Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

How To Recruit Linchpins

After reading Seth Godin’s Linchpin, hundreds of thousands of organisations across the globe are looking to hire linchpins. So they run ads, hold interviews, and hire the person who’s willing to be paid as a cog, and are surprised that’s what they get:

A person who just wants to follow instructions for eight hours in exchange for a day’s pay.

So how do you recruit a linchpin—a person who solves unmapped problems and goes the extra mile?

In the same way that Greyston Bakery’s found its linchpins.

Greyston Bakery is the company that bakes the brownies for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. And their motto is: ‘We don’t hire people to bake brownies, but we bake brownies to hire people.’

What does that mean?

Greyston hires anyone who applies. No interview. No resume. No background check.

If you sign up, your name enters the waiting list. Once a slot opens up, the job goes to the next on the waiting list.

No diploma? Hop in. Been in prison? Hop in. Dealt drugs? Hop in. 

And put on your apron. Because you’re about to bake some brownies and be asked your first question:

“What do you need to be better at your job?”

Greyston then gives you all the tools you need to become a linchpin. Which doesn’t come cheap. But since Greyston saves money by not having: a hiring team, career events, job advertisements, and background checks, the bakery can invest all that unspent cash on training.

A training that the pastry maker doesn’t take lightly. If a trainee doesn’t honour his commitments, he gets a dot.

Get too many dots and you’re out.

This open hiring process naturally weeds out the cogs and builds up linchpins. Less than half the people who start at Greyston, stay at Greyston.

Despite that the open hiring model is a success—Greyson generates over $11 million a year—hardly any other company wants to give up its screening process.

Which usually consists of: placing ads, using software to sift through resumes and letters of motivation for keywords that managers want to see, an arrangement of personality and skill tests, and, finally, extensive interviews.

The problem?

There’s little to no proof any of this leads to a good hire.You don’t know who you’re dealing with until you see them in action.

So why do the majority of companies keep screening? Because reading tea leaves feels better than doing nothing.

If you want to hire linchpins, work with people first. Hire after.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach