Britt Miller

Britt Miller

  • Wonolo

Who doesn’t like free food? The answer is no one. I bet you’ve gone to a meeting, a party, or went on a date all due to the temptation of free food. You’ve probably been lured into a cosmetics store, detoured in a mall to Auntie Anne’s, or guilt-bought lunch at Panda Express, all because of free samples. A minor morsel of food changing our behavior. But what is truly amazing is that the hiring managers of the world haven’t bit into the insight here. Let me explain.

Costco_samples.jpgSpeaking of free samples, the king of them all – Costco. How many times have you waited in line for a cracker and a schmear of some cheese spread? And then how many times have you actually thought that the cheese spread was really good and you decide to buy one (or a pack of 12 in Costco’s case)? I’m willing to bet it has happened to you. It certainly happens to me every time I visit. And Costco is willing to bet on it too. In fact, it is huge part of their business model.

Costco does sampling for two main reasons. One is the experience. Going to Costco is actually fun. Think about how many unfun things happen during a Costco visit. Things like fighting for parking, waiting forever at the register, trying to find a table to eat your hot dog, or digging through 35 packs of 4LB strawberries until you find the least bruised one. Oh, and the buyer’s remorse you have from buying things that you had no intention of buying when you walked in, but seeing it stacked up with its big (perceived) cheap price tag, you remember how cool you once thought it would be to go camping with your buddies in a 12 person tent and since you’re already here… So what was that about fun?

Well, the samples are fun. Kids love it. Adults love it. You can even make a whole meal out of the samples. It helps you forget about all the horrible things that happen while at a Costco. Because you know, everyone loves free food and if you remember that great experience you had, Costco seems like a great, fun place to shop despite all the other challenges. This is where it gets interesting for all of us hiring managers.

Costco isn’t an amusement park. Costco a business and everything is calculated down to the last penny. Costco knows that if they sample a certain food or drink, it will sell more. A lot more actually. In fact, studies have shown that for example, frozen pizza will sell 600% more when sampled. Yes, you read that right – six hundred percent more. And while the sales increase varies according to the type of product, you can be assured that Costco is seeing a large jump in sales of the sampled products. And potentially you are discovering a new product that you now can’t live without.

So what? Why should you care about Costco sampling when talking about recruiting? Well, its simple. Think about it. In this example, you are hiring for a warehouse fulfillment position. Pick and pack. You need someone who can at least keep up with 15 boxes per hour. So today, you “shop” for people the same way you shop for salad dressing. Let’s say you like Kraft’s Creamy Italian dressing. You know the brand you are looking for and plan to buy more of the same. If the particular salad dressing isn’t available, you might just go to another store. Or, if you are really desperate for salad dressing, you might aim for one deviation – either a same flavor, different brand or maybe even, different flavor, same brand. But you aren’t going to venture far from what you know works for you.

After buying the same salad dressing for years, one might wonder why haven’t you experimented more? How about Ranch? Or Caesar or Blue Cheese? Or Newman’s Own or Hidden Valley? They look similar and might taste even better. But without an opportunity to give them a try, its too risky to purchase a whole bottle. And this is a $3 purchase we are talking about. Costco’s sampling program is that risk-free trial that might just open your eyes and taste buds to something different, potentially even something better.

Now think about that warehouse fulfillment position again. You know that your ideal candidate is someone with 3+ years in an Amazon, Walmart, or Target distribution center. They have at least a high school degree and are generally male. So that is what you look for and while you might make one deviation from those three criteria, never more. But what if you could “sample” the candidates before you “buy” into a permanent position? You might find that candidates with a completely different set of qualifications are just as good, or maybe even better. And just as Costco discerns what products it brings into its store, as long as you use a service like Wonolo which discerns who becomes a Wonoloer, you can rest assured that the candidates are potential fits.

So, when you walk the aisles of Costco next time, remember to experiment a bit. As fulfilling as it is, there’s more ways to dress a salad than Creamy Italian. And rather than sticking to the same mold for candidates and spending unnecessary time and money to uncover those candidates through job boards, resumes, and interviews – just ‘try before you buy’ and sample candidates on the job before you hire. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you find.