Culture Fit Discussion with Airbnb
one my friends actually interviewed. You know, I actually kind of brought her off. I like to say Come taught her how to code And she just went through interview circuit and interview the whole bunch of companies who asked all the usual technical questions reversing a link list? Actually, I don't know. She's actually that, but very sensible questions. And, uh, one of the company's wished she really felt, like, really dove in and try to understand us. A person was Airbnb and they asked her a lot of you, only it was very clear. They're really trying to understand. Would she really be effective in their culture? And not just at a software as a sovereign here in general? And they take a very in depth look at culture fit. And that's why I'm really excited to have lender that. Didn't Reese here to talk about Airbnb ease and how they look at culture of it. Happy toe bring up on stage now. Hi. Everyone in Linden Reese and I'm from Airbnb em on the recruiting team there, and I'm gonna talk a lit...
tle bit about interviewing for culture. Um, so first I'll just take you through a little bit of what I'm gonna talk about. And this is a process and something that we've set up that's very unique to Airbnb. But I'm happy to answer questions all along the way. If you have them, our process is always evolving to says something just to keep in mind. I'm gonna talk a little bit about the history of our process and sort of how this came about why we do what we dio I want to talk a little bit about What is Coulter Gail sort of alluded earlier to, You know, you can fall into these pitfalls of, like the beer test or having it feel very subjective when you talk about culture and an interaction between, especially when it's just Ah, one on one interview between two people. We've really done a lot of work around not having it be like that, um, unconscious bias. We've done a lot of training about in countries unconscious bias across all of our interviewing, not just this type, but I'll dive a little bit in there and then also just sort of the evolution and rigor that goes into our process. This is something this type of interview and what we're looking for in candidates follows people all the way through their employees journey at Airbnb. This isn't just something that we talk about an interview for when they come in to see if there are fit. But it's something that we also, um, you know, check for during performance reviews and things like that. So well, just get started. So this is a bit of the history of our process and where things came for from So from 2008 to 2012 our founders interviewed everyone. In fact, all three founders would interview every candidate. So, um, it was it was at first Great. I mean, they got to approve every single person that came through the door, Whether it was regardless of the team that they were on, whether it was a technical role or, you know, a chef role, or you know, anything that we had at our company or founders got to have input on, um, it pretty quickly became very unsustainable. We moved to like, one founder per interview, but even that was was very unsustainable. So we've been going through, but of hyper growth for the last few years on git created quite a poor candidate experience to have every single person you know. Just from a scheduling standpoint. People were waiting, you know, they might have to come in four different times. It was like, really not good on that on that front. So we really had to evolve and figure out something that would stand in for our founder interview, which is really where this came from. A same time in 2012 we launched Airbnb is core values. So we define those as shared expectations for how people work together. I'll dive a little bit more into that as well, like what that means. Um, earlier this year, we had paradigm, which is Ah, um, which is a consulting firm that helps companies look at their own processes for unconscious bias. Um, they examiner process. And we made some small tweaks based on what they had to say about it from an outsider's perspective. Um, and then we also put into place this year sort of what we call core values interview operations team and a core Values council s o. Those sort of add some more structure and rigor around what we dio um so those air both evolving eso where this came from. So our founders, we have three founders who are still all of the company, all still leading us. They are quote unquote, irrationally intentional about our culture. They personally interviewed the 1st 300 hires, and they believe that culture is our long term differentiator as a company. When we survey people who come to Airbnb, um, there number one reason is the culture and the mission of the company and like further, much further down the list is like compensation and things like that. So we really think that it set apart, sets us apart, is the company and that it's an investment in the future. And it's an investment in our own innovation. Um, you know, I think our founders were We're sort of hyper concerned from this from the very beginning and aired on the side of caution and like keeping, they were really, um they were really concerned with this and they realized that you know, the people at a company make the culture. The culture doesn't make the people, so it's every single person who you're hiring who has almost a multiplier effect on the future. And so you know, when you're under 300 people and you're planning on being, you know, 3000 and maybe 10,000 way down the road, it's those people. Every single higher that you make is really important when it comes to setting the tone for culture and values. So at the same time, we were also very concerned about our candidate