7 Interview Questions From Zappos

Yesterday I got a stack of the book “Delivering Happiness” by Zappos’ Tony Hsieh in the mail.

I’m not sure what prompted this, or what to do with all of them, but for now, here are seven sample interview questions at Zappos, from page 172. 

Let me know what you think of some of them.

  • Give me an example from your previous job(s) where you had to think and act outside the box.
  • What was the best mistake you made on the job? Why was it the best?
  • Tell me about a time you recognized a problem/area to improve that was outside of your job duties and solved [it] without being asked to. What was it? How did you do it?
  • Would you say you are more or less creative than the average person? Can you give me an example?
  • If it was your first day on the job at Zappos and your task was to make the interview/recruiting process more fun, what would you do for those eight hours?
  • What’s an example of a risk you took in a previous job? What was the outcome? 
  • When was the last time you broke the rules/policy to get the job done?

The Wrong Reason to Oppose Unemployment Benefits

There are some good arguments against extending unemployment benefits for the eighth time. Opponents, understandably, argue that adding even more to the deficit will hurt the economy and, in the end, employment. And there are lots of other arguments.

On Twitter last night, I noticed that one of the arguments, put forth by someone I like and respect, was that some people will turn down jobs if unemployment is extended, choosing instead not to work and just collect checks until Congress and the President stop the extensions. 

While this is true in some circumstances, and something we should work to prevent, it’s a line of thinking that should not be used as the rationale to deny unemployment assistance in general. It doesn’t sit will. It doesn’t feel right. It feels like an excuse, not a reason.

We give tax credits for employers who hire people with certain disadvantages. While some of these employees would have been hired anyhow, and that’s a problem, it’s not a reason to scrap that whole tax credit.

We give tax credits to the “working poor.” Some people get it who shouldn’t, a problem that needs addressing, but it shouldn’t be cause to eliminate the whole credit.

When you send 10 gift baskets to soldiers overseas, maybe one is damaged on the way. So shall we send none instead of nine?

Shall we stop giving to charity because of administrative expenses? 

There are plenty of legitimate reasons not to extend unemployment, if that’s the side you’re on. But why hurt those who need help just because you might help someone who doesn’t?



The Job Board With the Common Name You Haven't Yet Heard of

Anyone notice the 20 x 20 employment.com booth at the SHRM conference last month? If so, before the SHRM conference, had you even heard of employment.com?

Me neither.

I asked a few of the folks who are in the know when it comes to the job board field. People like Peter Weddle, Steven Rothberg, Jeff Dickey-Chasins, John Zappe, and others.

And most of them hadn’t heard of the company either, at least before SHRM in San Diego, but want to know more.

Employment.com doesn’t have much information about itself on its own site, like contact information or an “about us” page clearly linked from the home page. I left a message with a customer service number, but no one called back. The folks listed as the owners of the URL — the Hamilton-Felton Family — own a slew of other domains, like Texasbeachfrontrentals.com. I called one of their numbers but it was disconnected. At another of their numbers, I left a message but haven’t heard back.

Mark Mehler, of CareerXroads, talked to CEO John Carrieri, who told Mark that half a million jobs have been posted on the site for free (employment.com will use an ad model, not a paid-listing model). 

Carrieri’s LinkedIn page says he is a “serial entrepreneur” whose past ventures include the site Jokes.com. I left a couple of messages for him but the fellow I talked to said he’s out of the country, in Italy. He hasn’t called back. I emailed him through LinkedIn, and didn’t hear back, and called back again, but his coworker told me his voice mail is full.

Anyhow, maybe employment.com would like to boost traffic and sell the employment.com address. It sure seems like a good URL.

After all, sex.com once sold for an estimated $12 million, and is now for sale again. Other domains like pizza.com, business.com, wine.com, and a lot of other things dot com sold for $1 million or more each. (Sexandpizza.com, and sexandwine.com, interestingly, both lead you to adult sites, while sexandbusiness.com innocently leads you to a list of Pearson business books. But I digress, greatly.) 

