In 2015 SouthWest Airlines received a job application every two seconds, but it was very selective. It received over 287,000 resumes from which it interviewed 102,112 candidates, and hired only 6,582 people. Why has SouthWest Airlines gone to such an extreme to recruit so few people, less than 2% of all applicants?
The key to the hiring process is to hire the people whose values mirror yours, and who will be engaged from day one. SouthWest Airlines don’t hire for skills, but for three attributes:
- A warrior spirit – a desire to excel, act with courage, persevere and innovate
- A servant’s heart – the ability to put others first, treat everyone with respect and proactively serve customers
- A fun-loving attitude – passion, joy and an aversion to taking yourself too seriously.
And when they are hiring for these key attributes they are interviewing them using behavioral questions to determine whether the candidates already have and are living them. You do need skills, but it is the attributes that people have that will differentiate them. The on-going need for these attributes is reflected in SouthWest Airlines’ development and promotion practices, and especially for those who aspire to a leadership role.
This is good for the company, but how good is this for the employees? In a 2014 employee survey, when SouthWest Airlines staff were asked whether they felt like their job was “just a job,” “a stepping stone,” or “a calling,” nearly 75% selected, “a calling,” and 86% said they were proud to work for Southwest. So hiring for values seems to be working for both the company and the employees.
How are you hiring in your business? And what attributes are you looking for? Will you be as selective in your process? Do you want your employees to feel that what they do is not just a job, but “a calling”?
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