experience and looking at what every person who came through our doors to interview felt and thought about our process. So we, as a recruiting team, were story boarding out our process at each step of the way, Um, and how a candidate would feel mean. Whether somebody gets hired or not, we want them to have a compelling, challenging and pleasant experience at Airbnb, where hospitality company, as you'll see later, one of our major important values is to be a great host. So we want to be a good host, everybody who comes through our doors for an interview. So again, what I said having having everybody interview with three founders was getting impossible. They were busy. They were way candidates would come in and wait in a room for 30 minutes and nobody would show up. Um, you know, would cancel last minute. They have to come in a bunch of different times. And meanwhile, we might, like, move somebody to another company. Or they'd have such a bad experience that they were no longer interested. And it was really, sort of, um, in some ways, like very much against our culture, our values, to have them go through this process like this. So we knew we had to make a change. Um, so we really looked at sort of like, what is culture? What is our founder interview all about? Like, Why are we doing this? And what are we really looking for here? So, as Gail mentioned earlier, this sort of feeling of the culture fit like beard has Do I want to hang out with this person? Do I click with them? Do I want to? You know what? I want to sit next them on an airplane for 10 hours. That's something that we're really trying to steer clear of because they're sort of inconsequential toe. Whether they're going, this person is going to be, ah, positive addition to the culture of your company as a whole. There's also something really, really subjective about that where I have no confidence as a recruiter that I you know that any two people that I send in would come out with the same answer. And that's really what we're looking for is a consistent answer. Consistent process, Um, to these. So we were looking at her own core values, and this is just like a very basic outline of what we think core values should be and what this is all about. It's basically an agreement among everybody at the company, from the highest level to the most junior person on how we make decisions, how we relate to each other and how we behave within the company. Um, they should be true for everyone. Doesn't matter who you are. Um, you know, for making a really difficult high a very high level business decision that decisions should be made according to our values. Whether it means it sometimes means making a very difficult decision making a trade off to make sure that our core values air followed. And it also means, well, this person will this candidate thrive in our environment and contribute to others thriving as well. Um, so again. Sometimes that means you have to make a difficult decision. It's not based on this is something very separate from a technical interviews that somebody could potentially pass every part of our technical interview. But not, you know, if yeah, if the answer to that question is not yes, then we have to go through and make sure we're doing our due diligence. But sometimes they're not the best fit for a role at our company. Any questions? By the way, Phil, Frida jump in any time s O. This is a quick slide. I feel like we could probably spend an hour just talking about this and how to define core values and what that really means. Um, but I'll quickly go through this, and it's sort of a good thing to self reflect on. You know, for yourself, for your company, for your founders. If you're at a founder led organization, how many people are at founder led organizations as opposed to non founder led. So yeah, I think if you're out of founder led organization of your founder yourself, it's almost more of an exercise that, like in self reflection and and figuring out you know your your founder should embody these core values they're leading. They're making decisions, so hopefully they are part of this. This decision I'm so it's a few behavioral traits that are inherent in an organization. Um, core values light the heart of the organization's identity do not change over time and must already exist so they cannot be contrived. Um, they also as a note to this, they should not be so basically, honesty, integrity. Those kinds of things are a little too basic for this. Um, those air really good things and people your companies should Hopefully I'll be honest and have integrity. But those air a little bit too generic there, hopefully something that, like, you know, anybody at any company should probably have those things. But they should be something that are pretty specific to your company. Um, and an organization would know that it has identified its core values correctly when it will allow itself to be punished for living those values. So, in other words, you know, if you are being true to your core values, you might make a pretty you know, you might have to make a business trade off or you might have Teoh, you know, not hire somebody who could really help you out. And, um, you know, that was one thing that that our founders were very concerned about is that, like, the pressure to grow really quickly and to really hire people, um would sort of mess up our culture, um, would force us to grow and that, you know, some of the people that we hired wouldn't wouldn't be embodied, wouldn't embody our core values and would sort of dilute the culture that they had spent so much time and effort building. So these are our core values that Airbnb They're, um, on our website. They're totally public to any. You