The success of Arizona-based ice cream chain Cold Stone here is proof positive that Japan has as big a sweet tooth as any other nation.
With branches stretching from Hokkaido in the north to Kyushu in the south, Cold Stone Japan requires a steady inflow of part-time workers. But as you might expect from a business that makes all of its profits selling a product no one needs but almost everyone enjoys, the interview process is a little different from the one at other workplaces.
Just like in America, Cold Stone Japan mixes fruit, nuts, and candies into its ice cream. Also just like in America, employees in Japan occasionally burst into song. Since the aim is to entertain the customers waiting in the chain’s infamously long lines and not drive them away, Cold Stone crew members naturally need to be able to carry a tune. That’s hardly the only unique thing about the company’s hiring process however.
"To lighten the mood, at the start of the group session, we all wrote a nickname on our name tags,” says one Internet commentator who went though the three-hour interview process. “Even the HR representative did, and we called each other by our nicknames for the whole interview.”
“We got in groups of about 10 people and had to make a story,” relays another candidate. “The story had to include a song, and when we were finished we had to present it to the other teams.”
That’s not to say the applicants were bothered by the process seeming like an audition at times. As a matter of fact, for some of them it was a big part of why they were there. “When the interviewer asked us why we want to work at Cold Stone, one girl in our group said it was because she’s been studying dance since she was a little kid, so she knew right away she wanted to work for the company,” reports one job-seeker.
But it takes more than just a good set of pipes and decent sense of rhythm to land a job at the ice cream parlor. Interviewers told applicants that the main things they look for are teamwork, initiative, and the ability to express oneself and get along with others.
The man behind the unique hiring process is Cold Stone Japan president Kazuhiro Ishihara (whose last name means, appropriately enough, “stone field). “We’re really in the entertainment business,” Ishihara explains. “From the very beginning, we’ve run our interviews like an audition. In the beginning, we didn’t even ask for written resumes. Our process lets us tell right away what kind of people our applicants are deep down inside.”
Ishihara’s focus on the people side of business extends to the way the company handles rejections. Every applicant who is turned down receives a written notice from the company, along with a coupon for some free ice cream. Cold Stone Japan says it’s their way of thanking the applicant for liking the chain’s stores enough to want to work in one.
With these values, it’s no surprise that Cold Stone Japan employees report feeling a strong sense of solidarity with their coworkers. “Our branch manager, Ao-chan, is really amazing,” comments one employee, using an affectionate nickname for her boss, who she adds thinks of the whole staff as one big family. The company holds an annual competition to determine the best Cold Stone Japan branch, which helps build bonds between the crew members at each branch as it tries to outdo the others.
Of course, it’s not possible to eat ice-cream non-stop. Whether they’re watching their weight, already full, or suffering from a brain freeze, customers can only consume so much of the stuff, so Cold Stone workers occasionally find themselves with downtime during their shifts. So what do they do? “We take the melodies for the songs we sing together, and think up new lyrics to go with them,” With 100 variants and counting, you could go through just about every combination of ice cream flavor and mixings before you hear the same one twice.
Source: Naver Matome
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