Monday, July 13, 2015

GUEST POST: Zappos – Hiring for Culture and the Bizarre Things They Do..By Keith Tatley

Hiring for Culture Fit

Culture Fit” is something we hear a lot about these days in HR strategy discussions. But what exactly does culture fit mean? Organizational culture refers to the beliefs, ideologies, principles and values that the individuals of an organization share. And In short – culture fit simply means hiring someone who fits within the organizational culture of company.

The Importance of Organizational Culture:

While on the surface cultural fit may not seem like a critical factor in the hiring process it is arguably one of the most important selection criterion. Employees who do not fit-in with your culture negatively affect those around them. They can stifle the enthusiasm,motivation and dynamics of your team. And poor employee motivation diminishes the productivity and profitability of your organization.

In contrast, hiring for culture fit increases employee engagement. And an employee who embraces your company’s values, and finds purpose in the work that he or she does for your organization, is much more likely to add value as an individual team player. They’ll also energize those around them resulting in increased employee motivation and employee productivity.

That’s why culture fit has become ultra-important today for companies hiring new employees. For some culture fit is even more important than skills. Read about what Richard Branson has to say about hiring for cultural fit.

While the right skills are always preferred, they can also be taught. But it's very difficult to “teach” someone to fit into your corporate culture. That’s why companies like Zappos are going to great lengths to ensure that their new hires are a good culture fit.

The Zappos Hiring Philosophy is a billion dollar, online shoe and clothing shop currently based in Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s also one of Fortune’s Top 100 Best Companies to Work For.

But if you want to get hired at Zappos you need more than just the right skills. For Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh maintaining their corporate culture is an important part of their hiring plan. If job candidates are not a good fit with the Zappos Family Core Values then they just don’t make the cut.

“We’ve actually passed on a lot of really smart, talented people that we know can make an immediate impact on our top or bottom line, but if they’re not good for the company culture, we won’t hire them for that reason alone,” says Tony Hsieh.

The Value of Values

Why are company values important? Tony Hsieh highlights a very important aspect of hiring for culture fit in the above excerpt.  It all hinges on finding job candidates who are a good fit with your company values. WHY? Because when you hire someone who is not right for the corporate culture they will not fit in with the team. They will not fit in with the way that people do things in the company. And worse case may end up negatively changing the culture or having to leave the company.

Even if your company already has a list of core company values your team will have different values. This is because the company values are aspirational but teams are made up of different individuals. To understand the actual values of the team you can do a values assessment of your team. To understand how a prospective hire would fit in with the team, compare their values assessment to the team. (Free Download: Values Assessment Link)

Now let’s take a look at the interview techniques Zappos uses to evaluate job candidates for culture fit.

The Weird, The Wonderful and The Bizarre…

That Zappos places such high value on culture fit is completely understandable. It’s how they go about hiring for the perfect culture fit that has raised eyebrows.

Interview Technique #1: The Social Test

According to Rebecca Henry, the former Director of Human Resources for Zappos, the recruitment process at Zappos is more like a courtship than a traditional recruitment.

Ms. Henry, for example, interacted with Zappos' employees in a variety of social settings for four months before they hired her.

While the social test may not be as demanding for every job, before making a hiring decision, job candidates will meet with multiple Zappos employees. This usually involves attending some type of department or company event enabling the employees who are not interviewing to meet the prospective employee informally.

Now this may sound like a really fun and creative way to evaluate job candidates but it’s also one interview technique that’s come under a lot of scrutiny.

One jaw-dropping comment comes from the now-head of human resources at Zappos, Rebecca Ratner. ‘‘I had three vodka shots with Tony (Hsieh) during my interview.’’

If this interview technique appeals to you then the lesson to be learned from Zappos is quite simple. Social testing is a great interview technique and a good way for employees and team members to evaluate job candidates. It’s also a great test for culture fit. But it’s also an interview technique that you can implement sensibly.

We definitely recommend that job candidates be interviewed by a broader audience – especially those that they will have a close working relationship with. In lieu of a formal interview, consider arranging for candidates to meet with other employees over coffee.

What we like about the technique is that Zappos acknowledges that how a person fits in with the rest of the team and the organization is important. Being liked by the boss doesn’t automatically mean the candidate will get on well with their peers and other important stakeholders. Too often bosses make autocratic hiring decisions that impact other people.

We also like the fact that Zappos takes so much care and attention to evaluate new hires. Making a bad hire has serious consequences. Zappos has their unconventional methods but there are other ways to achieve the same objectives.

Interview Technique #2: The “Nice Guy” Test

In a recent video interview with The Wall Street Journal, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh revealed a clever technique the company uses to make sure their new hires aren't only a good culture fit but also good people. The deciding factor - even if you make an amazing impression in the interview, if you're rude to your ride from the airport, you aren't getting the job.

"A lot of our job candidates are from out of town, and we'll pick them up from the airport in a Zappos shuttle, give them a tour, and then they'll spend the rest of the day interviewing," Hsieh says. "At the end of the day of interviews, the recruiter will circle back to the shuttle driver and ask how he or she was treated. It doesn't matter how well the day of interviews went, if our shuttle driver wasn't treated well, then we won't hire that person." 

Such a clever yet simple interview technique and it gives you real-life insight to job candidates before you make any hiring decisions. Your job candidates won’t always arrive by company shuttle but they will always be greeted by a receptionist or personal assistant.

Interview Technique #3: The Service Test

A core value at Zappos is creating WOW customer service experiences. So if you are hired by Zappos, you can expect to spend the first 4 weeks in your new job manning phones in their call centre learning how to respond to customer needs.

In an interview with Christa Foley, recruiting manager at Zappos, the process “really immerses new hires into our culture, what our core values mean, how we live them, what our expectations are of each employee to help maintain and grow our culture.”

Now I really like this test. People make an organization but customers keep them afloat. What better way to get your new hires to buy into the philosophy of service excellence than by making them walk the talk. If customer service is key to your corporate culture then this is an excellent culture fit test. Four weeks may be a bit lengthy but a few days in customer service is a good way for new hires to learn about your products and services.

Interview Technique #4: The Ultimate Test

About one week into their call centre training, Zappos offers employees $3,000.00 to leave the company. No – we’re not making this up. $3,000.00 to leave – and this is around 4 weeks of pay for the employees.

If candidates haven't become Zappos insiders, committed to the values and culture, then the company really prefers that they leave. There is however one stipulation - take the money and you can never come back.

While this may sound like a very attractive offer, according to Tony Hsieh only 2% to 3% of people take the offer. The other 97% say no deal—they choose the job over the instant cash. Ingenious to say the least.

If you’re willing to take the company up on The Offer, you obviously don’t have the sense of commitment they are looking for. That’s why this tactic ensures that Zappos ends up with new hires who are committed, engaged employees who are a good culture fit. It’s also clearly and indication of how Zappos have earned their spot on Fortune’s Top 100 Best Companies to Work For.

Not every organization is in a financial position to reward uncommitted new hires to leave. But Considering the cost of having a bad hire, this program makes a lot of financial sense:

Zappos is able to quickly identify bad hires by their willingness to accept the $3,000 offer;

Bad hires then voluntarily leave at a relatively low cost and;

By removing an employee who doesn’t want to be a part of their organization, Zappos saves on future hassles, headaches and termination costs that far exceed the money paid to the employee.


What Zappos has showed us is how important hiring for cultural fit is. Zappos uses many “unconventional” interview techniques but you as an everyday manager can achieve the same objectives. If you're looking for an easier way to test job candidates for culture fit why not use specific interview questions designed to test for culture fit.

  •  But Zappos isn't the only company that going to extreme measures to hire the best employees:
  • This is how Richard Branson looks at the person behind the resume and,
  • This is how Steve Jobs built his team of A+ players by personally interviewing applicants and only hiring the best and,
  • This is why Google has opted for behavioral interview questions over brainteasers.
What's the take home value here for the everyday manager? Often employee performance problems stem from bad hires. But hiring is a skill that managers don't get to practice very often. That's why I've made the free program. It shows you how to improve employee performance in just an hour a week, including how to hire the best employees for the job.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

GUEST POST: Be the orange that get’s the job interview - By Keith Tatley

Getting an interview with a recruitment consultant is easy but sometimes the process stalls there

If you’re frustrated because you’re not getting interviews or job offers then this article is for you. The funny thing is that recruitment consultants constantly complain about a lack of good quality candidates. To be the candidate that the recruitment agent wants to send to their clients requires that you improve your interview skills. This is how:

PS: Are you looking for a great new job? Use an interview coach to get you the job you want.

