I had been a marketing manager with a Fortune 500 retail company in the Midwest for over two years, but felt an itch to transition to a company with a more innovative and fun culture. The glamor of a nice corporate job with my current employer had lost its shine, and I realized I wanted to work for a company where the culture was less rigid. After a quick job search for other marketing manager positions on some job sites, Zappos caught my attention with a marketing manager job opening—an exact match for my skill set, and what I would later learn would be an exact match for company culture.
I applied on Zappos’ website, which included the usual resume upload and screening questions about my eligibility to work in the US, but the application also included fun questions that shed some light on their unique culture. “Who is your favorite super hero and why?” and “What’s your go-to beverage of choice?” were just a few. I had fun answering those questions, and took an approach of just being myself in my answers. It ended up paying off.
Phone Interview #1
A couple days later, a recruiter at Zappos emailed me and setup a time for a phone interview. In the meantime, I prepared a lot for the upcoming interview. I researched common interview questions, what the interviewer is looking for in answers to questions, and copiously studied the job description. By far the most helpful exercise preparing for the interview was to role play potential interview questions with another human being. This made me much more confident and comfortable speaking about my work experience and sounding natural in my responses instead of sounding like I was reciting something from a script.
The job I would interview for would potentially be a lateral move for me. In terms of having the right marketing skills and experience, it seemed like a great fit. My current marketing manager job tied in well with what was listed in the job description. This factor made it easier for me to talk about my experience in a way that related what they were looking for in a candidate.
The call was surprisingly casual, but not unprofessional. I felt confident in my answers since many of them I was prepared for. I also felt like the recruiter wanted me to be successful – a feeling I had throughout the entire interview process with almost everyone with whom I spoke. This put me more at ease.
Many of the questions the recruiter asked were generic, like where I see my career going, questions regarding my background and skills, and what I knew about Zappos. Other questions reminded me of the online application, like, “What is something weird about you?” Here, I tried to be myself, while also remembering I was being interviewed for a job. Questions took up about 40% of the call, another 40% was the recruiter sharing details about the position and the company, and 20% was casual chit chat I think the interviewer built in to make sure I could carry on a normal conversation with a stranger. Essentially, the call was to screen my cultural fit and my ability to do the job at a high level.
Phone Interview #2
At the end of the call, the recruiter said that the next call would be with the hiring manager. About a week later the call took place, and the hiring manager was just as pleasant and friendly as the recruiter. He asked more in-depth questions regarding how I think about marketing strategy, my experience running paid media campaigns, and why I wanted to work for Zappos. This interview was very focused on whether or not I could perform the responsibilities they were looking for and a little more serious than the first. All the while, the hiring manager was very personable. I felt like I was having a conversation with someone who again wanted me to succeed.
A word to the wise: Zappos tries to hire people they would genuinely like to be friends with; people they would enjoy going to a bar with or hanging out with on Friday nights. You definitely need to fit the bill skills-wise, but a lot of weight is placed on cultural fit. You don’t need to try to fit in, however, you just need to be yourself. Relax. Don’t stress it. But don’t take it personally if you’re not a good fit – they’re probably doing themselves and you a favor.
When I learned about this hiring approach, I was a little scared I wouldn’t jive. I’m not exactly one you would call charismatic or even outgoing. But during the interview process I was myself and didn’t try to be anyone I wasn’t. Luckily, that’s also who Zappos is looking for – people who aren’t afraid to be themselves.
Onsite Visit to Zappos HQ
This was very apparent during the onsite visit. About two weeks later Zappos flew me out and put me up in a hotel walking distance from their headquarters in downtown Las Vegas. The day started out with a tour of the Zappos building, where I got a closer look into the Zappos way of life. Many desks are colorfully decorated, employees are friendly, and it honestly looks like a great place to work!
Oh, and one tip – don’t dress up. If anything, dress down. I went in jeans and my favorite plaid shirt. I was the most formal guy there. Everyone else was in a t-shirt and sneakers. Some were in jeans and some just shorts. Attire there is very casual. If guys wear a suit and tie, then that’s way too formal for the interview. If ladies wear a skirt and heals, that’s also too formal. Think Silicon Valley.
My tour was followed by several interviews with potential future coworkers to the VP’s I would report up to, and a few others in-between. The morning interviews focused on my skillset and some behavioral questions.
On skillset questions, they asked:
How do you measure whether or not a marketing campaign drove incremental revenue?
If a large group of customers downloads your app but shortly afterwards uninstalls it, how do you figure out why they are uninstalling it?
On the behavior questions, they were fairly typical of almost any interview.
How would you resolve a conflict with a coworker?
What would you do if you caught someone lying about their work?”
Overall, everyone was very pleasant. They even wrote “We’re rooting for you!” on the whiteboard in the interview room.
After morning interviews, I went out to lunch with my future team at a nearby restaurant. At this point it was a more relaxed atmosphere and conversations were about getting to know each other better. I don’t think they read much into what you order (I probably ordered the messiest dish possible—a greasy burger that I ate with my hands). I do think it was a time that everyone got to see how I interacted with the team as a whole. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’m an expert conversationalist, but I would say reading “How to Win Friends and Influence People” has helped me connect with people better. This is probably one thing that helped me stand out among the crowd. Frankly, I enjoy connecting with others and I did well with the opportunity to connect with the team at lunch.
Finally, I had two more interviews back at Zappos’ headquarters: one with the remaining team members and one with HR. The first interview was just like the morning ones, but the interview with HR was unique. It was an hour of evaluating how I would fit culturally. This time the behavioral questions were more in-depth and there were more of them. I felt like I answered the questions well and again connected with the interviewers by trying to make the interview a conversation instead of a one-way interrogation.
A few days after the onsite visit, I received a call from the recruiter offering me the position. The offer included paid health benefits, relocation, and a $10k pay increase from what I was making—a 15% raise. I thought I was going to fall in love with Las Vegas during my onsite visit, but Vegas just isn’t for me. It is for lots and lots of people, and that’s great, but it didn’t feel like the right move at the right place at the right time. For that reason I turned down the enticing offer, but left off on a great note and didn’t burn bridges with anyone for saying “no.”
Overall, my experience with Zappos was great. My technical skills matched their needs, interviews went well, and people even went out of their way to make me feel welcomed. The timing and location wasn’t right for me. If you’re applying to Zappos, just be yourself. It will help you go far.
-Paysa member 007
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