The way you hire people should reflect your brand

Who are the right people for your organisation?

Beyond the basic skills they need to do the job, how do you decide if the person in front of you will be a good addition to your team and help to build the brand? Plenty has been written about the inter-dependency of the culture of organisations and their brands, including the kinds of perks and policies that reflect and bring their values to life once people are in the organisation.

And still most organisations stick to a fairly similar script when trying to find the right people. That process generally includes some mix of advertising the position, looking at resumes, interviewing people and some kind of online assessment. All good and necessary steps in trying to figure out what people can do and get some sense of who they are.

But my question is this: why use a similar hiring process to everyone else and expect to find the best people for your organisation and brand? That’s the big missing piece I nearly always find when I talk to organisations about how they build their brand.

It never ceases to amaze me how little time and thought is put into the actual process used. Surely the way we hire says as much, if not more, about the organisation and the brand, than the questions we ask. And how the people we are hiring respond to that process can often tell us more about them than is revealed in their answers to any question.

Southwest Airlines uses a group interview where people applying are asked to write and read out a personal “Coat of Arms” to gauge how confident, friendly and sociable they are – key attributes of the brand they want customers to experience.

Zappos famously pays people to quit to weed out those who aren’t fanatical about customer service. About a week or so after being immersed in the Zappos culture all new employees get “the offer”: “If you quit today, we will pay you for the amount of time you’ve worked, plus we will offer you a $1,000 bonus”. So their thinking goes that if you take the offer you don’t have the level of commitment to the organisation they want.

At Atlassian, their multi-faceted hiring process includes being interviewed by three people representing three different areas of the business where for example, you’ll be asked about a time you saw a problem and how you fixed it. Note the nuance: not told someone about it, how YOU fixed it – which aligns to their search for people with a solid sense of team spirit.

Google’s is well known for asking downright kooky questions – some so bizarre they have been banned from being asked altogether. For example, questions such as “Why are manhole covers round?”, “How many golf balls can fit in a school bus?” and “You have to get from point A to point B and don’t know if you can get there – what would you do?”

The last one reminds me about one of the five questions my company in the United States used to ask people to answer when applying for a job. Answering them was your cost of entry for your application to be considered. The question was: “You’re stranded on the side of the road but have a piece of paper and a marker. What do you write on the paper to get someone to pick you up?” (Full-disclosure: that question was adapted from a story in the book Cheese Monkeys by Chipp Kidd).

We took the idea of the “right who” very seriously and structured not just those questions, but the whole hiring process very deliberately to reflect what we cared about. Other elements included building values out of Lego, not looking at any creative portfolio until the second round of interviews (if they aren’t the right ‘who’ it doesn’t matter what their work is like), and asking people to put something on an easel pad size piece of paper that they wanted us to remember them by.

There are many examples of organisations that tackle things a bit differently. But merely copying something that others are doing isn’t the point. We may hire for skill but we fire because the person just doesn’t “fit”. Ben Franklin said, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. Your organisation is unique, your culture and brand are yours alone, the way your hire people should be too.

See you next week.

Michel is an Independent Brand Thinker and Adviser dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. You can find Michel at or you can follow her on Twitter @michelhogan


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