Hiring practices that gets top talent into leading brands

From blind taste tests to genuine smiles, here are what top organisations look for when hiring.

What is the link between, purpose, culture and behaviour? Successful brands consistently recruit (and then retain) the best staff, and it’s primarily because they recruit on purpose.

Authors of On Purpose: Delivering a Branded Customer Experience People Love, examine how businesses like Geek Squad, Timpson, Metro Bank, and citizenM tailor their approach to recruitment.

Hire for DNA not MBA: Geek Squad

Hiring the right people for your culture is vital. Robert Stephens of Geek Squad says, ”I hire for the customer experience I want”.

According to On Purpose authors Smith and Gilligan, hire for DNA not MBA. By this they mean find the people who fit your culture rather than the best qualified or most experienced candidate.

You can train someone in what they don’t know but it is much harder to get them to behave in a way that is alien to their personality.

Hire for getting on: Timpson

“There is no scientific method to the way Timpson recruits.  What we simply say is that interviews must be one-on-one.  So we don’t carry out panel interviews to scare the candidate to death.  And we don’t look to use any particular software tool to help filter.  It is simply that if I’m interviewing you and we get on, then it’s 99.9 per cent certain that I’ll employ you,” according to Gouy Hamilton Fisher, director of colleagues and support at Timpson.

‘There is no way that we define, measure, or try to track personality.  It is simply that our passionate belief is that we can train all the rest.  What you can’t train is if somebody has to look somebody in the eye and smile and talk at the same time – there are very few barriers to employment with us.”

Smile: Metro Bank

“We have a few little things we use as part of our [Metro Bank] recruitment. If you’re applying for a job and you don’t smile during the first job interview, you’re out.  It’s not that hard to train people to deliver retail banking. It’s the way they deliver that is important and that comes from within,” says Metro Bank’s Vernon Hill.

“Remember, we are selling essentially a commodity product and we have to turn it into a non-commodity product. So we recruit, we train, we manage, we promote, to bring out the best in people.”

Casting for the right people: citizenM

At famed trendy boutique hotel chain, citizenM, recruiting is seen as a casting call, and it all starts with social media.

“We usually gather a couple of hundred resumes, but it can be up to 800 sometimes.  We filter this to the people that have done fun things or the people who look fun; to say 150 to 200 and we invite those people for a casting day, which is a 4½ hour interview,” according to citizenM.

As the candidates enter, the citizenM team takes a Polaroid picture of them and then offer them coffee and pastries.

“For the first half hour, 45 minutes we do nothing other than observe them.  If we have chosen the right people then that first session becomes like a big club with people chatting with each other,” he explains.

Once the potential recruits are welcomed and told about the company and what they’re being interviewed for, they are then divided up into four teams. The first team do one-on-one blind tasting.

“Imagine you and I have never met. You are blindfolded and I’m your partner and my job is to shove food into your mouth to taste. We’ve got to figure out real fast how we will work together! We observe that to see how fast they adapt, who’s taking the lead, who’s going first; you observe a lot of subliminal signals,” he adds.

The second test is making a collage with five people.

“It’s an odd number to make a collage and so we look at teamwork; who uses their ‘elbow’ to make a point, who pulls in the quieter people, that type of thing.“

The third exercise is an elevator pitch.

“Then they are put into groups of 15 for the third exercise. In 30 seconds, using the metaphor of an animal or an object, they have to say ‘who they are’.”

And the last exercise is to share with the group who their hero is, and why.

“We’re not making a judgement on who (they) are, or what (they) stand for or how good (they) are. It’s basically more of an alignment puzzle. We are looking for certain people, and the reason for these workshops is to align, as best as possible, the people that we feel will do well in our environment, and that we, as an environment, will do well for them,” he explained. “Usually we have to push them out of the door by this stage!”

He concludes, “I think it important that those that are rejected know it that same afternoon. As cruel as it sounds, it’s better to cut it short than to drag it out.”

About the book

On Purpose: Delivering a Branded Customer Experience People Love
Shaun Smith & Andy Milligan
Kogan Page
280 pages
Published in the UK on October 29th 2015

About the Authors

Shaun Smith is founder and partner of the customer experience consultancy Smith+Co which works with leading brands around the world. A thought leader on the subject of customer experience strategy, he has been featured many times on CNBC’s ‘Ask the Expert’ programme. He is the co-author of Bold: How to be Brave in Business and Win(published by Kogan Page).

Andy Milligan is a leading international consultant on brand and business culture. He has worked for almost 20 years advising major organisations on brand building, customer experience and internal culture. Andy appears regularly in the media to comment on brand issues. He is the author of Brand it Like Beckham and co-author of Bold: How to be Brave in Business and Win (published by Kogan Page).

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.

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