• Why don’t referral bonus systems work?

    One of my favorite, and also the least successful, ideas in online recruiting has been the referral bonus system.

    Almost 50% of hires are referrals (65% according to CareerXroads’ recent 10th Annual Sources of Hires Report). This was true a century ago, it’s true today, and it will probably be true a century from now. “Word-of-mouth” advertising, implied endorsement, and the resulting social pressure to perform in the workplace and not let your peers down, all combine to make referrals a very effective means for staffing any company.

    While most companies have an internal system for handling employee and internal referrals, the thinking goes, wouldn’t it be so much more powerful to tap into the broader networks of contacts that we all have and reward them when we hire somebody?

    As a result, entrepreneurs in the internet recruiting marketplace periodically strike upon the idea of building a third-party referral marketplace – a way to reward anybody who suggests a new employee to a company with a big payment, thereby encouraging lots of effective referrals.

    The reason the idea is so attractive is that by putting $5,000 or $10,000 bounty on the table for a hire, it is imagined that an army of referrers will be put to work on the hiring company’s behalf. And as the company only pays when it hires, the thinking continues, there’s no cost and no risk to them.

    When I first came across the idea, I, too, was a big fan. I imagined it would work really well in cases where a third party had very good knowledge of the capabilities of a group of potential employees – say, for example, a grad student TA in computer science, or a Meetup organizer of brand marketing experts. She could make referrals to a number of companies of her students / members and make a tidy sum when the magic happened and a connection was made.

    Alas, it doesn’t work this way in practice.

    A typical recruiter can make 24 placements in a year. This number ranges from one to ten dozen, depending on the level of effort, difficulty of the position, frequency of the position, etc., but let’s use 24 for now.

    That means a typical placement requires 2 weeks full-time work – sourcing candidates, calling them, qualifying them, setting up appointments with the hiring manager, doing follow up debriefings, negotiating offers, and closing. All of those activities really add up.

    Providing the name of a potential hire is useful, but represents just a fraction of the overall workload. So from a company’s standpoint, the correct referral bonus to offer for a name is far lower than $5,000. Further, managing these suggestions, which would vary in quality across referrers, would take time and money on the company’s part.

    From the referrer’s standpoint, the small number of times a placement occurs from this type of recommendation system – perhaps 1 in 1,000, means that, on average, the typical referrer will earn zero dollars for his efforts, thereby making word-of-mouth work against the system.

    So while it’s a brilliant idea that always sounds good on paper, and has been implemented by some of the smartest people to enter the online recruiting business, the economics of the third-party referral system make it a business model that does not work.

  • Let my people go!

    Jewish holidays are getting the best treatment on the web these past 12 months. I wonder why the breakthrough?

    I particularly love how the quantity of live frogs ordered from Amazon goes up to 50,000,000, “the people who bought this also bought” side-joke, and what happens to the Egyptian First-Born Son Club. All in all, wry, dry and witty. A great Passover sendup!

    Via AllThingsD

  • The Digital Soul, Part III: Insights that are queer but true


    ‘Never index your own book,’ she stated.

    A duprass, Bokonon tells us, is a valuable instrument for gaining and developing, in the privacy of an interminable love affair, insights that are queer but true.  The Mintons’ cunning exploration of indexes was surely a case in point.  A duprass, Bokonon tells us, is also a sweetly conceited establishment. The Mintons’ establishment was no exception.

    Some time later, Ambassador Minton and I met in the aisle of the airplane, away from his wife, and he showed that it was important to him that I respect what his wife could find out from indexes.

    “You know why Castle will never marry the girl, even though he loves her, even though she loves him, even though they grew up together?” he whispered.

    “No, sir, I don’t.”

    “Because he’s a homosexual,” whispered Minton.  “She can tell that from an index, too.”

    -       Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle

    If you want to figure out if your first date will sleep with you tonight, what would you ask them? What would be the single, best, statistically significant question you could ask to determine his or her licentiousness?  The web’s got the answer for you:

    “Do you like the taste of beer?”

    A positive answer to this question indicated a 60% greater likelihood to “be okay with sleeping someone they’ve just met,” on OKCupid.com, one of the largest dating sites on the web. Among the 50,000 other questions reviewed, this one’s promiscuity predictive power is unrivaled.

    In the IIII hierarchy, this is an inference, and a remarkably important one for all of us — not just the two hormonally-inflicted junior brand managers wasting their afternoons away on the opposite ends of a dating site — because of what it means for what we can know about people and how we can know it.

    In the novel Cat’s Cradle, quoted above, a duprass is “a valuable instrument for gaining and developing… insights that are queer but true. “

    In Kurt Vonnegut’s telling, the beauty of the duprass is their spontaneous generation of striking insights – unexpected glimpses through an open window into the human being.

    Adapting the word to express its output, let’s term a duprass any insight that is “queer but true”.  While Vonnegut was able to write his duprasses into his novel, we’ll have to understand how the web manufactures them.

    I suppose that if you seek “queer but true”, you could reverse engineer it such that you find all things true first, then discard the obvious, rote, standard, expected, boring or tiresome observations to remain with the queer.

    Queer, in this case, must mean that correlation is not enough; we’ll need to find those truths that surprise, tease and titillate, those that are not ready accessible via logic.

