the partner to a lot of interviews and now you're saying all these things actually make sense. I was like

[0:15:59] Gayle Gallagher: why are you asking

[0:16:00] George Reid: that? Like why would you do it a different way or how would you do that differently if you had to do it again? In a weird way, weird question to ask but it's kind of that poster teasing it and getting the most out of them and that star principle as well. I guess the counter argument would always be if you would do Canada like you would expect to amazon interview for argument's sake. I know I did going I need to be on it today. I need to be aware about these principles. I know I need to be answering questions in a certain way completely. Get that nurse can then get the better review. Maybe you had an extra shot of coffee when you shouldn't have done you a little bit jittery and just falls to pieces. Having someone lead you through it can get you back on track with something like, here's how we're gonna structure things, here's how you can help me by going through star like this. If you can just answer like that, it's gonna make my life a lot easier, It could be a little trigger and that person could be back on track again and create a fantastic answer which was there. And your job, I guess is you're looking for them to demonstrate examples and evidence. You're not necessarily looking for. Someone who's kind of a cold blooded killer doesn't get affected by any sort of emotion. Um It doesn't get side rails in the slightest. You could be testing on, you know, dive deep just because I've got a bit nervous and lost track. You bringing him back on track with Star and take them through. It could then t that a fantastic example where you would go? I would love that person being my team. Is that kind of what you were getting at?

[0:17:35] Gayle Gallagher: Yeah George. So I think my biggest tip for anybody who is interviewing is to be very single minded about the purpose of the interview. If the purpose of the interview is simply to gather data not to make any judgments not to decide in the moment whether that's the person for the job or not. But to be Singley mindedly single mindedly focused on. Have I got the information that I will need in the future to make a decision. If you're singularly focused on that then it's very clear what your responsibility is in the moment. Right? They okay they haven't quite explained to me how they got that information. Sorry to interrupt you one second candidate. Can I just ask you mentioned that you've got this critical piece of information? We're on dive deep here? I'm just following your threat George.

[0:18:34] George Reid: Can

[0:18:35] Gayle Gallagher: you just tell me how did you get that? Was it really easy to get or did you have to go and fiddle around with some complex system somewhere? Oh no it's a nightmare. That system is horrific. I had to go and get the manual the paper manual that no one's brother digitizing it, flick through the index of this paper manual to find out exactly what tab in which part of said system I had to go to for that exact data point. So I as the interview I have taken responsibility to prod a little to find out how deep did that person have to dive in order to get that data point? I might get the counter response which is Oh yeah that's really easy. That's like the first data point on the top left hand side of the portal as you signed it. Okay then I'm less impressed about your ability to dive date. But if you are just using the interview to gather the data, you're not using any of your mental faculties to make decisions on whether this is the right person or not. You're not requiring your brain too connect the dots with the enormous amount of information that you're getting at that point in time. Your brain is committed to one task only which is asking the right questions together. The right data. Once you've done that, you can then come back to that data and you play a different role and you put a different hat on, which is your judgment hat. Okay now I've got all of that data. I can type it up neatly because if anyone is like me, they're spelling and the grammar is a complete dogs dinner after this.

[0:20:11] George Reid: You should see mine. Now it's complete jokes.

[0:20:14] Gayle Gallagher: Um challenge yourself to say, I don't, not quite sure what that word was that I meant. Right. But okay, let me see if I can remember. Um, and then you review the data and you've got at this point George, we've got our leadership principle or whatever we want to call it. We've got our definition. So we know exactly what behaviors were looking for and it's always a side by side comparison. These are the behaviors that this person talked me through. They demonstrated. Do they match the behaviors that I'm looking for in this particular leadership principle, which is the most important one for this role. And it becomes a relatively easy process because you know what you're looking for, You've defined it and you know what they did because they explained it and you focused very intently on making sure you pulled out all the evidence of what they did. And it's a side by side match and you simply then ask yourself, and this is the slightly more complex piece. Is that person demonstrating a large number and large is the bit that you kind of have to land on in terms of how what you mean by large. But is this person demonstrating a large proportion of the behaviors that I said I was looking for? Big, big thing though, George the big difference is you're not comparing that person to anything else and that's a radical difference in the way that amazon hires

