I had never worked for a company that had a strong adherence to its own stated values before Alyce. In truth, none of them even had stated values (that I can recall, anyway).
When I joined Alyce, Greg, our CEO and Tori, our Head of Operations, were adamant about having values that the early team all agreed on and that we would live by. I thought it was a great idea in the long run (don’t all great companies have strong values?) but couldn’t immediately see how this would help us hit our current quarter revenue goal. Sure, the lack of values felt like something was always missing, but they didn’t seem necessary.
Boy, was I wrong!
Give First and Consistently– it is one of our four values and arguably the most important. If we were going to find the right people, we had to start the hiring process by asking a simple question: What is the best gift you’ve ever given?
We ask this question on our applicant submission form, so it is a written response. People have as long as they would like to fill out a response — it’s not a “gotcha” question while nervously sitting in an interview room.
The responses have been incredibly telling and fall into three almost equally represented buckets.
The first bucket is those who misread the question and respond instead to “What is the best gift you have ever been given?” People then go on and write about how someone gave something of meaning to them. If you misread a question and then exhibit selfishness, how likely are you to fit in at Alyce?
The second bucket is people who spend no more than 30 seconds and 5 words responding to the question. “An engagement ring,” “My time,” “my education,” “my children to my wife” (note: I think that was her gift, not yours). Even if those things are all great acts of giving, none of them seem to show why or tell anything about the applicant.
The third bucket is those who share a story. Who shed light on part of their personality and show their thoughtfulness.
We have had some AMAZING responses and it’s my favorite hiring question I’ve ever seen.
We developed this question after I had started working here, so I never had a chance to respond. But if I had, here’s what I would have written:
On a surprisingly warm late-October day a couple of years ago, my beloved Cleveland Indians were playing in Game 6 of the World Series at The Jake (in Cleveland). If they won the game, they would win the World Series for the first time since 1948.
I grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland and my dad was the type of fan who, in the late 80’s and early 90’s, would listen to the games on the boombox radio while washing the car in the summer even when the team was in last place.
Jacob’s Field, known to locals as “The Jake”, replaced the rickety old Cleveland Municipal Stadium in 1994 and ushered with it a new era of Indians baseball. The team had new uniforms to go with the beautiful new ballpark and, most importantly, a refreshed roster of young talent that made them relevant for the first time in my dad’s adult life.
In his excitement, he bought a 20 game ticket plan that we kept for 7 years — while I was 12-18 years old. I loved shelling the salty peanuts with my dad and throwing the shells on the ground — it felt like the most liberating thing I could do and saw him do when my dad grew up in a military family and liked the house to be clean. The Jake was our special place.
We knew every player on those teams and went to two World Series games — one each in ‘95 and ‘97. While they lost those series, The Jake was sold out for some incredible number of consecutive games, spanning about 5 years. The Jake was the hot ticket — and my dad got on the train early. The thrill of late game victories, with fireworks ending the night and high fives with those around us in section 410, still hang in my memory like the humidity on a warm August day.
So two years ago I suggested that we go to Cleveland to just be in the city for what would be a great night if they won and just a fun excuse to get together if they didn’t. I flew in from Boston, he flew in from Florida, and we met up with some friends in the early afternoon that we hadn’t seen in many years after moving away from Ohio.
I suggested to my dad that we walk over to The Jake a few hours before the game and snag a picture for old time’s sake.
I asked someone to take a picture of us and while I showed him how to use my phone, I whispered to this stranger, “Push the record button — this is a surprise.”
I told my dad that we had a lot of great memories here, and saw a few teams almost go all the way. He took me to a lot of games but I hadn’t ever taken him to a game.
Until that night.
“We’re going to the game tonight!” I told him. He started to cry.
When the Indians lost that game and my dad and I were walking back to our hotel arm in arm, I couldn’t help but think that all those years, it was never about whether they won or lost. It was about those moments — littering the ground with peanut shells together — that defined my childhood.