A couple of weeks ago I took my almost-four-year-old to the mall, and I did it all for love. One of Ryleigh’s favorite places is Build-A Bear Workshop. The customer service is fantastic, and they create a “wow” experience for her. Since she is a typical indecisive preschooler, we spent nearly 20 minutes selecting the perfect bear to begin building and customizing just for her. That’s when it hit me. Build-A-Bear is a great strategy to use to build your company’s hiring and selection process.

Just like with the individualized bears that emerge from this shop, we live in a world where the custom is king but the experience trumps all. As consumers, we crave the custom experience of swimming with the dolphins. We covet those 50-yard line football seats at our alma mater. Our steak is cooked to order as we request, but it’s more than that. It’s the ambiance, the settings and the whole packaged experience we crave. We live in a world of options, and I believe our hiring, recruitment and selection processes deserve to be the same. It’s time that the hiring process was individually designed and made custom, specialized, and focused. The end result would provide recruiters with quality candidates, but by ramping up the process, it’s less of a bore and becomes something actually enjoyable.

  • The Experience Matters. For many companies that are customer-facing, chances are high that our candidates are also our customers. A 2011 Alexander Mann Consulting Study found that 52 percent of those surveyed said that a negative interview experience would influence their future buying decisions. Build-A-Bear offers an engaging experience from the moment you step into the store. Ryleigh leaves the store not only with a bear but also a house to store her bear. And, of course, that house is customized and designed the way she wants to decorate it with markers and crayons. Cashiers offer the option of naming your bear right in the store. Even a small detail like a name, which is very important to my daughter, is not overlooked. That is what makes the experience something both she and I will never ever forget.
  • Improving Quality. Because we are involved in the experience at Build-A-Bear, we control the quality of the end product. We are empowered to make a better bear because the more time and energy we put into it, the better product – or bear – comes out. Each bear is unique, just like each job opening and requisition we have at our organization. Custom hiring tools like pre-employment testing, specific interview questions, and a well-thought-out online job posting improve overall candidate quality, saving time and money for the recruiter as well as the hiring manager.
  • Offering Add-Ons and Custom Options. Build-A-Bear offers a unique experience and gives Ryleigh the ability to choose add-on features and even the option for her to have a hand at making her new bear come to life. Ryleigh chose to add two hearts instead of the standard one to her bear just before the stuffing went in. Each job opening at your organization is unique and hiring managers should be given the option to customize every part of the hiring process. This could be adding a particular employer branding video, inserting a specific set of test questions, or making sure that candidates are offered a bottle of cold water upon their arrival.

Creating a customized experience for your recruiter or candidates doesn’t have to cost you a lot of time and money. It’s the small things and the attention to detail up front that counts. By creating those customized touches and integrating them into your hiring and recruitment process, you’ll begin reaping immediate benefits in candidate quality, turnover reduction, and fantastic hiring experience for the recruiter, job seeker, and hiring manager alike.

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, is an author, speaker, Human Resources professional, and workplace social media expert who has a passion for recruiting, training, and all things social media. She is the president and CEO of Xceptional HR, and a leader in the HR community with more than 12 years of industry experience. The author of Tweet This! Twitter for Business, Jessica was named by HR Examiner as the second most influential recruiter on the Internet and the seventh most powerful woman on Twitter. She is a columnist for both SmartBrief and The Huffington Post, in addition to Blogging4Jobs and Human Resources One on One. Jessica has been interviewed for professional articles in CIO Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, SHRM’s HR Magazine, and on CBS. Jessica earned a Senior Professional in Human Resources designation in 2008, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Business from Kansas State University. Originally from a small town in Kansas, Jessica currently lives near Oklahoma City with her husband, Greg and daughter, Ryleigh.


  • Avatar Trish Scullions says:

    It’s not new that offering customization will boost your company’s success. People like to feel unique, and use unique things, may them be clothes, cars, or even stuffed teddy bears. And while I agree with it, I also see the limits of it. You can do custom if you are not somebody that uses an assembly line. How do you fit customization in your manufacturing process then?

  • Avatar Keith says:

    What I feel Trish fails to see here, is that Jessica is not actually trying to give advice to somebody in the manufacturing business, but she is trying to make a point for HR people, to try and have custom ways to deal with different situations and people. Being stuck on certain procedures and protocols can work in some situations, but prove disastrous in others. So just have some leeway when dealing with your HR issues and everything should be ok.

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