know, Anybody who wants to know can know these. Any candidate can look these up. We don't think that necessarily gives them an edge or like means that they can, like, get through. You know, this kind of interview? Um, it means so it means that, like, these are the things that are really important to us. There's a story behind all of them. Um, I can go into, like, the stories behind all of them. I won't. Right now. Again, This is another slide. We could probably spend an hour on, Um, again, This was sort of about the people are making the culture. The culture doesn't make the people. So you can't just hire somebody and say like, these air now your core values, you know, these are your values. We want you to believe in these things. Um, but these people give a vision that this gives people a vision for what we're building towards. And we also want these to be true in sort of perpetuity. They might evolve a little bit over time. We might make them better over time. Um, but these have been in place now for almost four years, and we've put, you know, words behind them. We sort of We again, we sort of used them in different parts of our business and decision making and performance reviews, not just in the hiring process and not just in sort of outward messaging there really alive every day at our company. And there's something remember very early on. Um, our founder said this is something where we don't even wanna have to sort of, like, tell people where they what they are. They're not the kind of thing that are like hang on a poster throughout our office. This is something that should sort of be alive. And, like any employees, should hopefully be able to say, like, these are core values. Or this is my favorite core value. Or, you know, stuff like that. Like they're pretty alive within our work, while is just sort of organically, um, so one thing that sets apart our interviews where we interviewed for these, and I'll sort of go to the next slide where we've taken the next step of we've said, OK, we're gonna interview for these values. We've put attributes behind these values. So these air a little bit different than what we say these values are these air sort of the next level of like, these are things that we're looking for when we're interviewing. That would signal that you embody this core about you. So, for instance, every frame matters committed to quality, holistic thinker and thorough those air attributes that you can really interview somebody for. Um, we do have sort of a some suggested questions that we give interviewers and we practice with them. But we also can leave it to interviewers. Teoh, ask those questions or just have a more conversational interview, but then give feedback based on these attributes. So we're really sort of thoughtful in the way that we ask for feedback. So that were very clear on what you know what's being looked for. Um, and again it leads us to more objectivity and not subjectivity. So the way that we do it is every single interview. Are every single person who comes to our interview process again for any role at our company has two interviews that we call sort of cross functional core value interviews. They're most often not from the team that the person is interviewing from there from a lake. You know, an engineer could interview with, um, you know somebody from our graphic design team not necessarily related to the role. It all not a stakeholder. That's the most important thing is like not a stakeholder in their role on these interviewers have veto power. So a lot of companies have, you know, culture interviews or somewhere some way that they gather signal on whether this person would like thrive in their culture. But they're sort of part of the larger signal gathering process, whereas ours are ours. Have full veto power, just like a founder interview did. So we do two of them. So there is sort of a balance. There's, like a check and balance their If we get mixed feedback, those two people have a bit of a round up on. Sometimes we ask candidates back to come for 1/3 interview. So we do really dio, um a lot of rigor around this. Any questions about this part? Well, we had some that are coming in online, and you may be getting this, but I'll throw it out now. This was a question posted by Shelley, and she wanted to know what kind of specific questions would you ask to determine if a candidate fits your culture? I know that'll vary from company to company, but maybe you have some examples of questions at Airbnb that you've asked. Yeah, um, I can give you a couple of examples again when we do leave it. Our interviews. She's their own discretion and, like figure out what works for them. They go through a thorough training, but, for instance, with be a host, we might ask, you know, what's the last gift you gave somebody and why? Why did you give it to them? So it's really not about how big of a gift it is. It's about, you know, how thoughtful you were. You? Why did you give it? That's just that's like one that pops into my mind. Um, a lot of these things can come up in various like stories or things that people have to say. Um, that's the one that's like popping into my mind right now is a good one. So I'll go through, You know, our feedback example and like the reason that I'm doing this is that I think it's really important to create a lot of structure around this because you again want to have confidence, especially as a company scales and grows that the various people that you have participating in this, that the interviewers will come out with the same answer again. Eso again. It doesn't happen every time. It's not 100% perfect, but we don't want it to become random and subjective. So we really make interviewers articulate why