Did you know that prominent philosophers throughout history have debated the ethics of eating snack mix at a party? An article I read by Dan Pushman cites this, and, aside from making me hungry, reminded me of my own experience creating my from-scratch trail mixes.

As CEO,  I've had twenty years of experience making my own sort of trail mix, combining many different components to create an effective hiring experience at my company, Blinds.com. Now, I'm not saying that I'm looking to chew up new employees, but trail mixes and the hiring process may have more in common than meets the eye.

1.      Making delicious trail mix requires the right ingredients

No matter how hungry you are, a snack cobbled together from whatever food scraps you find in your desk drawer won't taste as good as a planned recipe. One of the benefits of making your own mix from scratch is that you can guarantee quality ingredients, ensuring a quality product. The same goes for hiring new associates. Blinds.com is currently under-staffed in the Customer Service department and, as a result, customer experience is suffering. That doesn't mean we're going to hire anyone that walks through our door. Even with the added tension and burden of working the extra hours to service our customers, every employee goes through a rigorous interview process to make sure they have the right "flavor profile"--meaning they understand and are excited about our core values.

2.      ... But that doesn't mean everyone's tastes are the same

Everyone approaches trail mix differently: some will go straight for the chocolate candies, while the health-conscious might opt for dried fruit and nuts. A snack mix is best enjoyed when people are allowed to create the ratio of materials they want in each bite--which isn't something you, as the creator of the mix, know without open dialog. Likewise, it's vital to consider the needs of specific departments when hiring. Associates at all levels of Blinds.com are encouraged to Speak Up (one of our core values) with the knowledge that I, the CEO, need to hear their input. It's the best way to ensure that newly hired management are going to empower each member of their team to become better than they ever thought possible.

3.      The right seasoning can make all the difference

Quality ingredients and team input is not enough to create a truly excellent trail mix; while each of the individual components has to taste great, the entire creation also needs to work well together. A key ingredient to our "mix" here at Blinds.com is training. Every employee that will be interacting with a customer undergoes at least 3 weeks of training and an additional 5 weeks of close supervision to ensure high quality customer interaction. Even during a shortage, I believe training cannot be sacrificed or rushed. Think of it as our "special seasoning"--sure, we could have a bland mix of unsalted nuts, but that's not extraordinary, is it?

4.      Every batch creates new opportunities

You've created what should be the perfect balance of flavors made from high quality ingredients specifically catered to the needs of the snackers. But wait... those cashews weren't supposed to be salted!

Fear not--no matter how much work you put into hiring quality associates that seem to be a perfect fit for the team, you cannot predict every possible outcome. A new hire may not be exactly what you expected. An effective manager reframes this in terms of opportunity. Here's your chance to hear new voices, gain new perspectives, and explore new strategies that otherwise might have been missed. Who knows, salted cashews may be the best thing to happen to your "mixed" company in a long time--and you didn't even know they were missing.   

Published on: Jul 28, 2016
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