July 14, 2010

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, talks about leadership.

First, let me say that I ordered these sandals from Zappos and had them at my door less than 20 hours later. And that was with the free shipping option, not any kind of express service. So that makes me very pro-Zappos right now. So here's Hsieh:
Tony Hsieh: Every employee understands that part of their job description is actually to live and inspire the culture in others. A lot of it is done on the front end; during the hiring process we do two sets of interviews. The first set is kind of the standard -- the hiring manager and his or her team will look for someone to a fit within the team, relevant experience, technical ability and so on, but then we do a separate, second set of interviews with our HR team, and they look purely for a culture fit, and they have to pass both in order to be hired. We have passed on a lot of smart and talented people that we know can make an immediate impact on our top or bottom line but if they are not a culture fit, we won't hire them.

Tom Heath: What do you ask them, when you want to know if they can fit in the culture, and whether they will or not?

Tony Hsieh: We offer tours to the public, and our headquarters are in Las Vegas. We will pick you up at the airport, ride in the Zappos shuttle, take an hour long tour and then drop you off at the hotel.

For candidates we do the same thing: We pick them up, give them a tour, and then they spend the day interviewing. But at the end of the interview process, our head of recruiting goes back to the shuttle driver and asks them how they were treated. If they were not treated well when they thought they were off the clock then we won't hire them, it's not even a question.

28 comments:

GMay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chase said...

The typo - it currently reads "leadershiop" - makes me feel better about my comment typos.

Thank you.

Jennifer said...

That guy impressed the heck out of me when - frustrated with slogging through a ton of kids' sandals, trying to find covered toe sandals as required by schools - I tweeted him a suggestion about providing such a filter. His customer service team tweeted back to me almost immediately. Then, a few days later, he followed me, DM'd me, apologized for taking "so long" to respond while traveling and thanked me for my suggestion.

Wow!

I have no idea if they incorporated the suggestion, but the treatment I got was so great that I didn't even care about the filter anymore. I always buy the whole family's shoes on Zappos. Always will, probably. The guy knows how to make a customer a fan.

danielle said...

Ann's favorite divalogger is back on bloggingheads.tv today ! or maybe that's her 2nd favorite, after Michelle Goldberg.

rhhardin said...

They'll say whatever appeals to buyers of women's shoes.

Nothing beats my $7.99 off-brand supermarket crocs.

Jennifer said...

Also he wrote one of the funniest tweets I've ever read.

Dear breakfast burrito: Why are you so angry w/ me? Why spit on my shirt? Because I had an Egg McMuffin without you yesterday?

Ha ha. Ok, I'll buy shoes.

Richard Dolan said...

GMay: The extra "i" is a feature, not a bug.

The 'culture' part of the interview process doesn't seem all that specific. From the description, it's basically a 'no arrogantly condescending to the little people' kind of thing. There are many good reasons why any company would want to screen out arrogant jerks during the interview process. But how does that differntiate Zappos from any other organization's culture?

A little too New Age-y goo-goo speak for me.

knox said...

I always buy the whole family's shoes on Zappos.

Me too. Years ago, my husband ordered a pair of shoes from Zappos that never arrived. They sent a replacement pair, no questions asked. Almost everything I order arrives the next day. Free returns. And they actually have pleasant and helpful people answering the phone. They really do earn customer loyalty.

Pastafarian said...

Hey, I just ordered sandals from Zappos too, just received them earlier this week.

It's a great website. Huge selection. Very efficient service.

knox said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AJ Lynch said...

Since he is an e-tailer, perhaps leaderSHOP is appropriate term.

GMay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tim maguire said...

I was thinking something similar to Richard Dolan. There is nothing groundbreaking about caring how you treat the shuttle driver. One of the first rules of interviewing is you treat the secretary with as much respect as the CEO.

rhhardin said...

One of the first rules of interviewing is you treat the secretary with as much respect as the CEO.

This gets you in trouble with the CEO.

Jennifer said...

The 'culture' part of the interview process doesn't seem all that specific.

This is probably a good example of Zappos culture.

I don't know if "Timmy" would have had such a fun conversation with customer service of other companies, but that kind of thing shows up from Zappos pretty often.

liz said...

Gawd I miss Zappos. Of the rapidly diminishing positives I miss about the U.S., Zappos is one of them (how perverted it is that a shoe shopping experience actually enters my mind when I contemplate whether I want to ever return to my country...)

chuck b. said...

You'd think with all those shoes they'd be a good place to buy socks too but that's not the case, is it?

JayC said...

There's no 'I' in 'leadershiop'.

Oh wait - yes there is!

Shanna said...

For candidates we do the same thing: We pick them up, give them a tour, and then they spend the day interviewing. But at the end of the interview process, our head of recruiting goes back to the shuttle driver and asks them how they were treated. If they were not treated well when they thought they were off the clock then we won't hire them, it's not even a question.

I love this. The only thing is you might be super stressed for the interview and not be as friendly as normal and someone might misconstrue that as general rudeness.

Big Mike said...

The first company where my wife was employed after grad school was a small hight-tech start up and the wife of the co-founder was their receptionist. Her comments on the interview candidates, not to mention vendor reps, carried a great deal of weight.

edutcher said...

Am I the only one who gets a little of the word, cult, here?

There have been other companies who have tried to do business this way. The test comes when they hit some tough sledding.

PS Unless you beat the driver over the head, what do they use as a standard?

ricpic said...

What if you tell the secretary an off-color joke? I'll bet that's an automatic culture fail.

raf said...

So now, in addition to faking enthusiasm, knowledge, initiative, etc, savy headhunters will advise their clients to learn to fake courtesy and friendliness. Sounds doable.

themightypuck said...

It's easy to be selective in a buyer's market. The question isn't whether they turn down job seekers who fail the culture test but rather, in a more competitive market, whether they weigh the culture test higher than the traditional tests. Will they hire someone whom other companies would not employ because a culture fit trumps an otherwise bleak resume?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

will advise their clients to learn to fake courtesy and friendliness.

If you fake it long enough it may eventually become true.

ghytred said...

It;s not a new technique. Back in the 80's (pre Microsoft and post IBM) Sequent in the UK had as good a chance of becoming the global company MS became. Their Receptionist performed the filter-function.
I went there as a supplier. I was very polite to her; I had read about this practice in one of Tom Peters' books.

I would have been anyway. She was a rather nice older (then, though I suppose she always would/will be than me) woman.

svs

wv: jllim: Jill M's email with a dyslectic sysop. It could have been her.

Eric said...

That's funny. One of the things I always look at on a date is how the girl treats the staff at the restaurant. If she can't be nice to the waiter, she's out.

Though I guess, in a way, a job interview is a lot like a first date.

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