How Southwest Airlines Hires Such Dedicated People
“Southwest Airlines receives a job application every two seconds. Given the talent shortage facing our industry, you’d think we’d be tempted to snap up many of those candidates, particularly ones with backgrounds in engineering and technology. But, since the company was founded, even before our first flight on June 18, 1971, we’ve been extremely selective in our hiring. So far this year, for example, we’ve reviewed 287,422 resumes, chosen 102,112 candidates to interview, and hired only 6,582 people, or less than 2% of all applicants.
That’s because we view engagement as a two-way street. Yes, an employer must work to keep employees engaged by offering good pay and benefits, opportunities for development and advancement and a collaborative, mission-driven culture. But you also have to hire people who are engaged from the start, whose values are in sync with the organization’s.
At Southwest, for example, we talk about hiring not for skills but three attributes: a warrior spirit (that is, a desire to excel, act with courage, persevere and innovate); a servant’s heart (the ability to put others first, treat everyone with respect and proactively serve customers); and a fun-loving attitude (passion, joy and an aversion to taking oneself too seriously.)
We’ve found that it’s important to clearly define these expectations — they’re listed on every job description — and build our interviewing methodology around them. The mentality isn’t ‘We’ll know it when we see it’” It’s ‘Does this person already live the way we do?’ We use behavioral interview questions to determine whether candidates have those key attributes. For example, to determine someone’s ability to be a passionate team player, we will ask him or her to describe a time when he or she went above and beyond to help a co-worker succeed. We also conduct what we call a career motivation interview to determine if the candidate really understands the job he or she is applying for and if it is aligned with his or her career goals.”