Tony Hsieh has run Zappos with “a little weirdness” as a fundamental value since becoming the online retailer’s CEO in 2000. It makes sense then, that Zappos has a highly unusual hiring process.
“The recruits have to fit in socially, intellectually, and emotionally,” write Michael J. Silverstein, Dylan Bolden, Rune Jacobsen, and Rohan Sajdeh in “Rocket: Eight Lessons to Secure Infinite Growth.” “They have to be ready for their new family. Cultural fit is the key hurdle.”
Ambassadors get a feel for their applicants through a video cover letter and online chats, and connect them with Zappos employees relevant to their area of expertise.
And if applicants get interviews scheduled and are not locals, they get a free ride from the airport to Zappos’ Las Vegas headquarters. In addition to being a convenience, it is also a subtle part of the application process.
During the rides, the van driver is paying attention to how the applicants carry themselves and treat them, regardless of whether their travel was pleasant or not. After a full day that includes a tour and multiple interviews, a recruiter checks in with the driver to get his or her take.
“Zappos wants employees who treat all coworkers with respect,” the authors of “Rocket” write.
As Hsieh said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal in 2013, “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.”
Being hired is just the first step. After four weeks of training and a week on the job, all new hires are offered payment for their time and a $2,000 bonus if they decide the company is not right for them — about 2% to 3% of hires take the offer, according to Zappos.
And in March, Hsieh offered employees a different version of that offer: Employees could quit and take a severance package if they didn’t want to participate in the company’s new corporate structure, known as “Holacracy,” which dispensed with traditional manager roles and job titles. Some 210 of 1,503 employees, or 14% of the staff, took it.
As the authors of “Rocket” write, “what the company is really looking for is employees who will become passionate cheerleaders for the Zappos brand.”
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