    For a start, let’s consider the production of answers.

    Me personally, I’ve always liked surveys and have filled them out whenever I could.  Receiving them in the mail, submitting them after a hotel stay, pleasantly scratching out the bubbles on a guest satisfaction quiz, tickled me.  I remember the little thrill that would go through my bones when I’d read through the disqualifier notices – you must not be an employee of the client or the agency or work in any marketing or advertising company – and conclude for the hundredth time in a row that they didn’t apply to me – I was eligible to participate!

    Prior to the Web, surveys were conducted differently.  I remember in 1994 being called to do a 1-hour interview about my subscription to Fortune Magazine, and meeting with the researcher at the McDonald’s in Sorrento Valley, San Diego.

    I enjoyed it immensely, though I was a little let down at the payoff : Do I get to see the results? May I weigh in on the conclusions? Can I help explicate the answers, Dear Fortune? All for naught.

    The cost, frequency and serendipity of surveying was low; a manual process, without cross referencing, conducted in person, could only be so productive.  And perhaps not all Americans were as eager to participate as I.

    So what happens when the average person increases their output of recorded answers from one per year…

    …to dozens per month…

    …to hundreds per day?

    Photos by etgeek via creative commons.

    From the single starling, you can’t predict the beauty of the flock, suddenly appearing and flashing shapes and colorations…

    …the queerly mesmerizing truth of the flock in flight; its duprass.  The emergent behavior of the internet is to reveal us to be fascinating.

    Hunch.com, the pioneer in the inferences business the way Google was the pioneer in the intentions business, packages duprasses for us.  What can we surmise from these Hunch correlations?:

    South Americans are more likely than North Americans to dream of being underwater or being able to fly; North Americans are more likely than South Americans to dream of being chased or attacked.

    Cookie Monster fans believe in life after death and consider themselves “foodies”.

    Bacon double cheeseburgers lovers are more likely than haters to be able to do 10 pull-ups.

    And before I respond “tsk tsk” to your cry that “these are just silly games; parlor tricks for people who still have parlors”, may I point you to that section of “Innovator’s Dilemma” which presents prior exemplars of market entrants becoming market revolutionaries through low-utility innovation?

    I was a political science undergrad, and I’d been fascinated by Thomas Sowell’s A Conflict of Visions, a brilliant tour de force that uses inductive reasoning to draw the lines between the political ideologies and show how their many different answers stem from the same underlying differences in conception of human nature and possibility.  It is a supreme example of what the human Expert can do: forty years of study from a leading political philosopher results in a book of penetrating insights.

    Compare this with the work of a cheeky dating site run by flippant 20-somethings, who have discovered that the question most likely to indicate whether you are conservative or liberal is:

    Do you prefer the people in your life to be simple or complex?

    Or, for good measure, who determined that answering the question “Is my date religious?” could best be achieved by asking the question:

    Do spelling and grammar mistakes annoy you?

    Far from being parlor tricks, the portent of these inferences is the destruction of the social sciences – the belief that we can understand human behavior and explain it through our rational faculties — and the rise of something far more powerful, fast, and compelling: the Inference Machine.

    If a taste for hops predicts hopping in the sack, if grammatalogical correctness tops theology in predicting religiosity, if a simple question tells us more than four decades of complex study, we face an epistemological paradigm shift in our understanding of humans in the 21st century.

    Each survey, each poll, each choice online creates more answers.  When we have thousands, when we have millions, when we have billions of answers to these questions each day, what will they tell us about ourselves?  And what questions will the answers give us?

    And who knows? When we’ve answered the questions, connected the dots, and drawn the lines between faith and fact…

    Photo by Mrs. LH via creative commons.

    …will our conclusions bind us more tightly together?

  • The Digital Soul, Part II: Google Pro

    Why doesn’t Google sell a Google “Pro” version to all you addicts out there?  A paid version that indexes more webpages, provides faster results, gives you more search filters and less web spam than the “Basic” version?  With a billion users globally, wouldn’t it make sense to give the best features and functionalities to those most willing to pay for it?  To understand that question, we’ll need to understand something about the nature of web businesses, users, scale, and monetization.

    Pre-internet information technology businesses correlated to the DIKW hierarchy: data – information – knowledge – wisdom.   In the 20th century, IT businesses provided the hardware to store, the tools to gather, the software to visualize and report, and the consulting services to understand, the inputs and outputs of human experience.  The atom, the core irreducible mote, underlying the DIKW hierarchy is the stimulus outside of ourselves which we perceive with our senses, thus creating data capable of being recorded.

    The web enables, and therefore requires, a very different structure.  With the rise of the web we see businesses based around a different atom, a different mote: that of human behavior. Without our recognizing it, the global communications and technology network that has been our obsession for the past two decades has changed from being about things, to being about people.

    Even more compellingly, it has changed from being constituted of data on the nature of things, to data generated by the nature of people.

    The web hierarchy is:

    Information – Intentions – Inferences – Interaction

    If the pre-internet IT hierarchy is composed of bits that correlate to atoms, the web IT hierarchy is composed of behaviors that represent users:

    -  Users seek information on the internet, thereby

    -  Developing and revealing their intentions, thereby

    -  Enabling inferences that are valuable and non-intuitive, thereby

    -  Allowing for interactions or communities of which the user was previously unaware

    This last step, the provision of discovery to users, has been an obvious, productive, and compelling application of the web since at least the founding of Firefly in 1995. (If you roll that way, here is Suck’s awesome 1995 review of the launch.)

