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3 Lessons from Amazon’s Very First Job Post

Source | business.linkedin.com | Bruce Anderson

Amazon now employs more than 750,000 people around the world. In 2019, the e-commerce giant hired nearly 100,000 workers in the third quarter alone.

But only 25 years ago, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was looking to make his very first hire for the company that was then being called Cadabra. He was looking for software developers, fluent in C, C++, and Unix, to help build the systems that would be the backbone of his fledgling company.

On August 22, 1994, Bezos published this job post on Usenet, an early online bulletin board and discussion network:

  • Screenshot of Jeff Bezos’ first job ad for Amazon:  Title: Well-capitalized Seattle start-up seeks Unix developers. Jeff Bezos - 8/22/94  Well-capitalized start-up seeks extremely talented C/C++/Unix developers to help pioneer commerce on the Internet. You must have experience designing and building large and complex (yet maintainable) systems, and you should are able to do so in about one-third the time that most competent people think possible. You should have a BS, MS, or PhD in Computer Science or the equivalent. Top-notch communication skills are essential. Familiarity with web servers and HTML would be helpful but is not necessary.  Expect talented, motivated, intense, and interesting co-workers. Must be willing to relocate to the Seattle area (we will help cover moving costs).  Your compensation will include meaningful equity ownership.  Send resume and cover letter to Jeff Bezos:  Mail: be…@netcom.com Fax: 206/828-0951 US Mail: Cadbra, Inc, 10704 N.E. 28th St, Bellevue, WA 98004  We are an equal opportunity employer.  “It’s easier to invent the future than to predict it.” —Alan Kay
The job post has a confident, almost swaggering brevity. No words are wasted — Bezos cuts right to the chase: He is looking for people who will “help pioneer commerce on the Internet.” But it’s the second sentence that is most telling: “You must have experience designing and building large and complex (yet maintainable) systems, and you should be able to do so in about one-third the time that most competent people think possible.”

The sentence — impatient, cocky, almost scornful — demands that developers show up convinced of their own superiority.

Clearly, Amazon’s stunning transformation of the world of retail suggests Bezos both knew what he was doing and found the extraordinary talent he was seeking 25 years ago.

It’s worth taking a few minutes to look at what makes this early job posting work:

1. Less is more — shorter job posts elicit more applications

It pays to get to the point. On average, candidates will spend 14 seconds deciding whether or not to apply, and shorter posts (300 words or fewer) get 8.4% more applicants than an average post.

GeekWire gave the primal Amazon posting to the team at Textio for an analysis. Textio, an augmented writing platform that evaluates writing for gender bias and other shortcomings, found the post to be “too short” and rated it a 19 out of 100.

But the post actually manages to say a lot in a short space. Admirably, it doesn’t cloud its message with a list of nice-to-have qualifications. It is clear about needing someone who writes code quickly and confidently and communicates clearly.

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Source
business.linkedin.com
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