Help Wanted. First, Step Up to the Camera

February 18, 2016

Matt Rizai, chairman and CEO of Ames-based Workiva, said he values the culture of the workplace over the brainpower of employees.Since its 2008 founding, Rizai said, the software firm has sought to look beyond raw talent when hiring. As a startup venture, he said, one person who wasn't a good fit could derail the entire team.

"What we decided from the beginning (was that) fit and personality were more important than how productive and how smart people are," he said. "And we will not typically bring people in if the fit is not there, regardless of how smart they may be, how productive they may be, how much they can help our business."

Now with about 1,000 employees, Rizai says those values still guide hiring decisions. He wants energetic and humble team players who don't need to hog the spotlight, he said. To measure those attributes, hiring managers dig into candidates' social media profiles, listen closely to how they talk about their previous jobs and administer personality tests.

And Workiva entrusts some of the screening to its own employees by putting big incentives behind its referral system, which rewards employees whose recommendations result in a hire. The logic of the personality focus in hiring only goes so far, Rizai says, and doesn't mean skills are irrelevant.

Accountants still need an accounting degree. And no marketing professional is likely to get hired as a developer. But at the end of the day, Rizai says he'd rather hire a less talented developer who is a team player than an introverted whiz of a developer who doesn't work well with others.

"It's nothing wrong with them at all," he said, "it's just we don’t have the type of positions that one person could come in and sit in a corner by themselves and create a bunch of stuff for us to use."

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