    Seeking information

    We use Google to seek information, which in Google’s case is composed of requests that let us know who the Yankees play next Tuesday, how much butter to put in the cookies, where to eat in Luang Prabang, or the molecular weight of tryptophan.  We use other sites to seek other types of information – on jobs, on stocks, the definitions of words.  In either case, in each act of information-seeking we do not just learn about the information, but reveal something about ourselves.

    Revealing intentions

    John Battelle defined Google as a database of intentions: “The Database of Intentions is simply this: The aggregate results of every search ever entered, every result list ever tendered, and every path taken as a result.”

    Beyond the search engines, users generate data about their actions at ecommerce sites, in dating applications, in the job search, in fact, every click, search, form, survey, poll, and mouse-over tells us something more about the user and their intentions.  What they think they are doing tells us something about what they think, but also tells us a great deal more.

    Enabling inferences

    Intentions may or may not represent the conscious understanding of the user – for anybody who’s sat through usability labs and heard the subject say “I don’t know why I clicked, just seemed like that’s where I should go”, you know what I mean.

    Based on their apparent intentions and expressed preferences, web businesses can make inferences about users.

    As I am writing this, I’m listening to my Pandora Station named “Smog” after the band I seeded it with.  Looking through the resultant list of songs to which I’ve given the “thumbs up” I see seven new bands that I’ve discovered in the past two weeks that I’d never heard of before and of whom I am now tremendously fond.

    Surprising, non-trivial, productive inferences may not be unique to the web, but surprising, non-trivial, productive inferences at scale, are.

    Allowing interaction and community

    And those surprising inferences will create a user with the desire to act: to buy music, or join a discussion, or purchase an appliance, or go to a concert, or attend a Meetup.  The things we can teach users about themselves allow them to participate in a broader set of activities, and understand the context of why they are doing so.  It is not just generating behavior, or trial, it is generating self-enlightened behavior that is the most compelling aspect of this web hierarchy.

    The IIII business hierarchy

    The DIKW hierarchy had a corresponding business hierarchy: hardware for storing, tools for collecting, software for analyzing, and consulting for understanding.  Each successive step in the hierarchy uses the bits provided by the prior step as the raw material from which it creates value.

    Similarly, the IIII hierarchy has a corresponding web business hierarchy, as shown in bold below.  And where the DIKW hierarchy passes bits from one level to the next, the IIII hierarchy passes user behavior from one level of the hierarchy to the next.

    If access is your product, information is your revenue

    If information is your product, intentions are your revenue.

    If intentions are your product, inferences are your revenue.

    If inferences are your product, interaction / community is your monetization.

    If interaction / community is your product, time-space is your monetization.

    If time-space is your product, trial is your monetization.

    (In italics are the pre- and post-web-hierarchy business models, representing 20th century informations services business on one hand, and online-enabled offline businesses such as Meetup and Groupon on the other, respectively. I will discuss these in another post.)

    Because each level of the hierarchy generates the “raw material” for the next level, web business have the interesting characteristic that you cannot monetize your core product – that is, the part of your product that generates user behavior, engagement, and attention for your site or app in the first place.   For any particular product or service, one level in the hierarchy must be unfettered, cost-free, and generate as much user behavior as possible, in order for the company to monetize it effectively at the next level of the hierarchy. (In another post, I’ll discuss the scale – the perhaps surprisingly massive scale – of behavior required to generate monetization.)

    And it is thus precisely because the user behavior on one level of the IIII hierarchy is the raw material for the monetization on the next level of the hierarchy that Google cannot have a “Google Pro” version.  And it is precisely because the web is composed of human behavior that a new hierarchy is required to explain it.

  • The Digital Soul, Part I

    “Ordinary riches can be stolen, real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.” – Oscar Wilde

    What if I told you I was willing to pay you $1.81 if you tell me about your bulimia?  Or at the other end of the spectrum, $1.05 to tell me about your gout?  How about $1.93 in your pocket if you’ll admit to me that you and your spouse need marital counseling?

    Or $10.11 that your house doesn’t have a security system, $7.16 that you’ve finally given up on paying off your student loans, and $9.24 if you’ll ‘fess up to your coke problem?

    $130.34 if you’re afraid you might have asbestos-related mesothelioma?

    Or $31.06 if you think you need a DUI attorney? (But only $29.03 if you need a DUI lawyer?)

    Or, and I know this might seem chintzy, $0.72 if you think your husband might be gay?

    Would you do it?

    If I pulled out my checkbook or a stack of bills and the correct change, would you agree to tell me truthfully?


    Well, maybe it’s just because we don’t know each other that well yet…  perhaps this would work better if you asked your friends?

    Let’s try it.  Click here to send an e-mail to all of your contacts with the subject line “I’ll pay you $9.37 if you admit to your drinking problem.”

    How many takers do I have?  Are you up for it?

    Now what if I took this thought experiment a step further and proposed to you a business where the model is, in fact, that I am going to ask you to tell me all of these things… for free…  because you’ll want to.

