Work

This founder says some of her best hires are people who've never had a job before—here's how they got her attention

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Katerina Schneider learned early on not to hire people based on their resumes. The founder and CEO of Ritual, named one of LinkedIn's top start-ups of 2019, says focusing too much on a candidate's previous experience hasn't worked in her favor.

"I'd say, 'Oh, this person has an MBA and Ph.D. and works for this big company — that's awesome! They're probably great,'" she tells CNBC Make It. "And I got burned a couple of times doing that."

These days, she doesn't care for resumes much at all, and she doesn't hire based on someone's experience. In fact, she's said some of her best hires have been people with no work history at all.

"Some of the best people we've hired have never had a job before: a designer, some marketers, the woman that runs our supply chain now, were all hired right out of college based on their innate abilities," Schneider says. Instead, she looks for qualities that can't be taught, like adaptability and perseverance.

The company, which now has upwards of 70 employees, is still small enough that the best way to kick off the interview process is through employee referral. Interested job-seekers have also stopped by the wellness company's Los Angeles office to apply for a role in person. Schneider credits her marketing team for creating a recognizable, personable brand that spurs interest among consumers and job-seekers alike.

"We've had people come to the office and drop off their resumes; we've had someone make us cookies," Schneider adds. "There's no end in sight."

Ritual's interview process

Schneider says her hiring team will often talk to people who have no relevant work experience to see what, beyond job history, they can bring to the company.

It's an admittedly intense interview process, the founder says, given every addition to a start-up can have a major impact on the team. Candidates are brought into the office to meet with teams of two, across multiple departments, that assess different skill sets. In total, every potential hire will meet with about 10 Ritual employees. "It's a very democratic system," Schneider says. "It's not just one person hiring for a role."

While rigorous, Schneider says new hires have told her they enjoyed the process and found it helpful in determining whether it was a fit on both sides.

Schneider is big on the company values she and her team established when they reached 50 employees, which includes principles like embracing the no's, getting gritty and making an impact. She looks for these qualities early on in the hiring process, and her favorite interview question to ask candidates is: When have you been told "no"? How did you rise above it, and how did it make you a better employee?

"That challenges the 'embrace the no's' value," Schneider says, "which I think is ultimately the most important one — the hustle and ability to turn something around."

On the flip side, she wants to hear questions from potential hires that indicate they're thinking about the future of the company. Questions around what's next for the start-up get her attention most.

"I love when people ask me the vision beyond vitamins — how do you grow from being a vitamin company to personal care [company] or broader than that?" Schneider says.

Candidates who propose how to make the product better also stick out in a good way. Schneider says one of her favorite suggestions from an interviewee was to move the vitamin bottle's ingredients list from the back to the front-facing label, given the company's commitment to transparency around its nine essential nutrients and their sourcing. The candidate got the job.

Ideas around being radically transparent about the product, putting consumers at the center of the business, and building from a completely new framework to disrupt the $36 billion vitamin industry are especially important to Schneider.

Ritual launched in 2016 as a monthly subscription service to deliver a daily multivitamin for women. To date, it has sold 1 million bottles and raised $40.5 million in funding. The company has since expanded its product offerings to include a prenatal vitamin and has plans to release another multivitamin designed for women over the age of 50.

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