What do recruitment consultants say?

Candidates get frustrated with recruitment consultants when they feel they aren’t put forward for jobs. So I interviewed recruitment consultants to find out why this happens. I also wanted to find out what role recruitment consultants play in finding candidates jobs.

What orange you talking about?

Darren Saul Principal at Saul Recruitment came up with a great analogy: The job market is just like other markets. Darren compared candidates to oranges. Clients want high quality oranges and they hire recruitment consultants to find them. It’s not the recruitment consultant’s job to make high quality oranges. It’s not the recruitment consultant’s job to plant, water, nurture and grow good quality job candidates.  The recruitment consultant’s job is to find quality job candidates who interview so well that they will easily get a job offer.

Why recruitment consultants can’t help you

It’s simple maths, as much as they’d like to help, recruiters get a multitude of applications for every job they list. Recruitment Consultants don’t get paid to fix your CV or train you how to interview. They just don’t have the time to help. Recruitment consultants have a sensitive relationship with their clients. And they have to be careful with what they share with candidates to remain impartial.

Where do interviewers fail?

It’s seldom a case of a lack of technical skills. Think about it: It’s rare that a candidate doesn’t have a technical qualification for the role they are looking for. Per Darren people don’t interview well when:

·         They fail to convey their story well,
·         They don’t sell themselves and
·         They don’t display enthusiasm for the job

It’s more about presenting and personal skills. Having technical skills won’t get you a job; you also need to learn how to interview well.

What do recruitment consultants recommend?

It’s simple – to get a job offer, you need to interview well. It’s frustrating but years of university and job experience doesn’t mean that you will interview well. Interviewing is complex. Job candidates suck at interviews because they don’t get much practice or training. Darren says that a little personal development goes a long way. You will get more job offers with a little interview preparation. Or you can take your interviewing to the next level by using an interview coach. It’s a small investment compared to what it will do for your career.

Is it my CV / Resume / Cover letter / Phone manner?

You got your interview with a recruitment consultant by calling them, emailing them or sending in your resume. So whatever you did to get to this stage of the process is at least passably ok. But bear in mind that recruitment consultants have a lower standard to first meet with someone. So it’s no guarantee that your CV is good enough to get a job interview with a firm. How you would work this out is ask the recruiter directly: “With specific reference to my CV, does it need significant rework and what feedback are you able to provide?” Remember that recruitment consultants have years of experience but they don’t have the time to fix your CV. For proper help get a trusted friend to review your CV or better use a professional resume review service.

Is it my background or experience?

This can be a stumbling block. But it comes back to the way you present your skills and abilities. Per Darren: It’s about how you “articulate what you do to create confidence in the other person”. The reason why interviewers ask for background or experience is because they want to know that you are capable of doing the job. Background and experience is only one way of proving that. Being prepared for difficult interview questions is another way.


Recruitment consultants are always looking for high quality job candidates for their clients. Qualifications and experience are important but the real skill that will get you a job offer is the ability to interview well. Interviewing is one of those important life skills that “school doesn’t teach you”. We invest a lot of time and money in University and developing our job skills. But the best career investment to improve our employability is a little interview skills coaching.

Helpful resources related to this article: 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

GUEST POST: Which type of wine are you?..By Bettina M.

Long and hard day at work? Been in interviews? In traffic? With the kids? When are we gonna be able to see relaxation no longer as an obscure concept but as a daily reality? And no need to specify “before my retirement age” when only the idea of standing up from my chair will already be painful.

Doctors advise yoga but are they gonna look after my kids when I finish my 15 hour working day? Friends recommend a massage, but until my bank account fills up as quickly as my laundry basket, spending more than 70 bucks for an hour is not an option for me. Taking a bath was a cheap and good option, maybe as long as I was not considered an abuser of the environment, and definitely before my bath was invaded by a non-skid mat, baby seat and plastic ducks..