    And then I’ll plan on selling that information to a bunch of people you don’t know for the cash.

    If you’re gout-stricken, I get a buck and change, almost $2 if you and the Mrs. are at it again. Your being a cokehead nets me a Hamilton.  I get three times as much if you’ve had a run-in with the law at a nighttime checkpoint. And if you’ve been sucking on asbestos for the past decade, I get a crisp Benjamin plus plus.

    Are you ready to invest in my venture? I think it’s got real potential.

    I’m naming it “Google”… perhaps you’ve heard of it?


    How did we become these people?  Telling such personal things to machines? Sharing what we wouldn’t share with colleagues or classmates or co-religionists or competitors?

    Sharing, in fact, our gravest and riskiest confidences with an unforgetting, uncorruptable, unerring, and utterly amoral machine?

    Forever, our secrets will be hidden there; they were not stolen, we gave them away willingly.  How did we become those people?

    The internet wasn’t supposed to turn out like this.

    While it can be conceived, in the words of one late befuddled Senator, as a “series of tubes” through which passes the world’s information, to be strictly precise the internet wasn’t conceived of at all.  It was, rather, the logically inevitable but unplanned, outgrowth of the invention of packet-switching.  Eliminating the single point of failure germinated a thousand, a billion, a trillion, points on the graph.

    The World Wide Web was to be the nodes on the graph.

    As Tim Berners-Lee shared early on: “The WWW world consists of documents, and links… [It] is a way to link and access information of various kinds as a web of nodes in which the user can browse at will. It provides a single user-interface to large classes of information (reports, notes, data-bases, computer documentation and on-line help).”

    The World Wide Web was about information – large classes of information – and information technology and information scientists were here to assist with its management.  The excitement you feel in reading Berners-Lee’s original proposal, his proselytizing emails, and his usenet posts come from the sense of a man on the brink of enabling a great discovery: the discovery of where we already are.

    By creating access to the world’s research, its thought, and its insight, Berners-Lee imagined minds all over the planet downloading, consuming, sharing more and better information than they ever had before.

    The information, the beauty, was in the nodes, not between them.

    Today, when there are 1,112,000 DUI arrests in the United States annually and 1,620,000 Google U.S. searches on the phrase “DUI attorney” over the past twelve months, do you have any doubt that the majority of the former shared their predicament with the latter?

    And all of the examples of payouts above come from searches conducted this morning on Google’s Adsense tools, which estimate how much each click will cost an advertiser in response to keywords such as “alcohol abuse”, or “bulimia”, or “mesothelioma.”

    Today the information, the beauty, the shock and surprise, come from between nodes: their interaction, their aggregation, their implications.

    Emergence is the occurrence of novel properties in the whole which are not present in the components, and are unpredictable from the knowledge of those parts.  There is nothing about ice crystals that tell us what snowflakes will look like.  There is nothing in the raindrop that can describe the hurricane.  Studying the grain of sand will not yield knowledge of the dune, nor will knowing the bird teach you about the flock.

    In every case, it is the interaction between the “nodes”, whether they be water droplets, birds, ice crystals… or keyboards, that leads to the surprise of scale.

    What, then, we can ask ourselves, is the emergent behavior of the internet?

  • Your $100,000 order with Amazon has been placed.

    ** From my weekly newsletter to TheLadders.com subscribers **

    I’ve been on the road these past few weeks, meeting with our customers Microsoft, Lucas Group, Starbucks, and many others. What I’m hearing from them is what you would expect during the turnaround year of a recession: budgets have stopped being cut, HR staff is stretched thin, and the conversations are all about the hundreds or thousands of employees that these companies need to add in the coming year.

    I was particularly enchanted with my friends at Amazon — I’ve been visiting their campus for the better part of the decade, and this year the buzz is as strong as I’ve ever felt it. And, no, I don’t think it’s just Seattle’s awesome coffee culture that’s got them buzzing.

    So I thought I’d ask them a few questions on landing your $100,000+ job order with Amazon this Monday morning…

    Susan Harker, Amazon’s Director of Global Talent Acquisition, was kind enough to spend some time answering my questions on Amazon’s hiring philosophy, innovation, and what it’s like to build at the company with a smile on, and in, every box!

    MC: Amazon has pledged to be “Earth’s most customer-centric company.” Does that affect hiring decisions even for jobs that aren’t traditionally customer facing? If so, how?

    SH: Being customer-centric is the cornerstone of Amazon’s business, and our teams work hard every day to innovate on behalf of our customers. It doesn’t matter which area of the business you’re in. We always start with the customer and work backwards, and this touches every part of the hiring and employee experience. Every position in the company impacts our customers, and Amazonians work hard to build solutions in every area of our business.

    MC: I’ve heard that the interview process at Amazon can be long and exacting. What can a senior candidate expect from first interview to offer?

    SH: One of Amazon’s leadership principles is hiring and developing the best. Through our interview process, candidates talk about their skills and experience and ask questions through phone and in-person interviews. As well as understanding our candidates’ backgrounds in depth, we ask our candidates to get hands-on in interviews, which may mean coding on a whiteboard in real-time or solving a business problem. This is what it’s like to work at Amazon — senior level Amazonians provide vision and direction, but can also roll up their sleeves.