or why not for each one of these things, we provide training and ongoing education around how this is doing So every single one of our interviewers who does this is nominated selected goes through a very thorough training. They shadow other people who are experienced in doing it. They do a reverse shadow so that somebody is shadowing them doing it the first couple of times they give each other feedback. There's a lot of sort of vetting and calibrating that goes into having somebody be this type of interviewer and then we ought it and gather data around interviewers, too. So somebody is saying Yes, 100% of the time, they might need to sort of calibrate a little bit more if they're saying no 100% of the time, they might need to calibrate a little bit more to so unconscious bias. I use this line because obviously we live in a really big world. People's experiences are very different from each other. Um, we didn't want to have a process where we were being. Really. We're rooting, biased around people's experiences and what might be a value to them. We want to make sure that we're sort of calibrated and not not bringing in our own unconscious biases around how we're judging people in their values and whether those sort of match up and resonate with our values. Um, so we did go through a sort of process with Paradigm, which I don't know if anybody's sort of paradigm, but they're consulting firm. That helps companies and a lot of tech companies make sure that they are not using unconscious bias, that they are widening their pool of candidates and evaluating people, um, in an unbiased way. So this was really important for us. They thought our process was pretty good from the beginning, but we did make a few tweaks to it and some of her questions and just calibration and things like that. But I think that that's a really important part of the process, especially when you talk about culture because they think people can fall into, You know, if you if you have fun with somebody, if you click with them, if you want to hang out with them, that can maybe feel like a culture fit, and it isn't always for us. Sometimes you can really click with somebody, have a great interview, have a great conversation, but they still might not embody our core values and vice versus sometimes you might like, not click with somebody at all. You don't necessarily want toe hang out with them on Friday night after work, but they could totally embody our core values. And we want to make sure that, um or invert our interviewers should have really understand the difference between those two things. It's a really important part of process for us. Um, and then also in terms of carrying this through the employee journey and sort of why this is alive within our walls is that our core values are sort of brought up and talked about. And we do a ton of, um, activities and events and things that all sort of our around our core values. So we have a core values interviewer operations team, which is sort of a panel of our interviewers who are on this who are in this group. Um, and they are basically our sounding board. I mean, there could potentially be sort of a bit of tension between recruiting and these core values interviewers. They have veto power. They you know, they can, you know, you could get somebody all the way through the process. They could be great, and then the core value interviewer says No, we really have a really we have a very strong partnership with them, so that were not so. It's not something that that is at odds. It's like the interviewing team or the recruiting team. It's our It's in our best interest to hire people who are going toe thrive at Airbnb who are gonna be here for the long term. We're gonna be here for the right reasons. Who are gonna be, um, you know, aligned with our mission and very passionate about our product, what we're doing And, um, and, you know, want to be here to build what we have. Our vision is for the world, so we have a really strong partnership with this group of people. So if we need to train new interviewers or if you know we're not getting feedback quickly enough, we have sort of a partnership with this specific group of people, um, to sort of go back and forth and work out any kinks in the process and also continue to evolve on how we do this. We also have what we call Core Values Council at Airbnb, and they are there. They're against sort of a subset of this group of people that if a business leader is going to make a decision and they want to make sure that it's sort of the right decision for our core values and for the culture of our company, they will go, like, have a meeting with the Core Values Council and say like, This is what I'm thinking about, Like, you know, what do you think about this? Like, would this go against our core values and the like, talk it out? And so that's another thing that's like, You know, you have to be willing to make some difficult decisions if you're going to sort of, like live by this credo. Um and there's a lot of thought and rigor around how we operate as a companies so that our core values are alive and said, People do realize that they make it, they matter as you as you work there. Um, the other thing, the other thing that we do is we have sort of ongoing training. Our executive, like every single person that companies were really understands. The core values are from our executives. Teoh. You know any anybody? Um and so they're part of our performance reviews. It's not just sort of what you're doing or how fast you're doing it, but also how you're doing it, how you're interacting with people. Um, and so you know, that's part of it. Goes on record. It's recorded, or you are. You embody your values, which what's