When Tony Hsieh started Zappos in 1999, he was smart enough to realize what would make his company stand out.
There was nothing unique or proprietary about a site that sells shoes. It had competitive prices, but not the lowest. So what was going to set Zappos apart?
Customer service. And what’s the key to great customer service? Having great people. So Hsieh, since Zappos’ inception, has put a huge emphasis on a great hiring process, which he has slowly perfected over the last 15 years.
What remains is one of the most unique hiring and onboarding processes in America. No job postings. An offer of $2,000 to quit. A screening process that includes a recruiter talking with the driver who picked up the candidate from the airport. And, most of all, a huge emphasis on cultural fit.
How does Hsieh know if this is all working? By what types of positions he is hiring for. Namely, if he is hiring mostly for entry-level positions, he knows his hiring process works.
“We’re hoping five years from now the vast, vast majority of all hires will actually be entry-level, but we’ll provide all the training and mentorship so that, over a five- to seven-year period, they can become a senior leader within the company,” Hsieh said, according to evancarmichael.com. “That will help protect our culture and also give all the employees a growth path professionally.”
The most unique part of Zappos’ hiring process is that there are no job postings. Instead, applicants must create a profile on a company social media site, Zappos Insider. Candidates are also encouraged to add a video cover letter as part of their profile to “show (Zappos) your true colors” and follow Zappos recruiters on Twitter, according to the Zappos career page.
Once a profile is created, candidate screening software and the recruiters themselves find the best potential fits for these candidates. Then, when Zappos needs to fill a position, they build a candidate pool from existing Zappos Insiders, according to the career page.
From there, the interviews begin. First, candidates interview with the team they’ll work with to ensure they have the necessary skills for the job, according to evancarmichael.com.
Next, the HR team will interview the candidates to ensure they possess Zappos’ core values. Here, they could be asked questions like “how weird are you” or “what’s your favorite super hero,” according to www.workforce.com. But these questions are no joke: cultural fit is weighted just as heavily as technical skills.
Sometimes, Zappos will fly people in for an interview and have a driver pick them up. A Zappos recruiter will interview the driver after, to make sure the candidate treated them well, according to workforce.com.
If hired, a candidate will go through a month-long training process that includes training in all departments of the company, according to hr.com. That includes time working as a customer service representative, regardless of what job the person has been hired for, according to the website.
During the training, Zappos will actually offer a new hire $2,000 to quit to make sure they only have people who want to be there, according to The Washington Post. Very few people take the offer, according to the Post.
The Bottom Line
Zappos is a great example of a company with a clear brand. Zappos’ differentiator is its customer service, and everything it does – including its hiring process – enforces that brand.
That allowed a website that sells shoes – something hundreds of other websites do – to sell to Amazon in 2009 for $1.2 billion. And still, Amazon keeps Zappos as its own independent site to this day, because it values the Zappos brand.
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