Tag Archives: Zappos

My Answers to the 13 Weirdest Interview Questions You’ll Hear in 2014, Part 1

Yesterday, Mashable published a listicle of the 13 weirdest interview questions you’ll hear in 2014, along with the origination of the questions (i.e. in which company’s interview they were [or will be] asked). I thought it’d be fun to go through and answer the questions as if I were in an interview with that company. I specify in an interview with that company because that would change the way that I answer the question. One last thing: I didn’t read the questions before answering them. That is, I’ve tried to maintain the element of surprise that the companies were trying to have in answering these kinds of questions. Here we go!

1. Are you more of a hunter or gatherer? – Dell

I know it’s clichéd to say this, but I like to think of myself as a hunter and a gatherer. There are times when I’d consider myself a gatherer, for instance, when trying to collect information to make an important decision on green-lighting an aspect on a project/product or when I’m trying to build support for a project idea in an upcoming meeting. In this way, I’ve got to use my skills at working around the edges — gathering — the right data or the right employees. There are also times when I’d consider myself a hunter, for instance when I’m looking for the right junior employee to motivate with an important project. In this way, I’ve got to use my prowess — hunting skills — to find the right employee for the job.

2. What is your least favorite thing about humanity? – ZocDoc

Without a doubt, it’s how mean we can be to each other. It can be so jarring to watch someone ‘hate’ another person either with words or with actions.

3. If you could throw a parade of any caliber through the Zappos office, what type of parade would it be? – Zappos

A sock party. Quite simply, socks are the unsung hero of Zappos’ business. Yes, some people don’t wear socks with their shoes, but the vast majority of people [Note: if I had statistics, I’d quote it here!] still prefer to wear socks with their shoes. We should appreciate what the sock has done for shoes.

4. How many square feet of pizza are eaten in the U.S. each year? – Goldman Sachs

[Note: I’m familiar with this kind of question. After having completed an MBA, I’m quite familiar with the types of questions that you might get in interviews with investment banks like Goldman Sachs or management consulting firms. A question like this is trying to determine how you solve this kind of a problem — not whether you know how many square feet of pizza are eaten in the US each year. To do this, you’re meant to talk through the problem aloud, so…] To begin, the US population is approximately 300 million. Let’s say that about every 2 out of 3 people eat pizza and of those 2 people, the average person will eat pizza two times every month (or once every other week). In eating pizza, some may eat quite a few pieces, while others will eat far less, so let’s say the average person will eat approximately 2 slices every time they have pizza. This amounts to 4 slices of pizza a month, per person. Now, let’s say that the average slice of pizza is 6 inches across at the crust and 12 inches long, then each slice of pizza is approximately 36 square inches. So, four slices of pizza amounts to 144 square inches of pizza, which also happens to equal the amount of 1 square foot of pizza (144 square inches is 12 times 12). So, one person will eat approximately one square foot of pizza each month. We can then say that there will be 200 million square feet of pizza eaten each month — multiply this by 12 months, and we get 2.4 billion square feet of pizza eaten each year in the US.

5. It’s Thursday; we’re staffing you on a telecommunications project in Calgary, Canada, on Monday. Your flight and hotel are booked; your visa is ready. What are the top five things you do before you leave? – ThoughtWorks

1. Find out if anyone else on the project team has lived in Calgary for any amount of time (questions regarding weather, things to do in Calgary).
2. Find out if Calgary is still dealing with the aftermath of the floods and if there’s a way I could volunteer to help while I’m there.
3. Find out how far Banff is from Calgary for a weekend trip.
4. Find out if there are “tours” to see the Canadian Tar Sands.
5. Book a weekend train ride to through the Rocky Mountains.

6. Have you ever been on a boat? – Applied Systems

Yes. In fact, I’ve lived on a boat. When I was living in Victoria, British Columbia, I was fortunate enough to live in a floathome. It is exactly what it sounds like — a house that floats. It was an experience that took some getting used to, but it was absolutely amazing to be able to open my eyes in the morning and see the Pacific ocean (!) right outside my bedroom window.

~

It took a little longer than I thought to answer the first 6 questions, so I’ll save the next 7 questions for tomorrow.

Can an Holacratic Organization Be Successful?

Because of some of the work that I’ve done, one of the things that really interests me is organizational structure. I like peeking into the ways in which an organization functions because I think that we can learn a lot about how and why they succeed. As a result, when I heard that Zappos was going to be transferring over to an holacratic organization, I was very interested:

During the 4-hour meeting, Hsieh talked about how Zappos’ traditional organizational structure is being replaced with Holacracy, a radical “self-governing” operating system where there are no job titles and no managers. The term Holacracy is derived from the Greek word holon, which means a whole that’s part of a greater whole. Instead of a top-down hierarchy, there’s a flatter “holarchy” that distributes power more evenly. The company will be made up of different circles—there will be around 400 circles at Zappos once the rollout is complete in December 2014—and employees can have any number of roles within those circles. This way, there’s no hiding under titles; radical transparency is the goal.

Typically, when people think about organizational structure, three systems come to mind: divisional, functional, and matrix. [Note: as an aside, I wrote an answer for a question on Quora a couple of weeks back about how organizational structure can support an organization’s strategy.] A divisional structure is one in which there is a degree of redundancy to the organization (each division has their own HR, accounting, etc.). A functional structure is one in which there are “shared services,” such that there would be only one HR, accounting, etc. Lastly, a matrix structure is a hybrid of the two.

Now, Zappos is throwing all that out the window and is adopting a new kind of organizational structure: holacracy. To be perfectly honest, I have no idea if they’re going to be successful. I don’t think anyone can honestly say whether Zappos will be successful in this change and in fact, I don’t think we could definitively say that this organizational structure works (or doesn’t) based on how Zappos performs under this structure. However, it’ll certainly give us a window into how a bigger organization (1500+) functions in this kind of structure. From what I’ve read, this is the biggest organization to attempt to use a holacratic system.

One interesting tangent I find to this discussion about holacratic organizational structure is this idea of holons and who’s associated with this idea. I first heard about “holons” in conjunction with Ken Wilber. I’ve written about Wilber only a few times here, but he’s someone who’s certainly worth checking out, if you haven’t already. He presents some fascinating ideas on a number of topics. That’s not to say that he’s right or wrong, but he’ll certainly present a perspective that you likely hadn’t considered. And if you’ve been reading me long enough, you know that I’m a major proponent of perspective. With regard to Wilber, I’m, in particular, thinking about the work he’s done with Spiral Dynamics. That is, I wonder if, in order to ensure that an holacratic organizational structure is successful, would the “participants” of said organizational structure need to be from 2nd or 3rd tier of development or the “yellow” or “green” memes in spiral dynamics.