Team Stories

Why an Interview with Headphone Zone is unlike any other

Headphone Zone has grown at an amazing pace. What started as an experiment with a small team of 3 mavericks working on an interesting musing has been lucky enough to grow into a fledgling enterprise with a rapidly growing team. We've come to be known for a lot of things over the past year - a company that brings some amazing headphones to Indian consumers, a dynamic and young organization that thinks out of the box, and a deeply personal customer experience that's probably the first of its kind in the Indian e-commerce space. Add to that list - a unique, even crazy, interview experience for new recruits joining our team.

What has been a challenge over this period of growth however has been balancing the requirement of expanding our team and its capabilities, and maintaining our unique team culture, relationships and dynamics. I am sure we're not the first company to encounter this. 


The Headphone Zone hiring process is built on the foundation of our company culture. While a lot of companies include “organizational fit” as a part of their list of criteria, I think we’ve taken it to a whole new orbit at Headphone Zone.

Headphone Zone's culture, is really something that most of us inside the company don't really understand or describe very well, probably due to our lack of experience in a formal corporate environment. Nonetheless, if I had to try and put a finger on it, I'd say its an unusual mix of the energy and enthusiasm of youth, the optimism of inexperience, and an overriding idealism that collectively, a bunch of 20-something year olds can actually change the world. But, perhaps most importantly, a belief that both work and fun are all interchangeable and indistinguishable part of our lives with an almost invisible membrane separating the two. Headphone Zone is crazy, chaotic, loud, happy and oftentimes a politically inappropriate comedy club office environment.

When I think of drawing an archetype for an ideal candidate to join our team, I guess the first thing that comes to mind is just someone who has an unique interesting story to tell, someone who brings some new excitement to our lives and maybe someone who can learn to love the rest of us, and laugh at our jokes like we’re their long lost family. To add to that, energy is important to us. Not because we’re riding on adrenaline all day long but really because the Headphone Zone team works really really hard. (There's no other way of putting this). So for anyone to keep up with the rest of us, it's going to take more than an average 8 hour workday fuel load and punctuality. I’d imagine someone who’s meticulous with a hawk-eye for detail, only because no one else has the time to find mistakes and correct them. Above all, an appetite for learning is really important. Not just from the rest of the team members, but also really to just figure things out by oneself, because we don’t always have the answers to every question. These are the most important things, but if i had to add to the list, I'd say - a taste for great food, love for Rock 'n' Roll music and poker playing skills.

Hiring a new person to join our team is at times a major decision that affects everyone at Headphone Zone. Which is why, every candidate is given an opportunity to meet and interact with every member of the team sitting around a large round table. It's important to us that every candidate really sees the team in its entirety - the team that he or she will join. And, not just the people, but the relationships, group dynamics and camaraderie. It also allows us at Headphone Zone to imagine what it would be like to have another person to join the party. We usually make sure that everyone introduces themselves, and spends a little bit of time elaborating on some of the work they’re involved with at Headphone Zone, and how and why they chose to work here.

We really turn the tables around during the interview but putting the candidates in the drivers seat during the interview. An interview by definition means a ‘two-way discovery’. I try and encourage candidates to ask as many questions as they can to each person in the team. (It’s hard to get people talking sometimes). It catches a lot of people off guard and by surprise, only because they usually come in prepared to answer a lot of questions being thrown at them rather than having thought through what they should be asking. It really helps us understand the things that are most important to each candidate walking in through the door. Its a lot easier to address, questions, concerns and specific musings rather than brushing every interview with the same strokes.

Another feature of our interviews that has become a trademark is when we take a considerable amount of time to elaborate on various reasons that we think someone should NOT join Headphone Zone. My Top 3 reasons not to join Headphone Zone usually include:

1) Doing it for the money. We’re never gonna be the best paying company out there. I’d rather aim at being simply the best. Period.
2) Doing it to become a specialist in Digital marketing or E-Commerce or some such thing. We’re not an expert in these fields and we’re learning everyday.
3) Because working for a startup sounds like it's a lot of fun. We’re definitely not the Google’s and Amazon’s of the world (who like to call themselves startups) with indoor playgrounds and all day long buffets, so sorry for the disappointment. 

When Sanjana joined our team, she recounts how she was nervous, even apprehensive but sitting around a table with bunch of people put her at ease, almost like sitting with a bunch of friends. We hired her immediately. During Shanika’s interview, she was most impressed by the fact that when we admitted to her how we find interviews just as tiring as the candidates, and in that candid moment decided to join us.  Having said that we’ve had quite a few candidates who didn’t like our interviews too much. One candidate recently was probably so intimidated seeing all of us around the table that he simply walked out and disappeared out of nervousness. Another really nice person simply found all of us listening attentively to her stories too intrusive and uncomfortable. I had to apologise to her for the surprising number of people in the room. We’ve had people who liked us, but simply found our work culture too fast and hard. 

We’ve had interviews last for hours. Some of them way too long. The effort and collective energy it takes is perceived by most to be prohibitive. But I don’t think it’ll make us change the way we hire. No one ever took shortcuts while choosing a wife or a husband. Inducting someone new to the Headphone Zone family is just as important a decision. After all, great friends or co-workers are basically just great people with great interpersonal relationships. I can’t imagine doing it any other way. No two interviews are the same, and everyone has a great story to share at the end of it.


Reading next

A Huge Leap in my Career at Headphone Zone
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