the like when you're using the most where it's one that you could use more. So they're not just part of how you enter the company. There also part of how you operate as you on as you go on in the company. Um, so that's the end of my presentation. I might have gone a little bit fast, but I'm happy to answer any questions. I know a sort of talked about a lot in a little amount of time, but happy to answer any questions or, um or not, if you don't have any, yeah, this is sort of the equivalent to the hiring committee and just more focused around the core values. Yeah, great questions. So any every role would have sort of a technical panel of interviewers to say, like 4 to 6 people who are from the team or maybe cross functional teams that they would have focus areas or, um, that were more around like the technical expertise needed to do the jobs. Whether it's if it's an engineer, you know, other engineers, engineering manager things like that. And then and then they also have a couple of people who were focused solely on the core values as the panel. And then it's that group of people who are sort of making the decision together. But the core values people do have sort of veto power. So they both have to see a yes for somebody to get hired. Another question interested in the process of coming up with the core values and is a collaborative process between the founders and employees. Yeah, so super collaborative. Um, we did a lot of sort of designed thinking. There were few people that sort of led the process, and they actually the founders were part of it. But then all the employees were part of it as well. Um, you know, it was it was a long process that I wasn't involved in, sort of all of the behind the scenes of it, but where all the pleas were sort of ask questions what they felt about Airbnb, why they came to work here, what they felt, set it apart. Things like that, that sort of And then they put sort of group them into different groups. You know what's important to our company? A couple of them are sort of more aspirational than others. Um, really specific to us, True of us, like I think all those things have to be true. But it was a very collaborative process. Stance, your question. So could you share with us if there was an instance talking about collaboration and culture where maybe one of the veto folks on the committee you went and revisited? Or do you visit just that's it and the story way Do revisit. If there's, like a yes and a no, we will have those people sort of have a conversation, and that's sort of part of their training. They are taught Teoh, you know, have a conversation about why, um, you know that feedback structure where it's super specific on what we're asking for is really helpful. But the two interviewers can definitely have a conversation. Um, if one can sway the other one, that's fine if neither can sway each other. We sometimes invaded candidate back for 1/3 conversation tiebreaker, sort of. I've got some other questions that came in here. So when you're talking about the core values, obviously you want to look at those when you're hiring candidates. But do you do anything to kind of keep track of core values and how they evolve with candidates and current employees? Or how do you gauge that? People are still following those things? Yeah, so they're part of performance reviews. So depending on the team, every like six or 12 months, they'd go through performance review. And they are, um, part of that. And you know, most of our performance trees air not only given, you know, they're given by manager, but they have, you know, 3 60 aspect as well. Um, you know, one other thing is that people are nominated from all parts of the company to be on either, you know, core values interviewer or Core Values Council, so they could be nominated as somebody who really particularly embodies our core values and cares about them to be on this panel. It's sort of, ah, you know, prestigious thing to be a part of at our company. Um, so there's lots of ways that people kind of keep truck. And you said that these core values have been in place now, nearly four years. Do they've all this? Well, do you say, like, hey, maybe this one's changed a little bit. Maybe add something. Yeah. I mean, I think the goal is for them to be pretty consistent through time, but yeah, they definitely evolve. And we sort of dio process of self examination and make sure that they're still true to us and that they're still what we want to be true years from now. Great. Do you look at Was it not a culture fit? Did something go go wrong? Are people ever at the performance reviews say, Well, you're not meeting most of our core values. Your you're doing a great job coding, but yeah, I mean, I can't speak specifically to people's performance reviews, probably. But you know, the way that they're structured, that would come up if they're not, hopefully that would come up and, you know, you know, when people exit, um, we do tend to do a little bit of ah, you know, after action review in some cases, probably and say like, like, you know, way aren't right 100 percent of the time. I don't think anybody in any hiring. I mean, if you figured out how to be 100% right in the hiring process, like, I'd love to talk to you, but, um, but, you know, we think we do a pretty good job, but yes, we have we Definitely. Sometimes they're like, Oh, maybe, you know, that wasn't quite right. That the quite the right decision based on our values and what other companies come to mind today, that really prioritise core values. To this extent, that's a great question. I'm I think a lot of companies are trying to do this really well, because it really is something. You know, when you think about why you