Ask Ari Weinzweig
QHow can I ensure the people I hire will be a good cultural fit for my company?
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Be on the lookout for personal attributes that are important in your company. Not innate personality traits, like being a natural extrovert, but certain attitudes. For instance, at Zingerman's we want to hire people who are passionate about food, who will serve their fellow employees (not just the customers), who can handle job roles that aren't defined in black and white, and who have a drive for greatness.
It helps to share your company's vision in the interview. We have an eight-page document called "Zingerman's Vision for the Year 2020." It describes very specifically where we would like to be as a company in 13 years, including our goals for great food, great service, growth, and innovation. Engage in a dialogue about your company's vision. Job candidates probably won't tell you outright that they don't like your organization, but you can tell pretty quickly if a candidate seems resistant or is holding back.
It's also useful to interview people in real-world conditions. For years, I used to take people into a quiet office to interview them. Then I realized we really don't have any quiet space at Zingerman's. So we try to do most interviews on the floor of Zingerman's to see how candidates will react when we're interrupted. Other employees will always have an issue, and they'll come up and interject something during the interview. I'm looking for nonverbal cues that will tell me how candidates will deal with these situations in the future.
Group interviews are also useful, because a big part of cultural fit is whether or not the group actually accepts the person. Keep in mind that some candidates are really good at impressing the higher-ups but not the people who work for them. So bring people from different parts of the organization to the interview. We'll usually have eight to 10 people in a group interview. If eight of our staff members don't think I should hire a particular manager, I know it won't work.
We also have one hard and fast rule at Zingerman's, which is probably a good rule for any company: Since everything we do revolves around service, our rule is, if candidates don't smile during the interview, don't hire them.
Since founding Zingerman's Delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1982, Ari Weinzweig has launched eight other businesses.