An article in today’s Seattle Times discusses how Amazon’s open positions in Seattle is down by half from last summer and at a recent low. I don’t know what is going on, but I will speculate on what could be one of the major factors. Let me start by covering a similar situation at Microsoft about 20 years ago. Microsoft had been in its hyper growth phase, and teams would go in with headcount requests that were outrageous. Paul Maritz would look at a team’s hiring history and point out that to meet their new request they’d need to hire x people per month, but they’d never exceeded hiring more than x/2 per month. So he’d give them headcount that equated to x/2+<a little>, and then he’d maintain a buffer in case teams exceeded their headcount allocation. Most teams would fail to meet their headcount goals, a few would exceed them, but Microsoft (at least Paul’s part) would always end up hiring less (usually way less) than the total headcount they had budgeted for. It worked for years, until one year came along where most teams were at or near their hiring goals and a couple of teams hired way over the allocated headcount. Microsoft had over-hired in total, and some teams were ahead of where they might have been even with the following year’s budget allocation. From then on there was pressure on teams to stay within their allocated headcount, both for the year overall and for the ramp-up that was built into the quarterly spending plans.
Could something similar be happening at Amazon? Could this be as simple as Amazon telling teams “no, when we said you can hire X in 2017 we meant X”, and enforcing that by not letting them post 2018 positions until 2018 actually starts? Amazon is always looking for mechanisms to use, rather than counting on good intentions, and having recruiting refuse to open positions that exceed a team’s current fiscal year’s headcount allocation would be a very solid mechanism for enforcing hiring limits.
It will be interesting to see if job postings start to grow again when the new fiscal year starts. That would be the most direct confirmation that this is nothing more than Amazon applying better hiring discipline on teams.