[0:21:47] George Reid: really, really like that, taking you back a minute at all where you kind of started that that string of thought process there about you're you're

[0:21:59] Gayle Gallagher: not yeah

[0:22:01] George Reid: I don't even know if that makes sense in itself. Which shows my inability to interview correctly in itself but where you're trying to draw conclusions while you're also collecting information it's it's kind of like you're working your way through Excel and trying to think about what the reports and look like at the end instead of just getting the data that's going to make the report. Um It's what we all would probably intuitively do. I know I've done it when I started with some listen to the sound of their answers thinking now they're not going to be a good fit. No point. I may as well because you taper off the conversation a little bit, your lessons used instead of going my goal is to spend 30 minutes here and try and pull out as much information as I possibly can Without any judgment that I really, really, really like that. Your only task right now is to ask the right questions to gather the right data. Then you put on that judgment hat at a later date as well, which I think is brilliant. Where you're gonna let me remove myself a little bit from it and you can always go back and rewatch the interview with. I imagine a lot of them over zoom these days or time if you're an amazon and rewatch or re listen if you have recorded it announced um go what did they say here? Can I just rewatched that again for another opinion But really like those two different modes that you're in because I think a lot of people and it comes down to inexperience like you said, which is something I've really not thought about, but it makes so much sense now people are with them and experience trying to do both trying to gather data and immediately interpret it and judge it and try and come to a conclusion which doesn't make sense. I really thought process

[0:23:45] Gayle Gallagher: and I think you just landed on one other thing George which is really important and you mentioned about removing

[0:23:51] George Reid: yourself.

[0:23:53] Gayle Gallagher: So a lot of the bad decisions that were made I think in the amazon that then led to this process and and also some of the poor hires that I know I've made over the years were driven by my emotional response to a candidate. Did I connect with them? Did I like them? Did they? Perhaps just they're not as gregarious as me and therefore perhaps you know it wasn't as connected to them as I might be with someone else who was who was more outgoing, removing yourself from. Yeah that emotion is really important. And a big thing that many amazonians do, particularly the very experienced interviewers is day wait 24 hours maybe after they've done an interview so that their human emotional response to the candidate positive or negative has subsided and they're then able to look at the evidence slash data. However you wish to term it in a very objective manner your emotions have passed. And what you're now looking at is a set of data, pure data uninfluenced by your human emotion and then cross reference that to what we talked about earlier which was what you're looking for. And the definitions that you've made of those leadership principles and those people who take that time to take the human emotion and I don't I really don't mean that we're not human and there's no humanity in the interview process and no one has a giggle and no one is more comfortable. What I do mean to say is that's really valuable in the moment to make somewhat comfortable. But it's not valuable in the ultimate higher decision. Communication is important. Being able to get on with other people is important. But you've captured that in the behavior that you've documented, which is earn trust. You want the evidence for that. You don't want to allow that to be biased by your own personal human response to that individual which is unique to you, right, Someone else's interviewed that person, they may have had a completely different emotional response. So taking time after you've interviews, the candidate to step away and then come back, makes the much better objective, data driven decisions.

[0:26:23] George Reid: And I think that's obviously why amazon have three or four people interviewing, particularly the more senior positions as well that goes up. So you have different personalities colliding in those interviews, given that the interview is only gonna have one personality would assume, so you're going to have those collisions rather than, you know, we're just going to get all of this group or type of an individual who happens to be or data heavy and it kind of has that sort of mindset where they just love being sat behind a monitor, They don't like going to social drinks, they create a certain personality, it's just that type of individual doing an interview, it's another data heavy person and more likely gonna connect if you have those differences is going to create those collisions, which um when it comes down to do that full review with everyone where they will sit down and kind of do a review. Everyone's kind of coming at it from a different angle, which isn't always is achievable to do for perhaps some of the listeners who maybe there's a one man band, one band and they can only do it on themselves. Um That is a little bit trickier. But then would your argument be if you've got more than one of you, do you try and get the candidate in front both of you in front of both of you, would you always encourage that or not?