    MC: What are some of the hottest skill sets in demand at Amazon today?

    SH: At Amazon, we’re looking for analytical and critical thinkers with great judgment who can both think big and roll up their sleeves to solve hard problems on behalf of our customers. A spirit of innovation is part of our DNA at Amazon, and we’re looking for leaders who can drive innovation in their area and enjoy solving hard problems. While technical skills are important, we really value these more intangible traits.

    MC: I enjoyed your 2008 video series showing the working life of Amazon employees (http://www.youtube.com/user/InsideAmazon). How do you assess cultural fit at Amazon?

    SH: Our company motto is ‘work hard, have fun and make history’. There’s no particular formula for assessing cultural fit, just as there is no formula for a typical Amazonian — we look for smart candidates that are great problem solvers, have a bias for action, and can get the job done. We also have a set of Leadership Principles, which include thinking long-term, innovating, and thinking big, that define successful leadership traits at Amazon. We look for people to join Amazon who embody these principles.

    MC: What would you like a former employee to say first about Amazon if someone asked about working there?

    SH: Employees at Amazon have an opportunity to make an impact and solve hard problems on behalf of our customers. It’s a place where builders can build and anyone can drive great innovation for customers. It’s a place where employees are super engaged and passionate about creating a great customer experience.

    MC: For our 4 million professionals thinking about their next great job, what’s the first thing you’d want a prospective employee to know about a career at Amazon?

    SH: Amazonians are builders. We work together every day to innovate on behalf of our customers, and we’re looking for people who want to join us in building solutions in every area of our business. We have tough and interesting problems to solve in all areas of the business, and it’s an environment that values and recognizes builders.

    MC: Thanks for your time, Susan!

    …Well, folks, that’s the straight scoop direct from the folks who brought us the Kindle, Mechanical Turk, and Earth’s Largest Bookstore.

    Amazon has 187 jobs live on our site today, check them out!:

    Fianance Jobs
    Senior Financial Analyst Phoenix, AZ
    Senior Financial Analyst Carlisle, PA
    Site Controller Carlisle, PA
    Site Controller Lexington, KY
    HR Jobs
    Sr. Human Resources Business Partner PA
    Diversity Program Leader Seattle, WA
    Human Resources Business Partner – Phoenix, AZ Phoenix, AZ
    Human Resources Manager Plainfield, IN
    Human Resources Manager New Castle, DE
    Sr HR Business Partner Phoenix, AZ
    Sr. HR Business Partner Lake Forest, CA
    Sr. HR Business Partner New Castle, DE
    Sr. HR Business Partner Lake Forest, CA
    Sr. HR Business Partner, Technology – eCommerce Platform Group Seattle, WA
    Sr. Human Resources Business Partner Plainfield, IN
    Sr. Recruiter – Digital Seattle, WA
    Sr. Recruiter Corporate Operations Seattle, WA
    Sr. Recruiting Manager, Retail Seattle, WA
    Marketing Jobs
    Email Marketing Manager – New Products Division Seattle, WA
    Marketing Manager Seattle, WA
    Senior Product Manager – New Products Division Seattle, WA
    Category Marketing Manager, Computers Seattle, WA
    Manager, Editorial Kindle Content Store Seattle, WA
    Senior Manager, Marketing – Amazon Mom Seattle, WA
    Senior Merchant Product Manager – Automotive and Powersports Seattle, WA
    Senior Merchant Product Manager, Video Games Seattle, WA
    Senior Product Manager, IMDb Studio City, CA
    Senior Site Merchandiser, Appstore Seattle, WA
    Senior Site Merchandiser, Computers Seattle, WA
    Sr. Product Manager Seattle, WA
    Sr. Product Manager Seattle, WA
    Sr. Product Manager Kindle Content Seattle, WA
    Vendor Manager – Video Games Seattle, WA
    Principal, Product Management – AmazonWireless.com Seattle, WA
    Senior Manager, Divisional Merchandise Manager -Toys Seattle, WA
    Senior Product Manager, Amazon Fresh Seattle, WA
    Senior Vendor Manager / Senior Buyer, Home Improvement Seattle, WA
    Sr Mgr, Print Magazines Seattle, WA
    Amazon Green Product Manager Seattle, WA
    Director of Business Development – Digital and Mobile Products Seattle, WA
    Product Manager Seattle, WA
    Operations Jobs
    Manager, Content Operations Seattle, WA
    Capacity Planning Manager Seattle, WA
    Customer Service Manager Huntington, WV
    Customer Service Operations Data Analyst Seattle, WA
    Director – Kindle Accessories Business Seattle, WA
    Director – Kindle Worldwide Demand Planning and In-stock Management Leader Seattle, WA
    General Manager, Author Central Seattle, WA
    Global Import / Export Program Manager Seattle, WA
    Global Security Systems Manager Seattle, WA
    Kindle Project/Program Manager – CS Seattle, WA
    Senior Instock Manager, Tools & Home Improvement Seattle, WA
    Senior Operations / Ingestion Manager – Disc on Demand Seattle, WA
    Senior Technical Account Manager, Kindle Content Operations Seattle, WA
    Senior Vendor Manager / Senior Buyer, Home Improvement Seattle, WA
    Sr. Mgr of Program Management – Transportation Platform Seattle, WA
    Sr. Operations Research Scientist Seattle, WA
    Sr. Product Manager – Customer Notification Seattle, WA
    WW Physical Security Project Manager Seattle, WA
    Director of Engineering – Digital and Mobile Applications Seattle, WA
    Director of Engineering – Digital and Mobile Applications Seattle, WA
    Manager, Content Operations Seattle, WA
    Programmer / Analyst – Customer Service Seattle, WA
    Senior Engineering Manager – Digital and Mobile Applications Seattle, WA
    Sales Jobs
    National Sales Representative – New Products Seattle, WA
    Head of Kindle Content Acquisition – USTop Tier Publishers Seattle, WA
    Sr. Manager, Account Management Seattle, WA
    Director of Business Development – Digital and Mobile Products Seattle, WA
    Principal Business Development Manager – Digital and Mobile Products Seattle, WA
    Senior Business Development Manager – Digital and Mobile Products Seattle, WA
    Senior Vendor Manager Seattle, WA
    Sr. Account Manager Retail Seattle, WA
    Sr. Manager – Publisher Operations Seattle, WA
    Technology Jobs
    eLearning Developer Seattle, WA
    eLearning Developer Huntington, WV
    Customer Service Operations Data Analyst Grand Forks, ND
    Sr. Business Analyst – Operations Seattle, WA
    BuildMaster – Device Drivers and Linux OS Seattle, WA
    Business Analyst Seattle, WA
    Data Analysis Manager Seattle, WA
    Data-Mining/Information Retrieval-Senior Software Engineer Seattle, WA
    Director of Engineering – Digital and Mobile Applications Seattle, WA
    Director of Engineering – Digital and Mobile Applications Seattle, WA
    Front-end Software Developer, Display Ad Execution Excellence Seattle, WA
    Hadoop / Lucene-Sr. Software Development Engineer Seattle, WA
    Hadoop / MapReduce – Senior Software Development Engineer Seattle, WA
    Intl. Program Manager, Amazon Digital Seattle, WA
    Machine Learning, NLP, IR – Senior Technical Program Manager (TPM) Seattle, WA
    Manager Quality Assurance – Device Drivers and Linux OS Seattle, WA
    Manager, Software Development Lake Forest, CA
    Operations Manager – AWS Dev Suppt Seattle, WA
    Principal Technical Program Manager Seattle, WA
    Principal Technical Program Manager Seattle, WA
    Principal Technical Program Manager Seattle, WA
    Product Manager Seattle, WA
    Product Manager Seattle, WA
    Product Manager – AWS Cloud Front Seattle, WA
    Product Manager – AWS New Business Seattle, WA
    Product Manager – Elastic Block Store Seattle, WA
    Product Manager – Simple Storage Svc Seattle, WA
    Programmer / Analyst – Customer Service Seattle, WA
    Quality Assurance (QA) Engineer – Ads, Search and Browse Experience Seattle, WA
    SDE in Test – Digital Products Seattle, WA
    Senior Engineering Manager – Digital and Mobile Applications Seattle, WA
    Senior Manager – Quality Assurance Seattle, WA
    Senior Manager Software Development- Amazon Green Seattle, WA
    Senior Manager, Infrastructure – Digital and Mobile Platforms and Applications Seattle, WA
    Senior Manager, Software Development San Luis Obispo, CA
    Senior Production Manager, Kindle Books Seattle, WA
    Senior Software Development Engineer – Amazon EC2 Seattle, WA
    Senior Software Development Engineer – Device Drivers and Linux OS Seattle, WA
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  • The Bizarro NDA: why demanding everybody blab about your idea is important to your success

    After you’ve set off to raise money, talked to your friends and family, and heard the first of the many thousands of “no”s you’ll need to hear to become a success, you will want to branch out and approach many more potential investors about investing in your new company.

    At some point, you may come to believe the idea that Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) are an important part of the fund-raising process for entrepreneurs.  This idea may be inflicted upon you by well-meaning attorneys, former work colleagues who have watched movies about startups, your mother, or any number of other people who love you and know absolutely nothing about startup success.

    Regardless of who puts it into your head, once it is there, it is a very bad idea.

    Not only do you not need an NDA, you, in fact, need something that does whatever the exact, polar opposite of an NDA is: a Bizarro NDA.

    A Bizarro NDA requires that your future investor / employee / partner promise to tell as many people as possible about your idea, your role in it, and your plans for how you’ll get there successfully.  It might cite the 2 or 3 specific key, confidential points that the counter-party must mention to others.  And a really effective Bizarro NDA might even require a specific number of disclosures:

    The Recipient agrees to disclose the confidential information obtained from the discloser to at least ___3___ other people within 30 days of meeting with discloser.

    For every startup, buzz is your buddy, silence is deadly.  In fact, the more novel, unique, or genius your idea, the less likely it is that normal people will understand it the first time they hear about it, and will need to hear it multiple times before they understand how world-rockingly awesome it is.

    Entrepreneurial success does not come from keeping things a secret.

