Regardless of industry, one thing is clear: Companies are prioritizing culture in hiring.

Eastside employers want more than just bodies. They want talented and friendly employees. They want folks who not only possess the necessary technical skills, but who also share company values and will provide their customers with top-notch service. Four local companies, big and small, shared their hiring practices and philosophies with us, including everything from pre-screening and extensive background checks to group interviews and behavioral assessments to ensure that their new hires are a good fit.

Steve Losleben, Valley Medical Center’s vice president of human resources. Photo by Rachel Coward

Steve Losleben, Valley Medical Center’s vice president of human resources. Photo by Rachel Coward

VALLEY MEDICAL CENTER
RENTON

Valley Medical Center, a University of Washington medical facility, employs 3,000 doctors, nurses, technicians, and maintenance staff. With about 450 new hires annually, the company is always looking for new talent.

Valley Medical’s screening and hiring process starts with an online application. A member of the HR team reviews the applications and selects candidates for prescreen phone interviews and a pre-employment background check to confirm licensure and education. While these processes are fairly standard, the hiring team is specifically looking for individuals who have a track record of focusing on both service and patient satisfaction — values Valley Medical prides itself on.

Those who make the cut are then interviewed by a member of the recruiting staff, followed by in-person interviews with the hiring manager and possibly the team with whom they’d be working. A registered nurse, for example, would typically have an interview with a team of RN managers and educators. Valley Medical also conducts behavioral interviews and assessments and performs professional reference and background checks. When applicable, technical skills testing also may be performed.

“We conduct behavioral assessments based on the type of position … to really dive deep and ensure our candidates are the best match for the position, or to determine if we have other opportunities that better suit their skill sets,” says Steve Losleben, vice president of human resources.

When screening applicants, Valley Medical’s goal is to evaluate clinical- and technical-skill levels and an individual’s capacity for patient care, empathy, and service temperament. “Remarkable things happen here, and we attribute that in large part to the remarkable staff we have here,” Losleben says.

Josh Rihn, QFC’s talent manager. Photo by Rachel Coward.

Josh Rihn, QFC’s talent manager. Photo by Rachel Coward.

QFC
BELLEVUE

QFC operates 65 grocery stores in the Pacific Northwest, including 28 on the Eastside, and employs approximately 5,800 people. The company hires roughly 2,200 employees each year. Turnover in the grocery industry is high, and QFC has the lowest turnover rate among Kroger subsidiaries. Josh Rihn, talent manager for QFC, says the flux is due to increased holiday business, summertime rushes, and student employees coming and going throughout the school year. The majority of QFC employees are hired as store clerks.

QFC’s hiring process starts with an online application, followed by an interview, drug test, and background check. Interviews are conducted face-to-face and by multiple people at the same time, including store and department managers and a store’s HR department. While this may be intimidating for a prospective employee, it helps provide a balanced perspective of the candidate to those doing the hiring. One manager might pick up on something — positive or negative — that another manager didn’t notice. The final hiring decision is made by the interview panel with management approval.

“We are looking for more than a body to perform tasks. Our interview process enables us to find these friendly, highly engaged people to join our QFC family,” says Rihn. “We focus on hiring friendly employees who love food and love to engage with customers on a daily basis to bring them world-class customer service.”

Peter Chee, Thinkspace CEO. Photo by Rachel Coward.

Peter Chee, Thinkspace CEO. Photo by Rachel Coward.

THINKSPACE
REDMOND AND FREMONT

Thinkspace provides office space and staffing for tech startups. The company itself has eight employees, but it also recruits and hires staff for area tech firms.
The company has its own spin on hiring. Thinkspace looks for two primary characteristics: understanding and aligning with a prospective employer’s company culture and core values, and matching the desired technical skill set. According to founder and CEO Peter Chee, a candidate must fit into a company’s culture and share its values to even be considered.

“There’s a saying that you are hired for what you know, but fired for who you are.” Chee says. “You can teach skills, but you can’t change a person.”

When hiring for his own company, Chee looks for someone with a goal-crushing attitude who goes above and beyond every time. Those who meet the criteria are invited for a group interview with five or six other candidates and Thinkspace staff. The hour-long interviews follow a tight schedule, and a prepared set of questions is used. This allows candidates to see the competition and hear each other’s answers. Chee’s likes asking a candidate his or her expected salary in years one and three. Answers often indicate how realistic someone is and his or her expectations of performance and equitable reward.

Thinkspace’s final interview question is a doozy: If you were could hire one other candidate in the room, who would it be? Answers to this question are very telling, Chee says. Some candidates turn the question around to talk about themselves, perhaps because they weren’t listening to the other candidates, while others embrace the opportunity to show they value another’s talent or skills. Candidate feedback shows interviewees usually appreciate the opportunity to say something nice about someone else.

Dennis Manes, Republic Services’ Seattle division general manager. Photo by Rachel Coward.

Dennis Manes, Republic Services’ Seattle division general manager. Photo by Rachel Coward.

REPUBLIC SERVICES
BELLEVUE

As the second-largest recycling and waste-materials company in the U.S., Republic Services employs about 30,000 individuals, including 800 in Washington. From its regional office in Bellevue, the company serves several Eastside communities, including Bellevue, Mercer Island, and North Bend.

Republic hires route drivers, customer-service agents, administrative staff, sales associates, and supervisory and management positions. The hiring process varies by job type, but all candidates complete an application through an online hiring portal regardless of where they got the job lead.

The company’s recruiting specialists review applications and conduct pre-screening phone interviews to determine whether the stated skills are a match for the open position. Candidates who pass the prescreening are referred to the hiring manager or an HR specialist for interviews. Most interviews are done in person, but managerial candidates may be interviewed via Skype if they are not local. All final interviews are done in person. One unusual aspect of the hiring process is that managers and team members from other departments are asked for input on prospective hires. “We work collaboratively across all departments (by) including other Republic team members to ensure that we are working together right from the start,” says Dennis Manes, general manager of Republic Services’ Seattle division.

The company focuses on hiring individuals who put the customer first at the moment of decision. “We hire people that value our values: respectful, responsible, reliable, resourceful, and relentless,” says Manes.

After a tentative offer to a candidate has been made, the company does an extensive background check of references, education, work history, criminal checks, and drug screening. Depending on the job, a skills test — like a typing test or a commercial driver’s license check — might also be done.

“Our goal is to hire the best people for the position and ensure it’s a good fit for both Republic and the candidate,” says Manes. “We want long-term employees that hold the same values we do, want a long-term career, and who enjoy coming to work each day.”