Last week, I wrote my first book review / study notes from reading the book Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profits by Inghilleri and Solomon. (If you missed that post, you can check it out here: Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit – Part 1) This post is a continuation of that, but I am only going to look at one chapter today. Hopefully this will keep this post shorter and concise. Hopefully… (If you’re not sure why I’m reading this book, then please check out my introduction ?)
In this book, the authors take a whole chapter to talk about the people service-oriented companies should hire. The chapter is titled “Your People”, with the subtitle “Selection, Orientation, Training and Reinforcement”. Now, while I can’t say this chapter represents Automattic exactly, I am guessing it is pretty close. It is the book their hiring team offered me (and others) and so anyone looking to work with them would probably do well off studying this chapter – not necessarily to change themselves, but to see who Automattic is looking for to work in their service department.
So, without further adieu, I will write a few excerpts from the book and my thoughts relating to it. What exactly is Automattic looking for in their hiring process??
Selected for Traits
To begin with, you need to move away from hiring in most positions for specific skills and toward selecting for talent. Give that friendly, insightful, responsible applicant who has a knack for making people feel comfortable a shot – even if it means passing over an applicant with a resume that more closely matches the job’s day-to-day functions.
The book goes on to explain that, while we all seek to change, adults will carry on through life with basically the same personalities and aptitudes they already have. Skills can be taught, but talents and traits generally can’t. While having skill sets and knowledge is important, having the talent needed for excellent customer service is vital.
Reviewing the list of what Automattic is looking for in their applicants, I see roughly half of the qualities are skill-oriented, while the other half is trait-oriented. Sure, they are looking for people proficient in WordPress, HTML and CSS, but they are also looking for people who have grace, patience and a sense of humor. It would seem they are looking for people who can not only engineer happiness at work, but people who are inclined to do so out of work, too.
Perhaps that is why working in the forums before the application is important. It gives them a chance to see my talents, and it also gives myself a chance to see, too! Do I fit this job and does it give me pleasure and enjoyment? Ultimately, both employer and employee are looking for a employment relation that will last. The best way to gauge it and see is to ask, “Am I and the job a good fit for each other?”
Top Five Traits to Look for in Applicants
- Genuine personal warmth
- A tendency to express sincerely positive feelings towards people
- Empathic skill
- Ability to understand what another person is going through and knowing how to interact
- An optimistic, upbeat attitude
- A team orientation
- A broad trait that subsumes responsibility, work ethic, diligence and attention to detail
The authors encourage companies to keep the hiring bar high. They suggest to compare applicants to the averages/standards of current employees. Sub-par service reps not only have the potential to demoralize the team but also jeopardize the loyalty of customers the company has already acquired.
So, my application process is not really a battle against dozens (or hundreds?) of other applicants. It is not a “top ten will pass” type exam. I am being scrutinized against what standards the company has already built into itself and seeing if I will be an asset to them or not.
Discipline in Selection
The authors encourage companies to develop effective hiring process and then sticking to them. This ensures all employees have passed the same threshold and there are no “boss’s favorites” in the team.
Automattic has this aspect down pat. There hiring process is well documented by both successful and unsuccessful applicants. While there seem to have been a few tweaks along the way, the process has remained pretty much the same for the last few years. The project, the interviews, the practice questions, the trial… All this has been designed to test both the skill set I have and the personal traits I have cultivated in my life. (The trial seems to bring this out the most in people…)
So, I guess there is no way around it. There are no shortcuts. I am just going to have to ride on and show them – show myself – what I am really made of.
The rest of the chapter continues to discuss the onboarding of new employees, the ongoing training in the company and the regular reinforcement by managers. This is all important, but I believe the above content is enough to summarise what they are after.
Automattic is looking for a specific type of person for their HE team. Everyone there is, more or less, that type of person. They have skills relating to WordPress and the internet, but they also have character. My application process is just as much a process to see if my character is inline with what they are looking for. I like that!
Perhaps the reason I couldn’t make it any further in my last application was because they did not have enough evidence to see what my character is like. Hopefully my time on the forums has given them a bit of a look into who I am. Hopefully in my next application, I will be accepted into the trial and both they and I will find that I am a fit for their company…