Find­ing awe­some weirdos

New re­cruit­ment quizzes which fo­cus on cul­tural fit


KEREN PHILLIPS AND her team at re­cruit­ment soft­ware com­pany Weirdly are into cel­e­bra­tions. High-fives and hoot­ers and con­fetti can­nons, that sort of thing.

For their first birth­day they threw pop-up par­ties at other peo­ple’s of­fices, where they ran amok with helium bal­loons, cook­ies and – yes, re­ally – a mari­achi band. It’s a big part of the Weirdly cul­ture. But it’s not ev­ery­one’s cup of tea. For some peo­ple, all that razzmatazz and back-slap­ping would be un­com­fort­able, un­nec­es­sary. They wouldn’t work for Weirdly if you paid them.

Which is the point of Weirdly. To give com­pa­nies and po­ten­tial em­ploy­ees a way of work­ing out whether the cul­tural fit be­tween them is right.

Weirdly’s re­cruit­ment quizzes fo­cus less on a can­di­date’s skill sets, qual­i­fi­ca­tions and ex­pe­ri­ence, and more on their val­ues, the way they think and their re­sponse to prob­lems.

Fill­ing in the Spark online grad­u­ate re­cruit­ment ques­tion­naire (­u­ates), for ex­am­ple, is more like a do­ing a women’s mag­a­zine per­son­al­ity quiz than a job ap­pli­ca­tion. Q: You have a new idea that will mean ex­tra work, but could have a big pos­i­tive im­pact on the end user. How likely are you to bring it up in the next team meet­ing? A) Likely. Let’s see what ev­ery­one thinks B) Not sure if I want to open a can of worms Or: Q: You are at home play­ing net­work games and the power goes out. The grid could be down for a few days. Which re­ac­tion sounds more like you: A) Go hunt­ing for food and cook­ing equip­ment B) Find a gen­er­a­tor NOW! How are you gonna

run your Xbox? Oh, and there’s the ques­tion about your plan for sur­vival in the zom­bie apoca­lypse. Re­ally.

The aim, says Phillips, is about en­sur­ing the em­ployer-em­ployee re­la­tion­ship works.

“The peo­ple you are re­cruit­ing are peo­ple you are go­ing to spend 50, 60, 70 hours with a week. It’s re­ally im­por­tant they are peo­ple you share fun­da­men­tal val­ues with; that you can spend time with.”

The idea of cul­tural fit isn’t new. In 1975, or­gan­i­sa­tional psy­chol­o­gist John Morse found, per­haps not sur­pris­ingly, that peo­ple in jobs that matched their per­son­al­ity felt more ca­pa­ble.

Fast for­ward 30 years and re­search by Pro­fes­sor Amy Kristof-Brown es­tab­lished that em­ploy­ees who fit well with their or­gan­i­sa­tion, co-work­ers, and su­per­vi­sor per­formed bet­ter, had greater job sat­is­fac­tion, and were more likely to re­main with their com­pany.

So the the­ory was there, but Phillips and the three other Weirdly co-founders (two, in­clud­ing Phillips, were dig­i­tal de­sign­ers in a pre­vi­ous life, the other two were re­cruit­ment con­sul­tants) saw a dis­con­nect be­tween what they knew about the im­por­tance of cul­tural fit, and how Kiwi com­pa­nies re­cruited their staff.

“Most of the peo­ple we knew wanted to work for a com­pany they be­lieved in, do­ing a job they loved. And we knew that pro­duces a bet­ter com­pany – peo­ple are more pro­duc­tive, more cre­ative,” Phillips says.

“But a lot of New Zealand busi­nesses haven’t got their heads around how im­por­tant cul­tural fit is for their busi­ness, so most were stick­ing to tra­di­tional re­cruit­ment prac­tices.” Which are, by the way, “some of the most bor­ing, stress­ful, fruit­less pro­cesses you can imag­ine”.

“Look at the job ads for sales peo­ple: ‘Can you sell a lot of stuff ? Wanna join our team and earn a lot of money?’ It’s not: ‘Come in and work with us to build some­thing you be­lieve in and align your­self with val­ues you share.’”

The trou­ble is, mea­sur­ing cul­tural fit isn’t easy, and be­fore Weirdly was go­ing to work as a busi­ness, the co-founders needed to find out if they could au­to­mate the process.

The first pro­to­type of the Weirdly quiz was tested in early 2014 with Jucy, the car and camper­van rental com­pany, and with Glen­garry’s bot­tleshops.

Twelve months on, Jucy and Glen­garry’s are still on board and Weirdly is work­ing with more than 200 other clients, in­clud­ing Spark, Xero, and Vend. The com­pany is close to break-even and has six staff – with more to be added by the end of the year.

The founders are also look­ing to raise just un­der $1 mil­lion this year, through an­gel in­vest­ment, with the funds ear­marked for in­te­grat­ing Weirdly with job boards (Trade Me, Seek etc) and tra­di­tional com­pany ap­pli­cant track­ing sys­tems (ATS’s).

Spark gen­eral man­ager hu­man re­sources Danielle Ge­orge says the com­pany-for­mer­ly­known-as-Tele­com has been test­ing Weirdly quizzes with its grad­u­ate and “agents at home” pro­grammes since the be­gin­ning of May.

“With agents at home, be­cause they are work­ing from home, we need self-starters, with high lev­els of ini­tia­tive, and an abil­ity to solve cus­tomers’ prob­lems.

“With grad­u­ates, there’s a strong fla­vor around team work, prob­lem-solv­ing and cop­ing un­der pres­sure.”

So Spark worked with Weirdly to de­sign ques­tion­naires which re­flect those pri­or­i­ties.

Ge­orge says with tra­di­tional re­cruit­ment pro­cesses, Spark of­ten didn’t find out that po­ten­tial em­ploy­ees had or lacked key cul­tural at­tributes un­til the fi­nal stages of the process. With the Weirdly quizzes, they are hop­ing to build a more suit­able short-list.

“It’s still in the early stages, but the signs are good.”

Weirdly’s Keren Phillips says com­pa­nies are also choos­ing the quizzes as a way to show po­ten­tial em­ploy­ees they aren’t your bog-stan­dard em­ployer – hence, pre­sum­ably the zom­bie apoca­lypse ques­tion on the Spark re­cruit­ment ques­tion­naire.

Don’t they find peo­ple just give the an­swers they think the hir­ing com­pany wants?

Maybe, says Phillips, but set­ting the ques­tions with two right an­swers makes a dif­fer­ence.

Take a Weirdly sta­ple: How fast do you walk? As a rule of thumb, speed walk­ers are ac­tionori­ented, and ef­fi­ciency- driven; am­blers are more cre­ative, imag­i­na­tive, ex­plo­rative.

“It’s not con­clu­sive, but it’s an in­di­ca­tor,” Phillips says.

Mean­while, Phillips has one tiny worry around the growth of the com­pany. Early in Weirdly’s de­vel­op­ment, over a few wines – and maybe a mari­achi band or two – she com­mit­ted to get­ting her­self tat­too- ed with the com­pany’s logo once they reached $1 mil­lion in turnover.

“At the time it felt like a big num­ber and I felt safe, but in ret­ro­spect…”

Serves her right. She should have worked for a bor­ing com­pany.

When the hat fits: Weirdly team mem­bers, from left to right: Dale Clare­burt, Hay­den Raw, Daniel Young, Se­bas­tian Hal­lum Clarke, Keren Phillips, Si­mon Martin

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