Some assembly required – what a well known furniture brand taught me about culture fit.

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One of my clients has recently opened an office in a new location. I am recruiting a team for them and the final stage is an assessment centre, which is designed as a whole day event at the new venue. The assessment gives us the opportunity to know a bit more about candidates’ behaviour, attitude and team working skills which are sometimes more crucial than technical skills and knowledge.

On that particular day we hosted a group of eight individuals, who made it to the final stage. We hoped to select a few who would join the team. The positions we were recruiting for were software programmers.

The assessment centre started with the hiring managers presenting departments they were recruiting for. Then it was candidates’ turn to prepare their presentations on the topic given. These parts were followed by a lunch break during which candidates has chance to chat with hiring managers and socialize. The final part was a group exercise to show how they work as a team and their attitude towards tasks.

It quickly turned out that the candidates knew the exercise given and completed it in no time, not letting us assess their skills.

The managers got back to me saying they were unable to make a choice and asking if I had an idea what else we could do.

I had to think on my feet. The venue was brand new and there were some desks prepared to be unpacked and assembled (of the well-known furniture brand – I don’t know if I can mention the name?…)

„Let’s ask them to assemble one of these – for sure they did not expect that!”- I suggested and they agreed.

We got back to the group of awaiting candidates and I announced that their next and final task will be assembling a desk.

One of the candidates refused completing the task saying he was not prepared for this kind of activity. „Fair enough, you are free to go” – replied one of the managers.

The rest of the group started to assemble the desk and we we observing how they went about this. It was easy to see that part of the group approached it as fun, while the others took it very seriously.

As expected, one person immediately took lead and motivated others, while another individual took rather „systematic” approach by analyzing the manual, yet another one was sorting the elements so that they could be found easily.

Although the task was rather unusual and I was seriously afraid how it would have been received, it turned out successful for our recruitment and several offers have been extended by the end of the day.

Hiring managers liked it so much that they have actually decided other groups would be given the same task (as long as there are any desks letf, I guess).

As for me, it gave me an idea to indtroduce more excercises like this one to my AC’s and ask my candidates to assemble an actual object (still thinking what it should be).

And if you have been wondering: yes, the desk has been tested, it is fully functional and did not collapse.

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