Make a straw animal, zoo job applicants told

Chester Zoo’s recruitment team asks job candidates to create animals out of drinking straws, among other challenges, to test their organisational fit.

Thu, 2 Apr 2015
Chester Zoo’s recruitment team asks job candidates to create animals out of drinking straws, among other challenges, to test their organisational fit.

Zoo head of HR Jane Hubbard recently told Recruiter the zoo, because of its “iconic brand”, can get hundreds of applicants for a single role so the issue was not filling positions, but filling them with the right kind of people.

She offered an example of a seasonal staff recruitment drive last October in which 800 people applied for one guest experience assistant role.

Hubbard explained that during the application process, candidates were asked a set of basic questions to determine whether they have the right skills. That is followed by attendance at an assessment centre to determine how they interacted with people.

An example of a test applicants faced this year was having to make an animal out of a box of straws, “and, from that, you actually get to listen to creativity… it’s the enthusiasm that we want and that is what comes out of a very, very simple process”.

It was that enthusiasm and passion that made “guest touch points” perfect, she said.

Those points can be anything from booking a ticket to finding a car park to asking any question of any staff member.

“It isn’t just about a job, it isn’t just about delivering an ice-cream in a cone – it is actually about engaging with people,” she said.

The guest experience assistant role was, in the end, filled internally but the 800 applicants did not go to waste: “We had 800 people we could then instantly say [to] ‘do you want to come work on a seasonal contract?’”

The zoo has a permanent team of 330-350 people but seasonal staff see that number peak at around 800, Hubbard said.

That means her five-strong HR team is almost constantly recruiting.

It took on a batch of seasonal workers in February, another just now and will recruit this month for another batch that will start in time for the summer holiday season.  Most positions are customer facing.

Extra staff have also been recruited to help support the zoo’s newest development, Islands. This has recreated six habitats from South East Asia and will house critically endangered animals such as Sumatran tigers. It is expected to be open in three months.

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