Tony Hsieh, CEO Zappos.comThis summer I had the pleasure of talking with Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, thanks to a Twitter exchange. I was curious about the Zappos corporate culture, Hsieh’s leadership style and his motivation. During our conversation, Tony mentioned that Zappos uses a two interview process. One interview is to assess technical abilities and skills. The second interview is a culturefit interview, to determine whether or not the person is a good fit with the organization. I’m not sure if Tony coined the phrase and the process, but the idea of having two interviews made a ton of sense to me. Here are three reasons:

1. Culturefit interviews reduce bad hires.
Using a culturefit interview lessens the chance that you hire someone who has the expertise and technical ability to do a job, but is such a poor fit that no one in the company enjoys working with that person. You’ve worked with him or her before. You know who I’m talking about. (On a side not: I’d love to be a fly on the wall to see exactly how they handle these interviews, what questions they ask, and how that make those questions work, legally.)

2. Culturefit interviews prepare employees for unforeseen circumstances.
Tony shared a story with me about a warehouse employee who had processed a wallet that was returned (see their generous return policy). The lady who had returned the wallet had accidentally left some money in it. A few days later, she was chasing down her kids, thinking they may have taken the money, when she received a letter in the mail, along with the money. Was she ever pleasantly surprised!

As Tony explained, typical warehouse employees are not known for high wages. Cameras don’t line the ceilings of every inch of the Zappos warehouses. Yet this employee was the right fit for Zappos. And the customer was WOWed!

3. Culturefit interviews protect employee engagement.
In 1996 Hsieh was part of a start up company that eventually grew to more than 100 employees and was sold to Microsoft two years later for more than a little change. Yet by his own admission, once the company grew to a substantial size, going to work every day soon became more drudgery than joy. Zappos’ use of culturefit interviews protects the organizational culture, and thus protects employee engagement.

Employee engagement results in a host of benefits including increased job satisfaction, lower employee turnover, fewer accidents at work, less sick time – all resulting in greater profitability.

Congratulations Tony, on creating and sustaining an amazing culture at Zappos. Thanks for the interview! Can’t wait to see you today on Oprah!

What do you think about culturefit interviews? Make sense to you? Does your organzation pay attention to culture? And if so, how? What other benefits do you see from using culturefit interviews?

Creative Commons photo by Laughing Squid on Flickr.