No truly, I think we would all agree that having a glass of wine is the cheapest, quickest and easiest way to find relaxation at the end of the day. Wine also gives us a priceless outcome: it is adjusted to our own desire. When we buy wine, we choose our own flavour - Red, White, Rose, cold or warm, sweet or dry, sparkly or flat, delicate or spicy. And wine, just like us, also has a long history: the uniqueness of every bottle will depend on what happens to the grapes and their juices from the vine to the glass. At the end of the day, walking into a wine shop is like walking into a company office - at first glance every bottle looks the same. Companies are prepared to bet on our reputation as much as we are keen to spend huge amounts of money on a prestigious wine. They will squeeze us every day as much as we are still enjoying that very last drop of a great wine. In other words, as we all expect the best from our wine discovery of the day, we should naturally understand that challenge and pressure only exist when there is a talent to explore. Some people might think then..and if I fail does that mean that I should rethink my skills? If tomorrow someone brings me a glass of Petrus, I would, without any doubt, hate it. Does that mean that it’s not an amazing wine?

Are you looking for new opportunities, a promotion, an upgrade in your salary? The only advice I can give you is to strive only for the best because mediocrity doesn’t have the potential to build on itself.

Friday, February 28, 2014

GUEST POST: Motivation: What’s that again?..By Bettina M.

Swimsuit and thongs or formal wear and heels…? We all can admit…enjoying the sun and shopping on rainy days sounds more glamorous than sitting 12 hours a day on an office chair… No more early mornings or dangerous flirting with the bus lane to avoid traffic. No more “rush hour human sandwiches” in the train, no more racing to get a car spot and no more needing to dream about having the whole shopping mall to yourself!

One of my friends was made redundant a few days ago after 10 years of loyal work. They told him that it was “a hard but unavoidable choice” and to really REALLY not take it personally. Yes that’s what people say; “work is work, nothing personal about it. I want you to forget any form of humanity before you enter the door of the company but here is a BlackBerry, your new partner in life, even better than a wife, keep it close to you at all times, it will never disturb you”. It reminds me a bit like playing sport at school; suddenly your best friend, captain of the basketball team, turns on you when she has to choose her team member and spits out the name of someone else. But she still looks at you and whispers “sorry it’s not personal” and then in the space of 30 seconds you are overwhelmed by 1000 different emotions; anger, shame, guilt…and so you smile. Smiling again…such a weird concept, everybody smiles but let’s be honest, most of the time it’s far from an honest and frank happy look. For example, when this guy who interviewed me last week smiled while saying “unfortunately we don’t have any suitable opportunities for you at the moment” he was just politely translating a kind of “no you didn’t make it today and don’t ever think that it will be the case if you come back tomorrow!” and in adding “but I will definitely get back to you if something comes up”, it was probably as much of a frank answer as when you meet this stunning guy at a party and then when you ask him for his number he takes yours and says “I’ll give you a call”…

Yes all of these are good reasons to loose motivation while job searching but at the end of the day who are you trying to impress and satisfy? A friend? An employer? Your parents? Or yourself? We are programmed by this world with one goal; making our parents happy and proud (and also sometimes making them mad but only to test their love unconsciously). Sometimes they gave us recognition for any help, good marks or good behaviour and sometimes didn’t. But in both cases, they made us chase it as a natural feeling nonetheless. And as much as people can repeat that work is work and none of your colleagues are your family, and that your boss is not your mum or dad, they are still asking you for the same outcome; satisfy a manager and spend most of your day next to colleagues that are, at the end of the day, still human just like you.

But in all of this there is one person that remains not heard and that’s you. Disappointment after loosing a job or an opportunity is natural but if you stop valuing yourself in terms of a role or organisation and start thinking of yourself as pure value (no substantiation necessary) maybe it would be the first step in the change you’re looking for.

Remember, nothing in the world is ever completely wrong. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day…”

Just believe.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Talent acquisition made easy!! By Darren Saul..

What you have done for the last 10 (or 20) years will not work anymore..

Quality talent is only becoming harder and harder to find. Yes there are always plenty of mediocre candidates – but I’m talking about the true stars – those that you can confidently hang the future of your business on!

