Recruiting is a gamble. How lucky are you? – This is part 4 in my series of “What I Learned At Zappos Culture Camp”.

By Gina Trimarco, Chief Results Officer

The most common challenge our clients articulate to us is “We can’t find good employees? They just don’t exist in [insert city name] because in our city [insert problem].”

Sound familiar?

I get it. I’ve been there in my pre-business owner days. It’s difficult to find the right employees but it’s not impossible. It takes an investment of time, commitment to the process, clarity on company core values and a little money. Most hiring managers get overwhelmed with all of that and many resort to “We just need warm bodies right now” (which makes me cringe). Again, I’ve been guilty of saying the same exact thing.

And then I was moved from the city of Chicago to the tourist town of Myrtle Beach, SC. Initially I thought “How hard could this be?” when I needed to start up and fully staff a brand new IMAX theater with 50 frontline employees. Granted, it was the most hiring I’d have to do at one time but I had, what I thought were, very challenging issues in Chicago that should have made it a piece of cake “at the beach”. Imagine (in Chicago) union projectionists (who mandated arbitration for every misstep), including a projectionist indicted for arson, plus employees who were banned from the neighboring McDonald’s for starting knife fights with their employees.

But I overcame it all and learned how to assemble an awesome team. So, when I was relocated to Myrtle Beach I assumed it would be easier. Instead I faced other challenges: many people stated they didn’t work on Sundays (due to church services), there was no public transportation and many relied on carpooling, thus requesting to be hired in groups. Due to seasonality many worked multiple jobs and scheduling was a challenge. Aside from being a tourist town, it was a retirement town with seniors who loved to work … but only during the day because many couldn’t drive at night. By the way, this also turned out to be a huge advantage knowing I would always have daytime employees that I couldn’t get in Chicago.

Again, I learned how to assemble an awesome team. It took me about 15 months to do this in both locations. I had become an expert at it … until upper management (located in an Ivory Tower in another city) decided we needed to cut labor immediately to cut costs, without any appreciation for what it took to build a loyal team. They didn’t want to hear about how much money it would cost to do it all over again in the next season.

Does THIS sound familiar?

If you want to build a healthy culture with the right talent, it starts at the recruitment and hiring process and then it continues with consistent, ongoing and sustainable training … and not the type of training where employees shadow someone for a few days.

This applies to all levels of employees because it really starts with making sure each employee is a good fit for the culture BEFORE hiring them, which means hiring “a warm body” is NOT an option. It’s also not the best idea to hire people because they have the skills or qualifications if they don’t have the right personality or share the same core values as the company.

My point of view was reinforced and validated during my three-day experience at Zappos Culture Camp. Their recruiting process is an intentional and time consuming process to ensure low turnover and proper fit.

If I had to summarize this article right now in one phrase, it would be “How Lucky Are You?” because that’s a question Zappos recruiters ask their candidates. And more specifically, “On a scale from one to ten, how lucky are you?” asks this question to test attitude. The answers serve as a barometer for how candidates see (or don’t see) the bigger world picture and how they will “show up” in the culture. If they answer “8” or above, they see the world as place of possibilities and basically have a positive point of view. And since attitudes can be contagious, don’t we all prefer an optimistic “can do” team? Negative “can’t-do” attitudes bring organizations down, especially when they infect others.

Try it. I do it all the time now with friends and family time just to see if they are a good fit in my personal life! Ha! My initial answer was 10. I’ve heard answers ranging from 2 – 11. It’s quite fun to play this as a game outside of recruiting.’s key to recruiting … wait for it … Technical Fit (skills) + Culture Fit (value alignment). This is not earth shattering information, but as I’ve consistently stated in this series, is committed and consistent to their, frankly, simple “Recruitment Journey” process.

Prior to sending candidates on the journey, where do they find their candidates? They have a multi-channel approach:

  • Insider Program (Zappos employees that promote opportunities), which includes a bi-weekly tweetchat (@InsideZappos)
  • Job Postings
  • Social Media, including teaching their employees how to revise their LinkedIn profiles to attract prospective candidates
  • Hunting talent, including college talent (by their internal recruiting team)
  • Job Fairs

The Recruitment Journey seems pretty simple as well:

  • Candidates submit applications, including the encouragement of video cover letters, which IS legal, for those who are wondering
  • Two (2) phone interviews: 1) Introductory Call to discuss culture questions, salary (communicated up front), new hire training and details about living in Las Vegas; 2) Technical Call to interview for core competency, team fit, technical “must-haves” and growth expectations.
  • Day at Zappos Immersion: if candidates have made it through the phone interviews they move on to a full day at Zappos in a “Culture Assessment”. Candidates get to assess the culture during a tour, shadowing, lunch, happy hour and a Core Value Assessment (one-hour interview based on core values). Simultaneously, Zappos team members assess candidates throughout the day, from the shuttle ride over through every interaction they have.

What does your “Recruitment Journey” look like? Do you have system? Do you need help creating a strategy and staying committed to it? Email me to talk about how to pivot in this process:

Keep pivoting, Gina

If you’re feeling stuck, it’s time to pivot!

P.S. Part 5 of this series coming next week is Train & Retain –Keeping Top Talent”


Gina Trimarco, Chief Results Officer, knows how toGina Trimarco, Pivot10 Results, Business Coach, Sales Trainer pivot to profits from problems and find joy through the process. Her philosophy is that performance pays and people need to be trained to perform on the stage of business to achieve results.

Gina successfully pivoted from her entertainment company Carolina Improv Company to spinning off Pivot10 Results, a strategic training and consulting firm that helps business teams to quickly adapt their communications and engagement skills in leadership, customer and sales to achieve results by providing them experiential learning tools and strategies.

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About the author

Gina Trimarco is a native of Chicago and CEO/Founder of Pivot10 Results and Carolina Improv Company. She has 25+ years of experience in marketing, sales, operations and people training. Gina combines street smarts and improv comedy skills with her experience in the corporate and entrepreneurial worlds, which sets her apart from her competition.

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