Working for the Best Companies

Fortune magazine’s recent “100 Best Companies to Work For” list made me curious as to how they determine such a list. I also wanted to know what traits these companies look for in potential employees.

The 100 Best Companies list was compiled through a partnership with the Great Places to Work institute, and they determine ranking based on the results from survey questions sent to a random sample of 260,000 employees from the 280 companies that participated.

To be eligible for the list, a company had to be at least seven years old and have more than 1,000 U.S. employees.

Two-thirds of the questions from the institute’s Trust Index Asseessment & Employee Survey were related to attitudes about management credibility, job satisfaction and camaraderie. The other third were based on responses to the institute’s Culture Audit, which includes detailed questions about pay and benefit programs and a series of open-ended questions about hiring practices, methods of internal communication, training, recognition programs and diversity efforts.

This is obviously not a list compiled based on popularity, exceptional salaries or who has the most celebrated CEO at a given time.

The goal of the list is to help “tie Trust Index metrics to your organization’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) so that you can understand the relationship between your organization’s business goals and your employees’ workplace experiences.”

This sounds like a worthy goal, especially in light of recent news about the deplorable working conditions in the Foxconn factory in China.

Companies are are broken down into groups such as the number of employees and include sub-groups such as job growth, low turnover, no layoffs, percentage of women, percentage of minorities, and all stars—companies that have been on the list every year since its inception in 1998. This includes 13 companies like SAS Institute (3), Wegman’s Food Markets (4), REI (8), Goldman Sachs (33), Microsoft (76) and Nordstroms (61).

Best perks can include things like health care (14 of the companies pay 100% of their employee health-care premiums), child care, work-life balance, telecommuting, sabbaticals, and unusual perks (Google has nap pods and in-house eyebrow shaping).

In this economy perhaps most important is the category of who is hiring and most of these companies are now looking for talent. In fact, there are more than 56,000 openings currently available in these 100 companies.

Human resource and recruiting personnel at these companies say they are looking for candidates with traits like passion, attitude, communication skills, collaboration, an interest in learning and values that align with our organization.

Here are some examples:

At Google (1)“. . . in addition to looking for strong cognitive ability and meaningful work experience,” says Yolanda Mangolini, director, global diversity, talent & inclusion. “We also want people with interesting and unique accomplishments—sports, music, starting a business, or writing a book, for example. Cultural fit and diversity are very important to us.”

Whole Foods Market (32) say they hire for attitude and train for skill. “If we can find applicants who have strong customer service skills and high energy, and are enthusiastic about the organic and natural foods industry (and who love food), then they are a fit for us,” according to Janet Lapaire, CHRP team member service coordinator.

Adobe’s (41) VP of global talent acquisition Jeff Vijungco says, “We want candidates to share some of the biggest failures that have shaped who they are as a leader because we celebrate failures as defining moments in an employee’s professional development.”

Intel’s (46) greater Americas staffing manager Cindi Harper, says they look for candidates “with behavioral characteristics that extend beyond their specific educational training.”

Brent Bultema, director of recruitment strategies at Mayo Clinic (71) says “strong candidates are people whose personal values align with those of Mayo Clinic. Individuals who are collaborative, collegial, professional, respectful and passionate will be a good fit.”

“Cisco (90) looks for people who are strong collaborators and communicators,” says Bronwyn White, director of human resources. “We look for people with a track record of continuous learning and who are prepared to question the status quo within their discipline. We value flexibility and promote work-life integration while making sure that we focus on results.”

“I have the great fortune to work with people everyday that love what they do and where they work” says Jack McCarthy, a recruiter at CarMax (91). “We want to see that same passion from candidates throughout our entire interview process. My advice to candidates is along the same lines; figure out what you do really well and enjoy, and find a company that has the right culture fit.”

In addition to general technical competency for the specified job, all of these Top 100 Companies are looking for candidates who have behavioral competencies also known as emotional intelligence or EQ.

The EQ traits they look for can include things like interpersonal communication, collaboration, empathy, creative problem solving, and conflict negotiation and resolution. And these companies want people who fit in with their organization’s values and culture because that is what keeps them on this best companies list.

EQ traits are not easily conveyed via a resume and therefore it is vital that they be demonstrated throughout the interviewing process. If you are serious about joining one of these companies, keep this in mind as you navigate the opportunity.

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About Mark Craemer
Craemer Consulting specializes in workplace communication, organization development and leadership coaching.

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