Recruiting and developing MBA students at Amazon

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How its internal Pathways programme and collaboration with business schools makes Amazon one of the largest MBA employers in the world

“Why do we hire MBA [graduates]? Because they are highly analytical and show willing to take short-term risks to develop themselves for the long term,” says Georgina Yellowlees, director of talent acquisition EMEA at Amazon.

Which goes some way to explaining why, despite traditional MBAs having their fair share of critics, the firm believes they are still important – so much so that it not only has a dedicated MBA recruitment drive, but is also one of the largest MBA employers around the globe, taking on around 1,000 new MBA recruits each year.

This means a targeted approach to hiring MBAs from leading business school campuses. “It’s critical that we’re creative and innovative around campuses to make sure we have strong engagement with this population,” Yellowlees explains, adding that this involves what she calls “a candidate-obsessed” or “high-touch” experience.

Then, once recruited, graduates are enrolled onto the Pathways programme, a five-year rotational scheme across a range of general management activities and different areas of the business that fast-tracks them to becoming general managers. “Lots of students don’t picture themselves on the shop floor in high-vis safety jackets or in an operations environment, but we provide these challenges and opportunities to accelerate their growth,” she says.

“Our leaders should be able to engage people at any level of the organisation.

“I don’t think anyone is a ready-made leader so it’s critical to have continuous development,” Yellowlees adds, pointing out the importance of both the business and the education provider taking responsibility for such continuous personal development.

As part of this Amazon also has an initiative collaborating with business schools to ensure the executive education and business needs are aligned. “We’ve developed a network with 200 university and business school partners – called Academics at Amazon – and we invite professors into our fulfilment centres and network with them so they can understand how our environment works, how life is changing in the business world, and how that relates to executive education,” Yellowlees says. “So it’s a two-way street.”

The Pathways programme recently expanded beyond MBAs to include those with other executive and postgraduate qualifications, as a means to access talent from different backgrounds.

There’s now also a greater focus on exposing graduates to different sites and geographies during rotations – something Yellowlees says makes people more “Amazonian”. As she points out: “We need to continually re-evaluate the process for today’s environment but also for roles that we may not have even heard of yet. It’s imperative we have people who could be the future leaders of tomorrow.”


Further reading

Executive education: Are MBAs fit for purpose?

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