Hiring On A White Paper Bag

imagesMy family and I live in Austin, Texas. We love it here for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is the food. Having a family sweet tooth, we especially enjoy Amy’s Ice Creams. This establishment began in 1984 near the University of Texas campus and was founded by Amy Simmons. You can now find Amy’s in 15 different locations, including stores in Houston and San Antonio. The ice cream is all made locally in Austin and includes some of the most creative flavors you can think of. You go to Amy’s as much for the fun and the atmosphere as you do the ice cream.

I was recently intrigued to hear about Amy’s hiring practices. A friend of ours has a son who went in to apply for a job at the local Amy’s. He was handed a white paper bag and told to bring it back within a week. He could do anything he wanted with it, as long as it somehow revealed something of who he was. He was stumped and never returned.

“By using a plain white paper bag as its job application, Amy’s gets to know the creative soul lurking within the teenaged candidate standing before them. This idea began with an applicant who was given the bag instead of the boilerplate job application because Amy’s had run out of the forms. The applicant floated the bag back into the store with helium balloons; inside the bag were items about her life. She got the job. Now for all applicants, this is how Amy’s fills their shops with people who make getting an ice cream like going to the circus.” (from the Chief Customer Officer 2.0)

When I heard this notion I thought it was genius. Let’s be honest–it doesn’t take a lot of skill to scoop ice cream. It does,however, take the right kind of personality and confidence to create the desired environment. Amy’s thrives on creative people taking a great product and making a fairly mundane activity a fun experience. And it keeps people coming back.

How do you make your hires? How do you go about looking for the next leader you need in your organization? Maybe the standard way is not the best way. Maybe you will learn far more through a “white paper bag” application. If you need creativity, ingenuity, outside the box thinking–then maybe you need a hiring practice to match. Maybe you are looking for the next leader in the wrong place or in the wrong way.

Food for thought!

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  1. What an interesting idea. The standard way to find the “right” candidate does not always give you the whole picture of who they are. This way may not work in many industries, but simply offering a new way to look for the right person is a great idea. Thanks for starting the discussion.