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The Two Questions Jeff Bezos Asked a Job Applicant

Jeff Bezos
A former Amazon employee wrote about the experience of being hired by Jeff Bezos in 2002. Credit: Wikipedia commons

One of Jeff Bezos’s former employees at Amazon shared the story of her job interview with the companies founder and former CEO on Tuesday. Ann Hiatt, who landed a job interview with the billionaire businessman during the relatively early days of Amazon’s existence in 2002, shared with CNBC two questions Bezos asked her when she met with almost twenty years ago.

Hiatt explained that she grew up in Redmond, Washington, which is not far from Seattle, where Bezos had headquartered his company. Hiatt applied for a job as a junior assistant fresh out of school which no prior experience, no relevant degree, and no contacts amongst the retailer’s employees.

Hiatt was shocked when her application was met with an invitation to interview at the company. After a marathon of interviews with current employees who were working in the senior position of the ob she was vying to land, Hiatt was contacted after months of silence and informed that she had made to the final interview. Unbeknownst to her, that interview was between her and Bezos.

Jeff Bezos only asked her two questions at her job interview– but they left a lasting impression

When Hiatt met with Bezos, he told her that he only planned on asking her two questions, and that the first question was a little bit of a mental challenge.

The former CEO said: “I want you to estimate the number of panes of glass in the city of Seattle.”

After an initial pang of terror, Hiatt got her bearings and began to consider the questions. after accurately guessing Seattle’s population, she began to work with Bezos on the problem, considering every context in which glass isfound, moving between one’s home or apartment, through public space and transit, and in the workplace or educational setting. Hiatt figured that the answer had to be some average of all of those places, and Bezos fastidiously did the math on a whiteboard in the office.

Bezos finally looked up and told Hiatt “That looks about right.” It was now time for his second and final question: “What are your career goals?”

Hiatt said that she felt Amazon was an innovative company filled with people that cared immensely about their work and growing the company. Even though she didn’t have experience in the position she was applying for, she wanted to challenge herself and learn from the employees at Amazon, absorb their tenacity and ambition, and evolve from the experience.

Bezos offered her the job immediately, and worked closely with her from that point on. Hiatt says that in retrospect, she can see that Bezos was interested in testing her bravery and ability to meet his challenge, ignoring any insecurity about whether or not she might be unprepared– and that those qualities can be more important than any skill when starting out.

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