want to go to work every day. A lot of it is sort of, you know, people around you and the mission of company, and you feel like you're making a difference. Um, I think like Slap comes to mind that doesn't really good job. And some of this, um who else? Things like popping into my mind But I think a lot of companies air really like thinking about this and making sure that they're doing it right. I think it's something that's important to get right from the beginning. It's hard to do once you're, you know, once you have 1000 employees. Um, so I think timing is really important to Yeah, yeah, grab a mic. How do you have done if I counted, But like more than seven different categories, how do you balance across that? Do you say there's sort of a minimum buyer for everything or if someone's exceptional in one, but lacking another? Or that's a great question. Most important, yes. So we have six. We've six values. Um, we don't say that one is the most important, and one is, like, the least important. But we hope that between the two interviewers, they captured a signal on each one of them on. And if they missed one and the person outperformed on for five of them, that's usually fine. Like it is a bit of, you know, there is judgement that goes into it. But there, um but the part of it, too, is that they would have to like articulate. Like what? How Why does this person embody the attributes that go into this value? I'm pretty good here. All right. Well, we could bring Gail back up, wrap things up. Any questions from you, Gail, before we thank you. Thank you so much. Sorry. I have to say, my friend, who interviewed with how much companies did get off from Airbnb, and she's there now and look at these core values. It's very much like I read them, like had that is totally this kind of mind. Like she's very scrappy and she finds ways of getting things done. And she was very, very generous. She spent I don't know how many hours putting to have this whole like, custom magazine in front of other friends. And these core values are very much true. And it's made it a great work experience for her because she is actually very new to coding. And it's the sound of a culture wrote that makes it a lot easier for her to learn new things. Uh, if somebody here to ask about other companies that have very strong perspectives on culture, so there's another. So let's talk about mentioned slacks for the company's uh, here's another kind of flip side of it. So very, very strong culture put very different with what it what their culture is. And this is a hedge fund in New York which has a culture of they might use. Different words. I'm not sure, but it's This is the more explosive opening and brutal honesty. And it is. It is exactly what it sounds like. And so they don't sugarcoat things. If you're working there, you need to be able to take direct, blunt, almost arguably cruel feedback. Sometimes that is their culture, and it's very, very, very, very, very strong. Uh, that's not something you just hired random, and you just kind of hope it works out, right? Like you throw people who can't take that into that environment. It will be a complete disaster. They will break down crying, Um, and they will be able to carry out that culture. So you're gonna want in that company to give that experience in the interview. And so few look at you talk people who interviewed that company. They get some pretty blunt, brutal feedback during the interview live and they start asking, getting asked not so invasive questions, but get really challenged on stuff. And it's a time when culture fit is very, very, very important. When I really like. What would Lyndon said was that it's not about the beer task, right? That's not the right way of looking at it. Uh, the fact you know, there could be people who I have a great time with grabbing a drink with them, But I can also say I don't think I want them 19. No, I can grab a drink. I have a good time with somebody who is a little bit arrogant and not really great personal work with. But sure, I can have a drink with them and have a great conversation and, of course, is other people who you can you would hate to know. You find really boring to have a great grab a drink with, but would actually be great team members. So it's not about it's not about the beer test it's about will they actually work effectively the company. So a lot of times when I'm doing training exercise with companies, they get start asking about how should they evaluate culture fit? I want to tell companies is this is that if you're having to sit around and create your culture, that's and then measure cans again. Set. That's not the right way to go about that. If you have a clear culture where there's clear values or clear parts about the culture you want and those are things you can assassinate and to assess and absolutely go and do that. But if you don't really have that defined culture creating one the interview process not the right way to go about it. Uh, but every company, even if you don't do a formal like here, our culture, you know, core values, whatever. Here's a cultured and we're gonna measure people can set. Every company should probably apply the very least that, like classic no jerk test if people are, if it can, is coming off his abrasive or arrogant or whatever that is that no jerk policy and you want to be very stringent about that. Even if you don't have a culture fit asking you formal culture fit value. I interviewed all. So have no jerks policy. Don't hire people who are coming off clearly to interviewers, because that will will backfire. But you don't have to have a culture fit if it's not a cleared of culture. But if you do, go ahead and do that have that part of the process.