    Entrepreneurial success does come from understanding a promising area for new product or new customer development better than anybody else, and then attracting the capital for you to execute on that idea.  And it’s not just investment capital, by the way, it’s also human capital in the form of employees, and reputational capital in the form of press / blog / industry wags mentioning you in their speaking and writing.

    The more your sources of capital identify the idea you are working on as an important / interesting / inevitable one, and you as the genius behind it, the higher the likelihood of your success.  The more people you have talking about your idea and how you are the expert in a promising, burgeoning area, the better.

    Not only is buzz your buddy, but silence is deadly: no stealth start-up has ever exited for more than $100 mm (and I am having a hard time finding examples between $10 mm – $100 mm, although I know they must exist).

    Think about that: out of all of the hundreds and hundreds of companies that have grown to be worth more than $100 mm, not one started in stealth mode.  Not only is secrecy “not important” to your success, it is actively detrimental.

    That’s because the impediment to entrepreneurial success is ridicule, not ripoff: Scott Cook getting rejecting 225 times before he got funding for Intuit is just one famous example.

    As you will discover as a CEO, the challenge is not preventing third parties from outside your company hearing your idea, understanding it in a flash, and implementing all the ideas, features, immediately and effortlessly.  No, in fact, the challenge of entrepreneurial success is getting the people you pay to work on this idea full-time to understand it as fully as you do, the press that spends all day thinking about the industry to believe in your vision, the investors that make a career out of picking winners to understand that you’ll be a hit.  You will discover that the reason “communication” is ranked so highly among the management attributes is that it is so damned hard to do.

    I spend at least 40% of my time today on communication, and while TheLadders has had some success, one of the reasons I’ve decided to refocus some of my writing from my 4,500,000 subscriber weekly e-mail newsletter (which is really awesome and you ought to subscribe right now, by the way) to the much smaller audience that reads this blog is that you are important, influential, and essential to our success in a different way – the better the folks like you understand all of the great work going on at TheLadders today, and the inventive thinking that my colleagues are coming up with, the easier it is going to be for my company to explain to the rest of the nation why our latest and greatest stuff is important.

    Getting the word out will never stop being your most important job.  Investment, human, and reputational capital – getting them all to understand, and believe in, and chat about, your vision is critically important to your success.

    So if you’re looking for a way to make your new startup a big hit, consider crafting a Bizarro NDA that does exactly the opposite of what an NDA is designed to do: get people talking.

  • West Coast vs. East Coast: April Fools’ Day in Internet startup culture

    To the differences we’ve always known about West Coast versus East Coast:

    Haight Ashbury vs. The Factory

    The Dead vs. The Velvet Underground

    Tupac vs. Biggie

    The new Black vs. the old Birkenstocks

    Towncars vs. Teslas

    Fred vs. Michael

    …we can add another: April Fools’ Day culture in internet startups.

    Each April 1st, West Coast startups release a batch of clever fake product announcements, self-parodies, advertisements, and phony news stories that showcase the brainy, nerdy, geeky brilliance of their teams, while East Coast startups… do nothing.

    TechCrunch’s Big List of April Fools’ jokes records dozens and dozens of efforts by startups across the Valley ranging from clever industry in-jokes to adorable reimaginings of today’s culture through the lens of 1911, to outrageous spoofs intended to give puppy lovers a brief, wholesome fright.  Overall, one gets a sense of the post-docs run amok in the faculty lounge on Saturday night — it is silliness for scientists, gags for geeks.

    By contrast, the TechCrunch list and a review of the company blogs of New York’s 22 Most Valuable Startups, yield  exactly two April Fools’ pranks emanating from Gotham: a third-party spoof of Joel on Software, and the HuffPoAOL’s dirty middle finger to a cross town rival that is really more Lenny Bruce than Leonardo da Vinci.  There’s nobody like an adopted New Yorker to use April Fools’ Day to show how we ain’t taking no mutherf*ckin sh!t from a washed up hack like you, Keller!

    And perhaps that’s what is at the root of it all.

    As the April Fools’ Day prank becomes the replacement for the annual Season’s Greetings card in California’s technocratic culture, is this just one more item we’ll have to add to Heif’s brilliant distinction between working there and working here?

    Is this yet another confirmation that California nurtures and cherishes the best in creative thinking, with the precious and the precocious showing us how humor is an important part of self-actualization and creating meaning in the world?  Or are they a bunch of sprout-eating rubes — naively delusional “woo woos” entranced with their own cloyingly twee self-referential navel-gazing?

    And are New Yorkers the brash, crass unimaginative spawn of a $24 real estate deal that haven’t stopped talking about lucre and Mammon since?  Or are they the straight-shooting realists who know not to wear shorts in a city and are focused on using technology as a tool to get something useful done like digitizing the Met or finding out where to drink with hot hipsters in an underground after-hours club (and who know that after-hours means “sunrise on somebody’s fire escape” and not “midnight at the Cupertino’s TGIF“)?

    And will we forever remain one people divided by two coasts?

    UPDATE: The Google April Fools’ prank “Gmail Motion” has inspired real live geeks to build a live, working version of the gestures demo’d in the Google video. I love the stamp-licking gesture for “send”.  Score one for California!

  • The art of accepting “no”

    Before, during and after raising money, you will encounter “no” in a wider variety of shapes, sizes, forms, affronts, evasions and back-handed compliments than you will have ever thought possible.