[0:27:47] Gayle Gallagher: Yes, I think I would always encourage as long as you're putting them in front of someone who is a solid interviewer, I'm just throwing someone in front of somebody else for the sake of it. Who isn't going to get the best out of them. Could end up skewing your data, not necessarily because of the failing of the candidate to my point earlier, but the failing failing of the interviewer, if you can confidently have if you've got a small organization, uh you know, let's imagine there's three of you um got small organization. If everyone is competent at interviewing somebody might be stronger than someone else because they've got more experience. But as long as you feel everyone's competent, Then I would always suggest that you try and get that individual in front of at least one other person because you can use the trip that I just gave you about taking 24 hours aside. But to your point George, everyone always will have a natural level of bias. And those 24 hours never going to remove that in its entirety.

[0:28:49] George Reid: Obviously,

[0:28:50] Gayle Gallagher: it also gives your candidate an opportunity to meet other people in your business, which is really important. From a candidate's point of view, more people they can meet, the more comfortable they can be that they would actually like working that organization with those people the more chance they have to ask questions to make sure that they make the right decision whenever possible. I would say bring at least one other person in just to make sure that none of your unconscious biases are really influencing the decision that you've made.

[0:29:21] George Reid: Leaving notes at the same time. This is incredibly valuable for me as a manager.

[0:29:26] Gayle Gallagher: Please

[0:29:28] George Reid: Do. It's like a free consultation. It turned out I actually got no more follow ups. I think there's been a tremendous 29 minutes and 30 seconds. Well I know I felt, I feel like I've learn a massive amount of um interview practice and things to think about, which I can definitely take on. But certainly for the listeners as I know lots of amazon brands are doing well at the moment. They're looking to bring on people, support them with their businesses, particularly some of them solar preneurs, I think it's invaluable. Certainly one of the best pieces we've had for a while on it. Um, G thank you, thank you so much for taking the time and taking us through some of those pieces,

[0:30:11] Gayle Gallagher: you are absolutely welcome. It was a pleasure. I have to say I've worked in a number of big tech organizations over the years and the reason why I now do what I do is because I genuinely believe that amazon is the best interview process I have ever worked with. So even if as a small business you can find a way to take some elements of this process and apply it to your business. I literally guarantee it will deliver you are, oh I in a way that probably nothing else would in your business because you'll bring in the right people

[0:30:48] George Reid: brilliant and for those who want to want to get in touch with you and talk about some of the pieces you are working at the moment, which is obviously understanding that amazon interview process a little bit more as a candidate. How can they get in touch with you?

[0:31:01] Gayle Gallagher: Sure. Well, best place to come is linked in, that's where you and I met George so they can find me. G the amazon interview is on linkedin. Just drop me a DM. I literally sleep with my phone. I'm happy to help. I offer a couple of different services for candidates, both kind of an E learning program. So it's incredibly affordable. I also do 1 to 1 coaching for candidates. But if any of your kind of listeners out there, small businesses, you'd like a little bit advice on how to apply some of this. I'm super happy to take D. M. S. And give a little bit of guidance if I can.

[0:31:40] George Reid: Absolutely, and don't, don't forget to throw out that massive invoice. I'm sure you're about to throw me, we don't need to work for free now. Uh

[0:31:48] Gayle Gallagher: we'll see, I might give you a bit of a discount, seeing, you know, ex amazonians mates rates,

[0:31:54] George Reid: No worries. The brand envelope had been the letterbox before you know,

[0:31:58] Gayle Gallagher: Thank you George. It's been a pleasure.

[0:32:00] George Reid: Normally g have a good day. I'll speak to you soon.

[0:32:03] Gayle Gallagher: Okay, bye.

[0:32:05] George Reid: Hey guys, just a quick one. If you are enjoying the podcast, I either have some actionable next steps or new ideas. I'd really appreciate. If you could one subscribe to the show and leave us review. These are really, really important to us, as you probably know, being in the amazon world and two, if you're looking for additional support with your brand, head over to the website. It's always Day one dot co dot UK where we've got links to other resources as often our guys speak soon.