- In a tight job market, companies are scrambling to recruit and retain software developers.
- Amazon developed a centralized application for top talent, aiming to expand it for other candidates.
- Best Fit allows candidates to list their preferences and be matched with two to four options.
- This article is part of the 'Careers 2.0' series, focused on helping job seekers learn more about getting jobs at notable companies.
Alfonso Palacios, vice president of recruiting at Amazon, had grown tired of the typical application process: asking candidates to weed through thousands of job postings, submit applications, wait for a response, and hope for the best.
So earlier this summer, Palacios' team unveiled their solution: Best Fit, a portal that allows candidates to be considered for multiple roles with one application, similar to the Common Application for colleges.
Palacios said there are over 10,000 open positions in tech alone on Amazon's career website, and the challenge is finding a fit for each candidate. In a tight job market where companies may be scrambling to find talent, the tool is an example of how Amazon and other companies are using technology to automate and improve the hiring process.
"A big part of what we do and how we spend a lot of our time and energy," Palacios said, "is [asking], 'How do we make this fast and easy for the candidates?'"
Senior engineers are in high demand
Developed by an internal HR team, Best Fit rolled out this past June, and for now, is only for senior software developers, Palacios said. Candidates must have at least two years of professional experience, at least one year contributing to design projects and programming experience with at least one modern language.
Demand for software engineers is especially high at the moment. There were more than 1.2 million unique job postings in early September for software engineers or programmers in the US, according to the National Foundation for American Policy. Amazon alone has 20,000 open tech jobs.
What makes Best Fit unique, Palacios said, is how it accommodates the variety of roles engineers fill. Since there is tremendous diversity in experience and expertise, recruiters often struggle to fill each position appropriately. Best Fit aims to do that sorting algorithmically.
First, candidates submit an application, complete a coding assessment, and answer questions about what their ideal job would look like in terms of location, team, working style, tech stack, and other qualities. This gives a recruiter insight into what position would be the best kind of role.
After interviewing with several teams, candidates typically receive two to four job offers and can choose the position that interests them most.
"The fact that we're offering candidates choice, it flips the hiring model on its head," Palacios said. "People appreciate the consideration that we offer for things that are not strictly hard skills but preferences. Palacios' team will ask of candidates the kind of team they prefer: one that's starting out, one that's expanding, one that's reinventing, one that's optimizing, or one that's operating.
Since Best Fit only evaluates a job seeker's preference for what they want their work to look like, Palacios it's in their best interest to answer honestly and thoughtfully rather than parroting what they think a recruiter wants to hear.
Best Fit differs from screening AI
While Amazon's program for senior talent is unique, it's common practice for big companies to use technology and artificial intelligence when screening applicants. These tools may streamline the hiring process, but they have also been criticized for replicating racial or gender biases in code.
However, Palacios emphasized that Best Fit is not a screening tool.
The application pre-screens candidates, which means once you've been approved for Best Fit, recruiters aren't looking for competency. According to Palacios, senior software engineers that get past the initial coding exam and qualifications will be offered positions.
Amazon generally has a strong reputation as an early-career tech employer, though the company frequently makes headlines for mistreatment of warehouse workers. Earlier this year, LinkedIn ranked Amazon #1 on its list of the 50 top companies where Americans want to work and develop their careers.
"This is a company culture and a place where you're going to be able to build and be successful," Palacios said. "If you like building and you like to have a strong say in how we go and you can handle the ambiguity, this is a great place to be."