    You will get “no”s from angels, from VCs, from fellow entrepreneurs, from lawyers, from accountants, from dentists, from uncles, from aunts, from experts, from idiots, from the worthy and from the lame.

    If they were to write a biblical verse about your fund-raising process for your start-up, it would read “And, yea, verily, all looketh upon your works and sayeth ‘nay’.”

    Every single one of these “no”s will stick in your gut like a sharp little knife. After all, each decline is starving your baby, every negative is a slap in the face of your ambition, each “pass” a dollop of dirt on the grave of your dream. It’s very difficult not to take this all personally.

    And when this happens, you will want to hate them, those who have said “no.” You will want to hold a grudge against them and their grandchildren. You will want to scribble their name in your ledger for such time that you can serve revenge cold — that distant date when, you fantasize, your much larger yacht will spray wake all over their smaller, inadequate vessel, as you steer off, cackling, into the far distant horizon.

    All of these feelings are completely natural, understandable, and wrong.

    It makes about as much sense for you to be mad at a non-funder, as it would be for a job candidate that you didn’t hire to hold the same kind of grudge against you.

    As you know from being a hiring manager, the errors of omission in hiring are many. When you don’t hire a particular person, there is so much more involved than whether or not they are worthy: you might not have an opening at all, or a just not a slot for another marketing person, or you don’t have the bandwidth to make good use of another Photoshop genius right now. You certainly don’t mean it personally, and most candidates can accept their disappointment graciously.

    Capitalism is voluntary exchange between two or more parties, each believing the exchange makes them better off than not. So that we may exchange, we seek out and study many alternatives. And because we’re human beings, with limited amounts of time, intellect, and capacity, our search and study aren’t perfect.

    The simpler and more standardized a need and its supply are, the easier it is to conduct a search, complete your study, and connect for a good exchange.

    Purchasing an apple, for example, is rarely difficult, lengthy, or taken personally by either party if an exchange doesn’t occur.

    Determining whether or not to enter into the exchange called “hiring”, in which an employee gives you their labor in exchange for your paying them a rather tidy sum, is quite a bit more involved, and there are probably, in total, more mistakes made in hiring & being hired than there are successes.

    The complexity of deciding whether to purchase the equity of a company with limited or no operating history is several orders of magnitude more difficult. And with greater difficulty, there are more chances for the buyers, being human beings, to make mistakes.

    I was an investor at Riverside Company for a couple of years, and reviewing 1000s of deals to pick perhaps a dozen each year as investments meant that there were likely hundreds of great companies that we passed on.

    My team’s greatest error during my tenure there was passing on Burt’s Bees because of a 20% difference in price between the entrepreneurs and ourselves. Of course, the company sold for 30x the asking price several years later.

    Among better investors, it is almost a badge of honor to show one’s humility by listing all of the great companies that your firm declined to invest in. Bessemer Ventures has perhaps my favorite helping of humble pie on what they call their Anti-Portfolio page.

    The reasons investors, being humans, make these errors range from the structural (their fund doesn’t support your industry, your size is too large / too small / not quite right for the life cycle of the fund), to the cognitive (they’ve incorrectly assessed the market, competition, size, or products of your company), to the chemical (you just didn’t hit it off).

    Any human activity requiring our making a decision about entering into a relationship with another human being is likely to be riddled with errors, goofs, and missed opportunities.

    To get angry about the people who haven’t funded you is natural, understandable, and wrong.

    And when I say wrong, I don’t mean from a moral standpoint – that’s for you and your religion to figure out – but I mean, rather, that it is wrong from an efficiency standpoint. There is nothing to be gained and, in fact, much to be lost for your start-up in the distraction and wasted energy that can be expended on ruing your fate and cursing the gods.

    Learning to accept “no” and letting go of the negative emotions that the fund-raising process generates are important to your eventual success. You shouldn’t like it, want it, or seek it out, but learning how to accept “no” as an entrepreneur is an important pathway to your triumph and might be the first step toward being just a little bit wiser.

    So, please, don’t have disdain, and perhaps, if you’re a big enough person, you could even have a little bit of sympathy, for those error-prone humans whose understandable limitations led them to say “no” to your remarkable company.

    Because, boy, are they going to feel foolish when your yacht cruises by….

  • Why should I work at TheLadders?

    We’re kicking off our Summer of Customer Love today at the W Hotel in New York. What’s going on?:

    Let me see that up close:

    What does this mean for me if I am an outstanding engineer, product person, designer, lean UX freak, agile app afficianado or just a smart, friendly, curious person that wants to make the world a better place?:

    So, if you’re wondering “should I work at TheLadders”, here’s what you should ask yourself:

    Do I want the customers and my colleagues to just leave me alone so I can develop in peace and quiet and not be bothered with all those distractions?  If the answer is “yes”, you won’t be happy here, and we don’t have a home for you.  (But it takes different strokes to make the world go ’round, you can find plenty of jobs for all types of people on TheLadders.com.)

    Do I want to meet real live customers, listen to their problems, and invent cutting-edge stuff that nobody has ever even dreamed of before and roll it out to the 4.5 mm high-end professionals that use TheLadders for making their careers better?

    In that case, you belong here, and ought to apply on our careers page.