HR Insider Mar 14 2012

Online Retailer Wayfair Hiring 100

By damian ghigliotty

Don't expect many backroom discussions to take place if you're considering a job at Wayfair. The online home furnishing retailer originally founded as CSN stores in 2002, views open communication as the best way to encourage, train and promote its workers, as well as recruit new talent.

Wayfair employs 950 people globally, with about 700 based in the company's headquarters in Boston, Mass. The company ranked third in a 2011 glassdoor.com survey on the best retail companies to work for.

Wayfair has over 100 positions open throughout its more than 10 divisions. Twenty-five are for full-time software engineers to help keep the company's digital infrastructure up-to-speed. Another 35 positions are in marketing, sales, finance and business intelligence. The rest are for internships across all departments.

FINS spoke with Marcy Axelrad, Wayfair's director of HR operations, and Kevin Murray, Wayfair's director of global recruiting, about the company's recruiting efforts and what it's like to work there.

Damian Ghigliotty: What positions do you have open?

Kevin Murray: The main areas we are looking to hire for are several engineering positions across the company and a few marketing and business intelligence positions, mostly for our private flash sales business, Joss & Main.

Like many companies across the country, we face the challenge of finding top-flight engineers, so this summer we are going to have our largest collection of engineering interns. We expect to bring on about 50 interns in total, with at least 15 of them in engineering positions. The hope is that about half of them stay on full-time after their internships.

DG: Are those internships paid?

KM: The vast majority of our internships pay at market-competitive rates. On rare occasions someone comes along and joins us for an unpaid internship opportunity for college credit.

DG: What is it like to work at Wayfair?

Marcy Axelrad: Everyone sits out in an open space. There are literally no walls between desks and no private offices. What this culture does is fuel open communication and innovation throughout all of our teams and departments, from our chief executive down to our interns. It encourages everyone to share ideas, which are often tested and then put into practice. If you walk in here, you'll find that people are constantly talking to each other and putting plans into action. Working at Wayfair is also incredibly face-paced and entrepreneurial, so good ideas are quickly implemented and change is viewed as good.

KM: In terms of the actual layout, it's almost like a trading floor.

DG: How does Wayfair recruit new talent?

KM: We have our own internal recruiting team. Wayfair takes a very aggressive approach to recruiting, which is one of the reasons I was brought on board five months ago. Where we are going to see the most success from a recruiting standpoint is through employee referrals. We encourage our employees to talk to their friends and colleagues about working here if they believe that person is a good fit.

We also recruit talent through traditional online sources, such as various job boards. Because we have recruiters who are proactively seeking outside talent, we are working on a lot of networking initiatives, in addition to searching and sourcing candidates we would like to hire. That includes a college recruiting effort where we go to the top business schools to find folks for our marketing and finance positions and top engineering schools to find the best engineering talent.

DG: What are these top schools you look to recruit talent from?

KM: Cornell University, Carnegie Mellon University, Dartmouth, Harvard and MIT, among others. Since we're based in the Boston area we've also had tremendous success with Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

DG: What about recruiting people from other companies?

KM: We're always interested in talking to people who came from big brands like Amazon, Google and Microsoft. Monster.com is one of the local e-commerce companies in the Boston area, so we've hired people from there as well. Because of our workplace culture being so entrepreneurial, we also do really well with people who come from start-ups. Boston breeds a lot of start-ups and at some point folks may decide that working for a small company isn't the right thing for them and they would rather join us.

DG: If you have two job candidates with similar levels of experience, and one came from a start-up that took off, while the other came from a start-up that folded, does that impact your hiring decision?

MA: We certainly never hold it against any candidate if they are coming from a company that didn't work out.

KM: We tend to look at people more on the basis of what they have accomplished as an individual. There are certainly companies that become buzz-worthy and if someone is applying from one of those companies, it might help them in the referral process and get the attention of our recruiters faster. But when we're actually interviewing that person, it's all about what they are capable of coming here to do.

DG: Does Wayfair also look to fill positions internally?

MA: We do. Our recruiting group posts positions for people within the company to apply to. We have a group of people within the company that keeps track of employee resumes that get submitted for new positions.

KM: The moves from within tend to happen in non-engineering related roles. We may have a really talented person from our marketing operations group who sees an opportunity in business intelligence. If that person has a good analytical background and the other necessary skills, they'll apply for the position, they'll get interviewed and they'll most likely get offered the job. We are looking to provide the same level of opportunity for our engineers going forward.

DG: When it comes to the people you employ, does age matter?

MA: We have a pretty wide range in our age demographic. We have many people at Wayfair who are in their mid- to late-twenties, since we have a large customer service orientation and a couple of call centers. We also have many people who are in their thirties, forties and older who are in more senior positions.

We look at experience level, but that generally will have nothing to do with age.

DG: How does Wayfair keep track of its top employees and its underperformers?

MA: Performance reviews are done twice a year, a summer review and a winter review. We're a pretty communicative group of people, so our employees know how they've been doing and what the goals are going forward. We're also a company that is based on meritocracy, so we strive to keep our strongest performers here. People are promoted and allowed to move around throughout the company. That, in turn, has allowed us to have an employee base of people who really understand the business.

Write to Damian Ghigliotty at Damian.Ghigliotty@dowjones.com



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