Forget the CV and covering letter - when Thomas Dietz is hiring, applicants are asked to send in a postcard, a weird picture of themselves, a favourite song and a YouTube clip.

This first step in the hiring process at Dietz's startup - food-kit delivery service Woop - is designed to make the process attractive to applicants, but also to bring to the fore "creative, original thinkers".

Dietz has 11 staff and as CEO he spends about a third of his time recruiting. The firm's process includes a number of other steps: involving the members of the team defining competencies and values for each new role, phone interview screening of applicants, interviews that include "in situ" tests, cooking for the team, spending time in the office with each team member and reference checks.

Dietz says a key lesson he has learned is to find people who fit the company's culture.


"You can always train and upskill someone but it's really hard to change someone's values, so we always make sure our first criteria for any candidate is they fit the values of the team."

That sentiment is shared by Dale Clareburt - co-founder and CEO at recruitment software startup Weirdly - whose hiring advice for small business owners includes always hiring for culture over skills.

"If someone has 80 per cent of the skills you need, but an awesome attitude, they're going to be a better hire every time."

Clareburt worked in recruitment for 20 years before co-founding Weirdly, a tool that helps screen job seekers by looking at how they fit in terms of a business's culture and values, and says it pays to keep job titles simple, and involve your team in the hiring process.

"Get your team to share the opportunity because you never know who they're friends with."

Sarah Greener is an owner of 35 Degrees South Aquarium Restaurant and Bar in Paihia, which has a core team of about 25 staff, with numbers doubling during the peak summer season. Setting the culture of the business for applicants starts from the word go, says Greener.

For example, the company has a goal to become paperless so all applications are taken electronically.

Finding if there's an alignment between an applicant's values and those of the company is the focus and is teased out with specific interview questions. Candidates also spend a trial day in the job before taking it on.


"Until you've spent a day in the business and worked with the people you won't know if it's a good fit for you," says Greener.

Thomas Dietz, Woop

What's the hiring situation at Woop?

We started six months ago and I'm putting about a third of my time into making sure we recruit the right people and nurturing staff. Our efficiency comes down to the team. We've established a strong recruitment process and that has helped attract some A-players.

Talk me through your recruitment process.

The first thing is we do is work with the team to define any role we're recruiting for. We dig right down into how we would describe this person once they're in their job, and we work in groups with the management committee to define their competencies and, even more importantly, what their values would be.

Once we've defined clear scorecards for those, we go through a few steps to screen the candidates. But we try to make the process a bit different and attractive. That's our first filter because we're looking for people who are creative, original thinkers.

The next step involves a 20-minute phone interview to further screen candidates where we ask them to tell us about their personality. When we do interviews we have precise questions to test their values and skills. For a marketing role for example, we'll put the candidate in a real meeting with the marketing team to see how they contribute, respond to specific problems and express ideas.

One of our values is a passion for what we do, so before we confirm any candidate we also make sure they're real foodies by asking them to give us a list of ingredients, which we'll buy them, and then we ask them to cook a recipe for us.

Before offering employment we invite the candidate to spend a couple of hours in the office to talk with each team member. On the one hand we want the candidate to be very comfortable with the team and know there's a fit and on the other, we want to make sure the candidate fits well in the environment and with the team.

I ask my team to reveal any doubts during this process so we can dig into them, and if there's something we're really not sure of, my experience is it's safer not to recruit the person. It's better to spend a bit more time in the recruitment process rather than having to make some hard decisions later.

And the last thing we do is check references - one chosen by the candidate and one chosen by us.

So the primary focus is to find candidates who are the right cultural fit with the values of your organisation?

Definitely. You work really hard in a startup and you often find more problems than rewards, so we need people on board who are 150 per cent committed to what we're doing.