A nice, generic URL sounds like a good thing, but can only go so far. When I think of books, I think of Amazon.com, not books.com (Barnes & Noble). When I think of cars, I think Edmunds. When I think movies, I think Netflix, not movies.com.

When I think about shoes, I think Zappos. 

Come to think of it, I can’t remember the last time I thought about shoes.

Although Mark Mehler says that employment.com is “one to watch for” in the future, he adds that “no job seeker in the USA is going to be putting into a search engine ’employment’ and expecting job openings to come back. They would put in jobs and a location.” 

He’s right. You’re more likely to search for, say, accounting jobs in Denver, or design jobs in Boise, than search merely for the word “employment” on its own.

But that logic doesn’t explain the success of Monster.com. When you want a job, you don’t search for Monsters, but you still find yourself heading to Monster.com. 

Certainly job-seekers’ minds currently think of Monster before they think of employment.com, job.com, or work.com. I don’t even think people immediately think of jobs.com; I guess Monster covered its bases, because it owns this URL anyhow.

Kristen Reed, marketing director at job.com, says that “having a URL that is easy to remember and relevant to the service or product you are offering is certainly important when it comes to driving traffic and building a brand.” But, she says, “a great domain name is still just a name unless you do something with it.”

Folding the Flag

New York state flags will be flown at half-staff today; Gov. Paterson has ordered it after the deaths of two soldiers in Afghanistan. 

Half-staff? Why?

Well, that’s the kind of thing we learned In Cub Scouts and in Eagle Scouts, in Brownies and in Boy Scouts and in Girl Scouts. Handling the American Flag.

This included everything from how to fold the flag, raise the flag, and lower the flag. What to do when the flag is torn or frayed, or touches the ground. When to fly the flag, and when to fly it half way or two-thirds up the pole; in addition, what to do if you must fly it at an angle (as I recall, you always want the stars, not the stripes, on top, to emphasize the unity of the nation). 

While most of us, including I, don’t remember the particulars, here’s what we (hopefully) took away from all this: the instructions our elders taught us may not represent the only way to handle, fold, and care for a flag, or even the best way. But the mere existence of these details, the fact that we spend so much time on them — it’s because the flag stands for something important.

We have a long list of rules and instructions about important things, and we don’t about unimportant things. 

That’s why it’s a good idea to decide how you’re going to treat candidates, and to put that code in writing. Some things it might include:

  • What will you say to candidates who call about a job? 
  • What will you say to candidates who send in a resume? Will you tell them it was received, and what else will you tell them?
  • What will you say to candidates who contact you through social media sites such as YouTube, LinkedIn, or Facebook? 
  • How will you (or will you at all?) keep candidates updated on where they are in the application process? 
  • How will you respond to a candidate who just wants to learn more — to have an informational interview?
  • If you have an email newsletter or other communication to candidates interested in your company, who will get it? Do they have to subscribe, or just express interest in your organization?
  • Will you tell candidates when the second round of interviews might be? Will you tell them if they didn’t make it — or only if they did?
  • Will you tell them how many others are in the running? 
  • Will you tell them if the job’s most likely going to go to an internal candidate?
  • Will you tell them what the company is really looking for? The unwritten things it takes to work at the company?
  • Are you going to let candidates know whether you look people up on Google, Facebook, and elsewhere, and what sorts of things you find on those sites are deal-breakers?
  • Will you tell a candidate if the fact that they know someone at the company helps them, if indeed it does? Does it depend on who they know at the company? If so, will you tell them that?
  • If candidates want feedback as to why they weren’t hired, will you give it to them?

For some of these questions, most everyone will answer similarly. For others, they won’t. In other words, there’s not always a right way and a wrong way to answer some of these questions (which represent just a fraction of the questions you want to ask yourself anyhow).

But putting some of the answers into a code, a policy, a list of suggestions, guidelines — it sends the message that how you treat job candidates is important, important enough to think about in detail, talk about, and develop instructions for.