A DAY & ZIMMERMANN COMPANY

How embedded is company culture in your recruiting strategies?

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Posted by Chris Hediger

December 22, 2011

When it comes to recruiting, culture counts. Sometimes, in order to attract top talent, you need to do something a bit wacky.

Even in this economic climate, which might seem ripe for attaining superstars at competitive prices, attracting the right talent remains extremely challenging. In fact, a study conducted earlier this year by Bersin & Associates found that more than half of all businesses feel that a lack of talent is holding them back. Specifically, more than 50 percent of business leaders surveyed for the first time in almost three years, since the beginning of the recession, listed talent shortages as their primary business challenge.

So how is it that an online shoe company like Zappos gets an average of 1,000 competitive applicants for every job position that opens up? For Zappos, it all comes down to one simple element: The masses want to be a part of the weird and wonderful Zappos culture.

Zappos was founded in 1999 with the goal of becoming the premier destination for online shoes. Since then, Zappos has become more than just an online shoe store, growing sales to more than $1 billion in less than 10 years, and earning the ranking of the sixth best company to work for in Fortune’s Top 100 list in 2011.

Zappos’ evolution has been powered by an unwavering focus on culture, including 10 core values that form the basis of its hiring decisions.

One of Zappos’ key values is to “create fun and a little weirdness.” Accordingly, the HR team uses offbeat, cartoony applications and wacky interview questions to screen applicants, including "How weird are you?" and "What’s your theme song?"

The company as a whole embraces individualism and likens itself to a melting pot of ideas, styles, and passions. And in spite of the large volume of applicants, the HR department follows the philosophy to “hire slowly, fire quickly.” The interview process for any employee, from a call center representative to senior management, generally takes one month. What’s more, new hires, following several weeks of training, are offered a $2,000 bribe to leave the company -- a tactic designed to weed out individuals who are not passionate about working at Zappos.

The result is thousands of applicants flocking to be a part of the culture of fun and weirdness. These are people who are both committed to the company and show the most promise for upward mobility.

Zappos' unique culture affords the company the ability to be incredibly selective and choose the best fits for both capabilities and culture. While we often think of recruiting as a one-way street based on our ability as recruiters to evaluate the applicants' abilities, Zappos reminds us that cultural fit is often more important. Along the way, it's shown us that the culture itself can be the best recruiting tool of all.

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Topics: HR Strategies

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