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 (spark.co.nz/graduates), 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