And I’m not only referring to technical skills and experience – I’m talking about attitude, ambition, drive, self-motivation, self-development, creativity, inspiration , pride, respect, loyalty, lateral thinking and team-playing. 

Now that’s quite a shopping do you find them?

Don’t think how it’s always been done – think how it needs to be done now and in the future!

  • Social Media is one of the most valuable tools we have today to build a reputation, establish a brand, attract and access a target audience. A sophisticated and integrated social media recruitment strategy is not optional – it is imperative! It is also so low cost it’s scary! PLEASE NOTE: along with this comes the need to acquire and exploit the latest in technology (mobile and other) to the best of your ability..
  • Build and maintain highly specific candidate networks to further increase your reach and speed – if you go to the supermarket to buy cereal you don’t take a stroll down the frozen section – you go straight to the speciality aisle..
  • Candidate Referral Programs – it has always been the case that quality individuals of any kind know and are in constant contact with other quality individuals. Use referral programs extensively to draw those stars to you!  
  • Advertising – of course advertising is still extremely useful but it is not enough to hang the future of your business (your people) on anymore. It is now a complement strategy - not THE strategy!
  • Momentum! The biggest enthusiasm killer in this business is a lack of momentum ie. a long drawn out recruitment process. I still see this every day. Candidates waiting by the phone while hiring managers take too much time to negotiate their availability for interviews or make decisions. By that time the candidate has lost interest or has simply been offered another job. “Don’t worry – we’ll find another” – better think again..
  • Selling! – the balance of power has shifted. Super people have choice and you have to make sure they make it favour of you! You have to sell the role, company, culture, management style, team, career progression path and all the other benefits – otherwise your competition will..
  • Personal touch – nowadays (more than ever before) TRUST is king. Building trust with your potential star during the process is fundamental! Trust can only be built personally and this is your opportunity to go way way above and beyond. There are so many ways to do this – I’ll leave that to you to ponder. Example: building strong rapport based on mutual interest during the interview process before getting down to business. One more: for the potential manager to make a call to the chosen candidate (while waiting for a favourable response) to let him/her know how valuable they would be and how much they would love them to accept the role. Simple but very powerful!
Acquiring quality talent is not difficult when you take the time to build a strong, broad and rejection-proof recruitment strategy and process!!  

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The 15 most valuable strategies for retaining your key people! By Darren Saul..

The recruitment industry is changing again (surprise, surprise!) and we must change with it. Quality candidates are more savvy, they are not as easily tempted and they are harder and harder to find using traditional methods. A whole new strategy for the acquisition of quality talent based on broad candidate reach is necessary but that is for another day..

RELEVANCE TO YOU: Make sure your people are inspired, proud and excited (not just content) - otherwise your competitors will..

The recruitment process doesn't stop when the candidate is hired. Retaining your key people is just as important (step 2) - otherwise you are back to step 1! More time, energy and money.

Here are in my view the 15 most valuable strategies for retaining your key people!
  1. Treat your people better than you treat your customers!! Sounds simple but I interview people all day complaining about exactly the opposite..
  2. Delegate wherever possible and empower them to build confidence, develop pride, take ownership and exceed expectations
  3. Acknowledge all the great stuff as much as possible - in a genuine way
  4. Implement a buddy system to help settle new staff into the new culture
  5. Conduct frequent two-way reviews (not too formal) to build rapport and manage expectations 
  6. Create a friendly/collaborative/fun atmosphere where people are proud to work - it's called creating a "community"  
  7. Invest in training and development - internal and external
  8. Understand that everyone's drivers are different and that all can be used favourably with a little creativity
  9. Be approachable! Spend some quality time down in the trenches with your troops..
  10. EARN respect - don't expect it 
  11. Reward them with small treats along the way
  12. Choose your battles wisely
  13. Pay them well!
  14. Keep in regular contact with your chosen recruitment partner to ensure you are across what currently drives quality talent
  15. Never think that there isn't any more to learn in this area - the economic and business environment is constantly changing and so are the people within..
Easier said than done to do all this all the time - however if you're not doing it you may risk losing your greatest asset!